This year the School of History, Classics and Archaeology will be hosting a series of free ‘Edinburgh Festival Brown Bag Events’.
Panellists from the School will discuss controversial topics like Fake News, the Place of the Humanities in Society, and Brexit. There will also be a live recording of the Whiskey Rebellion Podcast presented by two of the University’s American Historians Frank Cogliano and David Silkenat.
We spoke to Dr Esther Mijers, senior lecturer in Scottish History at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology about the events.
Can you explain a little bit about the events? What can people expect? Will the audience be invited to join in? Will there be a ‘historical’ angle?
HCA has organised a brown bag series for the last few years. This year we wanted to be a little more topical and involve the entire school, so the angle will be a bit less historical but there will be plenty of expert insights by academics from HCA. In addition we have an invited guest speaker at all three panels, to emphasise the topical nature. As usual there will be plenty of time for the audience to join in with comments and questions. We're expecting some lively sessions!
What would you say are the challenges of debates like these?
There is a clear tension between popular perception and the expert point of view. While Michael Gove claimed the people have had enough of those, we do not think that is true. Cutting though misconceptions and our own prejudices is more important than ever and we strongly feel that HCA has a part to play in this.
What is the aim of the series? What would you like your audience to take away with them from the discussions?
A better insight beyond the headlines. The time of the ivory academic tower is long gone and we are keen to open up a dialogue with anyone who is interested in these issues, no matter what side of the 'divide'.
Do you think people are getting tired of these topics now? Or are they as important (and divisive!) as ever?
We think that the reason they grow tired is because the same arguments are being made again and again. We hope to offer some fresh perspectives. It's more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open. Academics profoundly care about what happens in wider society and this is one way we can contribute to some of the most pressing questions of our time.
What are the benefits of events like this at the Festival?
There is a large and genuinely interested audience on our doorstep, but we also hope to reach people who perhaps have never been to a topical panel discussion!