SPIN (Secrecy, Power, & Ignorance Network)

SPIN and the SWDTP are delighted to offer a series of forthcoming panels and workshops on the theme of secrecy and ignorance

SPIN (the Secrecy, Power, and Ignorance research Network) is a collection of academics, artists and practitioners interested in understanding how knowledge is unmade in relation to social, political, and knowledge-making processes across all disciplines, in all areas of life, and across empirical, theoretical and methodological approaches.

Based across the southwest, with members at Bristol, Bath, Bath Spa, Cardiff, Exeter, Portsmouth, and UWE , we are an interdisciplinary group at all stages of career. We’re very keen to work with and support PhD researchers across the SWDTP to develop understandings of and methods associated with studying secrecy and ignorance. Do consider joining us for an event or two, or to find out more, visit our website.

Past Events

Book discussion – Violent Ignorance: Confronting Racism and Migration Control – 6 April 2022, 2pm-3pm

Join us for this online event, where Hannah Jones will discuss her book Violent Ignorance: Confronting Racism and Migration Control with Chloe Peacock from the University of Bristol.

An elected politician is assassinated in the street by a terrorist associated with extreme political groups, and the national response is to encourage picnics. Thousands of people are held in prison-like conditions without judicial oversight or any time-limit on their sentence . An attempt to re-assert national sovereignty and borders leads thousands of citizens to register for dual citizenship with other countries, some overcoming family associations with genocide in their second country of nationality to do so.

This is life in the UK today. How then are things still continuing as ‘normal’? How can we confront these phenomena and why do we so often refuse to? What are the practices that help us to accommodate the unconscionable? How might we contend with the horrors that meet us each day, rather than becoming desensitized to them?

‘Poisons and Podcasts’, with Dr Brett Edwards – 7 March 2022, 1pm-2pm

Dr. Brett Edwards will talk through his work on poisons and pestilence as weapons, as well as his experiences recording a podcast

After working on biological and chemical weapon-related issues for several years, Brett decided to develop a deeper appreciation of the history of this area.

This has turned into a podcast called ‘Poisons and Pestilence’ which Brett records in his shed. The series traces the history of these weapons from pre-history all the way up to the present day.

Find out more about the Poisons and Pestilence podcast or listen here on Apple Podcasts.

Dr Brett Edwards is a lecturer in the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies at the University of Bath, researching the interface of technology, governance and security.

Democracy Lives in Darkness: Discussion with Professor Emily Van Duyn – 9 February 2022, 3pm-4pm

Emily Van Duyn, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will discuss her newly published book, Democracy Lives in Darkness: How and Why People Keep Their Politics a Secret, which argues that political secrecy has become a necessity for mainstream partisans and the result of intensifying political prejudice and segregation.

The book draws on an array of qualitative and quantitative studies of political secrecy in contemporary democracy. Specifically, Dr. Van Duyn relies on four years of ethnographic research of a secret political organization of progressives in rural Texas and novel survey data about political secrecy in the United States.

In her talk, Dr. Van Duyn will challenge those who study politics and public life to look beyond public political behavior and those who study big data and machine learning to consider the unique and meaningful qualities of studying the individual in context. She will consider how secrecy can be both destructive to and critical for democracy’s survival, and how scholars and practitioners alike can use this knowledge to better their own practices.

Adam Sisman on Le Carre: Writing and Researching Elusive Subjects – 24 November 2021, 1pm-2pm

This month, we are delighted to welcome guest author and researcher, Adam Sisman to discuss researching, interviewing and writing about the elusive David John Moore Cornwell (aka the globally successful spy fiction author John le Carré).  

Le Carré, who passed away last year, may be best known for his fictionalised spyworlds, but this fiction was often based on his own life and his experiences of working in MI5 and MI6 at the height of the Cold War. For Sisman, the challenge of writing and telling the stories of Cornwell’s life therefore meant negotiating these histories, as well as le Carré’s tendency to continue to produce ambiguity about his life and work.

Please join us for a conversation with Adam Sisman, author of John le Carré: The Biography. How can one research, write and tell stories about the world of intelligence? How does one conduct interviews, archival work and craft a narrative? What does it mean to research and write around secrecy?

Book launch: William Walters, ‘State Secrecy and Security: Refiguring the Covert Imaginary ‘ – 22 September 2021

SPIN is delighted to host the book launch for Professor William Walters’ new book State Secrecy and Security: Refiguring the Covert Imaginary. In the book, William Walters calls for secrecy to be given a more central place in critical security studies and elevated to become a core concept when theorising power in liberal democracies.

Twenty Years of the Global War on Terror: Looking back, looking forward – 8 September 2021

Marking the twentieth anniversary of the Global War on Terror: This SPIN panel brings together a range of experts on the war to reflect on what we now know (and still don’t) about its causes and its legacies.

Covering the war on terror through its military occupations; the rise of new domestic and international surveillance and police powers; the development of new industries, technologies and specialists in terrorism and counter-terrorism (including the rise of special operations’ manhunts and drone warfare); as well as the scandals of extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo and torture, and the challenges of accountability in an age of digital archives and misinformation.