SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies


Panel 1. The Environment: Climate, pollution, resources, migration, conflict

Changes in the environment shape historical formations of culture and society.  How do the debates on the increasing pressure on limited natural resources and climate change influence global order?  Does conflict over how to deal with the ecological crisis represent a shift in how societies communicate with each other?  How is climate change, as a conceptual global phenomenon as well as a psychical experience of the environment explained and understood?  Papers on this panel will ponder how environmental issues are played out on the global and local level, how they are used to promote particular interests, and to what degree cooperation or non-cooperation has been central.  Does history provide any clues to how environmental issues might have been used/exploited/dealt with globally?  Has the environment always played a part in communicating civilization?

Panel 2. Beliefs: Shared ground or source of conflict?

Belief has long been understood as crucial to the construction of Imperial relationships, proving a superb psychological tool in the construction of the ‘civilised’.  Whilst such civilities were often attached to the national economies that drove Imperial expansion, they also provided a crucial space within which a supra-national elite community could be forged through person to person contact.  This panel will look at that space, and how notions of universality were seen as a process through which ‘otherness’ might be explored and how conversion (religious or otherwise) was seen as a way through which outsiders might prove themselves partners in the colonial project.  Papers are also invited that look at how, in the aftermath of World War II, the concept of universality, and the belief systems that supported it, where opened up, moving away from notions of religious salvation into the secular, humanitarian struggle for rights, welfare, justice and democracy.

Panel 3. Spectacle: Media, national ceremonies, and displays

Spectacles have, throughout history, been used to create temporal moments that appear to unify a populace, both domestically and on the world stage.  Events such as opening ceremonies of the Olympics and the World Cup, Beauty Pageants, and World Fairs, as well as more localised Spectacles created for tourist industries, have long been utilized by nation states to create points of reference through which they might be seen in relation to the global order of the day.  Now through 24 hour connectives via media, e.g. CNN, BBC, Facebook and Twitter, global time itself seems to have become a means of Spectacle.  This panel seeks to look at the meanings created through spectacle and how they propagate social, political and economic order in the context of globalized space and time.

Panel 4. Globalizing the local: Visualizing new hierarchies

In 2002 an International Bank launched a new advertising campaign under the slogan ‘the world’s local bank’ (see  This panel will look at the projection of a newly egalitarian global order as represented through visual culture.  It will look at how the old colonial markers of hierarchy, be it through an exploration of cultural or racial character, localized tastes and fashions or the conception of cleanliness, to name but a few, continue to relate to new visions of global order.  In particular, papers are invited that explore how representations of a harmonious vision of the local and global interact with the less comfortable political, social and economic realities that lie beneath the rhetoric.