Visiting Oxford

Last month, I presented this paper at an All Souls Criminology Seminar in Oxford, at the kind invitation of Ian Loader. I promised those who were there that I’d blog about it and, although it’s taken a bit longer than I’d hoped, this is what I made of the experience.

The turnout was very good, with perhaps 40 or 50 people gathered in the rather austere Old Library. It’s always hard to tell but there looked to be lots of PhD and postgrad students there which was good to see. The paper seemed to go pretty well. As always with a first-time outing for new work, I discovered the usual things – some bits worked better than others, some of the sequencing of the argument was wrong etc. Most remarkably, I ran pretty much to time: Ian had asked for 45 minutes and I was wrapping up almost bang on that. This left a generous amount of time for questions, in fact, eventually running on for nearly 50 minutes.

The questions were the usual mixed bag (in terms of coverage, not quality!) and all of them were interesting or made me think. Two in particular stuck in my mind. One person asked the disarmingly direct question of whether I was optimistic about the prospects for radical drug policy change in the future. My answer was probably excessively equivocal and even-handed but I was still thinking the next day about what it really means to do critical social science. Before I entered academia, I spent 10 years in the voluntary sector doing research and policy work, so I’ve been grappling with this one for some time! The other question that I couldn’t stop thinking about afterwards was about how I saw my overall intellectual project in this area. I may write something about that in a future post but it was a great question to have provoked!

A very pleasant drink and dinner followed with Ian and some of his criminology colleagues, finished off by spending the night in a room in College. It’s a long time since I’ve stayed anywhere without its own toilet and on a mid-January night I found myself unexpectedly wishing I’d packed my slippers and dressing gown for that midnight walk down the corridor!

I’ll be giving the paper a second run-out in Sheffield at the end of the month. Watch this space to hear how that goes…

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About Toby Seddon

Professor and Head of School of Law at the University of Manchester. Interested in new ideas and thinking about drug policy.
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