Orange background with illustration of darker orange settee, with a cushion, book and mortarboard and text that reads Settee Seminars.

Episode One

Fozia Bora & Alaric Hall – Decolonising Medieval Literature and History 

What does it mean to ‘decolonise’ the studies carried out at university, whether in English Studies or in the history of the Eastern and Western worlds? In this informal conversation, Dr Alaric Hall and Dr Fozia Bora reflect on the meanings and application of the term ‘decolonise’ for their respective areas of teaching and research in medieval studies and history. While this word encapsulates a range of understandings, there are key principles at stake, which promise to bring more nuance, inclusivity and vital contextualisation into discussions about how knowledge is created and shared in university spaces. Spoiler alert: the decolonisation of academia is not a smooth or straightforward journey, but it can be exhilarating!

Further reading:

Geraldine Heng, England and the Jews: How Religion and Violence Created the First Racial State in the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).
Amitav Ghosh, In an Antique Land (London: Granta, 1992).
Francois-Xavier Fauvelle, The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018).
Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the World through Illuminated Manuscripts, ed. by Brian C. Keene (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2019).
Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978):

Episode Two 

Emily Webb – ‘Beneficial, Injurious or Innocent?’: Tea in Eighteenth Century Britain 

Britain consumes 60 billion cups of tea per year, almost 900 for every man, woman and child in the country. It has become entrenched in our way of life, from the humble tea break in your home to the fanciest of afternoon teas at the Ritz, it can be enjoyed in all situations. Tea has stood the test of time and remains our national drink. However, this has not always been the case 

During the eighteenth-century debate raged about the potential beneficial and harmful effects of this Chinese drink on the health and wellbeing of the nation. It was suspected of leading women to live immoral lives, poisoning the population with Chinese medicine, and ruining the working classes.

However, through an exploration of these debates, Postgraduate Researcher Emily Webb will show how tea was simply a scapegoat – an innocent victim of larger debates about the social changes happening during the century when Britain was emerging as a global power and changing beyond recognition.  

Further reading: 

Jane Pettigrew & Bruce Richardson, A Social History of Tea (London: Benjamin Press, 2001).
Roy Maxim, A Brief History of Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire (London: Robinson, 2009).
Markman Ellis, Richard Coulton, and Matthew Mauger, Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World (London: Reaktion, 2018).

Episode Three 

Jason Allen-Paisant – On Being a Black Body in “Nature”: A Walking Lyric 

“On Being a Black Body in ‘Nature’” is a lyric hybrid that combines poetry and essay. One might call it a “lyric essay”. Weaving the musicality of poetry into the more rationalist tone of the essay affords a blending of genres, voices, languages, and selves, and a coming together of different fragments of life and experience in new and interesting ways. The lyric essay embodies a form of mobility suited to my migrant experience, that of a Black West Indian living in Britain more than sixty years after the first Windrush arrivants. In this piece Dr Jason Allen-Paisant tackles questions that arise at the intersection of landscape, race, and history. The lyric essay as creative inquiry provides a liberating rhythm through which he can navigate these questions. 

Further Reading:

Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). “Reclaiming Time: On Blackness and Landscape”. PN Review 257. 
Allen-Paisant, Jason (2021). Thinking with Trees. Manchester: Carcanet. 

Episode Four 

Greg Radick – Darwin’s Argument by Analogy 

In November 1859, while Charles Darwin was staying in Ilkley, he published one of the most famous scientific books of all time: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.  It’s well known that Darwin named his theory “natural selection” in order to call attention to an analogy with stockbreeding or “artificial selection.”  But how, exactly, did he think the analogy worked?  And why did he set such store by it?  In our day, after all, analogies in science don’t seem all that serious.  We think of the UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van‒Tam, livening up press briefings about coronavirus by bringing in football matches, train rides and yoghurt.  In this talk Professor Greg Radick will preview a new analysis of Darwin’s analogy, from a book co-authored with Leeds colleagues Roger White and Jonathan Hodge, and due to be published this summer by Cambridge University Press. 

Further Reading:

Van-Tam’s analogies:
Roger M. White, M.J.S Hodge & Gregory Radick, Darwin’s Argument by Analogy: From Artificial to Natural Selection: