Professor Brad Evans

Professor Brad Evans In Conversation

Professor Brad Evans is a political philosopher, critical theorist and writer. Author of eighteen books and edited volumes, with dedicated series in The New York Times in addition to his work as a lead editor with The Los Angeles Review of Books, Evans’ most recent book – Ecce Humanitas – recasts the fall of liberal humanism and considers the liberation of the political imagination. Caragh Medlicott caught up with Professor Evans over Zoom for a broad-ranging conversation on the rise of Twitter, big tech and the role of art in imagining new futures.

 Caragh Medlicott: So, I thought Twitter would be a good place to start. You left the platform at the start of 2021 and you’ve talked extensively about your reasons for that; but what resonated with me most was your statement that “Twitter was killing the political imagination” – could you talk a little about your thinking behind that?

Professor Brad Evans: I think it’s very common for a lot of us today to talk about the crisis of the political imagination. There’s a wonderful quote by Fredric Jameson, who says, “it is now easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism,” and I think he’s right. But part of this is, to start off with, a fundamental problem with how we conceptualise politics. As in, there’s the people who do the “real” politics, which is all the reason and rationalisation and policy stuff, and then there’s the people who think about art and aesthetics which we see as a kind of nice cultural pastime. But if we’re going to talk about imagination then we have to recognise the political importance of cultural producers. I think, right across politics, even for people who profess to be very radical, there’s a reductive concept of what the imagination is and how it can be deployed. What I try to get from art is a different temporality of politics which is very counterintuitive to Twitter.

One of the things I’ve become increasingly aware of during the pandemic is how we’re now in this age where everything has to be imminent – imminent answers to imminent problems, and politics is shaped by that terrain of imminence. Of course, some people might say we have pressing problems which demand very quick solutions. Which is true for some things. But when we’re dealing with the fundamental questions which affect the human condition, it just seems like most of those arguments and debates are happening on Twitter which to me is just absurd. First of all, the whole format of Twitter is designed to be anti-political. It’s all about very short, sharp, reactive, impulsive conversations which have to fit inside a character limit. But the world is not like that, and I think it’s having a profound impact in terms of how we understand politics – we want politics to be sound bites, and academic TED Talks – but the world can’t operate that way.

We know social media creates echo chambers that then create bubbles where everybody affirms that everything you say is right, and everything the other side says is wrong. And it’s not only led to tribalism but a real puritanical politics which I find to really be based on a different kind of religiosity from the 20th century. Before, it was based on ideology and now it’s based on emotion. “I’m wounded” – you know? It’s a dangerous terrain for politics because it means you can’t even make a mistake. We have moved from courts of reason to immanent public courts of emotional truth. The impact it can have on people’s lives is catastrophic. It leads a situation with groups of people who are so morally certain about their position in the world, there is no compromise, no risk, no failure. I would hate to be that certain!

Caragh Medlicott: When I was younger, still a student, I very much championed the positive things about Twitter; talking about citizen journalism and activism etc. Over the years, just through my own experiences, I’ve moved away from that. One big moment for me – which I know you’ve talked about – was the banning of Donald Trump. It felt like it was celebrated without any nuance or forethought of what that could mean in the future. Maybe we’re not cottoning onto the power of big tech as much as we think?  

 Professor Brad Evans: I think the banning of Trump was a really profound moment. It was kind of strange, because on the one hand, these organisations have always maintained that they’re neutral – that they’re providers of content and no more. But the ways in which they are currently upholding themselves is actually as a political service provider, deciding which kind of truth can be listened to. I’m the last person to defend Trump’s politics, but should Twitter really have that power? And then you had a lot of these supposedly anti-capitalist left-wing people saying – “they have every right to do this because they’re a private corporation” – which is a notably strange defence. Especially as they’d be the first to outcry when someone they like or see as radical in a positive way is banned. I think there’s a much more substantive thing here, you know, if we give these organisations that kind of power, don’t be surprised when, down the line, they ban people you think are good. Because you don’t get a say.

It did feel that, for a while, we were become increasingly aware of the power of big tech. But I think Donald Trump kind of ended that – or at least pushed it in a new direction. You don’t want to be seen as being on the side of Trump, but then you have to say, well, if you believe in the virtues of freedom and free speech and so on, that means being willing to confront things that you might find intolerable. And in a way, those tech corporations created Trump – but then they characterise themselves as the ones saving us from him. It’s very similar to the kind of logic you saw in like the mid-1990s when you suddenly had the proliferation of private military contractors, they were the ones saying “regulate us” because they knew that if they were regulated it would normalise them as a political force. The same thing is happening with tech companies. What that basically means is that you’ve given them more political power because you’re recognising they are dominant political entities.

Caragh Medlicott: It’s interesting that you mention regulation. Do you have an opinion of the best way forward here – whether we can dismantle the monopoly that big tech has?

Professor Brad Evans: There’s a number of ways we can do it and it has to come in terms of the organisation of power – and how that power manifests itself politically. The first thing I’d say, in terms of the operations of big tech, is we need to have far greater algorithmic transparency. Algorithms are always presented as this objective calculating system that works in the user’s best interest, but that’s not necessarily the case. We just need a simple thing – to see the very basic data of a public post and how many people have viewed and engaged with it. Yet I think that level of just very basic algorithmic transparency would have a massive impact in terms of how people understand the inner workings of the system. Because one of the things about big tech power is you don’t know how its systems operate. The second thing, of course, has to be in terms of regulation and taxation. And that’s at a very basic governmental level – I’m not talking about regulating the content but the very basics, holding these organisations to actual national taxation policies, and making sure that they are not bigger than democratically elected institutions – even though there’s problems with democratically elected institutions, as well.

The other thing comes down to questions of how the very idea of what is political is manifested through them. I’m a strong believer in doing away with imminent communication – it’s a tyranny. Perhaps even the worst tyranny we have come to know. I mean what would happen if everybody on Twitter had to wait 24 hours before their tweet was published? Beyond that, we have to have a serious conversation about the target audience of social media organisations. You know it isn’t just millennials anymore, but the children of millennials who have such a deluded vision of “progress” they have learned to metaphorically desire devouring their parents. Twitter and Facebook don’t really give a damn about me, whether I’m on their platforms or not, because they’re missing a lot of data about my life. They weren’t able to map out my life until I was 30. And that’s why there’s so many questions and prompts to fill out information or post pictures from when you were a kid. They want to fill in that black hole of data. Whereas young kids born today are instantly thrown into this. We know the psychological effects of social media on adults, but what that means for kids we have no idea, so there’s a strong argument for saying that we should stop children going on them until at least the age of 16, or even beyond that.

To break this we have to destroy the myth that technology is emancipatory. And the more technologized we are the more advanced our thinking. The thing is, we now have the fetishization of the word ‘connected’ – to be connected is to be liberated, but it’s superficial. Kids need to have an understanding of the world before social media, because at the minute, we’re in a situation where whatever happens on social media drives debate, as if the world is the world of social media. That’s what needs to change as part of the everyday conversation.

Caragh Medlicott: Your book positions the pandemic as a watershed moment in our culture – and you look at how, on Twitter in particular, COVID just further highlighted our addiction to faux outrage. I wonder if that’s because when everything is outrageous, nothing is, or simply that Twitter, as a forum, is entirely inappropriate for such conversations?

Professor Brad Evans: Well, I think we need to hold onto the idea of the importance of being truly outrageous, and this is something that I talked about with Russell on his podcast [Russell Brand’s podcast Under the Skin]. There is something deeply transgressive about people who were outrageous, historically – we can think about the whole genealogy of this going back to people like Oscar Wilde or the movements for gay rights in the 1960s and 1970s. I think people who have been outrageous in the past – really, flamboyantly outrageous – have tended to be very creative and have often broken new ground in terms of how we think. But that’s very different to what we see on social media, because most of what we read on social media is actually very predictable. We know what certain people who dominate so much of the conversation are going say in advance, right? And it’s the same on both the left and the right – a constant reaffirmation of a world you already know.

And so there’s nothing really outrageous said on Twitter. And, interestingly, there is this taking aim on both sides at artists and comedians where the outrageous is read as offensive. I’m always reminded of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who I think is one of the most brilliant artists Britain has ever produced, a working-class kid who suddenly threw himself into this world and was able to really change the face of fashion in a way which is just remarkable.

When he was interviewed about the importance of aesthetics, McQueen said: “I hate throwaway images.” And what that means is images which are forgettable. I actually think Twitter is the same for language, Twitter is full of throwaway words. I can’t remember a single tweet that has actually stuck in my head – that’s really changed my world. And let us not forget here that the most brilliantly outrageous people in history, like McQueen and Wilde, were also deeply flawed. Flaws which are forbidden in a world of immanent puritanism.

Caragh Medlicott: I’ve noticed in terms of humour, and in particular internet humour, it sort of requires this meta interconnected web of knowledge. I only really realise the extent of it when I try to show my mum a meme or something, and then find myself explaining it. Surely explaining a joke to that level is the antithesis of comedy.

Professor Brad Evans: Yeah, and what’s so interesting to me is that the history of brilliant comedy was always about basically breaking out of identity, right? It was basically saying, well, you know, you have this identity, and this is imposed upon you, but this dark humour can be used to transgress out of that. I grew up in the Welsh valleys and some of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life were from home because they knew how to use humour in a way that was powerful – about breaking through those cages. The problem with comedy today is that it cannot exist without falling back into identity. And I think that’s part of the suffocating problem of identity politics today is how it’s becomes so essentialised. Just look at the tedious debates on “whiteness”.

Caragh Medlicott: I found your description of the modern world as a “global techno-theodicy” to be incredibly accurate. I was raised Catholic and I see so many of the ideals I was raised with – things like sin, guilt, righteousness – mirrored to an uncanny extent on the online left. But I still feel that I don’t really understand the why behind this shift, how we’ve become less empathetic, less malleable – less human, in many ways. Could you explain how, in your opinion, tech has fuelled that change?

Professor Brad Evans: To understand this, you have to understand what came before. What I talk about in the book is this idea that the techno-theodicy has replaced global liberalism, which had really been the dominant political ideology since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Global liberalism was based on the idea that the whole world should become liberal – liberal democracy, liberal free markets and so on. But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to happen naturally. Because alongside the big shift in terms of global liberalism, you also had a revival of political Islam and other kinds of political movements.

So, Iraq, Afghanistan – they all became about liberating victims and turning them into liberal subjects, but this becomes profoundly religious as it was necessarily underwritten by the idea of a “just war” – which began with St Augustine in the Christian canon. The more the War on Terror developed, the more the myth of liberalism was exposed. Liberalism promoted itself as a political ideology based on ideas of global justice, peace, security, but this unravels when you think of what happened at places like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The truth about liberalism is that it was as violent as anything else, as puritanical as anything else – all done in the name of victims.

I think the pandemic was the first crisis post-liberalism. Nobody believes in it anymore, and I think a pivotal moment was Hillary Clinton’s election loss. What’s happened in the years after that election is an emerging political order which is equally global in ambition. But like all globally ambitious projects, the only way they can justify the necessary incorporation of people into their logics, is through tried and tested religious means. In the monotheistic religions – particularly Christianity and Islam – the idea of a global conversation is all about narratives of redemption and salvation, that your life will be better if you become a part of the religious flock. This is precisely the narrative that the techno-theodicy is operating by today.

Whatever problem we put on the table, the answer is that technology will save us – whether it’s about racism, politics, ecological disaster. Whatever problem we can think of, technology provides what is said to be the ultimate solution. And like those religions, it doesn’t offer you an alternative to live outside of it. If you were born in a Catholic society, you know what it means to be a non-Catholic – to be ostracised from the community. But what happens when you’re ostracised from the world community? That’s another aspect of religions, they’re totalising – they offer you no alternative.

I think that’s why technology today has narratives of redemption, salvation, but it also says to you that there’s no alternative. You have to be part of our ‘metaverse’. If you think about critical theory in the 1960s – I’m thinking about a lot of the dominant thinkers who were badly labelled post-modernists, particularly Jean-François Lyotard or Michel Foucault – the metanarrative was the thing which set itself as a religion; whether that’s orthodox religions or the way in which nation states and ideologies became new religions. You listen to people like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, the way they talk about artificial intelligence, it’s like they’re talking about new gods. To me it’s very dangerous, this new kind of politics.

Caragh Medlicott: In one of the short films which accompany your book, you say: “Art is able to confront the intolerable and expose the myths on which all great tyrannies rest.” I found that very compelling, and it also made me think of a talk I saw Brian Eno give recently – about the need for positive visions of the future in art. That in say, battling the climate emergency, art needs to offer up both the dystopian and the utopian. What role do you think art is playing, currently, in comforting this culture?

Professor Brad Evans: One of the important things about art now – and this is a challenge for artists as well – is that it’s not just about imagination. Yes, art needs to be central to the conversation on how we reimagine the future, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be a constant reinvention. We’re in a strange kind of situation today where, on the one hand, you have technology which is central to political modernity – but it’s also become central to the narrative as the only thing that’s rescue us from our own ruination. What that means, of course, is that any vision of the future has to be hyper-technologised. I’ve been watching the HBO series on Chernobyl recently, and it’s really powerful to see this crisis, which is born of the hubris of science – of nuclear fusion – and then see the reliance on robots to save us from this catastrophe. We’re in this situation with the climate because for centuries now we’ve given ourselves over to mechanised industrialisation, and now we think we need better machines to save us.

Caragh Medlicott: Like when we’re looking for ways to get carbon out of the atmosphere while cutting down trees.

Professor Brad Evans: Yeah absolutely, that’s it. My wife and I wrote this piece recently on immersive art. The ways in which art now has to be technologised in order for it to be art. We had this experience where we went to the Victoria and Albert museum and one of the reasons we went there was to go and see the Raphael Cartoons. And as you approach the room someone comes up to you and says, “do you want to have the interactive experience?” And suddenly there’s all this bizarre zen music going on and people going around in these headsets bumping into each other. You couldn’t see one of the paintings because there was a big desk where they were handing out the headsets – it’s almost like the art alone is no longer enough for us. These are some of the best paintings of the renaissance, but we have to be filled with digital noise – we want to know how Raphael painted such and such rather than just letting the work speak for itself.

So while I think, yes, we need art more than ever – it’s also a question of the types of art and how they allow us to reflect. There was an article recently in ArtReview talking about how dull the imagination of Zuckerberg’s metaverse is – and it’s right! You watch the promo video and think this is just awful. There’s even the idea now that AI can produce art. I think we need to fight against this, you know, there’s always been this battle between the poetic and the technical, but we live in this age today where these kind of imaginations only really matter if they’re technically inframed. We’re sort of asking the demons that have entrapped us to save us.

Caragh Medlicott: I suppose another element of tech is the way it interacts with science to this extent where it now feels like we’ve captured every part of humanity, top to toe. As in, this is how all the mechanics work, this is your gene sequence etc etc – and that’s led to the idea that AI could produce art because we view humans as nothing more than a complex algorithm.

 Professor Brad Evans: I’m not religious and I don’t even necessarily call myself spiritual, but I do think there’s something beautifully inexplicable about the human condition. And most of the amazing things that happen in our life we can’t put into words. If I see a beautiful sunset, I don’t want some scientist next to me explaining to me the logic of it. I just want to feel how it feels. I think we’re in an age today where we demand so much information about everything it kills the mystery of existence without explaining anything of value. Okay – I’m happy to know how certain machines work just in case, you know, my washing machine breaks down. But I don’t want that to be applied to the most fundamental things which impact my life.

For me, the greatest artist to ever live was Mark Rothko and you can’t capture what Rothko does with his work by looking at an image on a computer screen. You have to go to a gallery and see it how it was intended to be seen – to really get the depth of it. I think in terms of overexposure to images of art, especially with kids, we’re robbing them of these exceptional encounters with it. I had this experience with my daughter once, four or five years ago, I took her to an art gallery in Bristol and there were pictures by Michelangelo on the wall, but they also had a computer system which could do interactive movements with these elements. She didn’t pay any attention to the stuff on the wall! It is this thing where the original becomes secondary to the tech. And the way these experiences are reduced to formulas or information – it feels dull and reductive.

Caragh Medlicott: I guess to an extent it’s just not even useful in the everyday. If a scientist shows you the chemical formula for love you can trust that that is in some way accurate, but it doesn’t add anything to your experience or depth of understanding of love in your life. In a way knowing how to fix your washing machine is more useful.

Professor Brad Evans: I think you’re right. This is what you see in the current trend of post-humanism, a lot of it begins with well-intentioned assumptions. There was a problem in the 17th and 18th centuries where humans started to believe that they were the centre of the universe. And this creates the idea of human exceptionalism – that humans are top of the food chain. And the way we’ve countered this is to say, “oh humans are just the same as plants”. Or we’re just complex data. I think that push in the opposite direction is just as dangerous. I think there really were trends in the 18th century which pointed to something we might genuinely call the human exception. I mean the way it’s represented in the works of someone like William Blake – who was such a phenomenal artist – and he was already warning in that era of the dangers of technology. And recognising that there was something much more mystical and magical to the human condition; what he recognised as the human exception.

Honestly, if we could perfectly calculate how the future would be that would be so boring. In a former life, I used to work for Cardiff City Council, and I had this job as a trainee auditor. And I was nine months into the job and one of the directors was saying, “we’d like you to stay on and consider doing the professional qualification. Don’t go back to university, stay with us and in five years’ time you’ll have this job, in ten years’ time you’ll have this job, and you’ll be driving a BMW and so on”. I think they thought this would convince – but to me it was harrowing! All I could see was a City of Cardiff tombstone. The idea my whole life was mapped out. I think that vision of life is what the technologists want to drive where we can have an age of calculation, where we can find everything out in advance – I find that horrific. That’s the worst kind of tyranny.

Caragh Medlicott: Do you think it feeds, in a way, into the fact that technology and social media exacerbates anxiety so people are more likely to be drawn to the known? To want everything mapped out?

 Professor Brad Evans: Yes, this is the inherent paradox – this idea that the more we know about the world the more secure we are in the knowledge – but actually we’re not. We feel less secure in the world. I had the privilege of meeting and getting to know the late sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who, to me, is probably one of the greatest academics to ever live in the UK. He was forced to flee Poland during the anti-Semitism [1968 political crisis] and he was such a great social commentator. He wrote extensively around what he called this shift in solid modernity to liquid modernity.

Solid modernity was very industrial and mechanical but very foundational – we knew where we lived, most chances we would die in the towns we were born. This of course breaks apart with globalisation and some people see this as emancipatory. But Bauman said let’s be mindful of what we’re replacing this with. We’re replacing this with a system. We went from the age of mutually assured destruction – an abbreviation for the Cold War – to mutually assured vulnerabilities, where none of us feel certain about anything anymore. Everything is fleeting. There is no security. This is the paradox of the age of information. So, what does this mean then for creating a society based on anxiety where all it takes is a small nudge towards panic? Imminent responses to anxieties where no one feels like they’re in control of anything. Of course, coincidentally, it’s far easier to control anxious people.

Caragh Medlicott: Thinking about the time we spend on social media and using tech, there was another thing I wanted to ask you in relation to art and the general practicalities of making it. As you say, we’ve gone from an industrial era which was fuelled, in a literal way, with blood, sweat and tears, to a tech age where it’s our emotions which are mined. Social media in particular robs us of our time. Is quitting or at least seriously reducing social media the only way for artists to get past that?

Professor Brad Evans: I think first of all we have to tackle that question of time. I would say that time is the most important political category we know. It shapes everything. People talk a lot today about this term “privilege” but the biggest privilege we have is time. If you want to ask who has the real privilege in the world, ask who has the luxury of time. And, you know, people who are working three jobs just to uphold the basic standards of living, they know that they have zero luxury of time. I’m from the Rhondda valleys, it was once in its former life known as a hotbed of political radicalism, but most of the people who worked there in the mines didn’t have time to come home and read Karl Marx. And the times when people did have time to read Marx were during the Great Depression and the General Strike and times like that.

So, I think this idea of time is important to politics. Now the one thing, as you say, with social media is that it’s so intent on consuming our time. It always wants your attention, your gaze. It doesn’t liberate our time, it consumes it, incessantly. Now I’m not an artist – maybe I’m not the right person to ask in terms of the artistic practice as such – but what I do know from what I understand is that, first of all, all the best artists take their time over what they’re doing. Even if the production itself is very quick, they’ve thought a lot about what they’re doing. And I think that is where there’s a lot we can still learn about the creative process of art – and yes, its spontaneous, and especially abstract art is very spontaneous, but it has a great deal of intention to it. A different kind of emotional investment.

Caragh Medlicott: I know it can sound wishy-washy to talk about the subconscious, but it does seem that some artistic ideation accumulates without conscious application and then transitions into intention. But that process sort of happens when we’re daydreaming or doing chores or repetitive things – the kind of things we don’t do in silence anymore. We’re addicted to entertainment so there’s no break for the brain. I do wonder what impact that has.

 Professor Brad Evans: You have to look at the way the subconscious has been appropriated. Historically, one of the most important shifts in terms of the liberation of the subconscious was the arrival of abstract expressionism. But in a way in which totalitarian regimes realised very quickly how dangerous it was. Think about the Degenerate Art Exhibition held in Nazi Germany, for instance. They recognised that this kind of expressiveness was a true liberation of the imagination. It’s a different culture today where it’s not about trying to say that this kind of liberation is dangerous. What’s marked a big shift, really, is an attempt to colonise the subconscious and the abstract through overly technologized and descriptive logics. You know, “I can give you a theory as to why Rothko might have gone mad”. That’s the terrain we’re in now. And the purposeful attempt of social media to harvest the subconscious in this totally benign way. The way that Facebook wants to harvest your subconscious is to hit you with algorithmic ads for stuff you don’t want.

Caragh Medlicott: In terms of your own writing, I understand you’re working on your memoir at the moment?

 Professor Brad Evans: Yes. This has been a project I’ve had on the backburner for a little while. Strangely, for the first time in my life, I’m dedicating myself exclusively to writing this book. It’s only recently that I’ve realised just how much when you grow up in conditions of poverty it really marks the rest of your life. I grew up on the Penrhys council estate, and later the village of Ton Pentre, and my family were always very poor growing up. Once you’re constantly told your only means of improving yourself is to escape the valleys it becomes really embedded in your subconscious.

I owe a lot to my wife, who is Mexican, because it is only recently when we came back to the valleys together and she really started probing my past that that trauma of childhood really came back to me. I realised there’s a real need to write a book that deals with the legacy of the life in the valleys – Thatcher is almost like the end of the history in the valleys, apart from a sort of slow and inevitable decline. If you think about all the ways in which coal and carbon is so globally demonised now, nobody really wants to revive those stories. So, for me, it’s a memoir about growing up in the time of Thatcher but also trying to make sense of the lived experience of the place and what it means to try and come to terms with the social expectations and traumas you have and carry with you.

I really think that you can’t write the history of globalisation without accounting for the people of the Welsh valleys. How many people around the world today know of them? Not many. They’re not only economically forgotten but they’ve actually been written out of the script of history. I think that requires a great deal of redress. It almost feels like I have a great deal of payback to give to the people there.

Caragh Medlicott: And do you know the release date yet?

 Professor Brad Evans: It’s contracted with Repeater in the UK and Penguin Random House in the US – the aim is March 2024. I’m a sucker for symbolism and that date coincides with my 50th birthday. It’s a book which I think is going to take time to do justice to. So, I can weave in the history with the personal narrative. I know it’s going to take another two years to work out.

Caragh Medlicott: Where did you start with it?

Professor Brad Evans: Well, I actually wrote four chapters which I ended up scrapping. It read, well, just too intellectualising and presumptuous in the worst kind of way. I didn’t want it to become another predictable “educated” mediation on the current fashionable trends with identity, which probably because of my position at a university it seemed to become. So, I’ve gone back over and started again. I think it has to be about balance – to not be very bleak in tone overall. I remember a BBC reporter talking about the “unbearable sadness” of the valleys, and it is hard not to start from that proposition. But to try and break it apart, too. What does that really mean? One of the bits I’m working on at the minute is looking at what it means to grow up in a house that is right next to a giant slag heap. I recently watched the episode on Aberfan in The Crown and what was so harrowing was that it looked just like where I lived as a child. Like we used to play on the slag heaps, we thought they were mountains! It’s important to deal with the bleakness and revisit the anxieties, but also the stuff you’re kind of isolated from as a kid. To find the joy while knee deep in the black mud of history.

It’s a new style of writing and I’m having to push myself into it – but it’s actually been incredibly liberating. It’s the book I feel the greatest burden with. I’ve run columns with The New York Times, you end up thinking – I’ve made it! – but now I’m writing this with the anxiety of what people at home might think. It’s not that I want this book to be a bestseller, I mean I’m sure my publisher does, but the burden for me is the people from the valleys, and doing justice to their lives. I really hope it speaks to people in Wales.


Professor Brad Evans’ book, Ecce Humanitas, is available now.

 Caragh Medlicott is a Wales Arts Review Senior Editor.