Sidney Ball Memorial Lecture 2022: Professor Ann Phoenix, 'Who are we? Contesting and transforming racialised histories and futures in the Carolean era'

The 21st century has undoubtedly been marked by periods of upheaval and disjunction. Examples include the global COVID-19 pandemic, the revitalising of Black Lives Matter by the US murder of George Floyd by a policeman, the Russian war against Ukraine, the murder of Sarah Everard by a UK policeman and the accession of King Charles. Analyses of all these events have highlighted socioeconomic, gendered and racialised inequities, and contestations over how to account for difference as shown, for example, in the heated debates over the 2021 report of the UK Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. These contestations raise basic, but vexed questions about identities and the stories we tell to account for ourselves and contemporary social relations. The answers to such questions are central to producing both liveable lives and liveable societies.

This talk draws on the ways racialisation features in contemporary society to discuss three issues central to addressing these questions. First, recognition that no one social category can explain differences, making intersectional perspectives crucial. Second, that social disruptions make some previously unheard stories sayable, hearable and potentially transformative. Third, that histories come alive in new ways at such times, revitalising the present and future in ways that make the contestations likely to mark the Carolean age important to all of us.

Ann Phoenix is Professor of Psychosocial studies at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Department of Social Science, UCL Institute of Education. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Social Sciences.

The annual Sidney Ball lecture was instituted by Barnett House and named in 1920 after the first chairman of the Barnett House Committee, Sidney Ball. The event brings a distinguished speaker to Oxford every autumn to discuss key themes in social policy and intervention.