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, writing has often become a means to continue oppositional activities and to gather forces of resistance, and to use creative expression to build a new life. 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.
- Daniel Gormanâ (Director of English Pen- discussion chair)
Before taking up this post in 2019, he was Executive Director of Shubbak , Europe’s largest festival of contemporary Arab culture. Daniel is also a co-founder of Highlight Arts, who have organised UK-based international arts festivals and events since 2007 including projects working with writers in Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
- Malu Halasa (co-editor of Syria Speaks)
Malu Halasa is an author, editor and exhibition curator specializing in the Middle East. She is co-editor of a number of anthologies, including Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014). Her novel, Mother of All Pigs (2017), depicts life in Jordan; and her exhibitions include Culture In Defiance, on the art of the Syrian uprising (for the Prince Claus Fund Gallery, Amsterdam).
- Anna-Louise Milne (academic, University of London Institute in Paris )
Anna-Louise Milne is a Professor at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). Her research began in comparative literature and has extended to cultural translation, creative writing and contemporary migration studies. She is Director of Research at ULIP.
- Sergio Ramírez (author, Nicaragua)
Sergio Ramírez is an acclaimed Nicaraguan author who received the Premio Cervantes in 2017. He is the founder of the literary festival Centroamérica Cuenta. Sergio was part of the junta that led Nicaragua after the Sandinista Revolution and Vice-President of Nicaragua between 1984 and 1990. In 2021,censorship of his latest novel and charges against him by Nicaraguan authorities led him into exile.
This session will be available in both Spanish and English.
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.
All welcome, but advanced registration is required.This event is free to attend, but booking is required. It will be held online with details about how to join the virtual event being circulated via email to registered attendees 24 hours in advance.