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Berlin to the Bard and more for lockdown minds


A new online webinar series features fascinating research from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.



Dr Marco Grix will deliver the first webinar




From life behind the Berlin Wall to Shakespeare’s England ­– bite-sized bits of intriguing and inspirational research from Massey’s humanities and social sciences scholars are on the menu of an online public series titled No Lockdown for the Mind.

The series of weekly 30-minute webinars delivered via Zoom at 11am each Friday starting tomorrow has been developed by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences as part of its community outreach programme as a way of sharing knowledge and ideas with a wider audience in the digital age.

No Lockdown for the Mind aims to showcase innovative researchers whose work spans diverse subjects and social issues, from the psychology of eating disorders to the role of fun in politics and the landscapes of Te Ao Māori (the Māori world).

Professor Cynthia White, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the college, says; “Covid19 has confronted us with aspects of the human condition which many of us never expected to experience – isolation, lockdown, closure of borders in the face of a global pandemic. 

“Yet at this time there is no lockdown for the mind – the mind and the imagination can still range free, exploring new ideas, other times and other worlds, unleashing that most precious of qualities, our curiosity. Through this series of talks, we can marvel at the diversity of human experience and of the avenues of knowledge accessible to us.”

To buy or not to buy?

East German-born philosopher Dr Marco Grix will launch the series with a personal account of how and why he came to study the ethics of consumption in: Good Bye, Lenin? From a Steel Town in East Germany to Working on Consumption Ethics in New Zealand. 

“As a 16-year old East German, I experienced with some bewilderment, but also excitement, the sudden influx of consumer goods into my world,” he says. “After the Berlin Wall fell, the shelves in our stores were transformed almost magically, and virtually overnight. So were we and our homes. Old clothes, furniture, stereos, and TVs went out. Shiny new commodities came in, at least where people could afford them.” 

Growing up, he says he never considered his family as materially poor or wanting. “Our needs for food, clothing, and shelter were satisfied just fine. Yet 1989’s radical change in East German consumption showed just how alluring modern consumerism is. When I began my philosophy PhD twenty years later in New Zealand, I found myself writing about the ethics and politics of consumption, with a special focus on what we actually need to flourish as human beings.”

Still in Europe, the second in the series features Dr Amy Whitehead, a social anthropologist with an interest in studying religious traditions and rituals. In her talk: The cult of a Spanish Virgin: love, devotion, and a matter of power, she shares her insights on the statue of the Virgin Mary which sits in her shrine at the edge of a village in Spain. 

“More than a statue, the Virgin Mary in Alcala de los Gazules is surrounded by a cult – people responsible for protecting her, changing her robes, guarding her shrine and its possessions, and looking after her economic interests,” she says.

The income-generating Virgin is known as “particularly powerful and miraculous – as opposed to her other Mary counterparts in other villages in Andalusia,” says Dr Whitehead. “This Virgin Mary sits at the heart of village life – she demonstrates that the boundaries between the ‘subject’ and ‘object’ might not be as clear cut as we’d like to imagine.”

A full programme of speakers will be confirmed and scheduled shortly. Among them will be theatre and literature scholar Dr Hannah August talking on Shakespeare’s England; Māori Studies lecturer Dr Hone Morris on Te Ao Māori landscape classification; cultural and media studies expert Dr Nicholas Holm on fun as a political category; geographer Dr Cadey Korson on teaching with drones and Dr Andrea LaMarre, a lecturer in critical health psychology on eating disorders, recovery, healthy eating and bodies.

Talks will include time for questions from the audience. To find out more, or to register for a session, click here.

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