Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme

Connie’s Eventful Year with the Ustinov Intercultural Forum

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The secret handshake of the UIF international dress party (Photo: GCP)

By Connie Kwong

To prompt exploration and celebration of our many social, cultural, national, and religious differences. —Primary objective of Ustinov Intercultural Forum (UIF)

Being part of UIF is an identity I have proudly adopted since I joined the GCP. Being on the UIF team offers us great opportunities and flexibility in planning and organising events to understand differences and to promote and appreciate others’ cultures. It also allows us to learn about and enhance our capability and creativity.

The whole process involves intercultural communication. Working with a team of people coming from different backgrounds is such an enjoyable experience, as everyone has brilliant and innovative ideas, bringing in what is unique from their own culture. We also organised some events as a cross-team collaboration, such as a seminar on movement and identity with the Ustinov Seminar, Graduate Common Room (GCR), and Durham University Indian Society; and ‘Concepts of Home’ with Race, Crime, and Justice.

I guess you can’t wait to hear more about our events. Our team has put in so much effort in organising a wide range of events. We invited academics for discussions on cultural issues such as migration and identity, engaged people in interactive activities such as the language café and pinning the place(s) where you call home on the world map, and provided career advice for international students in an international career session.

Celebrating world culture is one of our themes this year, for people to learn about and appreciate cultures. We had the Festival of Lights (Diwali) Celebration in which the audience learnt the festival’s background, enjoyed Indian dance and music, got henna drawings, and tried authentic Indian sweets. The International Dress Party was another highlight. Everyone was immersed in colours of national dresses, fantastic performances—Indonesian music and dancing, Chinese singing, and Bollywood dancing, and traditional desserts brought by the guests.

You would never forget these events if you were there. But no worries if you missed them, just check out the photos.

We believe that it is equally important for us to know more about the area we are living now, so we have another theme of ‘Exploring the North East’. We brought people to a local farm to learn local agriculture and taste some farm produce. A visit to Beamish Museum was a journey back to the everyday life in old North East England.

In addition to embracing differences, I have gained invaluable experiences and friendship, inside and outside of Ustinov. The GCP has created a friendly and inclusive environment to bring various cultures together as a world-in-miniature through all these wonderful events, when we are away from home for studies. Here at Ustinov we feel right at home!

Night at the Museum with UIF: Ustinov Intercultural Forum at the Durham Oriental Museum for Ancient Egypt Workshop

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By Matthew Roberts

Living in Durham, you might at some point begin to believe you have a handle on the ancient wonders that now act as the backdrop to your student life. You’ve admired the city streets, been welcomed as a scholar in the cathedral, and drank a beer in the basement bar of the castle. You have been physically immersed in history, you know what to expect at this point. Then someone hands you a beautiful 3000 year-old alabaster Kohl jar, that almost seems to glow with reflected light; an Eye of Horus protective amulet, gazing up from the palm of your hand; a small Shabti burial figurine, perhaps one of the most iconic artifacts of any Ancient Egyptian historical display. What would normally be a set of objects you could only encounter through display case glass is, instead, given to you to physically hold and admire. Afterwards, you realize that your medieval University home will never cease to find new ways to provide amazing, humbling and surreal experiences.

Talk on the Priestess Mummy Credit: Alexandra Verzuh

This year the Ustinov Intercultural Forum is organizing a series of historical workshops hosted by the Oriental Museum. Attendees are given an opportunity to focus on a specific area of the museum’s vast collection. The workshops are broken up into multiple segments: the first portion is a 45-minute gallery tour, with a format recognizable to visitors of any major museum. Specific pieces from the museum’s collection are selected and described in detail by a member of staff, to provide greater context and a richer background history to the workshop visitors. This is followed by a short refreshment break, allowing attendees to discuss what they’ve seen, as well as providing some time to browse the gallery on their own. Finally, those who registered for the workshop proceed to a museum classroom for the object handling session. Space is limited for this second portion, and the number of spots available fills up quickly.

The excellent Charlotte Spink provided guidance for this initiatory session and described some of the more unique pieces within the Museum’s Ancient Egypt collection. I would encourage anyone who missed this first workshop to find some time to visit the museum on your own, and spend some time exploring both of the Egyptian galleries (your Student ID will allow you free entry). The members of staff are welcoming and will answer any questions visitors have about the displays.

Objects Handling Credit: Alexandra Verzuh

Perhaps just as significant to the topic discussion were the selection of students who chose to attend. A wide range of disciplines and backgrounds were represented, which was reflected in many of the small side conversations which took place. Those familiar with Egypt (either through academic discipline or their own personal experience) helped provide greater context to the presentation, finding a receptive audience with which to share and discuss. At least one small side-bar of Anthropology students lingered in the dimly-lit glow of the object displays, considering structural design based on societal needs by comparing and contrasting to similar items found in Ancient China, Greece and Rome. Nevertheless, even those who came due to curiosity rather than academic focus found opportunities to engage in the conversation, by simply admiring the craftsmanship of the objects with their fellow attendees. At the end of the night attendees left with memories of a unique experience, many eager to find other ways to further engage with the museum’s collection.

For those who were unable to attend this first session, there will be several more opportunities in the forthcoming months to engage in similar workshops through the Ustinov Intercultural Forum. The currently planned areas of focus will include: China, the Himalayas, and Central Asia; Japan and Korea; and South Asia and South East Asia. Watch the Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme’s Facebook page at for more details as the events draw near.

Belmont Community School Science Evening

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Pen-Yuan Hsing, Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme – Café Scientifique

Last Monday (19 June 2017), four members of the Ustinov Global Citizenship Programme helped lead science outreach activities at the Belmont Community School Science Evening. As a Café Scientifique team member, I’m happy to have been part of that group and we are all grateful to Ms Julie Ryder and Mr Valentine Maduko from the school for letting us participate.

We used material left from last year’s Ustinov Science Day, but brought them to an audience of kids and their parents from the Durham community. We played with slinkies, tried to identify animal skulls, poured colourless carbon dioxide onto a candle’s flame, and set water and a 20 pound note on fire!

What’s most important is that this is the first, small step we are taking to building up a working relationship with local schools. The Global Citizenship Programmes hopes that not only will everyone in Durham learn about our diverse and international background, but also that Ustinov postgraduates from across the world can learn from this community, too.

Monday’s event was just a small taste of what we’d like to do, and we hope you can join us on this journey. Here are some reflections from our wonderful Café Scientifique member Emine on what she did over the past year.

Credit: Pen Yuan Hsing and Emine Gurbuz

Emine Gurbuz, Volunteer in Ustinov Global Citizenship Program – Café Scientifique

What do we do?   Ustinov Café Sci is a platform where anyone interested in science is welcome to participate – either as a speaker or audience. As a member of Café Sci at Ustinov, I have contributed to organizing several events including talks about current scientific issues (e.g. ageing and how society reacts to it, how we deal with information in a post-factual world) discussion panels (e.g. surveillance of privacy and technology behind it) and science outreach projects in local schools.

What I have gained from it?   While doing so, I have met many inspiring people within the college and outside, I have been able to adapt my new environment in Durham easily and quickly, and gained valuable experience in organizing science events that are relevant for the current issues and at the same time they appeal to everyone with a personal or professional interest in science.

What is next?   In the upcoming year, we aim to organize more interactive science events where the audience can actively participate and we hope to work with local schools in the science outreach projects. To be able to do all of these, we need more people in our team next year, so join us and be part of this amazing experience!

Credit: Pen Yuan Hsing and Emine Gurbuz

This blog post by Pen-Yuan Hsing and Emine Gurbuz and accompanying images are shared under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license, which means you are free to share and build upon them as long as you share them under the same terms.

GCP Presents a Stimulating Talk on Erotic Art

On Wednesday, 30 November 2016, Café des Arts hosted their second event of the Michaelmas term – the Erotic Art in Culture seminar. While some artistic depictions or descriptions of nudity and/or sexual intimacy may originally have been intended as ‘erotic,’ others may be mislabelled on the basis of contemporary mindsets. The ‘Erotic Art in Culture’ seminar brought together both postgraduate researchers and faculty from Durham University in order to explore the interpretations of erotic artwork from both modern and historical perspectives.

The idea for the seminar arose from an ongoing discussion between the graduate students and faculty at Brandeis University. As a student of Classics and Archaeology, I spent a lot of time engaged in courses related to the archaeology of the Bay of Naples. As a result of this, I encountered some fascinating scholarly arguments on Roman wall painting. From the scenes of daily life to mythology, we have been given a narrow glimpse into the lives of Romans in the first century BCE and CE. The wall paintings that illustrated scenes of bathing, nudity, and sexual intimacy, however, were of interest particularly. While some of the images were certainly once considered ‘erotic,’ others have been – and may still be – mislabelled as such due to the way in which archaeological materials are analysed. The theme from the earlier dialogue was expanded upon to allow a wider culture discussion about such artwork from different periods and cultures throughout history.

Medieval Tinder | Credit: Alex Verzuh

The ‘Erotic Art’ in Culture seminar brought together several speakers from Durham University to talk about their academic forays into the erotic – Professor Elizabeth Archibald, Dr. William McKenzie, and Ms. Iris Ordean. Professor Elizabeth Archibald, from the Department of English Studies, discussed the popular practice of bathing throughout Western Europe in the later Middle Ages. While our previous scholarly knowledge on bathing has been taken from literature, poems, and archaeological materials, the artwork of the time period has given us one of the best forms of evidence for the popularity of the practise. As exemplified by Professor Archibald, the scenes of bathing are “remarkably frank” and nudity did not seem scandalous or controversial, even in biblical depictions.

Sensual Shakespeare | Credit: Alex Verzuh

Dr. William McKenzie, from the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, explored the more recent productions of William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. The performance was originally published in the early seventeenth century, but some contemporary directors and set-designers have staged the play in a pornographic fashion. In his talk, Dr. McKenzie argued that Measure for Measure exposed the “liberated contemporary categories of the pornographic as catastrophically simplistic.” In addition, Measure for Measure brings together God, law, and sex in a way that “modern eroticism” cannot envision, illustrating “forms of passionate desire” that current cultures have forgotten and or have yet to discover.

The history of Japanese rope art | Credit: Alex Verzuh

Ms. Iris Ordean, a Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholar from the School of Modern Languages and Culture, discussed the history and cultural practice of shibari – Japanese Rope Bondage. The custom of shibari was originally intended as a method of torture, but has gradually transitioned into a form of erotic practice and performance over time. The nawashi, the “architect of the human installation,” ties and unties parts of a human body in order to keep a person in a constant state of movement. Ms. Ordean investigated the “spiritual experience” that the people involved in shibarishare and further inquired into the “performative nature” of the practice.

On behalf of Café des Arts, I would like to extend an appreciative thanks to the speakers who made the Erotic Art in Culture seminar possible – Professor Elizabeth Archibald, Dr. William McKenzie, and Ms. Iris Ordean. Some special thanks also to the other members of Café des Arts – James O’ Neill, Rafaella Brozou, and Nino Makasarashvili – as well as Jacqueline You, from the Ustinov Intercultural Forum, for the assistance provided during the Erotic Art in Culture seminar.

2017 Ustinov Annual Conference Videos

Ustinov 2017 Annual Conference was a real success! We discussed global citizenship, nationalism and new paradigms throughout the event. Academics shared their research with us, speakers addressed the main topics, and workshops as well as discussions ensued. If you missed the conference, check out the below videos.

Paula Looks Back on a Year of the Ustinov Seminar

Reposted from the 28th June 2016 

By Paula Rondon-Burgos

When I joined the Ustinov Seminar team, I knew I would meet a group of fellow aspiring scholars, all of us passionate about expanding our own intellectual horizons and eager to organise opportunities for the sharing of knowledge. What I didn’t realise was that I would also gain five really good friends. But I guess that’s a happy outcome of bringing together like-minded, enthusiastic individuals who then have to figure out how to collaborate effectively in order to accomplish their goals!

Speaking of goals, my favourite thing about the Ustinov Seminar (one of the projects under the aegis of the Global Citizenship Programme at Ustinov College) is that it’s designed to be a flexible forum which enables participants to tackle all sorts of subjects from all sorts of angles. The aim of this project is to foster conversations among students, established academics and practitioners, and members of the wider Durham community—conversations which help us to learn from one another.

So, while it’s hard to pin down an overarching theme around which all of our events are centred (in fact, we deliberately try to cover a wide range of independent topics!), the unifying element is the interdisciplinary nature of our discussions. Our main seminars during the 2015–16 academic year, for example, address the following broad areas from several points of view: movement and identity, conceptions of mental health, leadership, and revolution.

Paula has a question (Photo: Michael Baker)

Paula has a question (Photo: Michael Baker)

We’re also keen to integrate scholarly perspectives with lived experiences, theory with practice, and the ideal with the real. This collaborative ethic has left its mark on two sub-projects of the Ustinov Seminar: the Faith, Science, and Academia seminar series (a joint venture between Ustinov College and St John’s College, which seeks to provide an informal, open-minded environment for people to engage with issues surrounding personal belief and the academic life) and the Ustinov Annual Conference (which this year will focus on global citizenship as an abstract notion as well as the implications it can have for day-to-day living).

Above all, the Ustinov Seminar provides a comfortable space for postgraduates looking to grow as researchers. Our Research Round Table events have a relaxed, collegial atmosphere which gives student presenters a chance to introduce their specific fields of study and improve their ability to clearly and confidently communicate their ideas to an audience.

And the speakers at our seminars aren’t the only ones who get to grow in new ways! The task of organising events as a member of the Ustinov Seminar team has supported my own development of managerial and interpersonal skills which are essential as I continue to take on more responsibilities in my academic and professional life. In addition, the creative freedom offered by this project has allowed me to take my interests and run with them while also getting my feet wet in subjects about which my fellow team members care deeply.

If I had to sum up in a few words what the Ustinov Seminar stands for I’d say it’s about strengthening the bond between communities. We like building bridges across disciplines and among people. We’re excited to help postgraduates reach their potential and immerse themselves in the scholarly and working-world circles, the ranks of which they will soon enter. We enjoy coming together with others to talk about the challenges of the present in order to open up the possibilities of the future. We love seeing old friends and welcoming new faces. We hope you’ll join us!

Remote Warfare: Drones, Intelligence and Private Military Companies – Hosted by Café Politique

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By Jarno Välimäki

On 28 February, Café Politique tackled a theme that, for many, is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. From the 1980s’ film ‘The Dogs of War’, and Barack Obama jokingly threatening the Jonas Brothers with predator drones, to the news coverage, and many documentaries of intelligence operations, all the aspects covered in this event have certainly attracted wide public attention. However, these issues are less well-covered from the academic side, and Café Politique thus set out to fill this vacuum. Indeed, our seminar with Dr. Oldrich Bures, Professor Ian Leigh, and Dr. Kyle Grayson attracted what was perhaps the record attendance of the year for Café Politique – more than 60 people, although it must be noted that Dr Grayson suspected it was the free wine that attracted the people.

After a short delay due to a shortage of chairs, the event was kicked off with Professor Leigh and his presentation on accountability and oversight in intelligence operations, followed by Dr. Grayson’s take on the cultural politics of targeted killing and drone warfare. Last but not least, Dr. Bures examined the role of the private military and security companies in UN Peacekeeping Operations. Judging on the intense look of concentration on most of the faces in the audience, all of our speakers managed to bring new and interesting aspects of remote warfare into the spotlight. Indeed, after the last presentation we had a lively Q&A session, and even after the event itself there were some interesting conversations happening in the Fisher House about remote warfare and our event.

Clinton’s Defeat: US Election Hosted in Fisher House by Café Politique

Reposted on the 14th October 2017

By Jarno Välimäki

At around 6 in the morning all the posters in Fisher House were taken down. Some of them said ‘bad hombres’ or ‘nasty woman’, others talked about the infamous wall that ‘Mexico will pay for’. CNN was still on and they had not called the winner yet, but we appeared to have done just so. Now those posters seemed inappropriate and tasteless. The next day I heard someone say: ‘The posters would have been funny if Clinton had won.’ Indeed, the posters certainly looked as if they were waiting for Clinton’s victory celebrations.

Clearly, few of us in Fisher House actually expected Clinton to lose, including our guest lecturer Dr Neil Visalvanich, who after his insightful and very informative lecture was described as ‘a proper Democrat’ by one American Ustinovian. To be fair, in no way did he promise us that we would have the first ever female president of the USA. Yet, the crowd seemed very optimistic, and positively nervous. One could sense the buzz in the air when people were queuing for pizza and given bingo cards with phrases that might be mentioned during the broadcast. As one GCR committee member explained, the crowd was even more energised than before the Brexit night earlier this year.

Once the results started coming in, every time Clinton had secured a state the crowd started cheering. However, the more the race tightened, the more one was able to spot stats and graphs on many mobile phone screens. The record was, as far as I know, six simultaneous graphs on one screen. It seems that Ustinovians do not only take the election results, but also the process of following the counting and announcement of votes, very seriously. And serious it became! The statistics gave less and less of a chance for Clinton’s win every time a new result came in. By constantly monitoring this change, and reporting it, I myself managed to annoy a friend of mine, who was an enthusiastic Clinton supporter. The disbelief, with a bit of denial, was now suddenly real. No one was playing bingo anymore.

If the results shocked us, for Clinton they were ever more shocking, and most people had already gone to bed before she appeared on TV. None the less, Clinton finally gave her concession with these words: ‘This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is– it is worth it’. That morning I among others learnt very painfully that if you stay up until 7.30am, it will be hard to get up for your 9am lecture, which seemed like the only lesson learnt from that night. But having heard Clinton’s speech, it is clear that her words should be the most important lesson we take home from that night.

If you would like to get involved with Café Politique or would like to find out more, email

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