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Sutton Trust Summer School 2020: Liberal Arts and The Colonial Hangover

At the end of July Liberal Arts collaborated with Politics and International Studies to deliver an online Sutton Trust Summer School on the theme of “The Colonial Hangover.”

The Colonial Hangover is a research-led widening participation project established by Warwick's Politics and International Studies Department. The project works with students to pose questions about the hidden legacies of Empire in everyday life. Students are asked to think about how their lives intersect on a day-to-day basis with the legacies of the British Empire, and how past and present go together in the lives that they are trying to create for themselves.

At the start of this year’s project, participants were asked to think about the relationship between civic art and collective memory. Focusing on statues, they reflected on who and what we remember, who and what we commemorate, and on the process through which "collective memory" is developed in public space. They explored the different ways that we can think about public space. Firstly, they thought about the geographical space we occupy: in the Edward Colston case, the streets and buildings in Bristol which bear his name, and the city-centre location where his statue stood.

Edward Colston StatueStatue of activist Jen Reid, in place on the plinth that formerly held the statue of Edward ColstonImage credits: William Avery/Wikimedia Commons (left), Sam Saunders/flickr (right)

The students were also encouraged to think about cultural space. Dr Kirsten Harris, Senior Teaching Fellow in Liberal Arts, hosted a session which encouraged them to think about how cultural space is occupied and used, and about how “collective memory” can also be developed in the space of a poem, or a music track.

"Focusing initially on the nineteenth-century American poet Walt Whitman, we explored how he advocated for a culture and commemoration of the ordinary working American people. However, as scholars have uncovered evidence of racist beliefs in his correspondence and private notes, we considered how much - if any - space we should give today to such authors in the school and university curriculum. Finally, focusing on the rapper Dave, we considered how "race" particularly but also class impact how culture is consumed and given value in Britain today - and how this may be understood as an aspect of the 'colonial hangover.'"

Dr Kirsten Harris, Senior Teaching Fellow in Liberal Arts

Feedback from participants

"Really enjoyed understanding the Liberal Arts as a course and delving into the deeper meaning of statues"

"The course was very insightful it helped open my eyes to new experiences and to take a bigger look at different experiences that we go through everyday and different topic such as Black Lives Matter"

"Course content has really opened my eyes to things I never noticed before"

"I really enjoyed my time, made some new friends (...) Learned a topic that I'm not usually interested in."

"I really enjoyed developing my confidence, talking in front of people I didn't know."

Find out more about the 2020 Warwick Sutton Trust Online Summer School here.

The Colonial Hangover project

Our outreach and
widening participation

Warwick outreach and
widening participation

The Sutton Trust

With a particular emphasis on education, the Sutton Trust fights for social mobility from birth to the workplace so that every young person – no matter who their parents are, what school they go to, or where they live – has the chance to succeed in life.