Understanding conflict: forms and legacies of violence.

Based jointly in CMNH and the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, this major interdisciplinary research cluster in the field of violent political conflict was established by the University of Brighton in 2013. It brought together established expertise in humanities and social sciences from across the University. Contributing disciplines and areas included: applied philosophy, critical theory, cultural geography, cultural and social history, literature, material culture, politics, psycho-social studies and social anthropology.

The cluster was led by Professor Bob Brecher (applied philosophy) and Professor Graham Dawson (historical cultural studies). It built usable understandings of violent conflict and its human legacies, developing two areas of interdisciplinary investigation rooted in the recent work of the two research centres. One area was concerned with ethical and political justifications of violence, based on the principle that the philosophical study and practical implementation of an ethics of suffering have to take on board people’s experiences of living with, through and after violent conflict. Here, our interdisciplinary approach constitutes a vision of how ‘applied philosophy’ may be brought to bear on real-world situations, encouraging debate, generating new knowledge and developing ways to move forward after conflict. The other area (see above, ‘Negotiating ‘the Past’ in Post–conflict Spaces’) investigated cultural and historical constructions of past, present and future as experienced, understood and negotiated in cultures and societies undergoing violent conflict or dealing with ‘post-conflict’ legacies. Here, our interdisciplinary interests focused on the intersection of these temporal dynamics with the spatial locatedness of conflict, the significance of landscapes and sites in conflict and post-conflict geographies, and the role of spatial transformation in building just and peaceful futures.

By developing dialogue between historically and geographically situated studies and more abstract philosophical approaches, and through collaboration with external partners from outside the academy with lived experience and/or practical knowledge of conflict and its transformation, the cluster developed over a number of years a valuable interdisciplinary synthesis for understanding and engaging with the forms and legacies of recent and contemporary violent conflict. For further details, see here

Memory, History and Green Imaginaries

Led by Dr Rebecca Bramall, formerly Senior Lecturer in Media Studies in the Faculty of Arts, with research interests in cultural theory, popular culture, and twentieth-century history. This research project examined discourses of austerity, drawing on debates about history, heritage and memory, and emergent work on ethical consumption and the environment.

  • Building on Dr Bramall’s paper delivered in the first CMNH seminar series 2008–09, ‘Dig for Victory! Memory, media, and new ecological subjectivities’, the Centre’s Annual symposium 2012 took the theme of ‘Memory, History and Green Imaginaries’ with the aim of generating wider public discussion about an emergent area of interest: the ways in which history and memory inform and shape contemporary green or environmental imaginaries. The event brought together by invitation a diverse group of speakers, including cultural theorists, historians, cultural geographers and policy actors. These debates also informed Rebecca Bramall’s own research which issued in a number of published articles, including a contribution entitled ‘Memory, Meaning and Multidirectionality: ‘Remembering’ Austerity Britain’ in Lucy Noakes & Juliette Pattinson (eds), British Cultural Memory and the Second World War, eds (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013); and culminated in the publication of her monograph, The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times (Memory Studies series), Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). CMNH held a book launch for the two books in February 2014.

Rebecca Bramall now works at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts, London, and can be contacted on: r.bramall@lcc.arts.ac.uk

Black History and Cultural Memory: The India Gateway Commemoration Project

Following the Centre’s successful funding bid to the CUPP ‘On our Doorsteps’ scheme in June 2010, which secured £5,000 seed funding from July 2010–January 2011, we established a skills and knowledge exchange pilot project with Brighton and Hove Black History (BHBH) community group (also involving staff and financial support from the School of Humanities) on the theme of ‘Black History and Cultural Memory in Brighton: the India Gateway Commemoration Project‘. Focused on BHBH’s activities to commemorate the 69th and 70th anniversaries of the unveiling of the India Gateway to the Royal Pavilion, in October 2010 and 2011, this pilot project – the first-ever CUPP funding, and first ever-skills and knowledge exchange, in the humanities area at Brighton – was designed to contribute towards building a longer-term, sustainable relationship. The project involved meetings between the university and community partners to discuss our differences in ethos, purpose, skills and knowledge, modes of working, and outcomes, and to plan our work together; the setting up and supporting (in liaison with the University’s Active Student unit) of two student placements with BHBH, offered to postgraduates studying on the MA Cultural History, Memory and Identity, who engaged in research to support BHBH activities; innovative arrangements with Media Services to secure technical support and workshop training in digital recording and editing for both BHBH volunteers and the placement students; a short film record of the commemorative events in 2010 made by the students; and discussion about how to support future work together.

BHBH’s Commemorative event to mark the 69th anniversary of the unveiling of the India Gateway was held on 16 October 2010 as part of Black History Month, and included an exhibition, a guided walk, and a public debate with invited speakers – co-organised with CMNH – held in Brighton Museum on the theme of the exclusion of local Black, ethnic and minority communities from Brighton and Hove’s public buildings.

The project was successful in establishing a productive and mutually beneficial academic–community partnership and trusting personal relationships with BHBH, grounded on egalitarian principles, and in piloting the various practical activities; thereby laying the basis for potential continuing collaboration. Evaluations of the project by participants reflected on its limitations as well as positive outcomes.