Scroll down the page for the Live blogs of the talks.

Videos about Identity

Alan Smith on TED.com

We should be fascinated by numbers says Alan Smith in his challenging and amusing TEDxExeter talk. And TED must agree as it has selected his as one of the few TEDx talks that are featured on  TED.com. We are delighted that, as a result it will reach a much larger, global audience. The statistics (yes) show that this is a rare honour. Fewer than 1 per cent of TEDx talks feature on TED, and Alan’s is the 8th TEDxExeter talk to be chosen.

In his talk Alan Smith, who is data visualisation editor at The Financial Times, uses statistics to illustrate the massive difference between perception and reality in many areas of life. “Statistics are most wonderful when they surprise us,” he says. “They are about us as a group … the science of us, and that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.”

Amusingly he demonstrates that the National Statistician and Jeremy Paxman are just as likely not to know what’s really going on in their neighbourhood as anyone else. He also busts the myth that some people are good at numbers, while others aren’t.

“I am thrilled that this talk has been selected for TED.com,” said Alan Smith. “It’s increasingly hard to avoid statistics in modern life – so we need to learn to love them for what they are: surprising, revealing and the key to answering so many important questions.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “We are delighted that an eighth TEDxExeter talk has been selected for TED.com. We already know from our own website stats that we have visitors from around the world; now these talks will be seen by an even greater global audience.

“Alan presents numbers in ways that we can all understand – even those who have thought themselves bad at numbers since maths lessons at school. Not only does he challenge prejudices and misunderstanding, he also makes you laugh. It is great news that Alan’s ideas will now reach people all around the world through TED.com.”

Deeyah Khan on TED.com

We are delighted that Deeyah Khan’s TEDxExeter 2016 talk has been chosen to feature on TED.com – an honour less than 1 per cent of TEDx talks achieve. It is the 7th talk from Exeter to be selected.

Building relationships is key to stopping the cycle of violence, says Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director, Deeyah Khan. Born in Norway to immigrant parents of Pashtun and Punjabi ancestry, she experienced many of the difficulties Muslim children growing up in European countries can face. Aged 17, she fled from Norway confused, lost and torn between cultures. She chose film and music as the language for her social activism, not a gun.

Deeyah’s first, award-winning film, Banaz, explored a so-called ‘honour killing’ in the UK. Her second film, the Bafta-nominated Jihad involved two years of interviews and filming with Islamic extremists, convicted terrorists and former jihadis. In her TEDxExeter talk “What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids” she tells some of their stories and sheds light on the clash of cultures between Muslim parents who prioritise honour and their children’s desire for freedom. She argues that we need to understand what is happening to fight the pull to extremism.

Deeyah Khan’s talk will reach a much larger audience on TED.com. 64,000 people have already watched the talk. Now it will attract a potential audience of millions around the world.

“I’m both delighted and honoured that my talk has been one of those selected to appear on TED.com,” says Deeyah Khan. “Radicalisation is the most pressing problem of our age. Each violent act by extremists creates an increasing cycle of hatred which tears our communities apart.

“Through the research and interviews I carried out in the development of my documentary Jihad, I believe that one of the most effective means of stopping the cycle of violence is through building relationships. This can be difficult when young people feel themselves to be growing up between cultures, and belonging in neither.

“I am pleased that TED has given me this opportunity to share some simple ideas of how we can all work together to stop the cycle of violence and bring our communities back together.”

Live blogs about Identity

Michelle Ryan talk

MichelleRyan_portraitIn the fourth session, we come back to ourselves. Michelle is describing how the opportunities for women have made incredible strides, but they [we!] continue to be under-represented in various sectors (surgery, science) and roles (senior management). Try googling CEO images, and you’ll find the first 80 are of men and the 81st is Barbie. [I found one woman at #50, but the point still stands.]

Some argue that women choose not to go into particular roles or sectors, often because of the hours required and the sacrifices that need to be made. Many women say this, and many do opt out before they hit the glass ceiling.

We need to look at these decisions, but also at what underlies these decisions. Why are women less ambitious? Is there something innate about the desire for a work-life balance that women might have? Michelle is presenting some recent research that may shed some light.

So first, are women less ambitious? At the beginning, no, but ambition erodes over time, for students, police officers and surgeons in training. Is it because of the biological clock? Probably not – students are in their late teens, police in their mid-20s and surgeons in their mid-30s. It is more likely to be exposure to male-dominated environments, and perceptions that those who have become successful ahead of them are very different from them. So they will have a lower possibility of success. Are women saying: that thing over there that you say I can’t have, I want it anyway? Or are they saying: I’m not interested anyway?

How one feels about the workplace is at least as important as the issue of time. Surgery involves long and unpredictable hours, being called out in the middle of the night. But so do nursing and midwifery, professions dominated by women.

Feeling similar to those who have been successful before you reinforces identity, that who you have to be at work is similar to who you are at home. It also makes you feel you can be successful in the future, and therefore that any sacrifices you make could be worth it.

One of the biggest differences between men and women in middle-management is that women are much less willing to make sacrifices, because they don’t expect those sacrifices to be rewarded or that the workplace be meritocratic.

The implications are first, that work-life balance is not just an issue for women. All types of people might feel that they don’t belong. So we have an explanation that work-life balance is about identity. Second, working part-time and from home are touted as solutions to work-life balance, but may ironically exacerbate this identity problem.

So we need to encourage the imagination and the view that success is possible.

Chetan Bhatt talk

ChetanBhatt_portraitOur next speaker is Chetan Bhatt from LSE. He’s commenting on how people generally try to pigeonhole him… as a Hindu Kenyan Asian. But also all sorts of people from his London background are part of him.

Questions about identity and origins are difficult – we might cheer and fight for them, but often we just assume we have them without thinking about it. But the responses are important socially and politically.

Often conflicts are based on old stories of origin and identity, myths which can be about nation, race, religion, caste, culture. Some say origin stories give people a sense of belonging, but Chetan sees them as adding to human misery, and dares us to refuse them. Instead we should develop a deeper sense of personhood, responsible to humanity as a whole; origin myths disguise global power and inequalities.

Tradition is not the same as history. They are often in conflict. Chetan tells two stories of growing up in London.

One is of his next door neighbour, who was National Front, racist and threatening, but today is a family friend, gentle and kind.

The other is of a quiet Hindu boy who became involved in Al Qaeda. He like others discarded his ‘impure’ past to become ‘authentic’… but it is using a forgery of the past, not returning to the past. Ordinary Muslim beliefs can never be pure enough, so are obliterated. The claim to tradition is at war with history.

Purity, certainty, authenticity – all lethal. Today’s main Hindu fundamentalist organisation has roots in Fascism, and has engaged for decades in violence against minorities. Fundamentalists see religion and culture as their sole property.

Chetan respects the right to have and express culture and religion, but not necessarily the content. There is no human right to not be offended. In a genuine democracy, people express different views, and change their views.

Why do we have pride in our nationality – an accident of birth? We live in a global world where goods and services are owned and provided internationally. There is no pure nation or culture. Culture is about many things, but often is what’s decided by the powers that be.

So Chetan asks: what about our identity? Each self is complex and messy, so why not value impurities and uncertainties? Why not be sceptical about origin myths? Be creative… He is showing a slide of a tin of haggis curry. Mmm… fusion cuisine!

Chetan tells the story of Dr Siddiqui, a Muslim fundamentalist. He was shattered by the story of a Pakistani girl who was raped and then exceuted for adultery, and reversed his position to work courageously against fundamentalism.

Ibn Rushd, a 12th century Muslim thinker, said that religious truth may conflict with rational truth, but the latter is still true. There are two distinct realms of truth, and they should be separated, i.e. secularism, or separation of church and state in the US, and laïcité in France. Ideas that shook his world, and ours.