A number of colleagues from four Schools (AS, HSC, MS, ST) met on Monday 27th June to consider whether a meaningful theme, complementary to those already in development, could be defined within the broad territory of the social sciences and humanities. We had a useful discussion around the following points:
- The themes are being defined as a way of presenting BU’s research externally, but may have internal effects, in promoting collaborations, inflecting research identities, etc.
- There will inevitably be major areas of overlap between several themes, given that all are broadly defined.
- Dialogue between themes in the development phase would help to clarify boundaries.
- The themes of ‘Creative & digital economies’ and ‘Leisure and tourism’, and also ‘Health and well-being’, were ones where overlaps and interfaces with a ‘culture&society’ one would be most obvious.
- Contributions to the debate about how to define a ‘culture&society’ theme had suggested that ‘history’ and ‘welfare’ were two important parameters, amongst others.
- In the discussion we were very aware of the need to introduce some limits to the theme, and of the possibility therefore that some ‘potential ‘members’ might not fit into the final definition of it.
- There was also a view that we should try to include both social scientific and more humanities-based researchers.
The proposal that the phrase ‘Cultural and social change’ might be an appropriate theme title was favourably received. While still very broad (no doubt in some contexts unhelpfully so), it puts implicit emphasis on the historical context (‘change’ being a process in time), which is important for those studying contemporary life as well as for those actually doing historical research. It would encompass researchers of different philosophical orientation, and is hospitable to agendas of social engagement (such as the social welfare vision from HSC, the commentaries on democratic culture from MS, contributions to media and cultural policy/production from MS and ST, and the perspectives on various social issues from AS). Whether the theme title can be modified to reflect explicitly this principle of engagement for social betterment remains to be seen.
The meeting decided that in order to produce a full prospectus for this theme we would invite any interested colleagues to contribute further inputs to it – building on or otherwise responding to the above – via the Research blog. These could be thoughts about the overall theme, or suggestions for specific elements to be within it. If you’d like to do so, please indicate which heading of the theme template you are addressing (summary, scope in/out, ‘big societal questions’ which the theme addresses, link to RC priorities, interlinks with other BU themes). Given the need to finalise a statement about the theme within the next month, we agreed that blog-based conversations and inputs could run until 15 July, at which point a smaller group would hopefully collate them into a generally acceptable statement which would establish the theme across at least the four Schools so far involved. Myself and Rosie Read are happy to play a part in that group; if anyone else is interested please let us know.
You can access the latest version of the scoping document for the Cultural & Society theme here: Cultural and Social Change – July 2011
In the meantime, to help consolidate the responses so far around this theme, please note that the previous two discussion threads entitled ‘Culture and Society (Rosie Read)‘ and ‘Culture and Society (Barry Richards)‘ are now closed and all future responses related to this theme should be made to this post using the link below. Thank you.