The cultural history of fat and fat phobia

Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner, Reader in Comparative Literature and Medical Humanities in the Department of Comparative Literature, has written a lead review article, ‘‘Weighty matters’ on the cultural history of fat and fat phobia’, which has been published in The Times Literary Supplement.

In recent decades, the British population has grown in girth. The NHS England obesity report for 2017 found that 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of the men were overweight or obese, as well as one in five children aged three to four, and more than one in three children aged ten to eleven. Yet in spite of their steadily growing numbers, the overweight are still subject to contempt and discrimination. This article goes on to explore key assumptions in the popular imagination that seemingly legitimise fat-shaming, as well as the long history of our slippery relationship with fat.

‘Fat is ultimately a political topic,’ Anna says, ‘Whether we view the obese primarily as victims of poverty, childhood troubles, genetic predisposition, hormonal imbalances, or a ruthless food industry, or else as weak-willed wasters of precious resources depends on our wider ideological assumptions about human nature and agency.’

laptop with glasses and notebook

Extra Mid-Career Workshop dates

Due to popular demand, Learning and Organisational Development have added two further dates for the Mid-Career workshop, facilitated by Planned Future.

The sessions in June and July are now fully booked, but we have two extra dates in August and September. Book your place through Staff Connect.

This short workshop covers a wide range of issues relevant to planning your financial affairs both now and for your future. Looking at your finances now at the mid-career stage can give you enough time to make a significant difference to your future financial goals.

You will:

•Learn how to manage your finances

•Understand how to protect your family financially

•Consider the options for saving and investment

•Learn how to top-up your pension

•Identify the personal and financial actions which will make the most of your finances

•Start the process of planning towards a successful retirement

This seminar is open to any member of staff who has an interest in planning their finances to achieve their personal and financial goals.


Alumna Patrycja Dynowska at Tristan Bates Theatre

Alumna Patrycja Dynowska, who graduated with an MA in Physical Acting in 2017, will be performing in a one-woman show at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden in London, opening on Tuesday 18 June 2019.

Sh*t Happens is a multidisciplinary performance exploring the taboos and challenges of living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, drawing on personal experience of one of the more than 300,000 people affected in the UK.

The performance deals with the awkward and often embarrassing subject in a light and humorous way that is not deprived of its importance and seriousness. Through the use of technology, autobiographical stories and poetry, the spectator gradually discovers the inconvenient aspects of living with a chronic invisible disease.

Explaining the background to the show, Patrycja said: ‘I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in January 2013 at the age of 21. I was scared, ashamed, embarrassed and didn’t really know how life-changing it was going to be. I felt there was little to no understanding of the condition. Having been able to see a show that addressed this subject in a light-hearted way would have provided comfort and reassurance, that being affected by this debilitating disease is not the end of the world. I hope to spread awareness on Inflammatory Bowel Disease and make people realise that more and more individuals are being affected by invisible and debilitating diseases nowadays, and what better way to do it than through theatre?’

Patrycja spoke of her time at Kent: ‘The MA in Physical Acting contributed greatly to my development as an actor, performer and a theatre maker. It gave me the confidence and inspired me to create my own work that is strongly rooted in physical and devised theatre. Since graduating, I have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Orestes by Wacky Goats) and at The Bread & Roses Theatre (Some Birds Never Return by The Collective). Sh*t Happens is my first full-length solo performance.’

The show runs until Saturday 22 June, with performances at 6.15pm each night and a matinée performance on the final Saturday at 2:30pm. Tickets cost £12/£10.

Patrycja will also perform the show at the Camden Fringe Festival, from Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 August at Camden People’s Theatre.

For more details, please see the page here

Dieter Declercq

Dieter Declercq secures funding for medical humanities conference

Dr Dieter Declercq, Assistant Lecturer in Film and Media in the School of Arts, has secured funding from the British Society of Aesthetics to organise a conference which aims to stimulate interdisciplinary exchanges between analytic aesthetics and health/medical humanities. The conference, entitled ‘British Society of Aesthetics Conference: Art, Aesthetics and the Medical and Health Humanities’, will take place from Thursday 6 February to Saturday 8 February 2020, at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus.

The conference will be co-organised by Dieter, Dr Michael Newall, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History of Art, and Professor Nicola Shaughnessy, Professor of Performance in the Department of Drama and Theatre. The conference will explore the contributions of art and aesthetics to medicine, medical education and health care in all its aspects.

The keynote talks will be delivered by Professor Rita Charon (Columbia University), Professor Paul Crawford (University of Nottingham), and Professor Sheila Lintott (Bucknell University), alongside confirmed papers from Dr Julie Anderson (University of Kent), Dr Stella Bolaki (University of Kent) and Dr Eileen John (University of Warwick).

Dieter says: ‘We are very excited and grateful to the BSA for funding the first conference designed to bring together philosophers of art and scholars in the health/medical humanities. We are very proud to have such an amazing line-up of world-leading scholars in both fields and we are certain that this event will foster many rewarding exchanges’.

More details, including a call for papers, will be distributed soon. In the meantime, contact Dieter for further information here.

Chia-Yuan Lin

Chia-Yuan Lin wins Summer Vacation Research Prize

Dr Chia-Yuan Lin, Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the Department of English Language & Linguistics has been awarded a Summer Vacation Research prize by the University’s Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching for a project titled ‘Arabic digits and spoken number words: Timing modulates cross-modal numerical distance effect’.

This project aims to systematically investigate the correspondence between auditory number words and visual Arabic digits in adults. Auditory number words and visual Arabic digits will be presented concurrently or sequentially with a blocked design and participants have to indicate whether two numerals describe the same quantity. It is expected that the temporal relation between multi-sensory numerical inputs will modulate the cross-modal numerical distance effect. The relationship between individual mathematical performance and the timing modulation effect will be also examined.

This project aims to investigate temporal dynamics of a cross-modal number matching task, using these two most common numerical symbols. In addition, examining the relationship between audiovisual correspondence and individual mathematical performance may shed light on mathematics education issues.


Inspirational Decolonising the Curriculum project

A revolutionary, student-led research project at Kent Law School has empowered Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students to begin ‘decolonising’ their curriculum; it has also inspired a chain reaction of events across the University.

Earlier this year, student members of the Decolonising the Curriculum Project (DtCP) led café-style focus groups with their peers to research and write a Manifesto for enhancing inclusivity, identity and academic performance at Kent. Underpinned by values of social justice and collaboration, their aim was to critically explore perceptions of the BAME attainment gap, to identify barriers to learning and to explore the broader student experience both in and beyond the classroom.

DtCP students launched their Manifesto in March to a packed-out audience of Kent students, academics, professional services staff and senior leaders (including Professor April McMahon, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education).

Feedback from the launch helped inform a strategy document that was later prepared for the University’s Executive Group, outlining how key points from the Manifesto could be implemented at Kent.

An increasing number of Kent initiatives have sprung (and continue to spring) from the project including: a dedicated DtCP website; a Kaleidoscope Network for staff and students who support the principles of race equality; a BAME Network for Staff of Colour; new training in cultural competency as part of Kent’s PGCHE; and a podcast series, created by students, called Stripping the White Walls

 The project was initiated by Kent Law School Senior Lecturer Dr Suhraiya Jivraj and is supported by Dave Thomas, Student Success Project Manager from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Sheree Palmer, Student Success Project Officer from the Law School. DtCP students were recognised for their work in making an ‘outstanding contribution to equality, diversity and inclusivity’ at the 2019 Kent Student Awards. 

BARC Workshop

Strategising for Anti-Racist Action at Kent

Building on significant advances made at the launch of the Kent Law School student project “Decolonising the Curriculum” manifesto which was facilitated by Dr Suhraiya Jivraj, the Graduate School’s Postgraduate Community Experience Awards provided funding for a half-day workshop “Strategising for Anti-Racist Action” on 23 May 2019. It was facilitated by members of Building the Anti-Racist Classroom (BARC) and organised by doctoral researcher in English, Katja May with doctoral researcher in Law, Ahmed Memon. BARC are an international collective of women of colour scholar-activists whose mission is to develop anti-racist pedagogy and practice for higher education. Approximately fifty people were present at the event.

Participants engaged with contemporary concepts and research-led best practice in anti-racist thinking and organising, including reducing white fragility and building resilience for conversations about race, exploring the notion of micro-aggressions, and challenging the student deficit model around attainment gaps in favour of a structural analysis of how white supremacy implicitly and explicitly shapes higher education.

The workshop was centred around an innovative tool, the BARC student journey game commissioned by the Reimagining Attainment for All 2 (RAFA2) project of Roehampton University and Queen Mary University of London, and developed in collaboration with QMUL student researchers of colour. Participants had the opportunity to collectively consider how to develop anti-racist actions, and offered a framework for how to evaluate action plans for change based on who they benefit, and to what extent they support and protect students and staff of colour.  

Feedback from the workshop highlighted the need for compulsory anti-racist and cultural competency trainings that account for institutional power structures. Participants were also keen to find out more ways to translate learning from the day into their classroom practice.

As part of a continued course of action within the university, Student Success Project Manager  within the school of Sport and Exercise Science Dave Thomas has invited BARC back for another workshop on Medway campus in autumn, to be confirmed.

Three members of Kent Union smiling

Kent Union fundraising

Kent Union have staged three fundraising challenges for staff and students to take part in to help raise extra funds for student services, services that make a real difference to students’ experience at Kent. The fundraising builds upon the past success of our 2016 Cycle to Paris and 2017 Campus Cycle Challenge, and so far this year has already raised £6000!

Paris Marathon

Jim Gardner (Kent Union’s Chief Executive) kicked off this year’s fundraising challenges by taking part in the Paris Marathon on 14 April. Over 50,000 runners were involved in the annual event, and Jim completed the 42km course in just 3 hours 49 minutes!

24-Hour Cycle Challenge

The impressive fundraising continued last week with Jim Gardner, Dan Weale (Woody’s Manager) and Tania Durt (Brussels School of International Studies) completing a 24-hour cycle challenge – definitely a test of endurance! The three of them made it back to the UK having cycled 310kms from Paris with 15 minutes to spare, an incredible achievement.

The Next Challenge

The next fundraising challenge is the Welsh Three Peaks, which will be tackled by seven Kent Union staff members later this month. Alison Gore, Conor Dobbs, James Vesty, Jemma Whyman, Ria Stream, Shelley Wilkinson and Veena King will be travelling up to Snowdonia on Friday 21 June, before climbing to the summit of the highest peak in Wales the next morning. They will then travel south and climb Cadair Idris and Pen Y Fan respectively, before a well-earned celebratory evening in the Brecon Beacons.

Funds raised will go towards the Access to Activities Fund, student Liberation Groups, and Canterbury Nightline. If you would like to donate, or to find out more about the challenges, visit this link for the group’s JustGiving page. Please help us reach our target of £10,000!


Financial Year Workshops

As you are probably aware, the Financial Year end is fast approaching on 31 July 2019.

The Financial Reporting Office is holding four workshops in Canterbury and Medway from 21 June to 11 July. Following a similar format to last year, the workshops  are intended to be an open discussion offering advice and support on what will be required of you during the year-end process.

Please book a space on a workshop through Staff Connect.

The Financial Reporting Office will  be making the 2019 year end guidance available shortly, along with timetables to help you to plan ahead.

The Office is looking to improve the process overall – if you have any suggestions or comments, please email team members on

Please also feel free to contact the Financial Reporting Office if you have any questions in the meantime.

‘Cosmopolitanism in an age of global challenges’

Edward Kanterian on ‘Cosmopolitanism in an age of global challenges’

Cosmopolitanism in an age of global challenges

University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies

20 June 2019 10.00-14.00

Some have claimed that a citizen of the world is a citizen from nowhere. Apart from other problems with this claim, humanity faces a number of challenges today that do not stop at any one’s nation borders. These include the rise of artificial intelligence, global economic crises, and, as the most terrible threat of all, climate change. To develop appropriate responses, we need new political concepts, which go beyond the nation-centric ones still (or again) in fashion, concepts that help us understand these threats from a wider and deeper point of view. Kant’s cosmopolitan idea of a ‘citizenship of the earth’ is such a concept, based on what he viewed as our common human morality. Similar cosmopolitan views have been developed by other thinkers as well, e.g. by Hannah Arendt and Hans Kelsen.

To explore their and related ideas, this workshop aims to bring together philosophers, policy makers and any concerned citizens (be they from nowhere or from somewhere), to discuss novel ways of responding to globalised challenges.

Roundtable participants:

  • Sorin Baiasu (Department of Philosophy, Keele University)
  • Jan de Ceuster (Sociologist and political activist, Open VLD, Brussels)
  • Eleanor Curran (Legal philosopher, University of Kent)
  • Nicole Dewandre (Advisor in the European Commission and philosopher)
  • Namita Kambli (Research manager, The Democratic Society, Brussels)
  • Edward Kanterian (Department of Philosophy, University of Kent)

10.00-11.45 First session: Cosmopolitanism – defining the concept
11.45-12.15 Coffee break
12.15-14.00 Second session: Cosmopolitanism – practical applications
14.00-15.00 Lunch reception (please RSVP)

Brussels School of International Studies, University of Kent
2A Boulevard Louis Schmidt
1040 Etterbeek

To register your attendance, please book online.