2021-22 Open for Discussion Series
Freedom of Speech and academic freedoms have attracted renewed public and political interest. Debates often emphasise the importance of freedom of speech to democracy and democratic freedoms, while international organisations continue to monitor censorship and the free press across the world. Key questions continue to exercise scholars, politicians, the press and the public: should there be limits to freedom of speech? How should freedom of speech be recognised in the law? What are the implications for freedom of speech posed by new technologies and digital platforms? What are the barriers to having multiple voices heard, respected and acknowledged, now and in the past? How do we have open debates in polemical times?  

Speaking Freely is an events series that explores the legal, cultural and historical dimensions of these questions, both within the UK and internationally. The series brings together experts from across the world and from different sectors to debate and discuss these critical issues.

'Open for Discussion’ is an annual series of conversations convened by experts at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London that brings multidisciplinary humanities perspectives to bear on critical social issues -- issues with human dimensions frequently overlooked in current policy debates.

Each conversation features thought-leaders and humanities researchers in wide-ranging discussions that present questions of policy, practice, and opportunity. In the tradition of the School’s approach to humanities research, the series experiments with new ideas and formats. Each conversation generates a range of provocations, interventions, and/or policy papers to spur further discussion.

2021-22 Series Details

Session 1: 19 January 2022 | 18:00 - 19:30

Details TBC

Session 2: 16 February 2022 | 18:00 - 19:30

Details TBC

Session 3: 16 March 2022 | Writing Freely

16 March 2022 | 18:00 -19:30

Drawing on expertise and experiences from around the world, this roundtable discussion explores the power of literary writing to contribute to and lead oppositional movements and initiatives against political oppression. In movements as diverse as the Arab Spring and resistance against authoritarianism in Nicaragua, examples of literary writing have managed to avoid censorship, expressed resistance in subtle but powerful ways and acted as a coalescing force to galvanise revolt. For refugees from oppressive regimes, too, writing has become a means to continue oppositional activities and to gather forces of resistance. In many cases, this has led to unexpected alliances, strengthening the lateral networks of resistance across national and geographical borders.

Addressing these issues in an exchange of experiences over a wide geographical range, this event allows us to draw out a transnational and cross-cultural understanding of what ‘writing freely’ means.

Confirmed speakers:

  • Malu Halasa (co-editor of Syria Speaks)  
  • Sergio Ramírez (author, Nicaragua) 
  • Anna-Louise Milne (academic, Paris) AGREED

Session 4: 26 April 2022 | Global Conversations. Speaking Freely and Academic Freedom: International Perspectives

26 April 2022 | 18:00 -19:30

With the proposal to introduce a Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for students in the UK, there is a temptation to view debates over academic freedoms purely in national terms. Yet, these debates are international, whether centred on how to navigate an increasingly fraught landscape on campus or how academic freedoms are to be protected when scholars are openly persecuted by regimes intent on silencing opposition. This event will bring together scholars to discuss both how we ensure academic freedoms and reasoned debate on campus and how we support scholars facing persecution across the world, through schemes such as CARA and the Scholars at Risk programmes.

Speakers TBC

Session 5: 18 May 2022 | 18:00 - 19:30

Details TBC