This year marks 80 years since the death of the great Irish writer James Joyce (1882-1941). His most famous novel, Ulysses (1922), is one of those books, like Moby Dick or Infinite Jest, that more people begin than finish. The tome is widely believed to be a stream of consciousness novel and you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that if, like many, you only made it 100 pages or so in.
I often advise against starting at the beginning of the novel. In the case of Ulysses, you are thrown headfirst into the difficult stream of consciousness of Stephen Dedalus, a precocious 22-year-old writer. The fourth chapter, instead, is a much more accessible opening. It too offers a stream of consciousness but an easier sort belonging to the novel’s other main character, Leopold Bloom, a hapless but loveable 38-year-old advertising canvasser. On the day the novel is set, 16 June 1904, Stephen and Bloom strike up an unlikely friendship in Dublin. To read Bloom’s thoughts is to be taken into a stream of sensations, trivia, and wonder.
However, venture further and you’ll discover that Ulysses morphs, becoming instead a great anti-stream of consciousness novel.
Many workplaces have been experimenting with different types of flexible working arrangements for years now, but the pandemic has made the need for flexibility far more pressing.
This has led to the intensification of many campaigns around flexible working, among them a call for a four-day week. The four-day week has been used in the past as a way to reduce unemployment, for example, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the idea has been gaining more relevance in recent years and is becoming a global trend. Spain, for example, is working on a national shift to a four-day or 32-hour week, after a proposal by Vice President Pablo Iglesias in early December 2020.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is sold on the idea, many presuming that productivity would take a hit and that the transition would prove too costly. But several transnational companies have started to implement the four-day week with positive results.
It was our great pleasure to hold the 3rd Annual IFNH Forum online just before Christmas. We have been holding the Forum each year since the Institute was set up in late 2017. Each Forum has a theme which allows us to showcase research from Reading (and partners) and how this connects with work done elsewhere, with presentations from highly respected external speakers. This year’s theme was the importance of interdisciplinary working to successfully address food system challenges.
Previous events had been in person and by invitation only, so moving online for the first time was both a challenge and an experiment but had the advantage of increasing engagement and broadening our audience. We also took the opportunity to change things by inviting two external speakers who broadly share a common vision – to reduce stunting and the incidence of associated chronic diseases in children in low and middle income countries by improving their diets – but approach it from very different perspectives.
Bitcoin achieved a remarkable rise in 2020 in spite of many things that would normally make investors wary, including US-China tensions, Brexit and, of course, an international pandemic. From a year-low on the daily charts of US$4,748 (£3,490) in the middle of March as pandemic fears took hold, bitcoin rose to just below US$30,000 by the end of the year.
Since then it has climbed to all-time highs above US$38,000, making headlines day after day and driving up the prices of other cryptocurrencies at the same time. So what has driven this huge price appreciation and is it different to the bubble of 2017?
As a historian of archaeology, I know that museum collections are an important route into the history of empire. British archaeologists and antiquarians brought artefacts from many countries back to Britain, and Britain’s museums. Britain’s imperial and colonial power, amassed through long-established settlements and military campaigns, but also facilitated through political and economic infrastructure, made much of this work possible. Many museums are now looking to present this troubling and complicated history more transparently. As an initial step, I think it’s important to recognise that imperial histories of collections are also local histories, and the stories of the people who made excavation, collection, and display possible on a local level should be part of the story that museums present.
The year 2020 will no doubt go down in history for other reasons, but it is also on target to be one of the warmest on record. And as the climate warms, natural hazards will happen more frequently – and be ever more lethal.
We are early career researchers in meteorology, geography and environmental sciences, and each of us focus on a different hazard. We may not have been as in demand as our colleagues in virology departments, but we nonetheless had a particularly interesting and busy year. So while attention was often focused elsewhere, perhaps understandably, here are some of the meteorological extremes recorded in 2020.
To celebrate International Migrants’ Day 2020, on its website the United Nations claims that ‘throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life.’ It is this view of the human will to move that in many ways makes migration such a fascinating yet complex area of research. How do we trace these movements across generations and across continents? How do we work across disciplines when many different methods are needed to help us explain its features, outcomes and causes?
On 9 December, the University held an event to showcase the rich and varied work taking place right across the disciplines to address issues of inequality, social justice, resilience and sustainability. It also provided a much-needed opportunity for researchers to meet and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. In this short piece, Sophie De Pauw reflects on the discussion and what she heard.
Over the past nine months, the word “uncertainty” has cropped up time and time again across the news and social media worldwide. The pandemic has created uncertainty in nearly every aspect of daily life.
This is not only down to worries over exposure to COVID-19 and access to medical care, but also concerns about the stability of the economy, job security, the availability of food and household supplies – and even when to book a holiday. We have needed to adjust and readjust our behaviour continually in response to changing risks and government guidelines.