Birmingham event explores the meaning of sovereignty

As part of the Being Human Festival, Dr George Kyris led a set of discussions with local groups and University of Birmingham School pupils on sovereignty and what it means to Birmingham, its local communities and landscape.  The discussions focused on three historical milestones that can help us make sense of sovereignty: the English reformation, Colonisation and Brexit.

The events took place in local sites that are important for the history of sovereignty, such as Cannon Hill Park and the University of Birmingham campus, where the clock tower is named after Joseph Chamberlain, who served as a secretary of state for the colonies.

The Being Human Festival is a national festival that aims to bring humanities research closer to the public, and is supported by the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of London, the Art and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.

Sovereignties of Birmingham

Public Engagement

Ahead of the events, Dr Kyris had the opportunity to join meetings of a range of local groups and societies, such as the Moseley Philosophy Group or the U3A Group on Current Affairs, in order to ensure that local interests and concerns are accommodated in the discussions.

During the events, participants had the chance to visit sites of Birmingham that were relevant to the talks. For example, participants visited the Cannon Hill Park memorial to the local men who fell on the Anglo-Boer War, where the discussion on Colonisation and sovereignty concluded.

Dr Kyris commented: ‘One of the aims of the event was to allow people to see familiar places of their community through different lenses’.

Participants described the discussions as an ‘intellectual canape’, which had an important impact on them, encouraging them to ‘stop and think’, ‘question things’, and share their views with others whom they don’t know.

Student Enhancement

Four POLSIS students (John Allison, Michelle Hoh, Rimmy Kaur Sidhuand, Andreï-Bogdan Sterescu) supported the project by conducting research on sovereignty. The students also took part in the discussions with local groups and the University of Birmingham School pupils. John, one of the students involved, said "Volunteering gave me a unique insight into how different people in our society understand the idea of sovereignty. This, along with being able to contribute towards the research for the talks, broadened my own thinking on the subject."

More material

Listen to a podcast of the event below:

View a promo video for the event below: