I found the recent Williams Project talk particularly captivating because it illustrated the importance of Mao Zedong’s communist career. Although previously, we have learnt about Mao only through his connection to Stalin in the cold war period, here we see that his disregard for ‘textbook communism’ has shaped the way China is governed today. Mao’s modern communist ideologies were extremely influential – so much so that when he died in 1976, it was felt across the globe. It was great to hear SOAS Senior Lecturer, Dr Laamann talk to us about a subject he has a passion for – and it will no doubt inspire us to do the same.
Mr Pepper using his own equipment illustrated the growing tension between music and socially low status of various disadvantaged groups in the USA in 1980s, such as Black Americans, LGBT people, Latinos. This helped the industrial music to emerge to demonstrate strong relation between machine and a man, which expressed itself in the development of the electronic pop. The controversy of the “oppressed” groups relieving their frustration and their need for change in music led to a moral panic in the Great Britain, particularly under the rule of Margaret Thatcher. This backlash against thatcherism was also an expression against the popular drive for consumerism, capitalist success and the productivity of individuals. Fascinating, how much we can learn from the simple movements on the floor and use of discarded industrial equipment.
Dr. Katya Rogatchevskaia from the British Library made a fantastic presentation on the dangers and intentions of the propaganda in general and using specific examples from Russia, ranging from the first time used it by the last Romanovs in 1900s to the current leaders of the Russian Federation. Various issues were raised by her critical approach, which was illustrating potential power of propaganda used by any regime or system to pass a message to targeted and receptive audience. She focused on Noam Chomsky’s “The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine” to explore factors behind the Propaganda; its authority, message (which is difficult to disagree with), and intentions, particularly with the usage of selected aesthetics.
Can something stop being a propaganda? What influences these changes in “unloading” the objects, buildings, piece of art from the intention to indoctrinate? How much do we need to know to understand the context of the time to read the message and to be bothered by it?
We are very grateful to Katya for the thought-provoking lecture, where we need to reassess our own critical and therefore independent thinking, which we apply or not to assess the credibility and intent of the messages and news selected and presented in current media.
It is difficult in the space of 1 hour to present hugely rich and complicated history of a country currently standing nearly 40 mln citizens. Dr Calma, from Polish Embassy has used several interesting maps to effectively show the ever-changing borders of Poland. Today almost mono-ethnic and predominantly Catholic, Poland was once a multi-cultural polity, inhabited by Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, Jews, Tatars, Armenians and Germans. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, as it was called from the 16th to the late 18th century, was one of the earliest confederate countries in early modern Europe. As Dr Calma pointed out, for a long time, it also boasted a tolerant policy towards different ethnicities and faiths. It was fascinating for students to see many cultural and political links between Poland and Britain. Dr Calma talked with passion. Her presentation was followed by long discussion with some of our international boarders.
Once again Williams Project did not fail to impress when on Thursday 17th of January; Dr Nadine Rossol came in to speak to Chigwellians about everyday life in Nazi Germany. Dr Rossol spoke with passion and enthusiasm and provided a view on life in Nazi Germany differing from one which is learned within the classroom. Dr Rossol began her talk by speaking about her grandparents; two people who had lived through Nazi Germany, and one could certainly feel the connections Dr Rossol had with the topic she was speaking on. Dr Rossol talked about the involvement of ordinary people within the Nazi regime and used a photo of her grandfather to demonstrate how far down Nazism had penetrated into Germany. Dr Rossol spoke on a seeming ordinary photo of her grandfather on a football pitch, yet one could notice the young German players doing the Nazi salute. Dr Rossol explained that this was not a sign of Nazi appreciation as such, but more of an obligation that had to be fulfilled by these Germans simply because if not done these players would not have been allowed on the pitch. When learning about Nazi Germany, one must be wary of pinning the blame on the entire German population for what happened in World War 2 because as Dr Rossol explained there was indeed opposition to the Nazi regime, but also measures in place, such as the Gestapo, to keep Nazi opposition in the public at bay resulting in less open public opposition to the Nazi atrocities. Dr Rossol finished by referring to the Ringleblum archives; a collection of entries by people who desperately tried to reserve information about life in Germany pre-Nazi for future generations to learn about.
by Zain Raja
Dr Charlie Laderman (OC) is a lecturer in International History at the department of War Studies in King’s College London. He has studied across the country and also the United States where he attended both the University of Texas and Yale University.
Dr Laderman’s research focuses on the relations between the United States and nations around the world. During the afternoon we were introduced to Dr Laderman’s book ‘Donald Trump: The making of a worldview’, which led into a fascinating lecture on Trump’s foreign policy. The talk gave us an insight into why Trump is the way he is on the topic of international relations, and also revealed to us how his views and methods of berating other countries haven’t changed since 1987. Dr Laderman also discussed the necessity of American involvement in various regions in relation to defence, such as in the Middle East. Later, he went on to answer a number of ‘what if’ questions, with many answers putting us on edge. Overall, this lecture was both compelling and educational which really left us thinking about what could happen in the future with such an unexpected figure directing the foreign policy of arguably the most powerful nation in the world.
Dr Katya (Ekaterina) Rogatchevskaia is the Lead Curator of the East European Collections in the British Library. She headed the organization of the Library’s exhibition “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths’’ which commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
During the meeting, Dr Rogatchevskaia guided us through the exhibition, beginning with its promoting poster. As she admitted, she did not initially like it, but the image used in 20th century by the Red Army for propaganda appeared to be powerful for modern spectators. Dr Rogatchevskaia vividly presented to us not only the history of the Russian Revolution, embodied in the British Library’s exhibits, but also the perception of the revolutions’ impact around the world. At the end of the meeting we could see fragments of Russian films from the first half of the 20th century and observe how those images – although stained with propaganda – managed to leave lasting and emotional impressions.
2018’s Williams Project programme began with a visit from Professor Edgar Jones (Professor of the History of Medicine and Psychiatry at King’s College London) to talk to the students about “The Psychology of War: from shell shock to post-traumatic stress disorder.” Professor Jones currently works at the Institute of Psychiatry Psychology & Neuroscience and is based in the Maudsley Hospital, which initially opened as a military hospital and then eventually as a psychiatric hospital. His talk covered mental health from both the past and today; firstly, soldiers during the First World War, with many cases reported after battles such as the Somme and the 3rd Ypres. Pictures were shown to the WP cohort of the shell-shocked soldiers of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers, showing how war often had a deeper psychological impact after seeing physical trauma. He explained how after analysing data, he and his team found how psychological injury was closely linked to physical injury and that it spiked much higher after large amounts of fatalities/injuries (often higher than the number of deaths). Professor Jones then went on to discuss how many of those impacted by the Blitz bombings suffered from PTSD; despite shell shock having similar symptoms, PTSD is distinguished by the sufferer experiencing a deeply traumatising experience. He then went on to compare these with more modern-day events, such as terrorist attacks like the 7/7 bombings, and more recently the Manchester arena attack. Professor Jones explained how the media often misuse the term ‘panic’ when describing rational behaviour in the face of real threats, and in this way distort the responses of the public. ‘Panic’ is defined as irrational behaviour, rather than just being scared and running for safety.
After a detailed Q&A with some excellent questions, the talk came to a close and several students joined the professor at dinner for continued discussion about both the talk as well as life at university. This was definitely a profound and thought-provoking talk for all, and it really showed what an impact mental health can have in times of war and distress. Thank you Professor Jones for a great start to WP 2018!
On the 10th October, we had a chance to listen to representatives of Solution Not Sides organisation, whose main aim is to promote unbiased attitude to Israel-Palestine conflict. Our school was visited by Israel and Palestinian peace activists, who gave us an introduction into this important problem, as well as talked about their personal experience. We could learn not only about the background and history of the conflict, but also hear about the everyday lives of people living on the both sides. Wasim and Shay, who were the Palestinian and Israeli speakers, shared with us how they are trying to overcome that problem in their home countries, as well as presented their opinion about possible solutions to the issue. After the presentation, all Williams Project listeners could participate in the discussion and take part in questions and answers session. At the end, speakers encouraged us to think about our ideas for the possible solution to the problem, which won’t favour any side of the conflict. The presentation was a great possibility to hear about the conflict directly from people that it concerns. After this edition of Williams Project, all participants surely changed their attitude to the conflict, trying to find an effective solution, rather than opt for any of the sides.