Thursday, June 22nd, 2017, 2-8pm

The Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex


On June 22nd, to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy, The School of English hosted a symposium on 'anarchy and culture', followed by a recording of BBC Radio 3's Freethinking, both at Sussex's Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.


You can listen to the broadcast here, and see more about the day's events below.


Main Auditorium, ACCA


Arnold argued that modern life was producing a society of 'Philistines' who only cared for material possessions and hedonistic pleasure. As a medicine for this moral and spiritual degradation, Arnold prescribed 'culture', which he defined as 'the best which has been thought and said in the world', stored in Europe's great literature, philosophy and history. By engaging with this heritage, he argued, humans could develop towards a higher state of mental and moral 'perfection'.


The Freethinking panel discussion addressed the significance of Culture and Anarchy and its legacy in ongoing arguments for the value of culture and the humanities. It was hosted by Matthew Sweet and featured:


Tiffany Jenkins, Sociologst of Heritage

Author of Keeping Their Marbles: How the Treasures of the Past Ended up in Museums, and Why They Should Stay There


Simon Heffer, Writer

Author of High Minds: the Victorians and the Birth of Modern Britain


Stella Duffy, Writer 

Co-director of the Fun Palaces, an annual, free, nationwide celebration of arts and science.


Will Abberley, Senior Lecturer in Victorian Literature, University of Sussex.






Gardner Tower, ACCA


Speakers at this event addressed the diverse significances of Arnold's terms 'anarchy' and 'culture' in the society and activism of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.




2pm: Introductory Remarks (Will Abberley)


2.10-3.10: Session 1: Cultures of Anarchy

                Chair: Tom Wright


Tony Marchant, Screenwriter

Screenwriter for BBC’s adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent (2016)


Nick Heath, The Anarchist Federation

Veteran anarchist writer and activist, active in anarchist politics in Brighton and London since the 1960s



3.10-3.30: Break



3.30-5.15: Session 2: Anarchy as History and Thought

                Chair: Richard Adelman


Thomas Jones, University of Buckingham

Author Liberty’s Exile: A History of Asylum in Britain (forthcoming from Harvard University Press)


Ruth Kinna, Professor of Political Theory, Loughborough University

Author of Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide and editor of Anarchist Studies journal



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