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School of Geography

15th David M Smith Lecture

29 November 2018

Time: 6:30 - 8:30pm
Venue: Arts Two Lecture Theatre, Mile End campus, London E1 4NS

Popular Understandings of Tolerance: What can we learn from European societies with contrasting levels of diversity?

The 15th David M Smith Lecture will be given by Professor Gill Valentine, from the University of Sheffield

Tolerance has historically been understood as a virtuous and desirable concept, and in the context of contemporary rapid population and social change as an increasingly important European value. As such, it has been the subject of much philosophical debate and qualification. Toleration has been credited with facilitating the peaceful co-existence of social groups with different identities, histories and cultures; and ‘difference’ has been understood to make toleration necessary. Yet, much less is known about how ordinary people understand the concept of tolerance. In this lecture I reflect on evidence from two contrasting European societies: Poland and Britain. By thinking comparatively, I expose the distinctive processes which shape understandings of this concept in contexts characterised by contrasting levels of proximity to ‘difference’ to counter universalizing theories of tolerance. At the same time, I relate insights from one context to the other, and identify how some ideas about thresholds of tolerance travel between places. While it has been argued that focusing on tolerance displaces energies away from questions of inequality and injustice, I will show that attention to how tolerance is imperfectly lived actually demonstrates their very significance.

Chair: Professor Alastair Owens

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