Inaugural lectures

A lecture theatre full of people

Professors in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures have set out their research visions in their inaugural lectures. 

Stephanie Dennison
Professor of Brazilian Studies (School of Languages, Cultures and Societies)
'Women and Film Culture in contemporary Brazil'

Professor Dennison’s talk took as its focus the shifting modes of women's filmmaking and film production in Brazil in the 21st century. These shifts were traced against the backdrop of first of all the Workers Party-related agenda of greater engagement with so-called women's issues, and the kind of narratives that have been produced by the "Workers Party Project". Professor Dennison considered the recent (post 2016) filmmaking scene. As Eliane Brum has argued, the impeachment of Brazil's first female president Dilma Rousseff demonstrated that Brazil is undergoing a major crisis of identity. To address this question professor Dennison explored the extent to which this this crisis played out in recent films by or dealing primarily with women. The work of a number of filmmakers, including Maria Augusta Ramos, Anna Muylaert and Kleber Mendonça Filho were used as examples throughout the lecture.

Emilia Jamroziak
Professor of Medieval Religious History (School of History; Director of the Institute for Medieval Studies)
'The Present Mirrored in the Past: Why Interpreting Medieval Monasticism Matters'

This lecture explored how, since the 19th century, the history of European Latin monasticism has been interpreted by historians, archaeologists and art historians in a way that reflected the changing concerns of contemporary society. Professor Jamroziak also explained how her own current work on late medieval Cistercian monasticism attempts to move away from the past paradigm and show how monastic history continues to reflect the present and its concerns.

Manuel Barcia Paz
Professor of Latin American History (School of History)
'Slave Rebellions or Actions of War? Understanding West African Armed Resistance in Bahia and Cuba, 1807-1844'

In his lecture, Manuel examined how a series of historical events that occurred in West Africa from the mid-1790s - including Afonja's rebellion, the Owu wars, the Fulani-led jihad, and the migrations to Egbaland - had an impact upon life in cities and plantations in Bahia, Brazil and western Cuba during the first half of the nineteenth century. Why did these two geographical areas serve as the theatre for the uprising of the Nagos, the Lucumis, and other West African men and women? To understand why these two areas followed such similar social patterns it is essential to look across the Atlantic and to centre the focus on the African side of the story. The lecture also raised the broader issue of how American, Latin American and Caribbean historians can make a better use of African history and historical sources to illuminate their subjects of study.

Helen Steward
Professor of Philosophy of Mind and Action (School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science)
'Conceptions of Free Will: The Mental, The Mechanical and the Animal' 

In this lecture, Helen Steward introduced her work on free will by way of a personal reflection on the philosophical attitudes, methods and perspectives adopted by two of her first philosophical teachers, Jean Austin and Kathy Wilkes, both of whom tutored at St Hilda's College, Oxford, where Helen studied for her undergraduate degree.

The lecture explained how her most recent book, A Metaphysics for Freedom (OUP, 2012), can be understood as a work on which their two radically differing attitudes to the subject of philosophy - Jean Austin's vision of philosophy as pure conceptual analysis, focused on ordinary language, careful linguistic distinctions, the discernment of important ambiguities and equivocations, and Kathy Wilkes' conception of the subject as continuous with the sciences and unable to function in isolation from them, both had an important influence. 

The lecture outlined an animalistic understanding of free will, whereby free will, in its most basic manifestations, is thought of as a power common to a great many animals. The animalistic conception is contrasted with two alternative influential conceptions, mentalism (which regards free will as essentially involving specifically mental forms of causation); and mechanism, which insists that free willed actions, whatever they are, must be determined entirely bottom-up, by the interactions of the complex parts of which the human body, and especially the human brain, is constituted. Animalism, it is argued, must reject both theses.

William Gould
Professor of Indian History (School of History)
'The Hidden Histories of Indian Citizenship'

In this lecture, William Gould explored the idea of Indian citizenship as a practiced experiential phenomenon, socially differentiated, cutting across formal structure of rules and rights arising from democratic conventions. Drawing on recent approaches to the state in India and employing a range of case studies of how citizenship was practiced, he suggests that early independent India generated various projects which created the artificial impression of a distinction between state and society. This, he argued, was a by-product of state-driven notions of citizenship which were always challenged by competing social claims. Finally, the lecture explored some of the ways in which new and insurgent forms of citizenship emerged, sometimes around vernacular ideas of rights.