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The Student Union Lecture Series

A collection of podcasts from the SOAS Students Union’s public talks, lecture series and events. At SOAS our learning is produced not only in our class rooms, but also in the wider variety of talks that are hosted by the Students’ Union.

These range from our Current Affairs Lecture Series, our centenary series on Knowledge Production at SOAS, political in-house campaigns such as Democratise SOAS and Justice for Cleaners, and wider campaigns against the implementation of austerity, xenophobic policies towards migrants and the struggles for liberation for historically marginalised groups.


Introductory statements were made by Neelam Chhara, Co-founder of Decolonising Our Minds and final year politics student.

Discussions around legacies of colonialism have been highlighted nationwide through campaigns such as Why Is My Curriculum White and the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement which have underlined the colonial violence embedded in universities.

The Decolonising Our Minds Society is delighted to host renowned academic Barnor Hesse from Northwestern University.

Barnor Hesse will explore what whiteness is as a social identity, political practice etc. We will consider how does whiteness manifest and become naturalised in spaces of learning and academic settings and what historical circumstances and dynamics gave rise to its creation. How was whiteness intended to lend itself to strategies and modes of domination? And finally, how do we make whiteness an object of analysis?

During Black History Month 2015, SOAS Women’s network and SOAS BME network hosted a talk on twerking.

Apart from discussing twerking as an act of resistance, other themes were discussed critically such as cultural appropriation, occupation of black bodies, black femininity in relation to white femininity, autonomy, white supremacy, spaces, body positivity, self-love, twerking as a space to stop resisting, twerking as an act of defiance against the sexualisation of aspects of African culture, twerking as a low-art , twerking as reclamation and empowerment etc.

The featured panelists in the order of speaking:

Sarah Nwafor: the current NUS Mature and Part-Time Students' representative and a member of NUS Black Sabbs Executive Committee

Kelechi aka ‘Cocoa: a Personal Trainer, Twerk instructor and Pole Dance instructor

Siana Bangura: a poet and the editor of Black Feminist platform No Fly on the WALL

Prisca Vungbo: Events Coordinator, Ain't I a woman collective

Ama Josephine Budge: Writer/Curator/Artist, HYSTERIA Collective

Britain has seen a complicated relationship with race. The Industrial Revolution saw Britain’s industries and economy grow exponentially, almost totally a direct result from its colonial and imperial (mis)dealings. It had taken part in both World Wars, recruiting thousands from the colonies to fight in the armed forces. Britain has therefore been a truly 'global' nation with cities like London built almost entirely out of the colonial moment.

In the 1970s and 80s, post-colonial migrants from across the empire then began to define as ‘black’ as a term of solidarity to confront racism in the UK. However, ‘political blackness’ has become contentious, as solidarities have arguably broken down. So what does black mean now?

London – the heart of the empire – looks very different today. It has redefined itself as the ‘post-race’ and ‘superdiverse’ melting pot, despite black communities being quickly gentrified and displaced.

With all this in mind, we ask what/who is black and Is There Room for Black in the Union Jack?

The history of British slavery, although superficially acknowledged from time to time, has been largely concealed. Indeed, few acts of political and historical forgetting could be described as thorough or as effective as the erasure of slavery from the "British story".

The compensation of Britain’s 46,000 slave-owners was the largest bailout in British history until the bailout of the banks in 2009. Not only did the enslaved receive nothing, but they effectively paid part of the bill for their own manumission.

"Legacies of British Slave-ownership" is the umbrella for two unprecedented projects based at University College London (UCL) tracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain. At the same time, questions are raised surrounding the enslaved themselves, their stories, and their legacies.

“British Values” according to Prime Minister David Cameron, describe the “democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, mutual respect and tolerance of those of different beliefs and faiths." Its introduction is a response by the state to what it perceives to be Black, Minority and Ethnic (BAME) communities growing and representing a threat to the norms inherited by hundreds of years of colonial rule.

What is portrayed as a way of “uniting” communities can be a way of policing culture and in particular cultures of colour. Invariably, it can also be a way for the government to criminalise articulations of dissent from BAME communities who express the frustrations of marginalisation.

The zine British Values is a response to “British Values.” Written and created by journalist Kieran Yates, the zine seeks to “rewrite the narrative of what "British values" are by passing our aux cords over to taxi drivers, re-visiting our school lunch boxes and generally shining the spotlight on the lives and experiences of non-native Brits.”

Kieran will be discussing “What the fuck British Values” really are and how BAME and how she as a women of colour is creatively responding.

SU Current Affairs Lecture Series

Developments in India since the mid 1980’s signify the breakdown of consensual politics and the ideal of composite Indian nationhood. Communal animosity has corroded the social conscience, contributed to a disregard of human life, and led to the decay of a reliable criminal justice system. Radical rhetoric these days covers all shades of the political spectrum - the reality today is that extremism is a mainstream phenomenon. We need to rediscover the virtues of moderation.

A talk and rally in the run up to the National Demonstration for Free Education, to discuss the impact of neoliberalism on education and how we can transcend the current education system, abolishing financial and social barriers and creating an education system that is not just free in terms of not having fees (for international students as well as home students), but that is also democratic, representative, inclusive and supportive of all students and staff.

SOAS SU Current Affairs Lecture Series

The chaos in Iraq has its roots in the fractured state building project brought about by the occupation of the country. This event invites former Coalition Provisional Authority officials and experts to discuss the repercussions of the statebuilding project in Iraq.

On September 26th 2014, the SOAS Students’ Union hosted its first public lecture of the year, in collaboration with the London Middle East Institute and the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS. The event featured 3 speakers who specialise in the Middle East, and addressed the topics of ISIS, and the recent crisis in the Middle East.

Election special! Listen to the co-presidential candidates summarize their campaigns, with 'expert analysis' from bwana Rob and Dada DK

Joh Makini - Muda
Walanguzi - Mziki wa Kulevya
X Plastaz - Aha!
Bonta - Nauza Kura Yangu

Listen up to the interviews with the following candidates for the position of Sports and Societies:

- Keiko Ono
- Chuck Madekwe

Each candidate had 45 seconds to answer every question.

Voting is Monday 5th - Thursday 8th March in main stairwell of Russell Square campus.

Listen up to the interviews with the following candidates for the position of Welfare and Education:

- Alex Fulton
- Aaron Dias
- Sian McGee
- Riya Al'Sanah
- Ben Lattimore

Each candidate had 45 seconds to answer every question.

Voting is Monday 5th - Thursday 8th in main stairwell of Russell Square campus.

Listen up to the interviews with the following candidates for the position of Finance and Communications:

- Zoe Des Clayes
- Bernard Goyder
- Kashif Iqbal
- Harrison Coyte

Each candidate had 45 seconds to answer every question.

Voting is Monday 5th - Thursday 8th in main stairwell of Russell Square campus.

Listened to all the interviews and now want to know how to vote? Jasper gives you the vital information.