Against Conscience - Professor Tobias Kelly Inaugural Lecture
An inaugural lecture by
Professor Tobias Kelly
In popular culture, conscience helps us to make difficult ethical decisions, stand up to domination, and motivates people to do good in the world. Liberal thought, in particular, has often seen conscience as a deep and inclusive principle, speaking directly to what it means to be human. But what does conscience look like when we come across it? When and why do we listen to it? And what happens when it leads us in awkward directions? This lecture examines these issues through the experiences of conscientious objectors to military service in Second World War Britain. The aim of the lecture is to examine conscience as a historically shifting political and cultural category, rather than simply a transcendental principle or experience. Doing so enables us to explore the types of action, and by whom, that a prioritisation of conscience can make possible, and the hazards involved in doing so.
About the speaker:
Tobias Kelly's research interests include human rights, political and legal anthropology, and modern British cultural history. He has carried out ethnographic and archival research in Israel/Palestine, the UK and at the UN. He received a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics in 2003, and has worked at the Institute of Law of Birzeit University, the Crisis States Programme at the LSE, and the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at Oxford University.
He is currently leading on two research projects. The first project, funded by an ESRC/DfID grant, extends previous work on the documentation of torture, and is a collaboration with researchers and practitioners in Nepal, Bangladesh, Kenya and Denmark. More specifically, the Torture Documentation Project examines the issues involved in documenting torture and ill-treatment in countries marked by poverty and low institutional capacity. As such, it explores the production of evidence, and the ways in which the poor can be excluded from human rights work.
The second project, funded as an ERC Consolidator grant, looks at the practical, ethical and political issues raised by attempts to protect freedom of conscience. Case studies from the UK, Sri Lanka and the former Soviet Union, will be combined with work on the history of conscience within the international human rights movement. The project examines how claims of conscience are made culturally persuasive, at the meeting point of the apparently religious and secular, the intimate and the public.
He is editor of the Ethnographies of Political Violence series with University of Pennsylvania Press.
The lecture will be held in Symposium Hall // King Khalid Lecture Theatre, located in Hill Square. Hill Square can be found behind the RBS office at 30 Nicolson Street; follow Hill Place for 100m until it opens onto Hill Square. The lecture venue is in the converted church building at the square.
Doors open at 5.30pm for 6pm start; latecomers will be admitted at the discretion of the staff and speakers. The talk will be followed by a short reception, which everyone is welcome to attend. The event will end by 8pm.
Please note: this talk may be filmed and/or photographed.