Richard King is Professor Emeritus of Buddhist and Asian Studies at the University of Kent and in this wide ranging interview Rich begins by talking us through the different places where he has worked. He never would have imagined having the career he does as no one in his family had stayed in education beyond the age of 14. We learn that he might have ended up as a road sweeper. His parents were aware of their class background and Rich talks about how the programmes he watched when he was young said something about one’s class.
His earliest memories entail reading out the words in a newspaper and he remembers having the radio on in the house. He recalls swivelling his hips to Elvis and we learn that his first album was from The Police and that he has a particular fondness for 70s music. Rich became a Dr. Who fan in later years and he talks about how it became an important signifier of his identity when he was living away from the UK.
We learn why Rich chose to go to the University of Hull and why he felt comfortable there. We discover how he became fascinated with philosophy and the whole question of what life is about. He was excited by alternative ideas and Eastern philosophy, and his degree ended up becoming a career which he wanted to pursue.
Rich talks about why he has always favoured the underdog – whether in the playground or in the context of colonialism. He became politically aware due to his reaction to Thatcherism and he reflects on how activism has come back since Jeremy Corbyn and that ideology matters again. He notes though that his vote has been largely irrelevant and we discover that he is waiting for change.
We discuss whether painful experiences can be enriching and we talk about excavating an alternative history that didn’t happen and how we can imagine the world differently. We find out if Rich is happy with the things he has achieved and what he would say to his younger self.
Then, at the end of the interview we learn about his friendship circle and Rich quotes Edward Said in the context of how the only place he really felt at home was inside a book. We learn about Rich’s problem with binaries and how you have to look back in order to know where you are going.
Please note: Opinions expressed are solely those of Chris Deacy and Richard King and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of Kent.