I’ve just parked up a chapter on Princess Diana that will eventually end up in my new book about the 1980s. I’ve been writing the chapter for a long time and I’m not sure I’ve finished it – but it is definitely not getting any better for now so I better leave it alone. I’ve read more books on Diana in the last couple of months than I ever dreamed likely. The more I worked through the pile of unauthorised biographies and memoirs, the more the lines between the two sorts of books began to blur. It became harder to tell when people were writing about Diana, and when they were writing about themselves. I should also add, the more I read the less of an idea of what she was ‘really like’ I had. Although to be honest that wasn’t what I was looking for and it isn’t really what I’m interested in. What I’m interested in is how and why these books sell the idea of the Real Diana. Whilst academic approaches have tended to displace the Real Diana, by analysing what she signified and why people cared about her. Popular biographies and memoirs market their access to the ‘real woman’ underneath; who she was.
I was part of a panel discussion on fans and music documentary at this year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival. The panel was organised by Emily Renshawe-Smith. We discussed work by Daisy Asquith (Crazy About One Direction), and Nick Abrahams (The Posters Came from the Walls) and Jeanie Finlay Orion: The Man Who Would be King. If you stick with it, you can hear me have a bit of a debate with the one and only Peter York.
Here is a written up version of my 2013 talk at The Rest is Noise Festival on politics and spirituality in the late 20thcentury. I’ve added a couple of thoughts as I went along based on contributions from the audience. One thing that really struck me throughout the other discussions during the day was the importance of the individual or ‘the self’, in both political and religious engagement through the period. The creative tension for me, was the ways in which Thatcherite individual resilience (Tebbit ‘getting on his bike’) and post-punk ‘any one can do it’ seemed to weave together.
On Friday 8th November 2013 I introduced and chaired the ESRC Festival of Social Science sponsored event ‘What is Happiness?’ organised by Mass Observation at the Quadrant Pub, Brighton. On a rainy, dark, Friday evening four different academics sat in the pub to talk about how their work illuminated the idea of Happiness. The project’s resident blogger has responded to the overall session, and the discussion, but I thought I’d share part of the introductory talk I gave. After introducing the Observing the 80s project generally I talked about what I might have gathered about happiness from Observing the 80s, and why it has made me so happy to be involved.
This post is based on a speech that I gave as part of UCU industrial action I had proposed that Union members and students shared our two hour strike on 28th January 2014 by watching the 1984 film Footloose. I’m not sure how I got away with it, but I did. Here is how I explained why to those who came to watch the film.
There seems to be a lot of anarcho-punk knocking around historians. There have been a number of academic conferences and events around the politics and aesthetics of anarcho-punk, increasing numbers of academic publications, online resources, documentaries, homages, and the contemporary legacies of anarcho-punk seem to be woven through today’s Occupy and UnCut activism. These historical connections are often but not always embodied in the collectively organised band Crass. This year’s documents released by the National Archives included revelations of the government response to a hoax by Crass who faked and recorded a phone conversation between Thatcher and Reagan about strategy in the Falklands War. The hoax was momentarily thought to be the work of Argentine security services. In a context where there was little formal opposition to the Falklands War the hoax raises interesting questions for historians who are concerned with the limits of subcultural, countercultural or wider popular cultural production as a form of resistance. When the State responded to a countercultural prank as if it was part of their cold war security forces’ stalemate manoeuvres, then academic arguments about the extent to which culture is or isn’t related to ‘real politics’ don’t seem as abstract anymore. The way that anarcho-punk helps us slip through the cracks of the argument about whether subcultures are or aren’t really political seems to have some real purchase at the moment. Continue reading DUNSTAN BRUCE, AND WHY IS HISTORY SO UP FOR ANARCHO-PUNK?→