Time is flying by as term launches into full-swing in our department! With the Cultural Programme running alongside regular LANS Community events, there’s a lot going on for all four of our year-groups.

For this edition of the LANS Newsletter, we’re diving into our last two cultural programmes and talking about our new Deliberative Democracy initiative.

First, though, we’d like to welcome back Dr James Everest, who returned from his paternity leave with a commendable amount of energy last week. Also Dr Lloyd Jenkins has been away in Oaxaca, Mexico this week, as part of a British Council initiative working with universities there to help develop a more interdisciplinary curriculum. As globalisation makes the world a little more complicated every day, this initiative is an indication that the kind of interdisciplinary knowledge we provide is being seen as important all over the globe.

As a part of our Cultural Programme, students had a chance to watch famous TV presenter, cook and bestselling author Nadiya Hussain be interviewed to promote her new autobiography Finding My Voice. At the event, she detailed the varied roles she’s played throughout her life: a daughter, a wife, a mother. Through reflecting on her relationships, she expressed how her identity has developed with (and often against) the people and social norms surrounding her – she mentioned the figure of her grandmother, whose daily existence consisted almost entirely of cooking and revealed her horror as she felt herself become this figure early into her marriage.

An interview on stage

There was almost a sense of shock emanating from the audience as Hussain talked frankly but warmly about topics such as the envy she felt of those with a lighter skin-tone growing up and how her parents had denied her request to go to university (and while she was incredibly angry, she has since forgiven them). But perhaps this shock is the reason why Hussain decided to write this book; in the Q&A session at the end she explained how she’d never been able to relate to the predominantly white characters in the books that dominated the market as she was growing up. It was an evening that normalised heritage and ‘otherness’ – not exactly what I had expected from the Great British Bake-Off winner, but touching and valuable nonetheless.

Our other Cultural Programme event was hosted at the Ikon Gallery, a life-drawing class for fifteen of our students. The class offered a chance for students to experiment with different artistic materials to produce sketches of a model from a variety of angles.

Second year student Felicia Tang found the experience “really fun! I found it really expressive, you could do whatever you wanted – it felt quite liberating.” First year student Mouna Miri told us she really enjoyed it despite not being an arty person – “for the stuff I study you don’t have to do anything practical, so it was nice. Very chill and reassuring.”

Life drawing class in progress
Students hold up their portrait drawings

Our fourth years informed our second years a little more about the Year Abroad process at a LANS Community event last week, discussing topics such as choosing a destination, funding and other practical advice. Katharine Pogson, our digital ambassador and current second-year, said that the community meeting was insightful as all the presentations were realistic, presenting both the pros and cons to help second years consider other perspectives for their research. Katharine said, “All the fourth years are so friendly and I’ve recently contacted a few who weren’t even at the meeting, so it’s good to know they’re open to talking about their year out and to help should you need it!”

This week marked the start of LANS’ new Deliberative Democracy programme, a set of sessions which aim to recreate the deliberative democracy style of decision-making. Deliberative democracy is a form of democracy which uses authentic discussion to establish a consensus, rather than simply voting. For the first session, sociology professor Dr Andrew Knops talked to attendees about protests. We’re excited to see how this new initiative plays out and to find out if we can turn our department into a democratic microcosm!

The LANS Football team have been smashing the competition these last few weeks, we’re proud to say that we’ve won every game we’ve played this year! They’ve won 1-0 twice, first beating MFL Society and then Aston Webba. Ellie Holden, our sports rep, says, “it’s a great start to the year!”

Football team line up