Resistance is not futile: the politics and protest of being human 

Thursday 26 October 2017

Whether it's East End Jewish immigrant tailors fighting for workers' rights in Victorian Whitechapel, the struggle to defend human rights in the wake of terrorist attacks or making sense of the multiple viewpoints from Northern Ireland's notorious prison culture, they all add to the vibrancy of the 'politics and protest' theme in this year’s Being Human festival of the humanities. 

Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human 2017 is the only national humanities festival in the UK. And it highlights politics and protest through a range of events running from 17 to 25 November. They include:

  • The great Yiddish parade at Queen Mary University of London 
    Experience the intensity of political culture in the Victorian East End with a band of klezmer musicians and singers performing 'lost' Yiddish protest songs in this re-enactment of a protest march by Jewish immigrants in Whitechapel, demanding better conditions for all East End workers. Participation is warmly encouraged and song sheets will be provided (no knowledge of Yiddish required). 
  • Terrorists have rights too at Brunel University London 
    In the aftermath of the London Bridge attacks, Theresa May has threatened to remove specific human rights if they undermine the fight against terrorism. 'Terrorists have rights too' will bring together important thinkers such as novelist Will Self, Max Hill QC and head of Red Lion Chambers, Roy Greenslade from The Guardian, and Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, director of Britain in Europe, to explore the inherent conflict between human rights and combating the threat of terrorism. 
  • Storytelling from conflict – lost and found stories at Queens University, Belfast 
    Using material from the Prisons Memory Archive to explore how to identify, source and exhibit individual stories about conflict, this workshop examines how storytelling can contribute to issues of understanding the 'other' in a divided society. It features a collection of 175 filmed walk-and-talk recordings from prison staff, prisoners, relatives, teachers, chaplains, lawyers, doctors, probation officers and maintenance staff which builds a rich tapestry of the story of Armagh Gaol, the Maze and Long Kesh Prison, and those connected with them. 
  • The Royal Institute of Philosophy debate at The Royal Institute of Philosophy 
    Chaired by Melvyn Bragg with contributions from festival director Professor Sarah Churchwell, author Monica Ali and Professor of Philosophy James Young, this event explores the motion that ‘in 2017, cultural appropriation is an inappropriate method for writers’.  

This is just a sample of the more than 300 events on offer at Being Human 2017. Other themes explored include technology, environment, hidden histories: lost voices, and science and medicine. See the festival site for more information on these themes. 

Find out more about the festival at and follow the latest news on Twitter at @BeingHumanFest.  


Notes to Editors:  

  1. For further information, please contact: Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653  /
  2. Being Human: a festival of the humanities 17–25 November 2017  
    Led by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, Being Human is a national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival will highlight the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives.   
  3. The School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. SAS and its member institutes offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. In 2015-16, SAS: welcomed 786 research fellows and associates; held 2,007 research dissemination events; received 24.4 million visits to its digital research resources and platforms; and received 194,145 visits to its specialist libraries and collections. The School also leads the UK’s only nationwide festival of the humanities: Being Human. Find out more at or on Twitter at @SASNews
  4. The Arts and Humanities Research Council  (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. Follow the AHRC on Twitter at and Facebook 
  5. The British Academy for the humanities and social sciences. Established by Royal Charter in 1902. Its purpose is to inspire and support high achievement in the humanities and social sciences throughout the UK and internationally, and to promote their public value. For more information, please visit Follow the British Academy on Twitter @britac_news.