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Bookings for the Festival of Ideas are now open

last modified Sep 25, 2017 03:24 PM

Bookings are now open for the 2017 Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which features a huge range of events and discussions on subjects ranging from empire and Brexit, the future of Europe and conspiracy theories to the past, present and future of India.


One in ten American light bulbs are lit by the Russians: Fake news?

Saturday 21 October: 11:00am - 12:00pm

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Sidgwick Site 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Speaker: Shane Guy

Following the end of the Cold War, reports, some fake some genuine, flooded the media with claimed revelations about nuclear weapons. Were there missing Russian nuclear weapons designed to fit a student’s backpack and were there British nuclear weapons kept at the correct temperature by caged chickens within?

Greatly exceeding bait for the tabloids extraordinary achievements resulted from western programmes to assist Russian disarmament and prevent nuclear proliferation. Although collectively these may be counted alongside the Marshall Plan in terms of expenditure, few knew of them, and some that did published fake news in attempts to halt or slow them.

One outstanding programme, initiated and sustained by an American academic, was to lead to 50% of the power generated by United States’ Nuclear Power Stations between 1993 and 2013 being fuelled by uranium from or destined for Soviet Nuclear Weapons. The expression ‘One in ten light bulbs are lit by the Russians’ was coined by a Secretary of Energy to help get over to the public recognition of the success of what is colloquially known as the ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ agreement.

This talk explores accurately some of the successes and failures of the programmes and of their reporting.

If you would like to attend this event please book here:


Media, the state and propaganda: What is the truth

Saturday 21 October: 12:30pm - 1:30pm

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Sidgwick Site 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Speaker: Ian Shields 

The State relies on the Media to spread its message, and the Media relies on the State for stories to report: to a large extent they are inter-dependent and although the Media will, in open Democracies, invariably claim to be independent, are they invariably the unwitting tool for the State to spread if not lies then at least propaganda? And do we, how could we, recognise propaganda for what it is? This talk, given by Ian Shields, a research student in POLIS, will explore these issues and try to answer the question of what is the truth? Or is the aim of this talk merely propaganda itself….

If you would like to attend this event please book here: 


The Return of Eastern Europe

Saturday 21 October: 2:00pm - 3:00pm

Alison Richard Building, SG1/2, Sidgwick Site 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Speakers: Timothy Less & Professor Brendan Simms 

A 40-minute presentation by the Forum of Geopolitics, followed by questions and answers from the audience. In this presentation, Brendan Simms and Timothy Less of the University’s Forum on Geopolitics discuss the return of Eastern Europe and the significance of the continent’s east for Europe’s overall security and political architecture. With the collapse of communism, the old Eastern Europe largely disappeared from the map as the states of the region were integrated into Western structures such as NATO and the EU.

However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the East is pulling away from the West, driven by a combination of new security threats, scepticism about the Western model of social and economic liberalism and the perceived ineffectiveness of NATO.

If events continue on their current trajectory, a loose alliance of states committed to political independence and the collective security of the region is likely to emerge, realising the vision of Eastern European intellectuals from the early twentieth century of an ‘Intermarium’ – an integrated space between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas. Such a development would have profound implications for the next phase of European politics. At the international level, the emergence of an Intermarium implies a new political and security architecture in Europe.

If the EU morphs into a loose collection of regional groupings over the next few years, then the Intermarium could be an important building block, with a distinct worldview and set of political priorities.

At the domestic level, it would imply that the model of ‘illiberal democracy’ emerging in Hungary, Poland and elsewhere in the region becomes a permanent and alternative form of government, rooted in Eastern European political traditions.

This event links to a project which the Forum on Geopolitics will run in 2018-19 on ‘The New Intermarium’ as part of its Laboratories of World Construction.'

If you would like to attend this event please book here:


Women and nation building in post-colonial India

Saturday 21 October: 2:30pm - 3:00pm

Alison Richard Building, S1, Sidgwick Site 7 West Road, CB3 9DT

Speaker: Dr Anjali Datta

This talk examines the Official discourse on women’s work in the immediate years following the partition and independence of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The Indian state treated the refugee women of Punjab’s partition as a ‘national responsibility’ and provided some women with training and skills, equipping them with the ‘requisite’ qualifications to work in ways deemed ‘suitable’ for women.

The objective was to incorporate displaced women into the economy, something that the state could not, and would not, do for other women-citizens who were a part of stable, settled patriarchal households. But how far was the state successful in generating a category of ‘working woman’ among the refugee population? This paper will focus particularly on the vision of planners, mostly elite nationalist women, who became agents of state in implementing economic rehabilitation of refugee women in Delhi. Nationalist and social worker Kamladevi Chattopadhyay, called for a ‘craft renaissance’ in India, which became the force behind the refugee women’s handicraft industry in Delhi. But, how far was the ‘cottage industry model’ a flawed design for integrating women into the economy? Neither the newly independent Indian state, nor the refugee society, saw women playing a definitive role in nation building. Their work was often made invisible.

This ‘exclusion’ is explained on account of the intermittent nature of women’s work, the fact that women’s entry into the labour market is often driven by household exigencies. For many women, this meant that they worked all their lives, but their work was always regarded as supplementary. To understand how social construction of gender shaped the lives and work of women workers, wider social anxieties about women’s role and position at home have to be taken into account.

If you would like to attend this event please book here: