A short account of our 70th anniversary conference on Extremism, by Cumberland Lodge Scholar, Liisa Tuhkanen
In the first week of June 2017, the 70th anniversary year of Cumberland Lodge as an educational foundation, 60 of Britain's senior academics, researchers, journalists, educators and community leaders gathered at Cumberland Lodge to discuss the pressing issue of extremism and how to counteract it. They were joined by Cumberland Lodge Scholars and students from universities across the UK.
The theme of the conference could sadly not have been more topical: the attack on London Bridge had taken place just a few days earlier, and the Manchester bombing a fortnight before that, after a Spring that had been marked by a string of tragedies around the world.
The first day of the conference focused on understanding different aspects of extremism, exploring connections between the 1930s and today, and asking whether there were lessons to be learned from history.
Working groups on economic and social tensions, ideologies and false religion, the psychology of fundamentalism, and the rise and fall of extremist groups gave delegates the opportunity to explore particular issues in more depth. These intensive, productive sessions were followed by a panel discussion which bridged the topics and drew them all together.
The second day was dedicated to considering counter-measures to extremism, for example through education, legislation or inter-cultural work. From safe spaces to faith schools, it was clear that participants had differing views on many of the issues, prompting lively and interesting discussions.
At the forefront of conversations on both days was Amy Buller's Darkness over Germany, which has recently been republished. Many pointed out that there is an urgent need in contemporary society for someone to take up the mantle of the difficult work that Buller carried out in the 1930s and 1940s: to seek connections, engagement and dialogue, even when it seems impossible.
The full conference report will be published shortly.