Re-thinking Civil Society

Rethinking Civil Society is a 4 year project initiated by the University of York in association with the University of Gottingen and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. It aims to re-examine the idea of ‘civilisation’ in a time of post-pandemic societal upheaval, fake news and conflict by asking people prominent in their field to give their thoughts on what a ‘civil society’ now means. Contributors were gathered from many disciplines and, necessarily, from multiple faiths and political colours. They included artists Sir Anthony Gormley and David Shrigley, scientists Avi Loeb and Jim Al-Kalili, poets Andrew Motion and Simon Armitage, dramatists Ken Loach and Caryl Phillips, politicians Matthew Parris and Yanis Varoufakis, and comedians Bridget Christie and Rob Newman.

My offering was an essay and also a map. Obviously any such opinion about what the word ‘society’ means is flavoured by personal experience, cultural background and values – my map is no different. It could almost be seen as a self portrait in a way, expressing my civic ideals but also everyday political preoccupations visually as a cityscape. 

Currently Rethinking Civil Society exists as a collection of essays, artwork and music online but there’s a plan to physically publish or exhibit the work as a final culmination to the project. Regardless, my Map of a Civil Society will be exhibited at the University of York in 2023. 

The map is 49×40 cms and rendered in pen and ink with a watercolour wash on paper. 

You can read the essay here. 

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