Darkness over Europe

By Jessamy Perriam

Last weekend I co-organised a group of Goldsmiths Sociology PhDs meeting at Cumberland Lodge in the days immediately after the referendum result. Suffice it to say, the mood was reflective in light of this.

A handful of us spent time at the Lodge last year and at the time naively found the story of its history almost quaint. As an extension of her book Darkness over Germany, Amy Buller set up a foundation in the 1940s to encourage academics to engage in critical thinking with a practical application beyond the walls of academia in an attempt to stem hatred, facism, populism and many other destructive ideologies. Buller’s foundation found the support of the Royal Family who then donated a residence in the Windsor Great Park as a space for students to discuss social and ethical issues in an open environment. We are certain many of you have benefitted from time spent at the Lodge during your early academic careers.

This year, we see value in the Lodge’s existence and origins, but moreover we renew Buller’s call to engage critically with the destructive rhetoric and policies of our times, acknowledge the complexity and seek creative, thoughtful and relevant ways to move forward from this moment in history. As early career sociologists, we are left questioning the best way to do sociology in this new era. Could we have been more vocal? Could we have spoken louder? How do we expand from communicating our findings amongst ourselves in a echo chamber of lectures and journal articles? How do we work harder at making sure everyone truly has an opportunity to engage in the ideas and perspectives brought about from our craft? How do we situate our work with focus on the future? We recognise and thank those who are already doing this hard work.

As a group, we are aware of the divisions the referendum has made and the ways that it has seriously wreaked havoc with notions of identity and belonging from a local level amongst family and friendship groups through to neighbourhoods, regions, political parties and, an entire continent. Our group is unashamedly international, we hail from the UK, the Commonwealth, the Middle East and Asia, with many of our colleagues, supervisors and collaborators being of EU origin or within the EU. Put simply, we see the EU at work in working relationships and friendships alike. On a personal and professional level, Brexit impacts us all, as does the uncertainty it brings.

What is certain is that sociology can speak to the situation, confusion and turmoil at hand and sociologists are needed to critically explore what has lead to this moment in time, and report those findings widely and fearlessly, facing the future. How can we be the sociologists that the United Kingdom, Europe and the world need during this time?

Jessamy Perriam is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She tweest at @jessyp.

Originally posted 2nd July 2016

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