Conference Agenda

JS_RN20_RN27_01: Decolonizing social research: Practices and reflections on the democratization of social research
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Silvia Cataldi, sapienza university of rome
Session Chair: Andrea Vargiu, Università di Sassari
Location: BS.4.06B
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Fourth Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

Session Abstract

Historically, the expansion of Western knowledge implied the marginalization of other knowledge systems along with colonization and domination of those bearing such knowledge. According to this view, “Global injustice is therefore intimately linked to global cognitive injustice” (de Sousa Santos 2007: 63). This trend threatens to be re-proposed today in social sciences where mechanisms of research funding, systems of publication of results and allocation of resources actually have reproduced classical cleavages and created disparities between communities of knowledge. Instead, a democratic imagination with a non-market, non-competitive view of the world, offers new models of knowledge that are empowering because they transcend the standard cartographies of power and innovation.

This session will explore various issues around the topic of the democratization of social research. What is driving it? What are the consequences for how research is designed, undertaken, funded and disseminated? How methodological innovation can contribute in the empowerment of the studied subjects and communities of knowledge?


Citizen Science as a Way to the Democratisation of Social Research

Egle Butkeviciene1, Bálint Balázs2

1Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania; 2Environmental Social Science Research Group, Hungary

Despite an anti-science movement in some sections of society, there are great opportunities for public engagement for scientific research in a transition towards a more cooperative research and innovation sector. There are multiple ways of engaging public perspectives and knowledge in scientific discourse and policy-making. This article will present citizen science as a proper and passionate participatory research methodology for research and knowledge generation, offering a transformative way to the democratisation of social research. Being a relatively new but rapidly growing field, citizen science expands public involvement in science and research and supports alternative models of knowledge production (Hecker et al, 2018). For decades being below the radar for most professional scientists and policymakers, citizen science nowadays aims for multiple social goals beyond scientifically robust findings and can very well provide empowering tools for citizens to develop solutions to their communities’ problems. It also increases science literacy and overall public awareness about the science. On the other hand, there are also sceptical voices regarding citizen science data quality issues, claiming that citizen science lacks scientific and theoretic standards.

Authors of this paper are from Eastern EU countries, Lithuania and Hungary, where citizen science initiatives are unnoticed, rare or silent; hardly any projects can be identified that use the term ‘citizen science’ for self-definition. The fact that the term has limited acknowledgement represents unequal knowledge production and multiple science cultures within and beyond Europe. The paper will point out how citizen science in such a context could help us to decolonise research. The paper is based on qualitative data analysis.

Academic Neo-colonialism in Writing Practices: Geographic Markers in Three Journals from Japan, Turkey and the US

Murat Ergin, Aybike Alkan

Koc University, Turkey

A global academic division of labor haunts contemporary academic production, and affects how scholars from different regions present the context and the methodological assumptions of their research. The epistemological implications assign southern knowledge to the status of “data” for the use of northern “theory.” The institutional consequences affect the training and promotion of scholars, and the distribution of academic resources. The persistence of global power relations in academic production is partially an indicator of the achievement of the West in establishing a Eurocentric relationship with the rest of the world. This paper looks at the manifestations of the contemporary academic division of labor in scholarly writing. We examine articles published in three international academic journals, based in Japan, Turkey, and the United States (American Sociological Review, Social Science Japan Journal, and New Perspectives on Turkey), and focus on the different ways in which authors use geographic markers, words that indicate that a title, an abstract, or a sentence is written in reference to a particular location—a country, a city, or another geographic entity. Scholarship in the North relies on a writing style that reflects and reproduces its privileged position in the global academic division of labor. However, southern scholars tend to write in a style that makes heavy use of geographic markers, which reflects their underprivileged position in global academic world as “case” or “data” producers for northern theory.

“Politik als Beruf”. Thinking the Quality of Public Action

Fiorella Vinci

eCampus University, Italy

The contemporary debate regarding elites embodies, frequently and not without misunderstandings, also that regarding the competencies of the elites (Rosanvallon 2017). In western societies, once the pact between ruling classes and society broken (Magatti 2009), in the era of the digital revolution, higher education appears ineffective and functional exclusively for the reproduction of traditional elites. But can the profession of politician today disregard a higher and academic education? And as social scientists how can we contribute to this debate? Proceeding from these questions, the paper proposes to analyse, according to an institutional-generative logic, some qualities of political man identified in the well-known Weberian conference. The analytical-historic perspective is the first lesson that the Weberian study offers: the struggle and selection for power always occurs within specific frames and institutional communities and is ever more, the constant result of a process of professionalisation in which the relationship between ethics, science and politics comes to the fore (Bruhns, Duran 2009). Making, in a Faustian way, a pact with the devil characterises the profession of politician but does not exhaust his action; the exercise of the ethics of conviction is not distinctive of its action, he must give proof of an ethics of responsibility. But what is the ethics of responsibility? How and where can it be learned? At the beginning of the 21st century reflecting on the ethics of responsibility could perhaps constitute an interdisciplinary research programme in the light of which one could rethink the historical sciences of human culture.

Doing Participatory Action Research In Times Of Neoliberism

Andrea Vargiu1, Mariantonietta Cocco1, Zoraida Mendiwelso-Bendek2

1Università di Sassari, Italy; 2Lincoln University, United Kingdom

During last decades Participatory Action Research (PAR)/Community Based Research (CBR) have developed as a prominent approach to social research and learning based grounded on a dialogical and dialectic methodology and epistemologies.

The development of this approach respond to disciplinary tensions within the complexity of social sciences and to challenges and dilemmas arising from direct research discourses and practices. Academic literature related to these factors abounds, whereas wider societal issues that significantly contribute to determine the evolutions of both are much less explored. Nevertheless, one might find it hard to say the overall societal context within which they evolved hasn’t changed since the early days of PAR/CBR; or maybe there are new articulations that have enriched the PAR/CBR without challenging dominant epistemologies.

In this presentation, authors will introduce some levels of discussions of the implications societal changes have vis-à-vis theory and practice of PAR/CBR, notably by referring to present context within which – willing or not – all actors classically involved in PAR activities (researchers, citizens, practitioners, policy makers) act in arenas that are strongly marked by dominant epistemologies.

Discussion will follow based on reference to practical action research experiences about ways to work out coherent and effective practices aimed at positive social change.