Birkbeck historians unite for Being Human Festival

Trio of academics to lead interactive public events during annual festival of the humanities

Birkbeck historians will feature prominently in the London line-up for the 2016 Being Human Festival this November.  Dr Jessica Reinisch, Professor Nikolaus Wachsmann and Dr Isabel Davis will lead interactive public events during the annual festival of the humanities.

Among the topics explored in the Birkbeck trio’s events – fitting in with the 2016 festival’s theme of ‘Hope and Fear’ – will be:  how best to teach about the Nazi concentration camps; London’s history as an international hub for ideas; and the history of pre- and early pregnancy.

Being Human will feature a packed programme of free-to-attend events running throughout the UK from Thursday 17 to Friday 25 November.  Now in its third year, the festival aims to highlight the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.

During the 2016 programme, the trio of Birkbeck historians will deliver interactive presentations, including lectures, walking tours and panel debates, to audiences comprising students, fellow scholars and members of the public. Each event will showcase the historians’ areas of expertise and on-going areas of research investigation. 

International London

    • When: Friday, 25 November
    • Where: Various, London
    • What: A series of walking tours organised and led by Dr Jessica Reinisch, principal investigator of the Reluctant Internationalists research group.
      Londoners often think of their city as the centre of the world. This trio of historical walking tours will explore London as a site for international projects and debates about internationalism during the twentieth century. The academics leading the tours will also show that London’s status has been crucially dependent on the participation of refugees, immigrants and other newcomers in its social, political and academic life. On the walks they will present London as a magnet for and laboratory of international ideas.
    • Each talk takes a specific focus: Wartime London (11am, meeting outside Eaton Square, Belgravia); Epidemic London (1pm, meeting outside the Wellcome Collection); and Communist London (meeting outside the Queen’s theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue).

The Legacy of the Nazi Camps – what students need to know

    • When: Monday, 21 November 2016, 6-8pm
    • Where: Senate House, London
    • What: A public presentation and debate led by Nikolaus Wachsmann, Professor in Modern European History at Birkbeck
    • The Nazi concentration camps have become symbols of the Third Reich, a global measure for judging inhumanity. And yet, popular understanding of the camps remains sketchy, not least among the young.
      This session brings together scholars, teachers and members of the general public to discuss recent research and how it might influence teaching about the camps. Participants can explore and discuss an innovative and challenging new online resource about camps such as Auschwitz.

Conceiving Histories

    • When: Wednesday November 23, 6-8pm
    • Where: Senate House, London
    • What: An interactive talk from visual artist Anna Burel, and Birkbeck literature expert, Dr Isabel Davis
    • Whether hoping for or fearing pregnancy, the wait to find out can be difficult. What was it like for people in the past, before home pregnancy testing was available? What hopes, fears, dreams and fantasies attended the wait historically? Explore the history of pre- and early pregnancy with artist Anna Burel, and literary historian, Isabel Davis.
      Conceiving Histories is a new dialogue between disciplines which discovers some of the creative possibilities of archival materials detailing the ambiguities of the un- or just-pregnant body. The artist-academic duo will explore two extraordinary case studies through short historical talks and contemporary artwork: a strange eighteenth-century fashion for simulating pregnancy and a dark nineteenth-century fantasy of an experiment which would solve the mysteries of conception.

The 2016 Being Human festival takes place nationally from 17-25 November. The festival is led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London in partnership with the Arts & Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

To book a place at a free event, visit the Being Human website.

Book a place on the individual events:

Read Dr Isabel Davis's blog about the Conceiving Histories project


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