Tag Archives: Politics

Oxford: Refugees Are Welcome Here!

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This afternoon, about 2,000 people gathered by Oxford University’s Sheldonian building for a peaceful demonstration in support of the Syrian refugees, showing that refugees are welcome in Oxford.

The demonstration was chaired by Mark Lynas. A speaker from Oxfam, Dr Hojjat Ramzy of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre, Asylum Welcome, Emmaus Oxford and other charities spoke, as well as current and former asylum seekers from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan. The head of Oxford City Council confirmed that Oxford would be welcoming refugee families, and called on the government to make funds available to expedite the process.

A speaker from UNISON called attention to the need to force the government to build more houses and abandon the racist policies which all parties espoused in the run-up to the last IMG_3294general election, before publicising the national day of action next Saturday. The author Mark Haddon called on Britain to “be more German”, after crowds in Munich applauded refugees arriving at their railway station.

If you want to help the refugees – including those already in the UK, who are not allowed either to work or claim benefits – the consensus among the charities was that there are three preferred things to donate at this stage:

ACCOMMODATION, either as a host to Syrian refugees or as a foster parent to unaccomIMG_3303panied refugee children. A representative from the charity Homes For Good spoke about how his organisation is enabling people to become foster parents to Syrian refugee children who will shortly arrive in this country. For more information, go here. If you could offer a spare bedroom to an adult refugee or a refugee family, Oxford City of Sanctuary wants to hear from you.

MONEY. Donating goods is excellent but, like all the major charities campaigning for financial aid (MSF | Red Cross | Save The Children | Oxfam etc.), Emmaus Oxford is requesting cash donations so they can bulk-buy goods to take to Calais at the end of this month. Asylum Welcome, who run all kinds of schemes in Oxford from English lessons to youth clubs, are also desperately in need of funds.

SKILLS. If you can teach English or translate, both the Oxford Syrian Refugee Helpline and Oxfordshire’s Asylum Welcome need your help. It seems to me that every other Oxford resident has a TEFL certificate mouldering or sparkling away in their CV – stronger English language skills make negotiating life as a refugee in the UK easier and less daunting, helping families integrate and access the resources they need. Could you give a couple of free lessons a week?

[CALL FOR PAPERS]: Victorians and the Law (deadline 1 April 2013)

Victorian Network is an MLA-indexed online journal devoted to publishing and promoting the best postgraduate work in Victorian Studies.

The eighth issue of Victorian Network, guest edited by Dr Cathrine Frank (University of New England), will take a fresh look at the interfaces between literature and legal cultures in the Victorian period. From the Reform Acts through the growth of colonial law to the establishment of divorce courts, nineteenth-century legislature shaped and responded to the same cultural developments – the rise of the middle class, industrialisation, imperial expansion, and shifting ideas about gender, to name but a few – that were also eagerly debated by literary writers. The politics and aesthetics of many nineteenth-century novelists, poets and playwrights were informed by a sustained engagement with legal debates and practices. Their works often reflected on, and sometimes challenged, the law’s construction of civic, social and gender identities, while also casting a critical (or appraising) eye over the bureaucratic apparatus on which legal practice was built.

We are inviting submissions of no more than 7000 words. Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • wills, trusts and guardianship accounts: the materiality of the legal archive
  • Victorian trials, sensation and theatricality
  • criminal law, lawlessness, realist epistemologies and the detective plot
  • Victorian law and gender
  • the reaches of the law: imperialism and the legal & literary creation of colonial identities
  • intersections between genres of legal and literary writing
  • “brought up a barrister”: nineteenth-century authors, legal training, professionalization and the bar
  • radical politics, social change and the working class in Victorian literature and the law
  • debates about rights to intellectual and literary property
  • the spaces and cultural venues of legal practice.

All submissions should conform to MHRA style conventions and the in-house submission guidelines. The deadline for submissions is 1 April 2013.

Contact: victoriannetwork@gmail.com

[I am, as ever, the Submissions Editor for Victorian Network. I encourage you to send me emails containing your excellent postgraduate and recent postdoctoral work as per our guidelines. If I know you research law, crime, or anything in the above list, you can expect me to start nagging you on Twitter &c in the coming weeks…]

Advent Calendar Day 7: Charity!

The quintessential Christmas charity is probably the Salvation Army. Personally, though, I’m uncomfortable donating to the SA due to their historic (and contemporary) attitudes to LGBT people, and, of their militaristic, evangelical style of Christianity.

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA...)

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA…)

Enough hate. Today’s window opens on other and perhaps worthier causes (chosen in entirely idiosyncratic and incomplete fashion by me) to which you might like to donate this Christmas!

Of course, not everyone has spare cash for donations at the moment. So, here are places where just a few moments’ clicking or playing allows you to donate to charity without spending any money yourself:

Published: Revolting Women @ Bad Reputation

I have promised myself I will NOT BLOG until this chapter plan is finished, but I did just want to share my  – belated – glee at being published with the fabulous feminist website Bad Reputation. I was unable to make their anniversary party in Camden on Oct 7 (having, on Oct 6, hosted a certain amount of wassail myself) but am delighted to call myself a contributor, even on the strength of one article.

I wrote on French LGBT activist Genevieve Pastre for their Revolting Women series (available under this tag).

To read the article, click here, but in any case, I hope you enjoy this picture of the first big French gay rights protest, which might usefully be subtitled “dear god, French gays are so much cooler/more stylish and generally better than the rest of us”. There’s an intensity of leather and cheekbone to which one can only aspire.

Before I head back to Cymbeline and my dead Shakespearean girlfriends, however,  here are three BadRep posts for your consideration:

Happy FRIDAY.

Sarah Daniels: Plays 1

Ages ago, the nice people at methuen drama very kindly offered to send me a free book (I forget why, but thank you very much and please, more of the same).

In an excess of irresponsibility, I decided NOT to choose anything vaguely useful to my course, and to instead pick, at random, the work of a female playwright with whom I was unfamiliar. Sarah Daniels’s Plays: 1 duly arrived at Brasenose the other day, and since the Orlando Project tells me she’s “the only radical lesbian feminist to have made it into the mainstream”, I think I chose rather well.

Sarah Daniels was born in 1956, in London. Her Orlando profile describes how, as a secondary school student, she

“hated school” and made a habit of sitting at the back of the class, not listening. She left at eighteen for work. Bibliographic Citation link At school she “didn’t even like drama.” Bibliographic Citation link Studying Shakespeare‘s Henry V for O level English was dominated by reading the play aloud and therefore, for her, anxiety about pronouncing the words right. She was astonished to discover that she enjoyed the play when she saw it in the theatre. Bibliographic Citation link

She was lastingly impressed by an incident at her school when a boy raped a girl at knife-point. The boy was removed to a borstal or school for young offenders, but the headmaster then addressed the whole school to tell them that in cases of rape the blame was shared equally by both parties. Bibliographic Citation link

Daniels’s playwriting career took off after she was able to spend a year as the writer-in-residence of Sheffield University’s English department. Her plays have been performed at theatres including the Royal Court and the National Theatre, and Daniels is also on the board of directors for Clean Break Theatre (trans: she is awesome beyond words). Her partner of many years, and civil partner, was the activist and schools inspector Claire Walton, who died in 2009.

Plays 1 comprises Sarah Daniels’s first six plays: Ripen Our Darkness, Ma’s Flesh is Grass, Masterpieces, The Devil’s Gateway, Neaptide and Byrthrite.

So far I’ve read Ripen Our Darkness (1981) and Masterpieces (1983). My ability to consume feminist 80s playwriting knows almost no bounds. Ripen Our Darkness is about marriage, mental illness and misery in the Anglican church; a bolder precursor to Alan Bennett’s Bed Among The Lentils, which followed in 1987 and also depicts a vicar’s wife in crisis. Daniels’s protagonist doesn’t receive even temporary redemption or escape.

Daniels’s next play, Masterpieces is about pornography, misogyny and mental illness. The roles across both plays are predominantly female, and, at its best, the writing is heart-stopping, combative and clear. However, Ripen Our Darkness is weakest and most uneven in its handling of the working-class lesbian Julie, who might have sounded cliched in her speech back in 1981. Yet, for a play that’s 30 years old, Ripen Our Darkness often strikes heart & intellect simultaneously: moreover, Hilary, the most obviously working-class woman in Masterpieces, is far more subtly characterised than Julie. Hilary, a single mother and sex worker, readily accepts a legitimate day job from a male friend of her social worker. The scene in which Hilary’s boss, Ron, begins to seduce and harass her is both timeless and excruciating, as are the unsympathetic responses of the other characters.

Daniels’s unabashedly anti-pornographic stance in Masterpieces has (regrettably) become unfashionable in contemporary feminism, but her emotionally direct style anticipates writers like Laurie Penny. I wish I could see ways of staging her plays for student audiences, but at the moment I’m unconvinced. For one thing, Oxford plays with all-female casts tend to do badly unless they’re Playhouse Creatures or The House of Bernarda Alba (both of which I love), or, at best, attract tedious expanses of critical shock at the goshness and novelty of a play without any boys (on second thoughts, maybe Daniels isn’t dated at all).

As texts, Daniels’s plays read wonderfully. I’m, um, apprehensive about the last in the collection, which is ominously titled Byrthrite and which I suspect of glorying in wom(y)nly gore, but I’m currently halfway through Neaptides (1986) and desperate to know what happens.

If I blink at the scene in Neaptides where Claire tells daughter Poppy a myth-cum-fairy-story about the goddess Persephone’s masturbation, I’m grateful that Daniels wrote in ways that are so combative, unembarrassed, and unashamed. The radical feminists of the 1980s cut swathes through misogyny and chauvinism, so that twenty-first-century girls like me could, if they chose, be embarrassed and Anglican and gay all at once, and in (relative) peace. In Daniels’s excellent first collection, I’m glad to find myself another feminist, literary foremother, and to take a look at another bit of feminism’s theatrical past.

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Call To Register: Oxford English Graduate Conference “The Famed and The Forgotten”

Registration is now open for The Famed and The Forgotten, taking place on 10th June in Oxford University’s English Faculty.

45 student speakers from Oxford and around the UK will be delivering papers on the concepts of ‘famed’ and ‘forgotten’, interrogated in the broadest possible terms across genres and periods encompassing Old English to the literature of the present day.

A panel discussion on “The Future of Reading” featuring representatives from Oxford University Press, SHM Productions consultancy and the Oxford English Faculty will take place, and we will hear a keynote address from Booker Prize winner Penelope Lively.

The £15 attendance fee covers lunch, snacks and all conference materials. Please register via our website – http://graduate-conference.english.ox.ac.uk/ – or with an email to claire [dot] waters [at] ell [dot] ox [dot] ac [dot] uk.

Then, confirm your place by sending a cheque or postal order for £15 made out to the University of Oxford to Claire Waters, St Catherine’s College, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UJ.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Bullingdon Revisited

Although few who know me will believe this, I do not, in fact, obsess over my blog statistics. When I first started this blog, those little graphs were something of an addiction, but the dependency wore off (Brrnrrd told me it would. At the time, developing RSI from the ‘refresh’ button, I didn’t believe her and took this as one more indication of her cool/nihilism/being totally dead inside). 

However. I just happened to check my hits this morning. And, apparently, today was Clamorous Voice’s second-busiest day, ever. All because of this post, and my incoherent-but-inviolable-views-on-the-Bullingdon. The Bullingdon Club (Oxford, tailcoats, Tories, wankers) has been on my mind again today, for the unrelated reason that yesterday my beloved (my Scottish male homosexual beloved; there are several) asked whether I’d been watching ITV’s Trinity. Apparently it is Just Like Our College. I can believe this. Whereas colleges like Queen’s, Trinity, most of the Sts and to some extent Worcester seem amiable but bland, everything about our own alma cogan has always been quite startlingly bonkers. I ought to do a post on college stereotypes one day, were it not for a) fear of libel, and b) almost all of my out-of-college friends were thesps and/or homosexuals, at least as an undergraduate, resulting in an extremely skewed but highly-coloured and entertaining version of events. But Trinity really does seem very boring.

Can only attribute ClVo’s  sudden surge in popularity to the fact that today is Sunday of 0th week (in English, the start of Oxford Freshers Week) and thus tiny Bullingdon wannabes are googling for advice. Mine is: don’t do it. Or, you know, in less spire-centric and more plausible news, because Channel 4 is fervently promoting When Boris Met Dave, a depressing look at the origins of everyone who’ll shortly be running the country (say it again: Oxford, tailcoats, Tories, wankers).

Anyway, hello to the first-time-callers; I hope you stick around.

Zahra Rahnavard, Tehran’s women and the American mythos

Women rush to the aid of a man being beaten in Tehran.Women rush to the aid of a man being beaten in Tehran.

This picture makes me proud to be a woman. Also, yeah: don’t tell me my sisters in headscarves are passive, that they’re uneducated, that they’re apolitical (hi, Dr. Rahnavard, I hear you’re 64 and wear the chador) and automatically oppressed. There is nothing more political than these women, rushing forward in their religion and their politics. This is their revolution too. They will not disappear once it’s over (I don’t think it will ever be over).

Go here for quotations from Zahra Rahnavard. And go here for a bloody stupid line of reporting.

Nor do I like the awareness-raising meme post that’s been circulating on blogging sites, begun here. The sentiments are worthwhile (if poorly expressed), but the reference to how ‘For the first time in a long time, a voice for change struck the youth of Iran, just as it did for many people in the United States only seven months ago’ really bugs me. I know plenty of American media are suddenly interested in Iran because it can be written into a cosily Obama-analogous mythology now that the departure of Bush and the advent of Barack makes it easier for the US to look outwards and see itself as a saviour again, but, really. The situation in Iran, the situation in America? Zahra Rahnavard PhD, Michelle Obama? One of these things is not like the other. Iran isn’t important because it can be conveniently compared to the American mythos. The protests in Tehran aren’t important because they’re timely. They’re just important.

OUCA race shame

The (chief) racist berk in this article is my college grandson. I’m so proud.

Not all of OUCA is racist; I have some dear friends who are (or more usually, were) part of that organisation and who are – in behaviour towards men and women of all races and orientations – a world away from Gallagher (who admits telling the joke). I do not think any of them were at that meeting; I’d be very shocked if they were.

But any decent man would have left the room immediately rather than tell that joke, and I hope that everyone who stood around to laugh at it feels thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Perhaps they will also begin to recognise their resemblance to the predominantly working-class, white male BNP voters to whom they no doubt consider themselves manifestly superior.