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Free thinking

Cambridge Festival of Ideas are working with global quarterly Index on Censorship magazine on an exciting partnership in 2015, to offer in-depth articles and follow-up pieces from leading artists, writers and activists on all of our headline events. We hope you enjoy our reading list with a difference.   


Thoughts policed

Recommended reading for Election: live!

Have we created a media culture where politicians fear voicing an opinion that’s not the party line? Max Wind-Cowie reports.

We are often, rightly, concerned about our politicians censoring us. The power of the state, combined with the obvious temptation to quiet criticism, is a constant threat to our freedom to speak. It’s important we watch our rulers closely and are alert to their machinations when it comes to our right to ridicule, attack and examine them. But here in the West, where, with the best will in the world, our politicians are somewhat lacking in the iron rod of tyranny most of the time, I’m beginning to wonder whether we may not have turned the tables...[continue reading]


Deliberately lewd

Recommended reading for The body politic: censorship and the female body.

Erica Jong explains why pornography is to art as prudery is to the censors.

Pornographic material has been present in the art and literature of every society in every historical period. What has changed from epoch to epoch – or even from one decade to another – is the ability of such material to flourish publicly and to be distributed legally. After nearly 100 years of agitating for freedom to publish, we find that the enemies of freedom have multiplied, rather than diminished…[continue reading]


My book and the school library

Recommended reading for Banned books: controversy between the covers.

Norma Klein, the American writer of children’s books, describes how she successfully defended her Confessions of an Only Child before a school board meeting.

I used to feel distinguished, almost honoured, when my young books were singled out to be censored. Now, alas, censorship has become so common in the children’s book field in America that almost no one is left unscathed...[continue reading]


Future imperfect

Recommended reading for Privacy in the digital age.

Should concerns about privacy after the NSA revelations change the way we use the web? Jason DaPonte asks the experts about state spying, corporate control and what we can do to protect ourselves.

“Government may portray itself as the protector of privacy, but it’s the worst enemy of privacy and that’s borne out by the NSA revelations,” web and privacy guru Jeff Jarvis tells Index.

Jarvis, author of Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live argues that this complacency is dangerous and that a debate on “publicness” is needed...[continue reading]


The politics of terror

Suggested reading for Can writers and artists ever be terrorists?

In China, as hundreds of millions leave the countryside to seek employment in the cities, they are left without official jobs, legal protection or school places for their children. Jemimah Steinfeld and Hannah Leung report.

I object to the ‘age of terror’ title. My anxiety about this is that it is already putting people like me at a disadvantage. I am forced to work within an assumption, which is shared by all normal, sensible people, that we live in ‘an age of terror’. Therefore the point of view that I am about to put – about the total appropriateness of the criminal law; about the relative security in which we live; about the fact of our being pretty secure in comparison with many previous generations – is deemed to be sort of eccentric, if not obstructive...[continue reading]


Drawing on the dark side

Suggested reading for War, Censorship and Propaganda: Does It Work.

When it comes to depicting war, humour can be a critic’s most dangerous weapon, says Martin Rowson as he trips through the history of cartoons.

As a political cartoonist, whenever I’m criticised for my work being unrelentingly negative, I usually point my accusers towards several eternal truths.

One is that cartoons, along with all other jokes, are by their nature knocking copy. It’s the negativity that makes them funny, because, at the heart of things, funny is how we cope with the bad – or negative – stuff...[continue reading]


Moving towards inequality

Suggested reading for Hidden Voices; Censorship Through Omission.

In China, social benefits are tied an antiquated system of household registration that restricts benefits to the place where people were born. As hundreds of millions leave the countryside to seek employment in the cities, they are left without official jobs, legal protection or school places for their children. Jemimah Steinfeld and Hannah Leung report.

When Liang Hong returned to her hometown of Liangzhuang, Henan province, in 2011, she was instantly struck by how many of the villagers had left, finding work in cities all across China. It was then that she decided to chronicle the story of rural migrants. During the next two years she visited over 10 cities, including Beijing, and interviewed around 340 people...[continue reading]


Escape from Eritrea

Suggested reading for A New Home: Asylum, Immigration and Exile in Today’s Britain.

As refugees flee one of the world’s most repressive and secretive regimes,Ismail Einashe talks to Eritreans who have reached the UK but who still worry about the risks of speaking out.

Television journalist Temesghen Debesai had waited years for an opportunity to make his escape, so when the Eritrean ministry of information sent him on a journalism training course in Bahrain he was delighted, but fearful too. On arrival in Bahrain, he quietly evaded the state officials who were following him and got in touch with Reporters Sans Frontières...[continue reading]



From drones to floating smartphones: how technology is helping African journalists investigate

Suggested reading for Technologies of revolution: how innovations are undermining regimes everywhere.

Data journalist Raymond Joseph reports on how low-cost technology is helping African newsrooms get hold of information that they couldn’t previously track.

Deep in Mpumalanga province, in the far north-east of South Africa, a poorly resourced newspaper is using a combination of high and low tech solutions to make a difference in the lives of the communities it serves...[continue reading]


Defending the right to be offended

Suggested reading for Faith and education: an uneasy partnership.

For Index on Censorship magazine Samira Ahmed takes a look at 15 years of multiculturalism and how some people’s ideas of it are getting in the way of freedom of expression.

In 1999, the neo-Nazi militant David Copeland planted three nail bombs in London – in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho – targeting black people, Bangladeshi Muslims and gays and lesbians. Three people died and scores were injured...[continue reading]


Index on Censorship is a global quarterly magazine with reporters and contributing editors around the world. Founded in 1972, it promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression. It has featured some of the world’s leading writers, journalists and thinkers including Samuel Beckett, Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, Salman Rushdie, Aung San Suu Kyi, Gabriel García Márquez and Elif Shafak. 

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: Festival goers can enjoy almost 50% off a year's digital subscription to Index on Censorship's magazine with code CENS2015 

Just £10 for 12 months and free access to the Index archive.

Image: © Ben Jennings for Index on Censorship magazine