Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme

Launching the Matariki Global Citizenship Exchange

By Nicholas Mattock, University of Western Australia

Global citizenship can be a difficult concept to grasp, not least because there is no set definition among those practicing global citizenship. I like to think of ‘global citizenship’ as an understanding and willingness to engage with problems that we face as a global community, as a means of facilitating change. This involves not just volunteering and community activism, but also discussing and exploring issues at an academic level amongst peers. The Global Citizenship Exchange is a new initiative by the Matariki Network – a group of 7 universities committed to promoting and developing the concept of global citizenship – that will provide students with broader exposure to both problems facing communities throughout the world, but also the ways in which we differ with regard to the practice of global citizenship.

As the first student to participate in the Global Citizenship Exchange program – travelling from the McCusker Centre at the University of Western Australia to slightly-less-sunny (but still very beautiful!) Ustinov College at Durham University, in the United Kingdom – I am excited to be among a new community, with new problems and new solutions. As a medical student at the University of Western Australia, my passion is measuring the social impact of global citizenship, both for the community and the individual. To this end, whilst at Durham, I will be running a short project to assess the relationship between self-perceptions of health and engagement with activities of global citizenship. Look for the cold-looking Australian, and I’ll happily give you a survey to fill out!

I am also passionate about the systems we put in place to facilitate activities of global citizenship among students, and developing a model for global citizenship that can be delivered beyond the Matariki Network. Despite being in Durham for less than a week, I have met individuals from every corner of the globe, and every field of study; such individuals are united not by their shared academic interests, but instead by a desire to foster change in communities at home and abroad. Opportunities such as the Global Citizenship Exchange not only build capacity in the individual participating, but also in the community they enter. I would like to think that this is as much a learning opportunity for Ustinov College and Durham University, as it is for myself and the McCusker Centre at the University of Western Australia. Building global relationships, such as those facilitated by the Global Citizenship Exchange, is fundamental to addressing the issues that we face as a global community.

‘Global citizenship’ as a concept is still in its infancy, and the Matariki Network has made it a priority to foster this initiative, both as a powerful tool for social change, and as a way of developing capacity within students and their communities. I appreciate the confidence that the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at the University of Western Australia has in my capacity to act as an ambassador for the Centre and for UWA, and the hospitality provided by Ustinov College at Durham University. In a global economic and social environment that is increasingly stifling of social change, I believe in programs such as the Global Citizenship Exchange as a way of building awareness and capacity in our future advocates and enablers.

The Best Way to Create Christmas is…. With Glitter!!!!!!

On Friday 1st of December (the start of the real Christmas countdown) local school children and their parents were invited to join the GCP to create Christmas crafts with LOTS of glitter. They came along to make Christmas cards and decorations provided with a bit of inspiration from festive tunes and pinterest crafts.

The event was really well attended despite the snow and very chilly weather; probably the sweets and biscuits on offer helped people to brave the artic conditions? For many of the local residents it was their first time in the community room and meeting the GCP team, an experience that was 100% positive for all involved and one that we hope has helped form relationships with the community forever.

Special thanks to the volunteers from the teams who turned up on the day, especially the ones who helped to clear up the epic amount of glitter that covered everything (we are very sorry, but not really who doesn’t love glitter?) and the Café des Arts team who helped to promote the event – you did a really good job! We hope this event will happen again, maybe for Easter as it was very popular with those who came along. Looking back it would be hard to tell who was having more fun with the Christmas crafts the children or the GCP scholars! All in all everyone had a really good time and got into the Christmas spirit. Success!

Jess and Vicki

(Café Sci and Café des Arts)

A visit to the Oriental Museum

By Ho Kunyang

‘I am from China; I am Chinese.’

I have been repeating this phrase since the first day I arrived in Durham. I enjoy this foreignness, this sense of exoticism, the feeling that I can start afresh because I have been reduced to a single identity, my nationality.

There are so many things to see and learn in England: I had never heard of Tesco before; 10 pence coins are bigger than 20 pence coins; the traffic is not in absolute chaos when cars drive on the left-hand side; the first floor is actually the second floor; and nobody says you are welcome; and Cheers means thank you or goodbye.

I have always been a ‘disruptive’ student. Taking in this much amount of foreign culture makes me want to talk back. So, when the Global Citizenship Program held an event called “South Asia and South East Asia Workshop” at the Oriental Museum, I couldn’t help but sign up. I assumed that because I am from China, I knew something about Asia, didn’t I?

It was one of those rainy days in Durham. Our expectations of a large turnout were diminished. However, at 2:30 pm, a small crowd of dedicated museum visitors gathered at the lobby. It is a compact museum. When we were led into the corridors, we even had to jostle for position in front of the exhibits. The first series of exhibits was from Tibet. Though I thought I could play Mr. Know-all, the illusion was immediately crushed. I soon found that I didn’t know the first thing about the province that borders on my hometown. For example, I didn’t know that Tibetans use human skulls as food and water containers, and they leave the dead outside decomposing naturally, and let wild animals feed on it.

However, as the curator explained, this is not because they are uncivilized barbarians, which was my first impression. Tibet is such a rocky, mountainous territory that there are practically no trees available to burn the deceased. And Buddhists believe that when a person dies, his spirit goes out of his body, so the body becomes an empty shell. The skull container and the sky burial custom were the products of these geographic and cultural conditions.

I felt so ashamed that I knew so little about the Tibetan while we are practically living in the same country. It was an eye-opening experience; I started to think that I’d better never assume that I know enough about a people, and always keep an open mind and have the willingness to communicate and learn from others, not least the people about whom I assume I have perfect knowledge.

Lost in Translation

By Iqbal Ahmed

The Ustinov Intercultural Forum (UIF) at Durham University hosted ‘Lost in Translation: A Café Culture’, an intercultural event, on 15 November 2017 to discuss similarities and differences between Japanese and English culture. Ayako Terui, a marketing postgraduate student from Japan, and a member of the UIF team, hosted the event.

“‘Lost in Translation’ was designed to discuss social and cultural issues and pop cultures that are dominant among the younger generation today”, says Ayako. Her interest in coordinating intercultural events began when she was an undergraduate student at Waseda University in Japan where she organised events to help Japanese students connect to the world. The event last week in Durham provided Ayako with the opportunity to re-learn her own Japanese roots through discussions and engagements with students from other countries and her understanding of the difference and similarity of Japanese culture with that of others. “Japan’s culture is very strict – it is very traditional and there are fewer opportunities for women”, says Ayako. “After spending time in Sweden and now in the UK, I have learned to appreciate my freedom but at the same time I have I have learnt to appreciate more of my own culture.”

Learning and discovering were central to ‘Lost in Translation’. Ali Darius Khan, a Physics postgraduate student from Pakistan came to the event because Japan feels like ‘a home’ to him. He lived in Japan and for him this event was an opportunity “to reminisce and to try and understand how people perceive Japan from the outside”. For Darius, this event presented many details about Japanese culture that made him understand it even better. “Ayako dug beneath the surface and the points she made were very authentic in the sense that she talked about the Japanese culture that Japanese people experience in day-to-day life. It really reminded me of my friends in Japan and of life in Tokyo”, he explains. “From the perspective of a Pakistani, the importance of respect, manners and politeness in Japanese culture is not unlike that of Pakistan”.

One of the main reasons that drew Ayako to organise this event was her interest in the Western culture. “I wanted to learn and speak English better”, she says, “But I also wanted to go into the world by myself to overcome the difficulties”.

‘Lost in Translation’ proved to be more than just getting lost in a foreign culture. It provided opportunities for students to discover and learn about themselves by comparing their own cultures to that of the others.

The October Revolution, Lenin and a new Dialectic

By Steven Male

On October 25th 1917 (November 7th), Lenin announced to the citizens of Russia “we have deposed the government of Kerensky”, and thus the world’s first self-proclaimed socialist government was established. This year, on the 100th anniversary of this momentous event Café Politique invited Professor Alastair Renfrew to Fisher House for a discussion.

But was the October Revolution all that momentous? Whilst Professor Renfrew did not deny the significance of the October Revolution, he did provide some important reflections on how the event has been mythologised, and on how western liberal historiography has treated Lenin.

For starters, the October Revolution was neither the beginning of a revolution nor the end. In fact, it is fair to say that a year of revolutions began with the February Revolution in 1917. In his talk, Renfrew explained how this led to the formation of a weak Provisional Government with a revolving door of ministers, which failed to alleviate famine, provide economic stability, and prevent continued military disaster. Both the July Days and the Kornilov Affair highlighted Russia’s ineffectual leadership and, according to Lenin, the inevitability of an armed uprising. Renfrew’s talk carried on to clarify the specificity of this historical time. Previously Lenin had theorized the importance of armed revolution because he believed the bourgeoisie would never willingly give up power, but by October 25th 1917 the Bolsheviks simply stated their willingness to govern by providing peace, work and bread. Kerensky’s Provisional Government offered no resistance. Opposition came from disparate parties in the ensuing civil war which ended in 1923. The next year, Lenin died, and Stalin emerged as his successor. Under Stalin, Lenin and the revolutions were mythologised. In 1928, Eisenstein’s famous film October presented the revolution as a violent struggle. Stalin, Renfrew noted, portrayed Lenin as a godlike figure in order to establish legitimacy.

Meanwhile, western liberal academics have equally mythologised Lenin in what has been a successful attempt to delegitimise his character and the revolution. For Professor Renfrew, Western historiography has presented Lenin as begetting Stalin since without Lenin there could be no Stalin, no terrors or five-year plans. Interestingly, Renfrew noticed, Lenin is considered both as an anarchist and a dictator, despite these being opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. Professor Renfrew then discussed the subjective and ideologically motivated historiography of the West. However, Renfrew’s attempt to dissociate Lenin with the Cheka (Soviet Secret Police) and the Red Terror that occurred under Lenin’s watch –involving wide spread repression and violent atrocities – needs to be reappraised.

Professor Renfrew’s most convincing arguments were centred on Lenin’s ability to create practical doctrine that related to specific circumstances. In fact, Lenin succeeded in creating a tightly controlled, disciplined vanguard party that could educate and lead the proletariat. This might be authoritarian in nature but the authoritarian context of Tsarist Russia made it impossible to be a social democrat. The idea of the vanguard party derived from the necessity of the political environment and Lenin’s, great mistake, according to Renfrew, was not abolishing this vanguard party after the revolution. For Renfrew, Lenin’s ideology did not beget Stalin; Lenin’s last writings emphasised that Stalin could not be trusted to lead. Rather Lenin placed too much authority in too few people and, for this reason, Stalin was able to depose of his rivals.

The necessity to adapt to changing circumstances is the key lesson of Lenin’s career and the October Revolution. Lenin’s objective, according to Renfrew, was an open dialectic political system. That this never emerged after the revolution was a result of the continued power of a vanguard party.

Professor Renfrew concluded his talk with his reflections on the need for a modern dialectic. The October Revolution was driven by a combination of Marxist doctrine and political necessity. Modern political discourse lacks all doctrine in Professor Renfrew’s view, and this is difficult to disagree with. There is a consensus that class is no longer an issue in British politics, which in Renfrew’s opinion is an abnegation of responsibility. Housing is currently the most significant crisis after Brexit; yet there is no doctrine on how such issues might be resolved. Finally, Renfrew remarks, there is a crisis in statehood. Marxist theory emphasises that the state is necessarily oppressive; the state is the force with which elites contain the working class. For Marx, the state must be destroyed. It is ironic, then, that the greatest threat to the state has been the emergence of advanced financial capital and technology. The fundamental challenge for political theorists and policy makers is to establish new open dialectics that enable the state to re-establish its authority and mitigate the negative effects of capitalism.

‘Reflecting Team’ Session – Reflecting on Experiences of Postgraduates in Teaching

By Connie Kwong and Leah Zou

On 8th November, a ‘Reflecting Team’ session was organised by Dr Nicola Reimann from the Centre for Academic Practice, School of Education and Dr Teti Dragas from the English Language Centre. This workshop aimed to bring together a group of postgraduates who are involved in teaching and/or supporting learning in their departments. It explored questions and issues proposed by the participants based on their own teaching practice, and to share and collaboratively solve practical issues arising from teaching.

Each participant came with one or two problems which they would like to be discussed with the ‘Reflecting Team’. The exploration started with gathering issues and deciding on which one(s) to focus on. During the brainstorming process, the participants discovered that they were facing similar or parallel aspects of their issues, and chose to focus on two questions – ‘How to better engage students in tutorial discussion’ and ‘How to keep students working in 5-hour-long studio session’.

The ‘Reflecting Team’ went on to enquire background information from the ‘owner’ of the problem by asking questions related to ‘facts’. The ‘owner’ then left the table and took on a listener role at the side while the Team started the discussion by reflecting on meanings, reasons, influences, challenges as well as practical experiences and suggestions for solutions to the problem. Each question was concluded with sharing about the feelings during discussing and listening, and identifying solutions and actions. The ‘Reflecting Team’ has identified the constraints from the role of tutor as a facilitator to follow the guidelines given by the lecturers, the power relations, cultural differences in practices (both teachers and students), and design of the module.

The participants found this session helpful as it facilitated them to look into the issues from different perspectives, and found possible solutions such as using technology in classrooms to enhance their teaching practices and experiences. They also realised that they were not the only one facing this problem as many other postgraduates shared similar frustrations or difficulties.

Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?

By Nadin Hassan

Last week, Café des Arts and Café Politique co-hosted a screening of the documentary “Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?” (2017), featuring British writer, broadcaster, and former politician Trevor Phillips. Speaking from his experience in the field of politics, Phillips explores the suppression of free speech by politically undesirable elements of the population and its connection to the rise of far-right populist politicians in the United States and Europe. He presents an overview from the cut-and-dry cases of free speech that should not be accepted (a man who writes online threats of sexual assault to a woman who petitioned for Jane Austen to be featured on the £10 bank note) to more complex cases (a case of an anti-immigrant protest in London that city authorities restricted to an isolated part of the city in order not to be in the public eye). Phillips’ argument, entirely unrelated to the actual substance of these figures, was simply that there should be no control to free speech, even from more conservative members of society. A truly liberal state, he argued, should not be repressing any voices or alienating people from the public sphere, but rather encouraging dialogue over differences.

The discussion afterwards was particularly interesting. Students brought up topics such as the fine line between the adoption of other cultural styles and cultural appropriation, as well as the position of authority on mediating between contesting views, such as presented in the case of a feminist speaker who student groups attempted to ban from speaking at Cardiff due to her controversial opinions about transgender women. Even among the students attending the discussion, there were heated debates around cultural sensitivity and admissibility of offending comments, such as the case of UCL Professor Tim Hunt’s resignation due to a sexist joke. The only point of agreement seemed to be that threats of violence may not be tolerated in the public sphere. It confirmed Trevor Phillips’ message and highlighted the challenges of encouraging conversation from different political and social perspectives, and focusing on the topic of discussion objectively without discrediting the opposition. It is a topic to which all facets of society should focus their attention, as globalization and urbanization bring ongoing tensions, and so far, the only respite for the unheard voices – the anti-immigrant groups, the supporters of traditional gender norms, the population reeling from the economic consequences of the shutdown of traditional industries – seems to be the glimmering beacon of the far right and its promises to serve as the ‘voice of the people’.