The Conversation

From April 2017, Josephine Lethbridge will be The Conversation’s Interdisciplinary Editor, funded by the ISRF. Josephine’s role will include working with scholars at The Conversation’s member universities, as well as past and present Fellows of the ISRF, to bring interdisciplinary social research to millions of readers worldwide.

Any ISRF Fellows wishing to pitch an idea for an article to Josephine, or simply interested in knowing more, should contact her directly at josephine.lethbridge@theconversation.com.

Interdisciplinary Articles by ISRF Fellows at The Conversation

A history of Bitcoin – told through the five different groups who bought it
Dave Elder-Vass | ISRF Political Economy Research Fellow 2017-18

The recent fluctuations in Bitcoin’s value are just the latest in a series of spectacular peaks and troughs since it was created in 2009. (Though its price has been falling recently, it remains five times higher than last April, before the latest major peak began.)

Commentators are often dismissive of Bitcoin buyers, writing them off as naive victims of a fraudulent bubble. But if we look more carefully, we can trace the history of Bitcoin through five key narratives. Each has drawn in a different group of buyers and in doing so contributed to its long-term growth in value.

Read On
Making music videos is not a criminal activity – no matter what genre
Joy White | Independent Scholar Research Fellow 2015-16

West London music group 1011 has recently been banned from recording or performing music without police permission. On June 15, the Metropolitan police issued the group, which has been the subject of a two-year police investigation, with a Criminal Behaviour Order.

For the next three years, five members of the group – which creates and performs a UK version of drill, a genre of hip-hop that emerged from Chicago – must give 24 hours notice of the release of any music video, and 48 hours notice of any live performance. They are also banned from attending Notting Hill Carnival and wearing balaclavas.

Read On
I go undercover into arms fairs – and secretly draw caricatures of the ‘hell’ I find there
Jill Gibbon | ISRF Early Career Research Fellow 2017-18

The arms multinational BAE Systems is in the final stages of a deal to sell 48 Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, despite mounting evidence of war crimes in Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. International humanitarian law prohibits attacks against civilians but the Saudi-led coalition has bombed Yemeni schools, markets and hospitals, killing more than 10,000 people including children, while survivors face disease and starvation with the collapse of infrastructure.

Fragments of bombs made in Britain and the US have been found in the debris of some of these attacks, yet both countries continue to sell arms to the Saudi regime.

Read On
We know how food production needs to change if crisis is to be avoided – so why isn’t this happening?
Nina Moeller | ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2016-17
Michel Pimbert | Coventry University

As the world races toward a projected 9 billion inhabitants, the failings of dominant food systems are impossible to deny. Current food production methods are severely polluting. They are the cause of malnutrition. They are also inequitable, and unjustifiably wasteful. And they are concentrated in the hands of few corporations. Entangled in the multiple crises humanity is facing, establishing global food security is considered a key challenge of our time.

Against the backdrop of climate change, resource shortages and urbanisation, the question of how to ensure adequate food supply for everyone looms rather large. The usual response emphasises intensifying the output of agriculture through the common model of petrochemical, large-scale, one-crop, intensive farming.

Read On
India’s torture record is dire – but Britain has little to crow about
Deana Heath | ISRF Mid-Career Research Fellow 2017-18

On this 70th anniversary of its independence from British rule, India is being subjected to the sort of assessment that all post-colonial nation-states are forced to undergo on such occasions. How “far” have they come since the end of what their European colonisers liked to view not as a lengthy period of forced occupation, exploitation and violence, but rather of “tutelage” in the values and virtues of European civilisation? Invariably, they are found wanting.

Nowhere is such a perceived lack greater, perhaps, than in the realm of human rights. Post-colonial states are routinely critiqued by Western governments and human rights NGOs for their failure to uphold what are declared to be universal values. Such critiques are often spurred by, and help to reinforce, underlying assumptions about the incivility of racial “others”.

Read On
The real issue with the barmy design ideas for Trump’s border wall
Nishat Awan | ISRF Early Career Research Fellow 2015-16

Trump promised his supporters a “big and beautiful” wall. Accordingly, the recent design competition required it, among other things, to look good – from the US side. Yet it seems unlikely that the wall will ever be completed. The areas where US border security deemed a physical barrier necessary and viable have already been built. The remaining sections of the border feature formidable natural barriers where countless innocent people have lost their lives.

The wall brings to mind another seemingly impossible engineering feat from the realm of science fiction. In the concluding novel of Cixun Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, humanity is forced to devise an extreme plan to save itself from higher intelligence beings. One option is to create a “cosmic safety notice” by transforming the Solar System into a reduced light speed black hole. The idea being that if you cannot reach the speed of light, you cannot attack others and are therefore not a risk. The Black Domain is essentially a prison that humanity would enter into voluntarily in order to keep itself safe.

Read On
Josephine Lethbridge
Interdisciplinary Editor

About Josephine

Josephine Lethbridge became Interdisciplinary Editor at The Conversation after over three years as the UK’s initial Arts + Culture Editor. As well as articles on new research, she also commissioned academics to write commentary on popular culture news and to review films and art exhibitions.

Josephine has an MA in English Literature from the University in Glasgow, and since autumn 2015 has also been studying part-time towards an MSc in Science, Technology and Society at UCL, which she will complete in September 2017. She is mostly looking at the history of the idea of going to war on global warming and visions of geoengineering the climate. These diverse interests mean that she is thrilled to have become The Conversation’s first Interdisciplinary Editor.

In her spare time, Josephine enjoys going to the cinema and exploring London’s industrial history. She is also a trustee of the Queille Trust, which organises a biennial arts festival in the south of France and aims to support the careers of emerging performers. She lives in south east London.