Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Studying conflict and what we do in our spare time....

The first five weeks of term is always a bit intense as we settle into the new academic year, people get to know each other and learn to love the London weather, transport and legendarily friendly locals! One of the most positive elements to starting a MSc is that you take your specific interest and get to meet and work with others who are interested in similar things. 

Studying and researching violence and conflict is not like buying toothpaste - it engages us in political and ethical as well as analytical debates, and this extends beyond the lecture hall to our professional lives and values. Last week Laura Hammond took a petition with over 104,000 signatures calling for Barclays bank to keep open cash transfers to Somalia. It has the support of Mo Farah!

Laura with Farhan Hassan (middle, who coordinated the petition) and Jenny Jones (red coat), of the London Assembly and House of Lords

Meanwhile, I was presenting some of my work on capoeira at an Afro Arts festival as part of Black History Month. I was exploring how Africa has been recreated through the art of capoeira and the way that this forges communities and generates sites of resistance against diverse forms of injustice.

Me giving a seminar at AfroArts Fest 2013, hosted by Filhos de Bimba London

 So that's what we get up to in our spare time!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Is economics frightening?

not the point
I have scanned a birthday card that I am sending to an economist friend, and was musing that every year some students ask about studying economics for the first time and many find this a daunting prospect.

We support those who have not studied economics before with an Economics for Beginners course which is non-assessed. It provides a foundation for other courses that are based in economics, introducing microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, statistics and econometrics. 

Economics is one of several disciplines that come together in the Violence, Conflict and Development programme. Like others, it provides a set of methodological tools for generating and analysing data and offers a perspective on the phenomena of wars, political and social violence that we are working to understand.

While some academics have a background in economics, others are political scientists, anthropologists or have taken development studies degrees as part of their own training. All of us conduct primary research in areas that experience violent conflict and we draw on a variety of disciplines and narratives in our work.

The VCD programme has been running for ten years now. Chris Cramer, the pioneer convenor of the course, is currently on sabbatical. I tracked him down amongst his research projects and he sent me these photos that he took last year in Bethlehem. He was on a Lecture Tour organised by the Kenyon Society, for which he lectured in Hebron, Birzeit, Ramallah, and East Jerusalem. The photos bring together some of the themes of the course – borders, causes and subjectivities of violence, resistance and the possibility of peace.

So it’s not all about economics, and economics isn’t frightening!

Make humus not war

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Start of lectures - who is here, how many, what are they up to?

It’s the start of the teaching term! We have just welcomed 65 new MSc students to the Violence, Conflict and Development programme. As ever, they come from a wide variety of backgrounds – some straight from undergrad degrees, some with years of experience in development work, others using the MSc to change direction from one profession to another. It’s great to have this mix as everyone brings different skills and experiences to the classes. This week they are finalising choices on optional courses. 

Laura Hammond, our Head of Department who also lectures on the VCD course, gave the welcome speech last week to everyone from across the MSc programmes. She has just returned from a research trip to Somaliland, from where she sent this camel.

Alongside her research and HoD work, Laura has also been spotted on the BBC, talking about the situation surrounding the attack in the Westgate mall in Nairobi. Catch up with her here!

HoD Laura Hammond welcomes the new MSc students

State-sanctioned sexual violence against women in the Egyptian revolution

Following from last week's post, this is another video submitted as a piece of group work by some of last year's MSc VCD students....