London Branch

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Branch Secretary: Alison Brady

Location: Institute of Education, UCL, 20 Bedford Way, London, WC1H 0AL


All meetings run from 5.30-7.15 pm, unless otherwise indicated. Sessions are followed by a drink and further discussion in the Students’ Union for those who wish to attend. All are welcome.  Click here to download the programme.

25 January

Sharon Todd (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Creating (Counter)Publics: Exploring Socially Engaged Art Practices as Pedagogical Acts of Transformation

This presentation focuses on how the process of creating publics is, at core, a pedagogical act. Publics, drawing on the work of Michael Warner and Judith Butler, are performative forms of association that transform subjectivity and practices of relationality. Along these lines, subversive, alternative and dissident publics (or counterpublics) enact forms of solidarity that are engaged in creating new terms of becoming. That is, claiming a public means claiming another kind and way of being. The paper discusses this alteration of being in relation to the larger educational questions of emancipation and change, and draws on some examples from socially engaged art practice to illustrate the pedagogical dynamics inherent to the work of creating counterpublics.

Sharon Todd is the Head of the Education Department at Maynooth University in Ireland. She received her PhD in Humanities at Concordia University and later became a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada at OISE, Univerisity of Toronto. Her interests are interdisciplinary and look at bringing into conversation the humanities-based traditions of scholarship with a social science commitment to concrete analysis and change.

1 February

Morgan White (author), with a response from Vincent Carpentier (UCL Institute of Education)
Towards a Political Theory of the University

This week’s session will be a book launch for the above title. The book argues that state and market forces threaten to diminish the legitimacy, authority and fundamental purposes of higher education systems. The political role of higher education has been insufficiently addressed by academics in recent decades. By applying Habermas’ theory of communicative action, this book seeks to reconnect educational and political theory and provide an analysis of the university which complements the recent focus on the intersections between political philosophy and legal theory.

Morgan White was a tutor in Philosophy of Education at University of Cambridge, UK and a lecturer in Education at Liverpool Hope University, UK. He received his PhD from University of Manchester, UK, and has a particular interest in the public role of higher education, social justice, deliberative democracy and tensions with instrumental learning.

8 February

Anil Gomes (Oxford University)
Some questions about questions

Questions can confuse and mislead. I shall take as my stalking horse a recent study in social psychology which claims that we ordinarily think of patients in a persistent vegetative state as “more dead than dead” – that is, as having less mental capacity than the dead. This striking result can be explained away as an artefact of the way in which the questions in the study were posed. This suggests ways in which the formulation of a question can influence how people respond to that question – and this has implications for the use of questions in education and elsewhere. Anil Gomes is Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at Trinity College, Oxford and a CUF Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the University of Oxford. His main research interests are in the philosophy of mind and Kant's theoretical philosophy, but he has published more widely on issues in epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.

15 February

Jonathan Clark and Louise Jackson
Social Constructions in the Academy: The Case of the Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship skills have become a naturalised part of many curricula in higher education, especially in arts contexts. But what does the term actually mean? By investigating the literature on the subject, and connecting it with some ideas from political philosophy, we will talk about the ways in which the elusive figure of the entrepreneur, both in the academy and in society more generally, is far from being natural or inevitable, and is actually an elaborate type of construction with contradictory features.

Jonathan Clark is an artist and academic with research interests in: aesthetics and critical theory; philosophy of history and historiography; performance studies; critical pedagogy and the philosophy of education. ( Louise Jackson, who originally trained as a singer, has interests in Critical Pedagogy and the arts in Higher Education; inclusive pedagogical practices and Widening Participation in the arts; the role of the arts in medical education; and the neoliberalisation of social justice and its impact on Higher Education.

22 February

Richard Marshall (UCL Institute of Education)
How Vagueness Makes Educational Assessments Lie

Roy Sorensen has argued two theses: vagueness is best understood as ignorance rather than indeterminacy; lying is best understood in terms of insincerity rather than falsehood. Together they present a challenge for any educational assessment that claims vague assessment borderlines can be precisified via stipulation. If there actually is a borderline but one doesn't know where it is, then any stipulation would be insincere, and on Sorensen's argument, such insincerity would amount to lying. Current educational assessment explicitly endorses the stipulation approach and therefore endorses systematic lying. The paper points to other areas of education where similar reasoning applies.

Richard Marshall has worked in Secondary education in various roles since 1983. He is a contributing editor at 3ammagazine, an online magazine of culture and ideas, and is currently working on interviewing philosophers about their ideas. OUP have published a collection of these ( and a new collection, Ethics at 3:AM (, is due out later this year.

1 March

Kai Horstemke (KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany)
"#FactsMustFall"? – Education in a post-truth world

Taking its inspiration from the name of the recent ‘#FeesMustFall’ movement on South African university campuses, this paper takes stock of the disrepute into which truth, facts and also rationality have fallen in recent times. In the post-truth world, the blurring of borders between truth and deception, truthfulness and dishonesty, and non-fiction and fiction has become a habit – and also an educational challenge. I argue that truth matters, in education as elsewhere, and in ways not often acknowledged by postmodernist and constructivist positions.

Kai Horsthemke teaches philosophy of education at KU Eichstätt in Germany. He is also a visiting professor in the School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, UK. Since 2004, he has published extensively on African philosophy, indigenous knowledge systems, and animal ethics. He is the author of two books, The moral status and right of animals (Porcupine Press, 2010) and Animals and African ethics (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), and the co-editor of Education studies (Oxford University Press South Africa, 2013 and 2016 [2nd ed.]).

8 March

David Lewin (Strathclyde University)
Transgressing the limits of pedagogical representation and reduction

Drawing upon philosophical hermeneutics, this paper considers the interpretive condition of human being. It offers an account of education which understands the reduction, interpretation, and representation of the world to the young as an essential feature of our hermeneutical condition. Inspired by Klaus Mollenhauer’s Forgotten Connections: On Culture and Upbringing, the paper explores the liits of pedagogical representation and the general problems of reduction by way of two contrasting pedagogical texts: Comenius’ “Orbis Sensualium Pictus,” and the Zen Buddhist training text The Ten Bulls.

David Lewin’s interests include philosophy of education, philosophy of religion and philosophy of technology. He is author of Technology and the Philosophy of Religion (Cambridge +Scholars 2011) and Educational Philosophy for a Post-secular Age (Routledge, 2016), and co-editor of From Ricoeur to Action: the Socio-Political Significance of Ricoeur’s Thinking (Continuum 2012) and New Perspectives in Philosophy of Education (Bloomsbury 2014).

15 March

To be confirmed