Global Goals and Basic Education in Developing Countries: The Unceasing Debate about Impact

Roger Abogzuah Ayinselya

Education has been considered as an important vessel to people’s development. Arguably, through education individuals are provided with the skills and knowledge for understanding their society and unearthing their potentials for personal and national development. Burtch (2006) describes education as a major force in economic, intellectual and social empowerment.

Realising this important role that education plays in the lives of individuals and national as well as international development, the first world conference on ‘Education For All’ (EFA) was launched in Thailand in 1990. The aim was to ensure that all countries achieved universal primary/basic education for all children by the year 2000 (WCEFA, 1990). By this, countries were to ensure that all children, irrespective of their geographic location, family background and gender had access to basic education. The Framework for Action specified targets and strategies for all countries to achieve this aim. Many countries were strongly committed to these goals as seen in their national educational policies. Ten years after the launch of the EFA agenda, however, it was established that remarkable progress had been accomplished in terms of access but quality as measured through various indicators such as pupils’ ability to read, write, do numeracy and spell left much to be desired in many developing countries. There were also reports of high dropout rates among pupils as a result of system inefficiency (Dambe’le’ and Oviawe, 2007).

Following the inability of many countries to make sufficient progress in the EFA agenda, the United Nations (UN) ratified Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on primary/basic education in 2000 reaffirmed the need for universal basic education by 2015.  A Document Review Report (2003) stressed the core priorities of basic education as means for poverty eradication and overcoming social inequality. Prioritising universal basic education continued to be the main agenda for the international community. A decade of the launch of the MDGs, reports emerged that efforts to achieve access for all children, particularly in many developing countries, have tended to adversely affect quality standards (Barrett, 2011; Kruijer, 2010). This was because of the increased enrolment of pupils did not correspond with increase in teachers and other teaching and learning resources thereby putting pressure on existing resources (Kruijer, 2010). In Malawi, for instance, the ratio of pupils to classroom increased to 119:1, the ratio of pupils to teachers also increased to 62:1 and the ratio of pupils to text books increased to 24:1 (USAID, 2007). The situation in Ghana was not dissimilar. The increase in enrolment resulted in overcrowded classroom and increased teacher workloads (Akyeampong, 2011). Increased enrolments without corresponding increase in resources has implications for children’s learning experiences. A number of reports reveal that in many developing countries most children complete basic education with little or no basic skills in writing, reading and doing numeracy expected of them at that level. For instance, according to the 11th Global Monitoring Report, only one-third of children in South and West Asia and two-fifths in Sub-Saharan Africa achieved basic competence in reading at grade 4 (UNESCO, 2013/14). A national education assessment on basic education in Ghana indicated that less than 25% of children in Ghana acquired the proficiency level for primary six English and only 10% achieved proficiency in primary six mathematics (Wereko and Dordunoo, 2010). This trend is worrying not only because these children are ill-equipped with the basic knowledge to make the transition to the next levels in education but may also lack the skills to function well in their daily lives.

What does this mean for global agendas then? Well! My reflection on this issue, is more questions rather than answers. I wonder, could it be that universalising ‘access to basic education’ is a misplaced priority? Or could it be the issue of ‘one shoe does not fit all’? Or could it be both? Targeting universal basic education is good. However, the fact remains that the priorities, values and educational needs of individual countries vary. Therefore, to generalise ideas to solve global problems by the international community as if one shoe fits all seeks, not only, to ‘reinforce the new imperialism but also further limit the capacity of developing countries to determine their own educational agendas’ (Tikly 2004: 190). As argued already, individual countries have their priorities.  It is imperative to allow countries to set targets in their own educational policies that will conform to their resource capacity and national development needs and interests. It is also important to recognise that for education to prove more useful, it often needs to be more sensitive to the local and cultural realities of each country (Crossley et al., 2005). The agenda for implementation of the current United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the education goal, appears to acknowledge this concern. In its draft outcome document for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, the UN General Assembly declared that the SDGs are to be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights of individual countries, by taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities. By this, national governments are now bound to embark upon a comprehensive program of implementation, developing a national strategy, agreeing upon a national monitoring framework and a process for annual reporting (SDSN, 2015; 15). Civil servants, local governments and other stakeholders are all expected to play a pivotal role in planning and implementing the SDGs. This acknowledgement looks promising, yet it is early days to make any comprehensive critique of the impact this may have, not only on access to basic education but also on the quality of education that children receive in developing countries.


I will keep my fingers crossed!



Barrett, M., A.  (2011) A Millennium Learning Goal for education post‐2015: a question of outcomes or processes. Comparative Education, 47(1), pp. 119-133.

Burtch, B. (2006) Education law and social justice. In Oduaran, A. and Bhola, H.S. (Eds) Widening Access to Education as Social Justice Netherland: Springer, pp. 83 – 94.

Crossley, M., Herriot, A., Wando, J., Mwirotsi, M., Holmes, K. and Juma, M. (2005) Research and Evaluation for Educational Development: Learning from the PRISM Experience in Kenya. Oxford: Symposium Books.

Dambele, M. and Oviawe, J. (2007) Introduction: Quality Education in Africa-International commitments, Local Challenges and Responses. International Review of Education, 53, pp. 473-483.

Document Review (2003) The Local Solution to Global Challenges: Toward Effective Partnership in Basic Education, Canada, Opmeer, Netherland Foreign Affairs. Available at:

Kruijer, H. (2010) Learning How to Teach: the upgrading of unqualified primary teachers in sub-Saharan Africa. Paris: Education International.

Sustainable Development Solution Network(SDSN) (2015) Getting Started with the Sustainable Development Goals: A Guide for Stakeholders. Available at:

Tikly, L. (2004) Education and the new imperialism. Comparative Education, 40(2), pp. 173–98.

UNESCO (2013/14) Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all. Education for All: Global Monitoring Report. Paris: UNESCO

USAID (2007) ‘School Fees and Education for All: Is Abolition the Answer?’ A Working Paper for EQUIP2

Wereko, T.B. and Dordunno, C. (2010) Effective Delivery of Public Services: Focus on Education. A review by AfriMAP and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. Johannesburg: Open Society Initiative for West Africa

World Conference on Education for All (WCEFA) (1990) Meeting Basic Learning Needs, Jomtien, Thailand. Available at:



About the Author

Roger Abogzuah Ayinselya has a first degree in Psychology from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana (2011). He also has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, Policy and Development from the University of Bristol, UK (2014). Roger is currently a PhD student in the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research interest is in the area of basic education, teacher identity, professional development and education.




“I ain’t afraid of no feminists” Questions of misogyny in the online response to the upcoming Ghostbusters Reboot

Nick Furze

How do you make the most disliked YouTube film trailer in history? That is presumably the question that Sony executives have had to ask themselves when the debut trailer for their upcoming Ghostbusters  reboot was met with a flurry of negative online comments. As of  this writing the first trailer for the new Ghostbusters film has over 888,000 “thumbs downs”, and is currently in the top 100 least liked of all videos on YouTube (, It is also only trailer to feature in that list. A feat that remains all the more impressive when you consider that the film has yet to be released.


So why all the dislike? Scrolling through the comments section, complaints ranged from the quality of the writing, to the editing, and the quality of the visual effects, to questions over whether the entire enterprise should have been done without the participation of the original cast, even though both Dan Akyroyd and Bill Murray have spoken out in support of the project and have even agreed to make an appearance within it. Whilst the comments about the film’s quality can only be proven or disproven by the film’s release, the more pertinent question that reappears within this negative barrage of complaints is whether or not the dislike is motivated by misogyny, from the beginning it has been suggested that a significant amount of the negative attention actually stems from the fact that the the original all-male Ghostbusters have been replaced by an all-female team.


Going through the comments on YouTube, there is definitely a significant minority complaining about the fact that the Ghostbusters are female examples include one commentators statement that “I was so excited about this movie until I saw it was about 4 lesbians total disappointment”. Whilst another states that “there’s a very vocal contingent of angry middle-class women in their mid20s who are fat and have coloured hair that are sexually frustrated and hate men as a result. They tend to live most of their lives online, pretending to game, on tumblr and buzzfeed.” It was comments such as these that Paul Feig, the film’s director, was referring to when in an interview with Catherine Shoard he said that the bigger problem lies with the Internet “which puts a small minority of voices into a sort of bullhorn” (Shoard: 2016). These comments are then repeated by the media, getting amplified in the process, turning the misogynistic comments into the story and helping to create a space for people who agree with these views to further expound on them.

The negativity towards this change is particularly revealing when you consider the reaction to a previous reboot of a 1980s franchise in last year’s Terminator: Genisys, (Taylor, 2015) a film which had negative buzz around it before release and was practically universally derided afterwards. It’s score from the film critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes is 26%, meaning that just over a quarter of critics gave it a positive review. It was given an extremely negative review from TheTerminatorFans, a popular fan site for fans of the series. A review that finishes with the line “This isn’t The Terminator I remember, nor does it whet the appetite so keenly awakened by the dark beginnings of the franchise, (Morgan, 2015). Despite all of this the film still only has 10,000 negative responses to its trailer on YouTube, and that is for a film that has been released for almost exactly a year as of this writing. (Terminator: Genisys was released in the UK on July 2nd 2015). What this shows is that whilst a film’s overall quality can be a feature of the negative approval on YouTube, it would not explain the overwhelming dislike that the new Ghostbusters has faced.

This seems to place the negative responses to the news about the Ghostbusters reboot alongside similar reactionary attacks on what a highly vocal minority of people have perceived as female incursion into geek culture, which is, after all generally regarded as a male dominated subculture. Specifically the Gamergate movement and the widely reported accusations of some female comic-con attendees being accused of being “fake geek girls”, an attitude that puts forward a similar argument as the second of the YouTube comments that was listed earlier, namely that females with geeky interests do it for attention. An attitude which Noah Berlatsky rightly describes as a paranoia “about male insecurity not female duplicity (Berlatsky, 2013).

What I find particularly disheartening about this negativity is the assumption that this is an unnecessary publicity stunt on the part of the filmmakers, particularly when you look at the career of the film’s director Paul Feig, who, over the space of his career has constantly used his work to explore how gender roles are constructed. Most famously in his long standing collaboration with Melissa McCarthy, but also in his web series Other Space a Red Dwarf-esque science-fiction series set in a society where traditional  gender barriers have been almost completely broken down. This subject was already the center of a thorough article by Brandon Nowalk at the AV Club, with one of the clearest examples of this being in the opening minutes when a general is seen accompanied by two associates, the male in a skirt and the woman in trousers.

nickA detail which was not drawn attention to by any other aspect of the show’s construction, and is instead portrayed as completely normal, a sign of how thoroughly gender barriers have been broken down in Feig’s future society. (See image left: still from Other Space, Into the Great Beyond… Beyond (Yahoo Screen, 2015). (Nowalk, 2015).

Perhaps, what we are beginning to see is the beginning of a backlash against Hollywood’s reboot culture, a system which is increasingly churning out new variations of the same thing, (we are, after all, about to receive our third Spider-Man series in 15 years, with next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming). Alternatively the new Ghostbusters film may indeed turn out to be a crushing disappointment with weakly defined characters, a paper-thin plot and worst of all, not very good jokes. But that is something we will only find out when it opens in the UK on July 15th. But even if it were the colossal failure that these detractors clearly want it to be, it would still not justify the outpouring of negativity for what is in essence a project no different from so many other upcoming Hollywood blockbusters, only with the slight twist that the genders have been switched.



Berlatsky, N. ‘Fake Geek Girls’ Paranoia Is About Male Insecurity, Not Female Duplicity, The Atlantic, accessed: 27/06/16,

Feig, P. (2015), Other Space, Yahoo Screen. Ghostbusters Trailer, Youtube, accessed: 26/06/16,

Morgan, E. (2015), Terminator: Genisys Review, TheTerminatorFans, accessed 27/06/16,

Nowalk, B. (2015), Where no show has gone before: The bisexual future of Other Space, The AV Club, accessed 26/06/16,

Shoard, C. (2016), Ghostbusters trailer is most disliked in YouTube history, The Guardian, accessed: 26/06/16,

Taylor, A. (2015), Terminator: Genisys, Paramount Pictures.


About the Author

Nick Furze is a PhD candidate and sessional lecturer in the School of Media, Art and Design at Canterbury Christ Church University, he is currently writing a thesis on how history is adapted into film and television.


‘Brexit’: A Future of Hopes and Fears

Paul Anderson

It’s official – after 52% of the British electorate voted for ‘Brexit’, the United Kingdom (UK) is set, although not for at least 12-18 months, to leave the European Union (EU). UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, one of the most prominent ‘Brexiters’ has declared victory, the value of the pound has plunged, the country’s credit rating has been cut to ‘negative’, Prime Minister David Cameron has tendered his resignation and debates on Britain’s constitutional future have been reignited. In Scotland, all 32 council wards voted in favour to remain in the EU. In Northern Ireland, there is a similar majority endorsement in favour of remain (circa 56%), yet seven of the country’s 18 constituencies voted to leave. In both England and Wales, Euroscepticism prevailed – over 50% of voters in both nations voted to leave the EU. The United Kingdom, it appears, is no longer united. David Cameron has secured his place in the history books and will be remembered as the British prime minister who took the UK out of the EU. With emboldened support for a second independence referendum in Scotland and the idea of a border poll on the reunification of Ireland, Cameron may also be remembered as the prime minister who triggered the disintegration of the UK. An ironic epitaph for such a Unionist politician.

The referendum campaign, however, will also go down in history as a lengthy, ill-tempered and probably the most divisive campaign in the history of modern British politics. Those championing a leave vote, particularly UKIPers, shamelessly seized upon the immigration issue to make it the defining topic of the entire campaign. Tapping into concerns on migration, leading figures such as Farage, peddled a racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant agenda, arguing a vote to leave the EU would ensure the UK got back control of its borders and thus ‘solve’ the immigration crisis. The infamous poster unveiled by Farage of those desperate refugees fleeing a war-torn society in order to hammer home a point about immigration was indisputably morally wrong. The language of ‘us’ versus ‘them’; ‘friend’ versus ‘foe’; ‘ally’ versus ‘enemy’, backed up by overtly racist imagery marred the entire campaign. Sound reasons for leaving the EU were entirely overshadowed by an incessantly inflammatory campaign which used migrants as scapegoats for the ills suffered by ‘ordinary’ Brits. It is a truism, as many Leave supporters consistently pointed out, that it is not racist to talk about immigration. Indeed, few would deny that a serious, grown-up debate on immigration, is required in this country. The tactics of Leave, however, served only to dehumanise migrants and imbue racists with both confidence and a voice.

The remain side, however, equally failed to engender a positive campaign. The cascade of dire warnings that a vote to leave the EU would lead to a race to the bottom, increased poverty, market instability and the prospects of another recession did not play well with voters. While, in reality, some of these issues may be true – we have already seen the value of the pound plummet to a 30 year low – any positive message concerning EU membership was drowned out by the cacophony of dire predictions concerning the country’s future. The Labour party, many will argue, having misjudged the mood of the party faithful, are to blame. Traditional working class Labour supporters, many of whom owing to concerns about employment, wages, austerity and immigration, voted to leave the EU. The leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has already been called into question, yet as a lifelong Eurosceptic, might replacing Corbyn be a regrettable knee-jerk response? That is definitely food for thought, but only time will tell. In the meantime, politicians, of all political hues, must roll up their sleeves to ensure a serious, positive approach is taken vis-à-vis negotiations on the UK’s future relationship. After a referendum or election, it is always time to act, but there must also be time to listen, to reflect and most importantly to learn lessons.

Leave, despite narrowly crossing the finishing line, has not received a resounding endorsement. At the time of writing, over two million people have already signed a petition calling for a second referendum. Hopes for a better future have been replaced by fears of the unknown. And yet, one must hope. The electorate may have voted to leave the EU, but does this mean the UK’s relationship with Europe is over? Of course not. The implications of the result are still not fully clear, but here are some certainties. The UK, despite its island status, is still part of Europe, will continue to trade with Europe and no doubt will seek to cooperate on other issues. A new relationship with Europe will ensue; the tone of this relationship, however, remains to be seen. The UK must constructively build new alliances with its EU neighbours. Yet, with a manifest mismatch between the Leave side’s desire to curb immigration while remaining in the free market (of which the free movement of people is a fundamental pillar), already render future negotiations rather difficult. In addition, there are further implications for the EU itself. The secession of a Member State aside, the EU will have to reflect and learn lessons on the issues raised in the UK, particularly if it wishes to avoid a contagion effect. In the wake of the referendum, appetite for a referendum on EU membership has been harnessed by Eurosceptic political parties in France, Italy and the Netherlands. The UK has infamously had an ‘awkward’ relationship with the EU, but support for ‘Brexit’ must not be viewed by other European powers as an anomaly; Euroscepticism is not solely a British phenomenon.

As the UK begins to come to terms with the shock result and the world, not just the EU, adjusts to this unprecedented event, we too, as ordinary citizens, must ponder the future. Turnout in the referendum, a staggering 72.2% is, without doubt, a reason for celebration. In some communities, the ‘marginalised’, those who have always felt disconnected from politics, voted, many for the first time. However, many of these disconnected citizens, convinced by the powerful messages of the Leave campaign, voted to bring an end to the relationship between the UK and the EU. They have, I fear, merely swapped one distant elite for another. The working classes may have predominantly voted to leave the EU, but austerity looks set to continue. A sense of inclusion, what the country so desperately needs following this divisive vote, is unlikely to be fostered by the new Eurosceptic Tory prime minister and a cabinet of millionaires.  On the other side, the hitherto silent majority may have found a voice. Let’s hope that this voice seeks to build bridges not barriers, but as is often the case in politics, nothing is certain. What is certain, however, is that British politics has fundamentally changed and the future of the UK, now more divided than united, remains in the balance.


About the Author 

Paul Anderson is a PhD candidate in Politics and International Relations at Canterbury Christ Church University.


EU Referendum: Gambling with Social Justice

Phoebe Gardner

For my undergraduate dissertation at CCCU, I ambitiously chose to evaluate whether the EU deserved its 2012 Nobel Peace Prize; championing the title due to ‘advancing the causes of peace, reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe’. While I concluded (in true undergraduate fashion) that “to a certain extent” it was deserving, my main argument acknowledged how the EU is not perfect- far from it- but has undoubtedly transformed a broken continent. By doing so, the EU has helped to consolidate, protect and defend the human security of a continent (and beyond). Essentially, human security denotes the ‘freedom from want’ and the ‘freedom from fear’; underpinning social justice. The EU has, and continues to, reduce these threats through its commitment to human rights and equitable treatment; partly through its provision of social justice.


The EU community has been built upon the belief that economic progress and social justice are innately linked; so that trade encourages wealth, which further safeguards positive opportunities within society- both nationally and regionally. Quite rightly, many are concerned that a Brexit would jeopardise the guarantee of particular rights and freedoms- specifically workers’ rights- including (but not limited to) those relating to: equal pay, sexual harassment, maternity leave and rights for part-time workers. As a young woman working part-time, this fear is rather hard-hitting, as I fear the progress made toward equitable treatment is in danger. Nonetheless, it is crucial to acknowledge the work relating to social justice and human rights nationally with the UK. Yet, without a clear plausible direction following a Brexit alongside an abundance of unanswered questions, this feeling is exacerbated.


Without clear understandings of the future of rights relating to social justice, it is worth considering how those championing the Tory Brexit have treated issues relating to human security and social justice recently. Iain Duncan Smith; whose welfare reforms have had dire impact upon some of the most vulnerable in society. Michael Gove; go into any staffroom in the UK and utter his name, I dare you! Do you feel confident that they have social justice- and your human security- as a priority? Unsure? Now, think about how these leading Brexiters have played the immigration blame-game to gain support, where immigrants are held responsible for economic, social and political hardships relating to education, health and unemployment. Hardly actions of those who perceive themselves as social justice champions of the people of Britain. So, is a Tory Brexit the best way to secure social justice and, more broadly, human security? Frankly, no; I believe it would be a race to the bottom.


Interestingly, Brexiter Iain Duncan Smith describes the EU as ‘a friend of the haves rather than a friend of the have nots’, explicitly referring to the disparity between rich and poor. He might have a point- particular when thinking about which side multinational corporations and the seeming majority of elites have sided with. There is a distinct disparity between the benefits of the haves and have nots; but why gamble everything we have achieved? Why not simply fix it? Overall, social justice would be best served within the EU, rather than through a Tory Brexit. However, we should now ask: would a non-Tory led Brexit jeopardise social justice?



About the Author 

Phoebe studied her undergraduate degree at CCCU, later obtaining her Masters in International Studies from Universiteit Leiden. Last year she published an article entitled ‘Transnational Theory, Global World: Theory Matters, Not Geography’ with Global Politics Review. Currently she volunteers at E-International Relations as a Managing Editor. Her research interests include human security, norm diffusion, world orders, identity politics, International Relations Theory, conflict and reconciliation.


Gypsies and the EU Referendum: A Warning from History

Steven Horne

Social justice, in whatever form it takes, is and always should be the intended outcome of any institution or practice; be it politics, the financial realm, the justice system, or education. In reality, these systems of good and profitable intention often neglect the very people that they were created and intended for. The situation worsens for those who find themselves at the bottom of this social ‘food chain’; minority groups, the marginalised, and the uneducated – all victims in a system that ultimately requires servitude from the many and rewards the few. The EU referendum has created speculation of what the UK could be like, if as a nation, Britain was to take back some of the control of these ‘systems’ that find themselves puppeteered by the Bureaucrats of Brussels.

Many of the arguments surrounding the referendum are centred upon a few key tenants; trade, immigration, national security, and sovereignty. In amongst the arguments bouncing back and forth, are the mentions of equality and human rights. And rightfully so – after all, are not all of these key tenets centred upon the idea of betterment for the ‘man on the street’? Apparently so – but only if you find yourself comfortably in the middle to upper echelons of British society (or class, if we’re being honest), where the ideals of the ‘leftist social justice warrior’ can comfortably defend and sympathise with the lost, the last, and the least, whilst being entirely physically detached from any such stark reality themselves. And that’s the crux – the EU and the overwhelming majority of ‘IN’ voters are generally ‘comfortable’. After all, you only want change if you are suffering, right…

But Britain is better in than out, I hear you cry! But for whom? My research is centred on Gypsies and Travellers; a collective that under the careful eye of the EU, has seen its culture here in the UK become virtually extinct, mostly thanks to political directives that have all but made it illegal to practice a nomadic existence. In the 14th to 15th centuries, Gypsies made their way across Europe, fleeing persecution, war, and genocide in India. They were given the ‘worst’ jobs and the lowest pay, but could stay – at least for a while. The ‘system’ at that time, was the Catholic Church. They governed the duration of how long these ‘refugees’ could stay in each country. Eventually, this bureaucratic system drafted in laws that made it illegal to be a Gypsy. Mass slavery and persecution ensued.

If only we had a modern day example of a mass exodus across Europe by war-fleeing refugees; maybe then we could appreciate how a centralised governance system can actually be devastatingly detrimental for those on the margins. There are many in this country that are on the margins, that do suffer with poverty, and that cannot access the skilled labour market; many Gypsies and Travellers find themselves in such a position. For them, a future in the EU promises a continued threat to jobs, to low cost housing, and to decent education and healthcare access. There are of course many arguments proposing that remaining in the EU could actually benefit the marginalised – such as Travellers and Gypsies. But the question would remain: despite currently being in the EU and in comparison to every group of people in the UK, why do British Gypsies continue to have the highest poverty rates, the lowest academic achievement rates, the highest prison population rates (Gypsies make 10% of UK prisoners but are only 0.4% of UK population), the highest male suicide rates, and the highest infant mortality rates? Stability for the UK is vitally important, but not when it is at the expense of those who are most vulnerable, and for the benefit of those most comfortable.



About the Author

A former Police Officer for Kent Police, Steven is now a full-time Ph.D. scholarship student, specialising in Theology and Traveller & Gypsy studies. He graduated in 2014 with a 1st with Honours in Theology and Religious Studies and was awarded the Lindsay Jones Memorial Prize for ‘best student and outstanding contribution to the department’. In 2015 Steven was also awarded the University’s coveted Templeman Prize. Steven is regularly involved in discussions in his field through media appearances and articles, as well as seminars and teaching, where he contributes unique and valuable insights, stemming from his personal life and experience – benefitting student teachers, those entering medical professions, and theology and RS students. Steven is currently in the process of developing a Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller Student Network for CCCU – continuing the University’s drive for inclusivity and widening participation.

Twitter: @CampToCampus 


EU Referendum Special Feature:

Peter Walker and Nicole Holt

Hello and welcome one and all!

We’d like to welcome you to the very first Postgraduate INCISE special feature blog. You’ve guessed it; this feature is on the European Union (EU) referendum, which will take place in just under a week.. As we stated in our very first post, this blog is not about presenting our own research; or even the research of INCISE as a whole. Instead we aim to present your ideas, your opinions and your voice. But of course “your voice” is not just one voice, so we’ve decided to commission two academics who (naturally) disagree with each other on British membership within the EU. That’s right, ONE feature and TWO blogs, well THREE if you include this introduction. Before I introduce the two articles it is important to draw your attention to two principles about this feature.

The first being that we, the editorial team, are not publishing these two articles to reflect our own opinions on the referendum (or as previously mentioned that of INCISE), what we are trying to achieve with this feature, and the blog as a whole, is being able to provide a platform for debate. As academics, our belief is that the most fruitful intellectual-activity is to engage in discussion, even with those individuals or ideas that differ from your own comfort zone. Following this principle, we hope that the two pieces challenge your views and/or reinforce them. If you feel strongly in favour or opposition to either piece please PLEASE let us, or the even the authors, know; let us hear your voice.

The second point to make you aware of is, that until now, neither author has read each other’s article. These articles were authored completely separately and will not address each other’s arguments, nor do they even address the same aspects of the debate. They are commissioned together merely to reinforce the neutrality of an INCISE Postgraduate Blog platform. We, the editorial team, did not want to restrict the authors with a lengthy or too highly influential brief; we simply told them that we want an article regarding SOCIAL JUSTICE in relation to the EU REFERENDUM. They were both aware that they would have a counterpart arguing the opposite point, that concerns of social justice would be either better addressed externally to the EU or internally. Oh, one more thing…. Steven’s article has been posted first simply because he sent us in his article before Phoebe.

The first article has been authored by CCCU graduate Steven Horne. After graduating from the Theology program, Steven is now a PhD researcher at the university. His research regards Traveller Theology and with this article he examines his research topic in relation to this contemporary debate. Steven also presents us with a critical account of the performance of social justice in relation to the socially and politically minoritised, whilst Steven is concerned with a Traveller Theology, he reminds us to consider a politics and a theology “from below”. You can find Steven’s article here.

The second article has also been authored by a CCCU graduate who is also a Universiteit Leiden (Leiden University, Netherlands) graduate. After graduating from her Master’s degree regarding international politics, Phoebe now volunteers as a Managing Editor at E-IR. Her article draws on her previous research at CCCU and reasserts her current research interests regarding the EU. In her article Phoebe urges the reader to perform a “discourse analysis” on those authors of a potential Brexit; how have their previous actions contributed to their current arguments. You can find Phoebe’s article here.

Trans-Species and Me: They call it Puppy Love

Nicole Holt and Peter Walker

An evocative documentary titled, Secret Life of the Human Pups, was aired for the first time last week (Trailer: This documentary follows people who dress and act like dogs. This documentary predominately focuses on puppy play, but there are others who dress up as different animals, such as cats and hamsters. According to the show around 10,000 people “indulge” in the pet play “craze” in the UK, they even have their own version of Crufts; the world’s largest dog show.

The notion of “Human Pups” has emerged from the “kink scene” and, in recent years, appears to be increasing in popularity. For some it could be seen as a form of deviancy, for others it might be witnessed as an escapism, of sort. But is the UK population ready to see these human pups walking the streets? Well, there is an online community for the pups and there are regular events; where the pack can meet up. Beyond the pack, the pups even have “handlers” who, from my understanding, play with and even “own” the pups. With our society growing more accepting, it’s now time for the pups to be seen in the public sphere. Some of those whom identify as pups and handlers insist that this lifestyle choice is not reflective of a wider, more sexual nature; despite its resemblance to the more established furry fetish. The “general public” seem to have very mixed views on pet play, these views tend to reflect a sceptical and immediately oppressive normative discourse, manifesting in comments like:

 ‘They dug this out of the BDSM community. It’s animal role play. They’re attempting to legitimize into society as normal and healthy’.

Even if one wants to view this phenomena as being sexualised, then what could be the perceived harm in any self-determined, non-coercive sexuality; amongst consenting adults? How far is too far? Are they seeking micro-chips? Or are they destined for the litter tray?

Another commenter sought to present this phenomena as being beyond the sexual realm and entering into something far more “sinister”, ‘why is this abnormal behaviour called a “fetish”? Because it normalizes what these cranks do. Call it what it really is: mental illness’. The mixed responses of its audience seems to be “helped” by the idea of a handler. The people who engage with this “doggy play” are taking, in psychological terms, transactional roles further than e.g. becoming a “free child” they are becoming “free pets”. The benefits of such psychological exercise include an improved self-esteem, a stronger sense of belonging and one could even identify “human pups” play as a form of “therapy”. Pet players seem to not only enjoy dressing up but also see it as a therapeutic method of inter-relational escapism and fun. So what’s the harm in engaging with this? Is there any harm at all?

Some commentators might be transfixed upon a perceived neurotic dimension to this phenomena: for example, needing to be taken care of by a “handler” and craving the often unconditional and almost simple love between an owner and a pet, distancing themselves from what might well have been an “unconventional” childhood where the love between a parent and child had complex additional dimensions. Perhaps the “pup” had a close relationship with a childhood pet, a creature void of social conventions and of any judgment. However, trying to create a universal “diagnosis” for “symptoms” which, whilst a little “weird”, do not appear to impede upon anyone else’s personal liberty, nor restrict the autonomy of any external participants. In fact, it is somewhat refreshing to witness an “unconventional” identity trait assuming a non-dominant manifestation; absent from a political terrain and distant from public expression, which can be problematic to some social conservatives.

Even if we subscribe to the truism that we live in a liberal age, an era ever-more concerned with performing our adopted identities, the reaction to this latest exposé confronts us with the stark contrast between the principles of performance and performativity. Through acting out what we believe is central to our psyche -whether that be acts of so-called ‘deviance’, acts of religion, and acts of love or indeed dressing up as a puppy- we are confronted with notions of normality and conventionality. Straying away from these performative notions of acceptable behaviour and for that matter, acceptable deviancy, is something which works to solidify notions of our own psyche (sexual or not) and destabilise our acceptance of those who chose to perform from outside of our comfort zones.