Interrogating the Archive

Thursday 18 July, 10.00 – 18.00

This one day conference, organised by the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR) will consider questions of authorship and power within the archive, and how the materials contained within them can be mobilised from their static locations and repurposed within academic, artistic, radical or imaginary frameworks.

A series of short talks, panel discussions and performances given by academics, students and archival professionals will consider archival materials from various perspectives; asking what is at stake in instituting an archives, how archives might be repurposed as political acts, and the ethical dilemmas of dealing with sensitive sources. A series of short performances from current and former Birkbeck students will explore the ways in which archives can be created, imagined, and used to empower marginalised groups. Finally, a group of archival specialists from Bishopsgate Institute, George Padmore Institute, MayDay Rooms and Wellcome Collection will each explore their individual collections and the ways these can be used in academic research and beyond.

Attendees are asked to apply to attend the workshop and visit with one of the four archives, as best fits their academic research and interests. Applications should include a brief outline of their research and some details as to why the workshop and visit would be beneficial to them. We ask that these applications do not exceed 700 words. Places are limited, so we advise early application. Students will be required to give a brief presentation (5-10 minutes) during the first workshop to explain their research and interests to their peers and the archival specialist present.

Further information

  • Further information is available below
  • Please register via the event page here.

The Art of Not Doing Conference – call for papers


In a culture that valorises busyness, productivity, pace and “progress”, stillness can be radical. Refusing, ignoring, omitting, not doing; sometimes the most political actions look like doing nothing at all. But who gets to not do? When and how is not doing a politicised, racialised, privileged, resistant or utopian act?

Through conversation, provocation, installation and self-care, we look at unproductivity as an activist practice and the ways in which caring, resting, suspending, pausing and breaking can be re/claimed as political acts by and for everyone, particularly those marginalised by the racial and gender inequalities of neo-liberal capitalism.

As part of this one-day conference, we are inviting paper proposals/provocations and interdisciplinary submissions from Birkbeck graduate students, early career researchers and individuals from wider academic, creative and activist communities. Alongside paper proposals, we welcome submissions of artworks, shorts films, and proposals for performances and acts of care. Please read the about section before submitting.

Deadline for submissions: 10th of June

Send submissions to: theartofnotdoingconf@gmail.com

Conference website

Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference: ‘Age of Distraction’

Age of Distraction

Graduate Conference

8 + 9 June 2018

This conference explores distraction and all its meanings and implications. Distraction is commonly thought of as a growing concern or even a sickness of modern society and digital culture. From mindless scrolling to heavy consumerism, the pursuit for entertainment and satisfaction is insatiable, leaving us vulnerable to ruling corporations. Does our lack of control transform us into a conformed mass that is susceptible to tabloid media and the rise of populism? On the other hand, distraction is not necessarily steeped in negativity. In fact, it has had a long and fascinating history. Its German equivalent, ‘Zerstreuung’, comes from the idea of dispersion. At the start of the twentieth-century, Walter Benjamin defined the term as ‘floating attention’, where experience is caused by chance rather than concentration. Does lack of focus in fact allow a sense of freedom and inspiration?

Confirmed speakers include:

Food and refreshments will be available.

Call for papers (extended deadline 7 May)

Please send a 200 word abstract for papers of 15 minutes and a 50 word biography to bisr@bbk.ac.uk

Topics may include:

  • History of distraction
  • Distraction and its oppositions
  • Distraction and/in Education
  • Distraction and madness
  • Modes of Extremism: online or in reality?
  • Democracy, populism, and online social networking
  • Freedom of speech v. government and/or regulatory control
  • Misinformation and fake news
  • Dystopia/ an Orwellian society
  • Distraction and creativity
  • Escapism, dream and day-dream
  • Feigned ignorance or ‘Turning a blind eye’
  • Emotional responses
  • Procrastination, boredom and solitude
  • Wandering and ‘killing time’
  • Inspiration, chance and serendipity