Bader International Study Centre

Queen's University
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at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.



at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K.

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IDIS 305/3.0 British Studies II

Instructor: Dr. Eugene Michail

Course Description

Is Britain today what postcards and the tourist industry want us to assume, or does this projected image overlook the tensions that inform British past and contemporary identities? IDIS 305 is an interdisciplinary course that offers an alternative view of Britishness, looking at the conflicts that have shaped the country. It follows the way the decline of British political power through the twentieth century generated a range of fissures, focusing on themes like PUNK, COMEDY, CLASS AND RACE, GAY CULTURE, THATCHERISM and the recent LONDON RIOTS OF 2010-11. 

Different theories on identities and dissent will frame the course, while its material will be derived from history, politics, current affairs, literature, art and popular culture. Particular effort will be made to ensure that the course requirements are accessible to those who don’t have background in one or more of the course’s disciplines. 

Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course students will have knowledge of: 

  • all key conflicts that have shaped British modern culture, history, politics and ideologies
  • all contemporary debates on the future of 21st century Britain 
  • what makes a nation, and how national identities are formed and constantly re-imagined

Students will also have developed their skills in: 

  • thinking critically about their own identities
  • engaging critically with all different types of primary sources 
  • comparative analysis across national cultures
  • imaginative approaches to presenting their research findings
Field Studies

There are two field trips, incorporated in a day long trip to the city of Brighton:

  • Brighton walking tour: Brighton is the closest major city to BISC. It is also widely considered as the most diverse and ‘alternative’ place in Britain. The walking tour starts from the city museum and then sets off to explore the different sides and many faces of the place. 
  • Comedy Crater Club: in the evening we will visit the most famous stand-up comedy show south of London, the Komedia club. Comedy derives most of its material by picking on the underlying social and political tensions, hence this will be a very relevant and fertile session. 
Primary Research Expectations

Students will be in constant engagement with different types of primary sources, through:

  • the field trip: students are instructed on how to transform from passive observers to critical thinkers, evaluating and analysing, reflecting on how their identities affect their experiences and vice versa.
  • archives: among the suggested material for the students’ projects there is a wealth of first hand information, like the ‘Observing the 1980s’ project by the University of Sussex, which hosts diaries and interviews on a wide range of themes.
  • documentary sources: all seminar sessions use primary sources (newspapers, songs, TV programmes) that students are asked to engage critically with.

Because of the small size of our teaching groups, attendance and participation counts for at least 20% of the final mark. The rest of the assessment will take place through a combination of the following:

  • one essay
  • group research projects and presentations, 
  • short reports (max 500 words) on primary research (eg archives and interviews) and other research tasks (eg terminologies and definitions, reflections on class discussions) 

There are no exams at the end.