Leading artists, writers, thinkers discuss the ideas shaping our lives & links between past & present and new academic research.
The Writing of Aime Cesaire
His stinging critique of European colonial racism and hypocrisy Discours sur le Colonialisme was first published in 1950. How does it resonate today? A founder of the Négritude movement, Aimé Césaire (26 June 1913 – 17 April 2008) also wrote poetry and a biography of Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture. To discuss the influence of Césaire's writing, Rana Mitter is joined by Sudhir Hazareesingh, who has just published his own biography of Toussaint; New Generation Thinker Alexandra Reza, from the University of Oxford; and Jason Allen-Paisant who lectures in Caribbean Poetry and Decolonial Thought at the University of Leeds.
Black Spartacus: The Epic Life Of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh is out now and will be read as a Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 from 16 November. Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh, who teaches the University of Oxford, has also written How the French Think. You can hear him in this Free Thinking episode https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b060zryk
Alexandra Reza teaches post-colonial literature at the University of Oxford and is a New Generation Thinker - a scheme run by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council that selects ten academics each year to turn their research into radio.
Writing by Jason Allen-Paisant has been published in Granta, PN Review, Callaloo, and Carcanet’s New Poetries Series VIII, among other places
This episode is linked to BBC Radio 3's residency at London's Southbank Centre and the BBC Culture in Quarantine initiative https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts
You can find other episodes devoted to influential books, plays, films, and art in a Free Thinking playlist called Landmarks of Culture, which includes the writing of Wole Soyinka, Audre Lorde, Susan Sontag, and Rachael Carson. You can find it on the Free Thinking programme website and all are available to download as Arts & Ideas podcasts. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0144txn
Producer: Emma Wallace
Polari Prize winners
Sunil Gupta says his photographs ask what does it mean to be a gay Indian man? Shahidha Bari looks at his work and talks to the winners of the 2020 Polari Prize, which usually takes place at London's Southbank Centre, and to Paul Burston, founder of the salon. https://www.polarisalon.com/
Amrou Al-Kadhi's memoir Life as a Unicorn deals with their life growing up as a queer Arab Muslim drag queen through stories of tropical aquariums, quantum physics and Egyptian divas. They are the winner of the Polari First Book Prize 2020.
Kate Davies's In at the Deep End is a novel that charts a twenty-something civil servant's introduction to lesbian sex, the queer community and complicated, toxic relationships. She is the winner of the Polari Overall Book Prize 2020.
From Here to Eternity: Sunil Gupta a Retrospective runs at the Photographers' Gallery until 24th Jan 2021, including images from his street photography, the 1970s New York Gay Liberation scene, his series The New Pre-Raphaelites and newer digital works.
This episode is part of BBC Radio 3's residency at London's Southbank Centre and the BBC Culture in Quarantine initiative https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts
You might also be interested in the Free Thinking playlist of discussions called Culture Wars and Identity Discussions which includes a debate about new masculinities hearing from Sunil Gupta and others https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06jngzt
Main image: Sunil Gupta, Untitled #13, 2008, From the series The New Pre-Raphaelites, Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery, Stephen Bulger Gallery and Vadehra Art Gallery © Sunil Gupta. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2020
Producer: Caitlin Benedict
Seances, Science and Art - A Haunting, A Telepathy Experiment, and an Exhibition of Supernormal Art.
How a Croydon housewife baffled a 1930s ghost hunter - the author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale, talks to Matthew Sweet about her discovery of a dossier of interviews about a poltergeist "terrorising" Alma Fielding which made headlines in the 1938 Sunday Pictorial newspaper.
30 artists interested in seances and spirituality are on show in an exhibition co-curated by Simon Grant and the Drawing Room Gallery in partnership with Hayward Touring.
Plus we return to a radio experiment in telepathy and a 1920s on air seance with psychologist Richard Wiseman, author of Paranormality amongst many other books. Can you sense what card he is holding?
Kate Summerscale's latest book The Haunting of Alma Fielding is out now and is being read as Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4 from October 24th.
The Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition Not Without My Ghosts: The Artist as Medium developed in partnership with Drawing Room, London runs there until Nov 1st, then it is at Millennium Gallery, Museums Sheffield 19th Nov - 7 March 2021, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea 20 March - June 13 2021, Grundy Art Gallery Blackpool.
The 1927 BBC telepathy experiment with Sir Oliver Lodge described by Richard Wiseman was listed in the Radio Times and you can read about it here: https://genome.ch.bbc.co.uk/1a8b7f91de874debaa392671d7542ea3#
This episode is part of BBC Radio 3's residency at the Southbank Centre and the BBC Culture in Quarantine initiative https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts
In the Free Thinking archives and available as Arts & Ideas podcasts are episodes in which Matthew Sweet goes ghost hunting in Portsmouth https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09dynj0
Shahidha Bari discusses ghost stories and Halloween with curator Irving Finkel, writers Jeremy Dyson, Kirsty Logan, Nisha Ramayya and Adam Scovell https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0009t19
Matthew Sweet looks at the history of magic https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000kvss
and at Piranesi and disturbing architecture hearing from guests including Susanna Clarke and Lucy Arnold https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000mlgh
and at mystics and reality hearing about spiritualist Daniel Dunglas Home from New Generation Thinker Edmund Richardson https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07f6r54
Producer: Alex Mansfield
Post Truth & Derrida
Jacques Derrida was the superstar philosopher of the 1980s and 90s. Often associated with the philosophical movement known as 'poststructualism', he made the enigmatic statement that 'There is nothing outside the text'. Today, one conspiracy theorist has commented that he studied poststructualism in college and learned from it that everything is narrative.
Is Derrida and his style of thought a pathway to the 'post-truth' age? Or is that a crude distortion of an important body of philosophical work?
Matthew Sweet discusses Derrida and his legacies with biographer Peter Salmon, philosopher Stella Sandford, and translator and friend of Derrida Nicholas Royle.
You can find other discussions of philosophy on the Free Thinking playlist which includes discussions about Boethius, Aristotle, panpsychism, marxism, Mary Midgley https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07x0twx
This includes Stella Sandford, Professor at Kingston University, in conversation with Bernard-Henri Lévy and Homi K Bhabha looking at the impact of Covid https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jq87
Producer: Luke Mulhall
Poet Daljit Nagra and crime writer Val McDermid
Poet Daljit Nagra and crime writer Val McDermid discuss capturing different forms of speech, a sense of place, and politics - in a conversation organised with the Royal Society of Literature and Durham Book Festival, and hosted by presenter Shahidha Bari.
Plus, how the medieval fable of Reynard the Fox has lessons for us all today. As a new translation and retelling by Anne Louise Avery is published, she joins Shahidha to discuss the book with Noreen Masud - a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker from Durham University. Based on William Caxton's translation of the medieval Flemish folk tale, this is the story of a wily fox - a subversive, dashing, and anarchic character - summoned to the court of King Noble the Lion. But is he the character you want to emulate, or does Bruin the Bear offer us a better template?
Reynard the Fox, a new version with illustrations, is published by the Bodleian Library, and is translated and retold by Anne Louise Avery.
Daljit Nagra is the author of British Museum; Ramayana - A Retelling; Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!!; and, Look We Have Coming to Dover.
Val McDermid is the author of several crime fiction series: Lindsay Gordon; Kate Brannigan; DCI Karen Pirie; and, beginning in 1995, the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, which was televised as Wire in the Blood. Her latest book - a Karen Pirie thriller - was published in August 2020 and is called Still Life.
Details of events for Durham Book Festival https://durhambookfestival.com/
One of the events features Durham academic Emily Thomas talking about travel and philosophy - you can hear her in a Free Thinking episode called Maths and philosophy puzzles https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000fws2
Crime writer Ian Rankin compared notes on writing about place with Bangladeshi born British author Tahmima Anam in an RSL conversation linked to the Bradford Literature Festival https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000khk6
You can find more book talk on the website of the Royal Society of Literature https://rsliterature.org/
There are more book interviews on the Free Thinking playlist Prose and Poetry https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p047v6vh
This includes: Anne Fine with Romesh Gunesekara; Irenosen Okojie with Nadifa Mohamed; and Paul Mendez with Francesca Wade.
Producer: Emma Wallace
New Thinking about Museums
From a VR version of Viking life and what you can learn from gaming, to describing collections in military museums, to the range of independent museums and the passions of their founders for everything from old engines to bakelite, witchcraft to shells. Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough looks at new research into a range of collections, why more are opening and what is missing.
Fiona Candlin is Professor of Museology at Birkbeck, University of London. She leads the MAPPING MUSEUMS research project and has so far documented over 4,200 of the UKs independent museums, all opened in the last 60 years. She gives us a glimpse into the rich variety of topics covered by small museums around the UK, and discusses how they chart social change.
Henrietta Lidchi is Chief Curator at the National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands and principal investigator on the AHRC-funded project Baggage and Belonging: Military Collections and the British Empire, 1750 – 1900 with National Museums Scotland. She tells us what makes the collections of Military museums unique.
And Sarah Maltby is Director of Attractions at the York Archaeological Trust. She’s leading research aimed at taking the JORVIK VIKING CENTRE online. How does a museum famed for recreating the physical realities of the Viking world using smells and re-enactment re-imagine itself virtually?
Edward Harcourt talks about the project to create a virtual museum of objects and ideas suggested by the public. The Museum of Boundless Creativity will launch fully later this Autumn. https://ahrc.ukri.org/innovation/boundless-creativity/museum-of-boundless-creativity/
This episode of Free Thinking is put together in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UKRI as one of a series of discussions focusing on new academic research also available to download as New Thinking episodes on the BBC Arts & Ideas podcast feed. You can find the whole collection here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03zws90
Producer: Helen Fitzhenry.