Ethnicity is about belonging to a group, a group defined by shared descent, traditions or culture. This lecture series explores what that means, and has meant, across a variety of disciplinary perspectives – archaeology, data science, geography, law, literature, mathematics, music, political economy, and history of art and design.  

You will enjoy ten recorded lectures by ten Oxford academics from across subject disciplines; then, you can take part in a series of live interactive Q&A online sessions with the speakers.

How this lecture series will work

A new recorded lecture will be released weekly each Monday, for the ten weeks of the series (see release dates below).

There will be three live, online Q&A sessions for you to join - your chance to ask the speakers your questions. These will be held from 5-6pm (UTC) on three Fridays: 19 February, 12 March and 9 April 2021.

The recorded lectures will remain online and available to watch and review until Friday 16 April 2021. 

Programme details

Monday 1 February: Lecture

What's race got to do with it? Identity politics in Irish-American literature and culture

Dr Tara Stubbs, Associate Professor in English Literature, Director of Studies in English Literature and Creative Writing

This talk looks at the changing definitions and associations of the term 'Irish American' from the time of the Great Famine to the present day, thinking about the ways in which views of race and ethnicity have shaped Irish and American literature and asking larger questions about how we describe identity. 

Monday 8 February: Lecture

Multiculturalism, and the importance of place

David Howard, Director of Studies and Associate Professor, Sustainable Urban Development

Identity politics, multiculturalism, and ‘place-making’ are contemporary and contested ideas. This lecture addresses the importance of belonging, and how this develops, or is designed in today’s cities.

Monday 15 February: Lecture

Ethnicities and identities in human rights law

Dr Nazila Ghanea, Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law, Director of International Human Rights Law Programmes, Deputy Director of the Department for Continuing Education 

The grappling of the law with ethnicity and different aspects of our identities may seem self-evident but is nevertheless evolving and fraught with challenges. Questions that we'll explore include the following: What motivates and shapes the recognition of different aspects of identity in human rights law? How can this assist in upholding minimum standards and protections?

Friday 19 February, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join Tara Stubbs, David Howard and Nazila Ghanea for a live online Q&A session.

Monday 22 February: Lecture

Mathematics: a universal language?

Marcus du Sautoy FRS OBE, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

Mathematics is often considered a language that transcends ethnic, cultural, geographical boundaries. So much so that many science fiction writers choose it as the language for their aliens to communicate with earth. But is this true or are there aspects of mathematics that have unexpected ethnic and cultural resonances?

Monday 1 March: Lecture

Genetics of ethnicity and ancestry

Danny Wilson, Director of Studies in Data Science at the Department for Continuting Education, Associate Professor at the Big Data Institute

How do genetics help us understand the nature of different ancestral groups and how that relates to ethnicity? The last decade has witnessed great strides in our understanding of human ancestry thanks to technological developments that have permitted the investigation of genetics in millions of people worldwide. Genetics has become an everyday tool for people interested in tracing back their own family history and ancestry and for scientists studying the history of population groups. Increasingly, genetics is illuminating our understanding of what makes us the same and different, including traits we can see and those we cannot, such as the risk of diseases and responses to medicines.

Monday 8 March: Lecture

Identities influence behaviour

Donna Harris, Director of Studies in Political Economy at the Department for Continuing Education; Research Fellow at Centre for the Studies of African Economy, Department of Economics

Recent research in economics has put more emphasis on the role of identities, norms, and narratives in guiding decisions and behaviour. This lecture will discuss this exciting new strand of research with a particular focus on the role of identities in influencing economic, political, and social behaviour. Identities can be based on a wide range of 'group memberships', including ethnicity, race, political ideologies, religious beliefs, etc. and the way in which such group memberships influence behaviour (and which group membership plays a dominant role) also depends on the context. We will explore examples in developing countries and research related to political economy where identities can lead to suboptimal outcomes.

Friday 12 March, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join Marcus du Sautoy, Danny Wilson and Donna Harris for a live online Q&A session.

Monday 15 March: Lecture

Ethnicity, identity and mobility: a spotlight on Roman Britain

Alison MacDonald, Lecturer in Archaeology, Course Director of the Diploma and Advanced Diploma in British Archaeology, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Many people from across the empire went to the province of Britannia during the period of Roman rule, and in some cases, glimpses of their lives can be seen in the archaeological record. This lecture will use a range of evidence to explore the lives, cultural heritage, place of birth, language and customs of people who travelled to, and settled in, Roman Britain.

Monday 22 March: Lecture

Music - an international language?

Jonathan Darnborough, Director of Studies in Music

If music is, indeed, an international language then it certainly has a multiplicity of dialects. This lecture explores the ways in which music can become rooted in a particular national or ethnic culture as well as the ways in which it can be truly international. 

Monday 29 March: Lecture

The price of prejudice

Dr Ria Ivandic, Lecturer in Political Economy at the Department for Continuing Education, Researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science

There is a growing set of empirical evidence that disparities with respect to ethnicity exist in a number of outcomes such as hiring, wage setting, educational attainment, provision of healthcare, policing. Yet while the immediate targets of prejudice are unquestionably hurt the most, discrimination inflicts a staggering cost on the entire economy. Questions that we will explore in this lecture include the following: How can we measure ethnicity based discrimination and in which economic outcomes is it most present? What do we know about the economic causes and consequences of the discrimination?

Monday 5 April: Lecture

Everyday Objects: Ethnicities and Ecosystems

Dr Claire O'Mahony, Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design, Course Director of the MSt in the History of Design

Much modern design strives for universal solutions facilitated by mass production to reach global markets. By looking closely at everyday objects, we will ask how might their materiality, histories and use also be rooted in local ecosystems and hopes of more sustainable futures.


Friday 9 April, 5-6pm (UTC): LIVE Q&A

Join speakers Alison MacDonald, Jonathan Darnborough, Ria Ivandic and Claire O'Mahony for a live online Q&A session.


Description Costs
10 lectures, 3 live interactive sessions: £100.00


If you are a UK resident in receipt of a state benefit you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

If you do not qualify for the concessionary fee but are experiencing financial hardship, you may still be eligible for financial assistance.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Jonathan Darnborough


Jonathan Darnborough is Director of Studies in Music for the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University. He is a composer and pianist and has performed throughout Britain, as well as in Europe, Asia and America. He has worked in continuing education throughout his career and is the author of Oxford's first two online courses in Music.

Dr Marcus du Sautoy


Professor Marcus du Sautoy FRS OBE, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

Marcus du Sautoy is widely known for his work to popularise mathematics.  He appears regularly in the media and has written numerous academic articles and popular books on mathematics. His research interests include understanding the world of symmetry using zeta functions, a classical tool from number theory. His work uses a wide range of methods including p-adic Lie groups, model theory, algebraic geometry and analytic methods.

Dr Nazila Ghanea


Dr Nazila Ghanea is Associate Professor in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. She serves as Associate Director of the Oxford Human Rights Hub and is a Fellow of Kellogg College (BA Keele, MA Leeds, PhD Keele, MA Oxon). Her publications include nine books, five UN publications as well as a number of journal articles and reports. Nazila has acted as a human rights consultant/expert for a number of governments, the UN, UNESCO, OSCE, Commonwealth, Council of Europe and the EU. She has facilitated international human rights law training for a range of professional bodies around the world, lectured widely and carried out first hand human rights field research in a number of countries including Malaysia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. 

Ms Donna Harris


Donna Harris is a Behavioural and Experimental Economist who uses interdisciplinary methods that combine psychology, economics, and neuroscience to study individual and group behaviours with policy applications in developing countries. Her current research examines how social identity and social interactions (through observing other’s choices and face-to-face communication) influence people’s decisions and behaviours in a wide range of context.  

Donna holds PhD and MPhil in Economics from University of Cambridge, MSc in Economic History from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a BA in Economics from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. 

Dr David Howard


Dr David Howard is an Associate Professor in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford. He is Director for the DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development and Director of Studies for the Sustainable Urban Development Programme, which promotes lifelong learning for those with professional and personal interests in urban development. David is also Co-Director of the Global Centre on Healthcare and Urbanisation at Kellogg College. 

He is a member of the Management Committee for the Latin American Centre at the University of Oxford, a CNRS Research Associate at Université Bordeaux, and Chair of the David Nicholls Memorial Trust. Dr Howard's research relates to historical and contemporary Caribbean societies, with a specific focus on colonial legacies, urban development, and social sustainability. His current research interests focus on access to basic services and shelter in low-income, urban neighbourhoods in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Dr Ria Ivandic


Dr. Ria Ivandic is a Lecturer in Political Economy at the University of Oxford (Department for Continuing Education) and Researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  

She holds a PhD in Economics from the Department of Political Economy at King's College London. In her research, she uses quantitative methods to understand questions in political economy, comparative politics, and the economics of crime. Most recently, she is one of the investigators on a UKRI funded research project on the 'Outreach to Domestic Abuse Victims in Times of Quarantine’. Dr. Ivandic has worked on a number of policy oriented analysis and research projects for institutions such as the Home Office, All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), the National Crime Agency, and many more. 

Dr Alison MacDonald


Alison MacDonald is a Lecturer in Archaeology and course director of the Undergraduate Diploma and Advanced Diploma in British Archaeology. She has written an online course on Roman Britain and her research and teaching interests include the archaeology of Roman cities, trade and the Roman economy and material culture studies. She is currently Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University.

Dr Claire O'Mahony


Claire O’Mahony PhD directs the MSt in the History of Design and is Associate Professor in History of Art and Design in the Department for Continuing Education. She is Chair of the Design History Society and an Editor of the Journal of Design History published by Oxford University Press. Her current research proposes a sensorial history of metalwork and regional identity politics in the interwar years. She has written about the cultural history of modern furniture (Bloomsbury 2021), the politics of weaving (Journal of Modern Craft 2016), the geo-political narratives embodied in transnational exhibition displays (Ashgate 2015) and the representation of civic unrest in town hall murals (Journal of War and Culture Studies 2013).

Dr Tara Stubbs


Tara Stubbs is Associate Professor in English Literature, and Director of Studies in English Literature and Creative Writing, at OUDCE. Her publications include American Literature and Irish Culture, 1910–1955: the politics of enchantment (2012), (with Doug Haynes) Navigating the Transatlantic in Modern American Literature and Culture (2017) and, most recently, The Modern Irish Sonnet: Revision and Rebellion (2020). She is currently Dean of Kellogg College.

Prof Daniel Wilson


Danny Wilson is Director of Studies in Data Science at the Department for Continuing Education and Associate Professor at the Big Data Institute, University of Oxford. Originally trained in biology and statistics, Danny has conducted research in Oxford, Chicago, Lancaster, London, Paris and Mombassa. His work focuses on genetics and infectious diseases, analysing large datasets and developing new computational tools. He has led research studies into genetic risk factors for disease, the genetics of antibiotic resistance, the evolution of microbes, and the use of DNA to track the spread of outbreaks.