News & Events

15 August 2019

Upcoming Lecture – Ramsay Lecture Series 2019

Has the Cultural Revolution arrived in the West?
Anastasia Lin in conversation with Prof Simon Haines
Is it worth living in a world where we are afraid to say what we think, even to our friends?
This was the question posed by Chinese Canadian freedom fighter Anastasia Lin in April in the Wall Street Journal.
She now advocates for countries the world over to do more than simply pay lip service to protecting basic freedoms.
“The emerging call-out culture in the US, Canada and elsewhere in the West bears more than a few similarities to China’s Cultural Revolution, in which writers, artists, doctors, scholars and other professionals were publicly denounced and forced by mobs to engage in ritual self-criticism. The goal is not to persuade or debate; it is to humiliate the target and intimidate everyone else. The ultimate objective is to destroy independent thought.”
In Australia voices across the political spectrum from Alan Jones to Richard Flanagan have recently spoken out in defence of a free press; and in Hong Kong more than a million people have protested in defence of rule of law. So, can we maintain the right to express our own views while limiting the rights of others to do the same? When does freedom of expression become an incitement to riot, an oppression of the vulnerable or a danger to national security?

Anastasia Lin is the Scholar in Residence at The Centre for Independent Studies and is an award-winning actress, beauty pageant titleholder, and human rights advocate. In 2015, Lin won the Miss World Canada title, and was to represent Canada at the Miss World pageant in China. However, she was refused a visa and declared a persona non grata by Chinese authorities for her outspoken views on the country’s human rights violations. The news of her rejection—and subsequent attempt to enter China—caused global media attention for weeks, leading to a front page article in The New York Times and op-eds in major newspapers. Since then, she has been invited to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the Oxford Union, United Nations Human Rights Council, the Geneva Human Rights Summit, Oslo Freedom Forum and has testified in the US Congress, the UK Parliament, and the Taiwanese Legislative Assembly.

Lin has appeared in over 20 films and television productions. She often works at the confluence of activism and acting, playing roles that carry messages of freedom, human rights, and ethics. Her films have received the Gabriel Award for Best Feature Film, the Mexico International Film Festival’s Golden Palm Award, and the California’s Indie Fest Award of Merit. Lin also won the Best Leading Actress in a TV Movie at the Leo Awards in 2016. As a model, she’s made appearances on runways around the world, including the New York Fashion Week show at the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria. 

Lin has been listed as one of the “Top 25 under 25” by MTV, a “Top 60 under 30” by Flare, and called “The Badass Beauty Queen” by Marie Claire. She was one of eleven stakeholders selected to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird upon the establishment of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom. Her articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The Daily Telegraph and other major newspapers.

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15 August 2019

Ramsay Lecture Series 2019

A series of distinguished visiting speakers will deliver public lectures and small seminars to encourage wider interest in and knowledge of Western Civilisation.

Our international and local speakers will be from various walks of life and will include politicians, academics and business leaders.

RAMSAY LECTURE SERIES – 2019*

19 March Dr Fiona Wood AM Plastic and reconstructive surgeon
9 April Greg Sheridan AO Foreign affairs commentator and author
21 May Rod Dreher American writer and editor 
18 June Helen Pluckrose Editor in Chief, AREO
23 July Jonathan Haidt Social psychologist and Prof of Ethical Leadership NYU
14 August Dr Rachel Fulton-Brown University of Chicago
27 August Anastasia Lin Scholar in Residence at The Centre for Independent Studies, Human rights advocate and award winning actress
October TBA
November TBA Prof Bettany Hughes will now present in 2020

If you would like to receive invitations to our lectures, please send an email to info@ramsaycentre.org and include your name, company, telephone number and email address.

*Dates and presenters are subject to change.

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15 August 2019

Reclaiming the Middle Ages from contemporary politics

By LUKE SLATTERY
12:00AM AUGUST 10, 2019

“Three cheers for white men!” American medieval scholar Rachel Fulton Brown proclaimed in the 2015 blog post that effectively remade her.

Until that moment this spry, white-haired University of Chicago academic was known chiefly as the author of a 750-page scholarly doorstopper titled From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200.

With her incendiary blog, designed to counter with a few salient historical facts the ritualistic enmity towards “dead white Anglo-Saxon males” among tenured radicals, Brown catapulted herself into the culture wars. Her post urged readers to “Hug a white man today!” She has never looked back.

Ahead of a public lecture in Sydney next week on great books of the Middle Ages, Brown stresses a point that she has hammered on her Fencing Bear at Prayer blog: “It was white men who extended suffrage to women. White women invented feminism and white men supported them.” Much of what she has to say on the web is playful and provocative — it’s in her gift to be both simultaneously — but the title of her blog can be taken quite literally. She is a devoted prayerful Christian, baptised and reared a Presbyterian and received into the Catholic Church in 2017. Her sport of choice is fencing. “I’ve been a sport fencer for 16 years,” she tells Inquirer. “Putting on a fencing mask changes you.”

When viewed through its art, architecture and literature, the Middle Ages can seem like a dreamscape of noble ladies, chivalrous knights and troubadour poets, saturated in the ideals of courtly love. Of late, however, it has been dragged roughly by its wimple and gorget into the 21st century. The Middle Ages have been renamed the Middle Rages, and Brown, 54, labelled a “violent fascist” and “white supremacist” for her refusal to follow colleagues in denouncing the subject for complicity in the ideals of white ­nationalists. She describes herself, with a touch of sadness, as her discipline’s “poster monster”.

In August 2017 a fellow medievalist, Dorothy Kim, who was disturbed by the adoption of medieval regalia by some protesters at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, called out her colleagues as “ideological arms dealers” trading racist weaponry in the classroom.

“Today, medievalists have to understand that the public and our students will see us as potential white supremacists or white ­supremacist sympathisers because we are medievalists,” she wrote in a blog post. “The medieval Western European Christian past is being weaponized by white ­supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/Nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students.”

Brown hit back. Not only did she insist that she is not, and never has been, a white supremacist, she went to some lengths to trace the multiracial threads in the New and Old Testaments as well as the culture of medieval Christianity, stressing in particular the genuine Catholicism (from the Greek katholikos, meaning universal) of the early church.

Her riposte to Kim, similar in thrust to her argument with Anglo-masculophobes on campus, is that history in neither its broad sweep nor in its fine textual detail confirms the image of a “white supremacist” medieval world. “How should you signal that you are not a white supremacist if you teach the ‘medieval western European Christian past?’ ” she asked, pointedly echoing Kim, who teaches medieval literature at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, and is the author, most recently, of Digital Whiteness & Medieval Studies. “Learn some f..king medieval western Euro­pean Christian history, including the history of our field.”

Speaking from home in Chicago, Brown, who is married, plays the fiddle, confesses to a Myers Briggs Introverted Intuitive Thinking Judging personality type, and has a Cardigan Welsh corgi barking in the background, is rather more muted than her often peppery blog persona. She quotes Paul’s letter to the Galatians as confirmation of her creed’s blindness to colour, class, gender or race: “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor ­female.” Yet it can’t be easy to ­retain her equanimity in the often-vituperative world of politicised aca­deme. She mentions, a little wearily, that she has just been tagged in a thread: ­“Rachel Fulton Brown has repeatedly allied herself with white supremacists and has harassed scholars of colour in our field (presumably a reference to her criticism of Kim). I don’t want anything to do with her.”

Stirring the coals of outrage, as Brown explains, is her friendship with Briton Milo ­Yiannopoulos. The self-described “cultural libertarian” — code for publicity-seeking ultraconservative provoca­teur — and former editor of Breitbart News was denied a visa to enter Australia this year after anti-Muslim comments he posted following the Christchurch massacre. The openly gay — Brown ­describes him as the world’s “most famous faggot” — commentator’s new book, Middle Rages: How the Battle for Medieval Studies Matters to America, goes into bat for Brown in her row with Kim.

Until her “three cheers for white men!” post of 2015, Brown had used her blog, she explains, largely for rumination and reflection. But her decision to tackle “more darkly cultural questions” led her to examine the intersection of past and present, or politics in thought and action. She took an interest in Yiannopoulos, ­started to watch his videos and eventually emailed him. “That contact blossomed into a friendship,” she ­explains. “We share concerns about Christianity. He’s playing on a much bigger stage and that’s brought my work to a bigger audience.”

In response to the concerns first raised by Kim, and repeated by other academics vexed by the apparent allure of medieval ­imagery for the far right, Brown points out that only a few far-right protesters are seen in “vaguely” medieval costume, and their preferred symbolism appears to be pagan Germanic and pre-Christian. The implication is that if proto-fascists want to dress up in Wagnerian garb, scholars of the medieval world have little purchase on the problem.

“I was simply suggesting to my colleagues that they might be stoking hysteria and if they want to dispel this sort of thing they should do their job and tell the story,” she says, reprising the history of her ­notorious stoush, minus the sting. “Good history dispels the popular myths about the medieval world, and the fantasy version of the ­Crusades.”

Her personal and professional focus is not, in any event, with the masculine world of the Knights Templar or the bloody wars of the Plantagenets. Her medieval world is a thing of beauty: a civilisation singularly devoted to the Virgin Mary. The culture, in her view, was completely infused with Marianism. And to the extent that medieval Christianity helped to define Western civilisation, we still live at some level, she believes, in a matriarchal culture.

“To understand Mary as medieval Christians imagined her, one has to understand everything,” she says. “She is there in the art and the architecture and the music. She is there in the literature and the liturgy and the liberal arts. She is there in the most elevated expressions of human imagination and in the humblest prayers for help. She is there in the politics and in the ideals of marriage, in battle cries and in pleas for mercy for the ­oppressed. Medieval Christianity is inconceivable without her.”

The Virgin Mary was not only the mother of God, Brown argues, she was an emblem of the city and of civilisation. The medieval world and its devotion to the Virgin Mary is far from our own, and its fragile hold on the contemporary imagination was underscored symbolically this year by the near-destruction of Notre Dame (“Our Lady”) of Paris. The idea of recovering the difficult texts of this ­period and reverse engineering them into a Great Books curriculum doesn’t drive Brown. Nor does nostalgia. “I don’t want to bring back the medieval world,” she says. “That will not work. It’s like taxidermy. I want instead for you to have the living sense of what it meant in that period to create.”

Brown has taught at Chicago for 25 years and worries about the tendency to read literature as an exercise in speaking knowledge to power. She detects a mood in ­undergraduates — a kind of hollowness — that she interprets as “a fear of being affected by the texts that we read. It is a fear of what might happen if we let the great books that we read work on us.”

If there is one thing she would like to recover from the Middle Ages it’s not so much the texts that were inherited and read, transcribed or written but an attitude to reading. “Scripture is inexhaustible,” she says. “It’s a consistent story. Medieval students of scripture knew that the stories were true but they didn’t know all its truths, its full dimensions. Scripture was a constantly unfolding revelation of mysteries. So, from the medieval point of view these texts are very much alive; we need to unlock all these layers. And to read — to read for wisdom.”

Credit: The Australian Newspaper – click here to read the full article.

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15 August 2019

Great Books of the Middle Ages and How to Read Them

Sydney, Thursday 15 August: Do we really understand the ‘Dark Ages’? What was it like to exist in an age when people were supposedly punished for the exercise of reason in pursuit of the truth?

Renowned medievalist, University of Chicago Associate Professor of History Rachel Fulton Brown, has dedicated her academic career to reading texts from the Middle Ages that she says are often dismissed ‘either because the ideas in them seem boring (they aren’t!) or because everyone assumes that we already know what they say (we don’t).’

Last night she delivered the sixth Ramsay lecture for 2019 on ‘Great Books of the Middle Ages, and How to Read Them.”  

She argued that ‘Great Books’ courses should include more works from the thousand years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the sixteenth century, as currently such courses effectively exclude the Middle Ages from the development of Western Civilisation.  

“Without the Christian Middle Ages, we would not be here arguing for the importance of truth, beauty and goodness at all. If we want to challenge the postmodern critique of modernity, we need to understand the straw-man on which modernity constructed itself: the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ in which people were supposedly punished for the exercise of reason in pursuit of truth,” she said ahead of the talk. 

Since 1994 Rachel Fulton Brown has taught at the University of Chicago, one of America’s most distinguished colleges, where her teaching has been recognized with the Provost’s Teaching Award and the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. She was awarded tenure in 2002.  

She is the author of From Judgement to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200 and Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought, as well as co-editor of History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person, all published by Columbia University Press.  

Her current research includes work on training the soul in virtue; the psychological bases for the doctrine of the Seven Deadly sins; the growth of cities and their relationship to prayer; and how saying the Psalms in honour of the Virgin Mary gives birth to understanding and joy.  

The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage. Printed versions of the lectures and video recordings are available on our website: www.ramsaycentre.org

 Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098 

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8 August 2019

Ramsay Centre and The University of Queensland sign Memorandum of Understanding

STATEMENT FROM CEO PROFESSOR SIMON HAINES


Sydney, Thursday 08 August 2019
: As part of a philanthropic gift to the Humanities in Australia, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The University of Queensland (UQ), to fund a new program in Western Civilisation, and related scholarships.

Worth upwards of $50 million over 8 years, the partnership deal includes funding for at least 150 undergraduate scholarships, and the hiring of world-class educators. The Western Civilisation program will commence in 2020.

This is the second university partnership for the Centre, following its partnership with the University of Wollongong.

We are delighted to be partnering with UQ, which is ranked in the world’s top 50 universities and is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching institutions.

The University has a strong focus on the student experience and supporting students to become ‘agile, innovative thinkers and leading global citizens.’

Most importantly, we have always said that the success of the courses we fund would depend on the quality of teaching, and UQ has received more national teaching awards than any Australian university.

The program’s curriculum has been developed under the leadership of the Executive Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Heather Zwicker and internationally-acclaimed classicist Professor Alastair Blanshard.

The University will offer a new major in Western Civilisation that students can either take as part of its advanced humanities honours program, or in a new double degree consisting of a new Bachelor of Humanities coupled with an Honours degree in Law.

Students will graduate with either a Bachelor of Advanced Humanities (Honours) (Western Civilisation) or a Bachelor of Humanities (Western Civilisation)/Bachelor of Laws (Honours).

The MOU will be published by UQ and clearly articulates the joint commitment of the Ramsay Centre and the University to academic freedom.

Together with UQ, we are excited about the wonderful opportunity for both students and teachers in the Humanities that this partnership presents.

 

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org

For more information on the centre please visit our website: www.ramsaycentre.org

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6 August 2019

Ramsay Centre and University of Wollongong sign funding agreement

STATEMENT FROM CEO PROFESSOR SIMON HAINES

Sydney, Tuesday 06 August 2019: As part of a philanthropic gift to the Humanities in Australia, the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation has signed an agreement with the University of Wollongong (UOW) to fund a new BA degree in Western Civilisation, beginning in 2020, and a related scholarship program.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the University in December last year.

Worth approximately $50 million over 8 years, the partnership deal will enable UOW to offer at least 150 undergraduate scholarships and hire world-class educators to teach its Western Civilisation program. UOW’s BA in Western Civilisation will be directed by Professor Daniel Hutto who is a gifted and passionate educator.

Billed as a course for the ‘intellectually fearless’, UOW is promising students a transformative BA in Western Civilisation degree that will take them on a ‘unique philosophical adventure’, engaging with ‘some of the greatest intellectual and artistic masterpieces ever produced.’

It will comprise 16 newly created subjects, with students having the option of studying for a single degree, with a choice of major, or a range of double degrees. The degree is funded to enable students to study the great texts of western civilisation in small groups.

The funding agreement contains a joint commitment from UOW and the Ramsay Centre to academic freedom.

The partnership is made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care.

Students interested in learning more about the degree and the Ramsay Scholarship program at UOW can find more information on the UOW website – https://www.uow.edu.au/law-humanities-the-arts/schools-entities/liberal-arts/ . Scholarship applications are open for the month of August.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org

For more information on the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation please visit our website: https://www.ramsaycentre.org

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29 July 2019

The Ramsay Podcast with Stephen McInerney and Helen Pluckrose

What does a fake ‘dog park study’ tell us about scholarship in certain areas of the humanities? Is feminism what it once was? What does it mean to identify as being on the left, while taking a stand against identity politics? Ramsay Centre Executive Officer Dr Stephen McInerney sits down with editor of Areo magazine and scholar of medieval women’s writing, Helen Pluckrose, following her Sydney lecture, to talk more about the ‘grievance studies’ hoax, her life, thought and work.

Listen to podcast

 

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23 July 2019

The Coddling of the American Mind: New York Times best-selling author to deliver Ramsay Lecture

Sydney, Tuesday 23 July 2019:  Are we coddling our youth presuming they are fragile rather than robust people who can benefit from challenging experiences? Are we continuing to over-protect students at university, leaving them unprepared for life’s rough and tumble? Should we be disturbed by the growing trend on US campuses of controversial speakers being de-platformed and classic texts being banished on the grounds that they are too confronting?

These are just some of the many issues explored in the New York Times best-seller The Coddling of the American Mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure.

To deliver more insight into how over-protection may cause future generations harm, as well as how we can remedy bad-practices to create ‘wiser kids’, ‘wiser universities’ and ‘wiser societies’, co-author of The Coddling of the American Mind Jonathan Haidt will deliver the fifth Ramsay lecture for 2019.

Professor Haidt is Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Named one of the “top global thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine and one of the “world’s top thinkers” by Prospect magazine, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this year. His research examines the intuitive foundations of morality, and how morality varies across cultures, with the aim of helping people understand and learn from each other. He has co-founded a variety of organizations that apply moral and social psychology to that end, including HeterodoxAcademy.org, OpenMindPlatform.org, and CivilPolitics.org.

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation CEO Professor Simon Haines said Professor Haidt’s lecture was timely, following the report on free speech at Australian universities by former High Court chief justice Robert French. He praised Haidt’s emphasis on students seeking truth through critical thinking and engagement, rather than seeking refuge in comfortable majority positions.

“We should be careful not to stray into territory where students feel safer to adopt ‘group-think’, rather than be challenged to develop conclusions based on meaningful and respectful challenge from their peers and from people with different views,” Professor Haines said.

Professor Haines commended Professor Haidt’s establishment of the Heterodox Academy, a non-partisan global collaborative of more than 2,500 professors, administrators and graduate students committed to “promoting open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement in institutions of higher learning.”

Professor Haidt is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and of The New York Times bestsellers The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, and The Coddling of the American Mind (co-authored with Greg Lukianoff). His next book is tentatively titled Three Stories about Capitalism: The Moral Psychology of Economic Life.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098

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10 July 2019

What the vulgar feud around the Ramsay Centre doesn’t grasp about ‘Western Civilisation’ – by Andrew Gleeson

The Ramsey Centre for Western Civilisation appears to be making progress in its plan to establish degrees in Western Civilisation at three Australian Universities. Just last week, it was reported that the University of Queensland’s academic board approved a plan for courses to begin next year, subject to final approval by the university’s vice-chancellor. At the same time, the National Tertiary Education Union is reported to have dropped legal action against courses at the University of Wollongong, also scheduled for a 2020 start.

Scornful critics will, of course, not abandon their attempts to scuttle the project. They have succeeded in convincing many people ― even some of the program’s advocates ― that it is little more than a conservative project aimed at glorifying straight white European male supremacy.

But nothing could be further from the truth. A perusal of the Indicative Curriculum reveals a cunning left-wing plot to subvert the established order of capitalism. Consider this selection from the curriculum’s texts.

The initial year of study includes Aeschylus’s Oresteia. The first play of this trilogy, Agamemnon, is one of the earliest works to strike a feminist blow against patriarchy, describing Queen Clytemnestra’s murder of her husband Agamemnon to usurp his throne. Students also study Plato ― that well-known champion of homoerotic love ― whose most famous dialogue, The Republic, describes an ideal state devoted to justice and ruled by a caste of progressive intellectuals.

When one gets around to authors writing in English, students are introduced to sexual politics through the notorious bawdy of Chaucer and Shakespeare. They also study John Milton, that infamous republican and revolutionary, whose greatest literary creation was an epic poem celebrating insurrection against the Christian God.

In the study of the Enlightenment, pride of place is given to radically democratic and liberal figures like Locke and Kant, feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft, radicals like Rousseau ― an inspiring spirit of the French revolution ― and Thomas Paine, the nemesis of conservative hero Edmund Burke.

As we reach the last couple of hundred years, the fig leaf of traditionalist appearances is shed to reveal an openly Bolshie syllabus: Nietzsche and Freud ― scourges of Christianity both ― black radicals like W.E.B. Du Bois, and even Marx and Foucault!

Well, this is parody, of course ― albeit parody with a point: that the canon of ‘Western Civilisation’ is more diverse than its critics suspect. More importantly, it is also far richer than anyone would think whose only knowledge of it ― like that of most students ― is sourced from the bizarre philippics of its detractors or the bland instrumental rationales sometimes voiced in its defence.

Credit: ABC Religion and Ethics website– click here to read the full article
Posted Tue 9 Jul 2019, 5:49pm Updated Tue 9 Jul 2019, 6:12pm

Andrew Gleeson is a retired academic philosopher who lives in Adelaide. He is the author of A Frightening Love: Recasting the Problem of Evil.

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For most of history Anonymous was a woman"
- Virginia Woolf