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Speaker Spotlights 2017

Throughout the Festival period, we turn the spotlight onto one of the speakers each day in a series of Q&As aimed at discovering more about the speaker and their particular area of research or speciality. Informative and insightful, these spotlights from the 2017 Festival offer readers the chance to understand a little more about an area of research prior to the speaker’s event.


Matthew Worley, Professor of Modern History at the University of Reading charts the emergence of punk.

Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Cambridge, with economist Ha-Joon Chang, journalist Aditya Chakrabortty and editor Victoria Waldersee discuss whether people have really had enough of experts.

Lucy Popescu, editor of A Country of Refuge, an Anthology of Writing on Asylum Seekers, speaks about related experiences in a panel discussion, Refugees: truths and innocent lies, with writers Noo Saro-Wiwa and Hassan Abdulrazzak, and Tim Finch, former director of communications for the Refugee Council.

David Reynolds, Professor of International History and Kristina Spohr, associate professor of international history at the London School of Economics, speak about why We need to talk about Putin!, drawing on their book Transcending the Cold War. Professor Reynolds is also chairing an event, Rewriting history.

Frank Furedi, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Kent, is speaks in the discussion Is relativism to blame for our post-truth world? alongside fellow panellists Professor Simon Goldhill, Caroline Edwards and Priyamvada Gopal. The event is chaired by Professor Simon Blackburn.

Julian Hargreaves, Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute, speaks in the Manufacturing a clash of civilisations event on 21 October along with Andrew Preston, Sara Silvestri and Esra Ozyurek.

Ruth Dudley Edwards, crime fiction writer, biographer and historian, speaks in the Rewriting History discussion on 17 October on how history is used to advance nationalist and colonialist ideas and how different sides can fervently believe different versions of the same events.

Nafisa Waziri, President of The Black Cantabs Research Society, talks about how the society was founded and what it aims to do. From 16-23 October, The Balck Cantabs Research Society is holding an exhibition at St John’s Chapel.

Rae Langton, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, addresses post-truth and free speech in her talk Post-truth as post-democracy on 16 October.

Dr Amy Erickson, University Lecturer in British Economic and Social History, and Emma Nicholls, PhD student in the Faculty of History, lead a workshop on bystander intervention in cases of sexism and racism in Speaking Truth to Power.

Artist Pallavi Paul shows her new work Terra Firma at the Fitzwilliam Museum from 24 October to 4 February and will also be doing an in-conversation session about it on 27 October. The work is an artistic response to ideas of truth, secrecy and espionage.

Professor Dame Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental physics at the University of Cambridge, Master of Churchill College and a member of the ERC’s Scientific Council, gives the Sir Hermann Bondi lecture on 23 October on UK research in troubled political times.

Kolfinna Baldvinsdóttir screenwriter of the film Those Who Dare, a film about her father’s involvement in the independence of the Baltic States as Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, gives a Q & A with after the screening on the 19 October.

George Zarkadakis, systems engineer, PhD in Artificial Intelligence, novelist, playwright, essayist, science communicator and author of non-fiction, speaks in the  Can politics keep up with technology? panel discussion on 21 October with social anthropologist Beth Singler, Law lecturer Nora Ni Loideain and Will Moy from Full Fact fact-checking charity.

Surabhi Ranganathan, Lecturer in International Law at the University of Cambridge and a former Gates Cambridge Scholar, speaks in a panel discussion on 23 October on Technology and nationalism in India with Jaideep Prabhu, Kavita Ramakrishnan and Bhaskar Vira. Shinjini Das will chair.

Nora Ni Loideain, Director and Lecturer in Law at the Information Law and Policy Centre, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, speaks in the Can politics keep up with technology panel discussion on 21 October with social anthropologist Beth Singler, author George Zarkadakis and Will Moy from Full Fact factchecking charity.

Sophie Seita, poet, playwright, translator and scholar, currently a Junior Research Fellow in English at Queens’ College, Cambridge, has written My Little Enlightenment Plays: A Performance Lecture taking place on 25 October.

Dr Tomas McAuley, British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Music at Cambridge and Postdoctoral Research Associate at Queens' College gives a talk entitled Does music speak the truth? on 26 October.

Dr Simone Spagnolo, is Course Leader for Performing Arts, Senior Lecturer in Musical Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University and composer of the experimental play The Colour Blue, an operatic boxing game which is being shown at Cambridge Festival of Ideas on 28 October.

Dr Sujit Sivasundaram, Reader in World History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow in History at Gonville and Caius College and author of the book Islanded, speaks at Cambridge Festival of Ideas on 28 October on Islands and the making of the world we know.

Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University gives a talk at the Festival of Ideas entitled Are we all thin enough yet: busting the myth that beauty ideals are ‘natural’. He also contributes to the panel discussion Judging the book by its colour: the psychological truth about myths, beliefs and prejudice. Both events are on 28 October.

Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock, sociocultural anthropologist and research fellow at the Woolf Institute gives a talk entitled Truth and power: the politics of expertise and behaviour after the L’Aquila earthquake on 29 October.