Liza Penn-Thomas writes:
It isn’t often that the assassination of the Sioux chief Crazy Horse is discussed alongside the relative merits of Rhondda Heritage Park, but that is testimony to the richness of topics tackled when Professor Dai Smith (Raymond Williams Research Chair in Cultural History) and Dr Daniel G. Williams (Director of the Richard Burton Centre for the Study of Wales) were welcomed to the latest session of the CREW Postgraduate Discussion Group. Their lively and informative opening dialogue centred upon their recent publications – Smith’s In the Frame: Memory in Society –Wales 1910 to 2010 and Williams’s National Eisteddfod Lecture 2010, Aneurin Bevan and Paul Robeson: Socialism, Class and Identity. CREW were treated to an interdisciplinary debate that explored the way in which national identity intertwined or stood at odds with an internationalist Socialism, looking in particular at the iconographic significance of Paul Robeson in the South Wales Coalfields during the 1950’s and the political role of Aneurin Bevan. Points of contention were exchanged. This was without doubt an example of what Williams expresses as the “desire to preserve distinctive cultures” not hindering “people’s ability to communicate with each other and with others.”
From the ensuing group discussions we will all have taken away nuggets of new ideas and questions that can be applied to our varied research interests, providing fuel for continued exchanges. Though our studies of literature, politics and history are ostensibly ways of talking about the past, they are all actually participating in exploring possibilities for the future. As Smith says, it is only by “delving into the issues, struggles and expressions of a society decidedly past... can a future of value be derived.” The questions raised are still to be answered. Through what means do we discover collective values when our most prosperous and visible communities have suffered ‘culture death’? Can our nation maintain its cultural distinctiveness and act out a unified ‘Welshness’? Most importantly, how do we shape the next chapter of Welsh history that begins in 2011?