Postcards of the Past: Gilets Jaunes on Trial

The opening of the trial against people accused of damaging the Arc de Triomphe during Gilets Jaunes protests represents an emotive and symbolic process, as noted in recent press coverage of the event. But does the COVID context rewrite the echoes of the past which pervaded the protests? At the time, in December 2018, national and international news focussed intently on the destruction of national … Continue reading Postcards of the Past: Gilets Jaunes on Trial

Apples and Sestertii: Shifting Symbols of Chirac

The slick Caius Preposterous knew how to turn a deal. He also knew the way to political power. How to subdue the rebellious Gauls? “Easy, O Caesar. Gold, the profit motive will enfeeble them and keep them busy. We must corrupt them.” When Goscinny and Uderzo needed a flash young man to seduce Obelix & Co in 1976, they needed look no further than to … Continue reading Apples and Sestertii: Shifting Symbols of Chirac

Places and Parity: Processing Horrors

The leafy squares of Bloomsbury are a world away from the vibrant, bustling public squares of the Levant.  The farmer’s market that springs up every Thursday in Torrington Square is little like the markets of Damascus (even in happier, more peaceful days), though we can recognise common patterns.     The squares are suffused with layers of history, and though their physical landscapes cannot intersect, … Continue reading Places and Parity: Processing Horrors

Myths, Battle & Rail: Two Stories About Waterloo Station

UPDATE: Here’s a video of me talking to The Independent about Waterloo and its contemporary importance On the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, it makes sense to think about myths, about legends and about national identity. To be honest, you’ll struggle to avoid these things. There are 2 key myths surrounding Waterloo station that relate to the battle, both of which it seems are pretty much false. … Continue reading Myths, Battle & Rail: Two Stories About Waterloo Station

Tale of Two Cities: Memory, Identity, Maps

Memory is a rich and powerful intoxicant. It can be as seductively misleading as it can be corrective. By invoking memory and heritage we can chide as we inspire, promoting a sense that life’s challenges can be more ably met when clad in the armour of past experience. Significantly, this has often been the case with national identity, and memory has often framed the values … Continue reading Tale of Two Cities: Memory, Identity, Maps