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Past events and conferences 2017

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations.

Cold War Geographies Symposium

When Monday 16 January, 10.00-17.00
Where The British Library Knowledge Centre

To complement The British Library's major 'Maps and the Twentieth Century: Drawing the Line' exhibition, we hosted a one day symposium on 'Cold War Geographies' on 16 January 2017. This interdisciplinary day explored and assessed how the Cold War changed boundaries, restructured terrain and redefined concepts of space and place.

Bradley L Garrett: Cultural Geographies of Dread

When Monday 16 January, 19.00-20.30
Where The British Library Knowledge Centre Theatre

Since the Cold War, feelings of dread have increased through constant assertions of anticipated disaster, leading to a reconfiguration of cities through the privatisation of public space, the persistent surveillance of these spaces and through increased spatial inequality as a result of both. As our daily lives become increasingly toxified by dread, how can transgressive acts create promising counter-cartographies?

Bradley L Garrett is a cultural geographer who investigates secret places through visual ethnographic methodologies. He writes a regular column for Guardian Cities and his research has been featured on media outlets worldwide including the BBC (UK), ABC (Australia), and Time Magazine (USA). He is the author of Explore Everything: Place Hacking the City, Subterranean London: Cracking the Capital, London Rising: Illicit Photos from the City’s Heights and Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within. He was the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Early Career Alumni award from James Cook University, Australia and from 2017 will be serving as a full-time Research Fellow at the University of Sydney.

Ronald Reagan: Pragmatic Conservative in the White House

When Thursday 26 January, 19.00-20.30
Where The British Library Knowledge Centre Eliot Room

Drawing on the extensive archival research undertaken for his new biography, Reagan: American Icon, Iwan Morgan examined Ronald Reagan's presidential leadership and argued that its success rested on his capacity to combine philosophical conviction with political pragmatism. He considered how Reagan cut personal taxes to enhance incentive but raised corporation taxes to reduce the budget deficit, reduced federal spending on some discretionary programmes but reached accommodation with the Democrats to preserve entitlement programmes, and built up America's military strength in his first term as a prelude to negotiation of nuclear arms reduction with the Soviet Union in his second term. Reagan's agreement with Mikhail Gorbachev to eliminate their respective intermediate nuclear forces, represented the first arms reduction treaty of the atomic era but it encountered the wrath of many in the conservative movement for reaching accommodation with godless communism. 

Reagan also disappointed the right through his refusal to invest political capital in support of moral conservatism, notably for efforts to amend the Constitution to outlaw abortion. Morgan further considered the limits of Reagan's pragmatism, notably his failure to understand that some Americans needed government to overcome disadvantage, exemplified by his very unsatisfactory record on racial issues and civil rights. In addition, he showed how the greatest crisis of the Reagan presidency, the Iran-Contra scandal, occurred when the president’s habitual pragmatism deserted him.

Iwan Morgan, Professor of US Studies, University College London, is the author of numerous books on American presidents.

John Burnside : Writing Across The Divide

When Thursday 2 February, 19.00-20.30
Where The British Library Knowledge Centre Theatre

John Burnside is amongst the most acclaimed writers of his generation and held the 2013 Eccles British Library Writer's Award. His novels, short stories, poetry and memoirs have won numerous awards, including the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Poetry Award, the Encore Award and the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year. In 2011 he became only the second person to win both the Forward and T S Eliot Prizes for poetry for the same book, Black Cat Bone. In 2015 he was a judge for the Man Booker Prize. He is a Professor in the School of English, St Andrews University. In this special London event he discussed his work across his career, as well as his two new books, both launched at the event: the novel, Ashland & Vine, and the poetry collection, Still Life with Feeding Snake.

John was in conversation with Christina Patterson. A writer, broadcaster and columnist, Christiana writes, for The Sunday Times and the Guardian, about society, culture, politics, books and the arts. She has been described by Clive James as ‘a wonderful, gutsy’ writer, and by the former poet laureate Andrew Motion as ‘one of the best columnists around’. Her book, The Art of Not Falling Apart, will be published by Atlantic in 2018.

The talk was followed by a book signing and wine reception.

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