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Commonwealth Matters

Institute of Commonwealth Studies Autumn Term November 2009

Inside this issue:

Director’s Report opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

2009 has been a time for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) to look both to the past and the future. It was 60 years ago, in October 1949, that our first director, Professor Keith Hancock, took up his post and the Institute began work. Its genesis closely coincided with that of the modern Commonwealth. Indeed, only a matter of months before Hancock’s appointment it was decided by the University that it would no longer be appropriate for his new organisation to be called the ‘Institute of Empire Studies’, as had originally been intended, and that it should, instead, adopt its current name. Hence it is entirely appropriate that the modern Commonwealth and the ICWS should both celebrate their 60th birthday in 2009. From a personal point of view, I must say what a great honour it was to be appointed the new director of the Institute earlier this year, and to be given the opportunity to shape the future of the Institute. Shortly before I assumed the post of director in September 2009, the Institute moved from its old offices in 28 Russell Square to its new premises in Senate House. While there was an understandable sense of sadness at leaving our old home, the new location offers important advantages. We not only have access to the wide range of facilities offered by a refurbished Senate House, but our close proximity to most of the other Institutes of the School of Advanced Study adds to a sense of being part of a larger unit, one in which there are exciting

The spring and summer of 2009 also witnessed a number of other staff changes. Two members of our Human Rights team left the Institute: Lars Waldorf to take up a senior lectureship at the University of York, and Angela Melchiorre to take up a post with ActionAid. Lars Waldorf’s post was filled by David Cantor, and Angela Melchiorre’s by Corinne Lennox. The Institute also shares with the Institute of the Study of the Americas a new lectureship in International Human Rights, funded by the School. This post has been filled by Par Engstrom. Our anniversary, the move to new offices, and a significant renewal of the Institute’s academic staff, all provide an opportunity to take stock of the future direction of the ICWS. The Institute has a lively and diverse research culture and has been successful in recent years in winning major external funding awards. It runs an extremely successful MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights. It also runs a series of thriving seminar series, conferences and workshops in the field of Human Rights, Caribbean Studies, Canadian Studies and Black British History. Our Human Rights team puts on a particularly rich and diverse series of events, both independently and in conjunction with the School’s Human Rights Consortium. While maintaining and expanding these important activities, we need to reaffirm that the study of the Commonwealth and its institutions lies at the heart of the Institute’s concerns. We have to reach out to academic and nonacademic networks of Commonwealth specialists both nationally and internationally, and ensure that we are addressing their concerns. The Institute’s Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit (CPSU) already performs a key role as the Commonwealth’s leading think tank. Our task is to demonstrate that the ICWS as a

whole can provide a rigorous forum for research and debate on the Commonwealth. We have marked our 60th anniversary with a series of major events which will provide us with the opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the broader Commonwealth community This began on 12 October with an address by the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, which we hosted at The Royal Society. On the 24 November, we launched a research seminar series on Decolonization with a round table discussion in which Professor Wm. Roger Louis and other leading specialists discussed new directions in the field. We are also planning a new seminar series on the Overseas Territories. As part of our determination to take greater advantage of London’s pivotal position within Commonwealth networks, we are launching a series of Witness Seminars, which will bring academics together with current and former policy practitioners. The first event in this series will be taking place at Senate House on 17 December, and will have as its theme the Palace and the Commonwealth. In a further new departure, the ICWS will take the lead in running the School of Advanced Study’s 2010 ‘London Debates’. These will bring earlycareer researchers together with senior scholars in a series of workshops, the theme of which will be How does Europe in the 21st Century address the legacy of colonialism? We are always grateful for suggestions about new ways in which we can serve those with an interest in Commonwealth affairs in the academic community and beyond. Please do get in touch. Professor Philip Murphy Director of The Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Director’s Report


Move to Senate House


Virginia Woolf and Me


Life after the Institute


Forthcoming Events 4 Report on 4 ‘Commonwealth at 60’ Lecture

© Alison Stewart, 2009

Alumni Don’t lose touch with the Institute once you have graduated - let us know your contact details and employment destinations by completing our on-line alumni form at: /alumni.htm

Commonwealth Matters

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Institute moves to Senate House The Institute’s move to Senate House took place at the end of August 2009. After much delay the move began on Sunday 23rd August and was complete within a few days, with the Institute re-opening to the public on the following Wednesday. The Institute is now housed on the second floor of the South Block of Senate House. The administrative office can be found in Room 234. If you haven’t already seen our new space, please do feel free to come and visit.

We now share the second floor with other constituent parts of the School of Advanced Study: The Institute for the Study of the Americas, The Institute of Classical Studies and The Institute of English Studies in Senate House - and through the adjoining doors to Stewart House, we are now just a short walk from The Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies, The Institute of Musical Research, and The Institute of Philosophy. Administration Office, Room 234, 2nd Floor, South Block, Senate House

Corridor of new Institute premises, 2nd Floor, South Block, Senate House

Virginia Woolf and Me...Dr Corinne Lennox New Lecturer on the MA Human Rights Programme “The added-value of this aspect of the MA, and the opportunity to access internships during the course, is evident in the motivations of the students to choose the ICwS for their graduate work.”

Dr Corinne Lennox

On my way into the new Senate House offices for my first day of work, Virginia Woolf was on my mind. I knew she once lived in the quarters of Bloomsbury and I hoped to spot a blue plaque somewhere with her name on it among the rows of townhouses. I was also reminded of “A Room of One’s Own”, her famous musings on the state of women and fiction. Awaiting me at the Senate House, second floor, was a room of my own, where I would, to paraphrase Woolf, finally have money and a room of my own to research, write and teach human rights. My journey to the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS) has been a diversion from academia, through the trenches of human rights NGOs, the hallowed halls of the United Nations, and the dusty quarters of the library at the London School of Economics and Political Science. I’m pleased to say that the latter has awarded me a PhD in International Relations in October this year, after completing research on the trans-national mobilisation

of Afro-descendants and Dalits and the emergence of new group-specific rights in the international protection regime for minorities. The thesis drew from my experience of five years at Minority Rights Group International, where I was an Advocacy Officer for the Minority Rights and Development Programme. That work brought me from the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, to working with minority groups in places like Kenya, India, Costa Rica and Vietnam. It is these experiences that I can use to illustrate key points on human rights advocacy on the Securing Human Rights course I teach on the MA in Understanding and Securing Human Rights. The course has been very stimulating, bringing human rights practitioners into the classroom, providing students with a more candid understanding of the issues they will face in work. The addedvalue of this aspect of the MA, and the opportunity to access internships during the course, is

evident in the motivations of the students to choose the ICwS for their graduate work. Since arriving at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to participate in the wider research community here. There is a wealth of events in which to engage, and I’ve so far sampled a bit about religion in US politics, a little on reconciliation in Australia, and an overview of the challenges for the Commonwealth in the 21st century. I’m looking forward to joining a few seminars beyond the confines of my discipline, to bring me back to some of the areas of study – like philosophy and comparative literature – that I found so exciting during my undergraduate days at McMaster University in Canada. With my PhD firmly in hand, my next months at the ICwS will be focused on publishing the thesis and getting some other research plans off the ground. I have a standing commitment on exploring further the role of non-state actors in minority rights

Autumn Term protection and I’m keen to use the umbrella of the ICwS to continue my research on norm emergence around caste-based discrimination. I also hope to make links with the Institute for the Study of the Americas to look in more depth at the mobilisation of Afrodescendants in Latin America. I have recently completed a Resource Guide and Toolkit on Minorities in Development for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and will work with colleagues there to help ensure the Guide is mainstreamed into the UNDP’s work.

So far my days at the ICwS have been running smoothly, bar three inconveniences: an ill-timed fire alarm in the middle of my first lecture, the broken heating in Senate House and the mysterious disappearance of my Virginia Woolf ‘A Room of One’s Own’ mug from the staff kitchen. Apparently I’m not the only one at the SAS with an affinity for Woolf – two other staff have the same mug and we seem to have lost them in the shuffle! I’m happy to say the lectures have not been interrupted again, the mug is back with me, and the heating is working just fine in Room 229 (all my own!).

Funding Opportunities at ICwS The Institute’s Routledge/Round Table Scholarship for international applicants from Commonwealth countries applying to the MA in 2010/11 is open until 7th July 2010. For further information, including eligibility go to:

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INSTITUTE OF COMMONWEALTH STUDIES University of London TREVOR REESE MEMORIAL PRIZE The Trevor Reese Memorial Prize was established by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in 1979. It is in the name of Dr Trevor Reese, a distinguished scholar of Australian and Commonwealth history, who was Reader in Imperial Studies at the Institute until his death in 1976. He was the author of several leading works in his field, and was both founder and first editor of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. The Prize was established with the proceeds of contributions to a memorial fund by friends and colleagues of Trevor Reese throughout the Commonwealth and United States. The Prize, of £1,000, is awarded every three years to the author of a work which has made a wide-ranging, innovative and scholarly contribution in the broadly-defined field of Imperial and Commonwealth History. The next award of the Prize will be in 2010, for books in the relevant field published in 2007 - 2009. Authors or publishers wishing to submit titles for consideration should send two copies to Troy Rutt, Events & Publicity Officer, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, at the address below, by 1 February 2010.

Life after the MA Heather Knight, MA USHR, Alumnus (2009) My plan was to take a well-earned break after handing in my dissertation. However, my new employer took a different view and after two days respite I began my first paid job as an MA graduate. I’m currently working for an organisation called Advocacy Partners, primarily as an advocate for adults with learning disabilities, but I also work one day a week as a volunteer coordinator. The role is incredibly varied- something I thrive on, but most importantly I get to work directly with the individuals that I aim to support. Advocacy can be a difficult concept to define, but in this context, it primarily involves working with an individual to help gain control over their own lives whilst ensuring their rights are protected. It involves negotiating with a range of actors, such as social services, and residential or health providers. The course itself certainly prepared me to expect the countless challenges that I face on a day-to-day basis, and to understand that commitment and patience can sometimes be the only tools to

hand. Prior to my MA I had been both a performer and a teacher, with limited direct experience in the field of human rights, so I believe that I would not have been offered this employment opportunity without my postgraduate qualification. In particular, the work experience I carried out as part of the course proved to be invaluable. I spent five months as an intern with Index on Censorship, researching, writing and editing international news stories for both their magazine and websites. This allowed me to gain an insight into the internal workings of an NGO for the first time, although the most important discovery was the realisation that I certainly wouldn’t want a full-time office job! After this placement I began to volunteer for the Refugee Council as an ESOL teacher, combining my teaching experience with a desire to work with refugees or thoss eeking asylum. Although the course has finished and I am now working full-time, I still support the individuals I first met at the

Refugee Council having simply moved my ESOL lessons to the evenings. I also recently became a member of the Ice and Fire Theatre Company’s actor network, which specialises in raising awareness on human rights issues through readily accessible theatre. Their productions include the critically acclaimed Asylum Monologues and The Palastinian Monologues, with scripts recorded from real life to provide powerful testimony.

“In particular, the work experience I carried out as part of the course proved to be invaluable...this allowed me to gain an insight into the internal workings of an NGO for the first time”

Now all the hard work of the last year is completed, it’s certainly time to celebrate with those who have shared the same journey. And just for fun, I’ve decided to enroll in an Arabic language class … primarily so a student card can continue to grace my wallet! For more information on the work of Ice and Fire, please visit

Heather Knight MA Understanding & Securing Human Rights (2009)

Institute of Commonwealth Studies

ICwS Forthcoming Events: December 2nd - Black and Asian Community Voice and Local History December 9th - ICwS Research Seminar Series

School of Advanced Study University of London 2nd Floor, South Block, Senate House Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU Phone: 020 7862 8853 Fax: 020 7862 8813 E-mail:

December 10th - International Tribunals and Genocide Case Law December 14th - The Struggle Against the Central African Federation in Northern Rhodesia December 17th - Witness Seminar on the Palace and the Commonwealth January 13th - National Human Rights Institutions, State Compliance and Social Change February 3rd - The Sacred, the Profane, and the limits to Human Rights February 24th - Human Rights Misinterpretations: Post-Genocide Politics and Justice in Rwanda March 17th - Accountability for one? The special tribunal for Lebanon in context For further information on these events please see: or contact Troy Rutt (

We’re on the web!

Videos of two of the Institute’s conferences held in 2008/09 (Re-constructing Rwanda: 15 Years after Genocide - A Tribute to Alison des Forges and Recovering Stolen Generations, Land and Culture: Indigenous Rights and Transitional Justice) can now be viewed on the School of Advanced Study’s ‘School Events Online’ webpage:

The Institute’s 2007-08 Annual Report is now available to view on-line:

If you would like to contribute an article or have any suggestions for the Newsletter, please contact Troy Rutt (

The Commonwealth at 60 - an evening with the Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma To celebrate both the 60th anniversary of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and of the modern Commonwealth, a new lecture series was established - ‘Serving the Next Generation: The Commonwealth in the 21st Century’. We were honoured to have Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma deliver the inaugural lecture which focused on the challenges that the modern Commonwealth faced in its 60th year. The event was held on the 12th October 2009 at The Royal Society and was attended by well over 100 guests, including High Commissioners from Barbados, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Trinidad & Tobago and South Africa, as well as ICwS alumni, staff and current students and guests from Commonwealth Organisations that included the Commonwealth Secretariat, Commonwealth Foundation, Commonwealth Journalists Association, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Association of Commonwealth Universities as well as a host of other interested parties. The Secretary-General’s talk was followed by a wine and canapé reception and allowed the opportunity for attendees from the various organisations to network with one another. We would like to thank the Secretary-General for finding the time to help launch our new lecture series, as we know he was particularly busy in the lead up to CHOGM. We would also like to thank all those who attended and contributed to a successful and enjoyable evening. The transcript of this event will shortly be made available on the Institute’s website ( and in the New Year we will be announcing our line-up of speakers for the remaining lectures.

Commonwealth SecretaryGeneral, Kamalesh Sharma

Commonwealth Matters: Autumn Term, November 2009  

This issue of Commonwealth Matters, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies online newsletter, celebrates the multi-disciplinary activities of...

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