ECPR kicked off on the 8th September, 2016, with panels running all day, leading to an outstanding keynote address by the noted UCLA scholar, and sociologist, Rogers Brubaker. The plenary lecture was given in the Municipal Hall, an extraordinary building boasting some of the work of the most famous Czech artists.
Rogers Brubaker’s lecture was superb; a way of thinking through religiously-driven political conflict drawing on the work of Weber and Durkheim. The real point to be made here is that what informs these different religious orientations are distinct ontologies that give rise to different kinds of violence modalities – with their own mechanisms, beliefs, structures and rewards. We were then welcomed by the City of Prague to a fabulous reception – capping off a great day.
Earlier in the day GESF’s Maria Guerrero Farias presented some of her early findings from her doctoral fieldworkon post-conflict and citizenship education in Colombia. Maria was part of a panel discussing these issues, and found some resonances with the other presenters, as well as a stream of work on the topic and the possibilities of joining a wider network of scholars. This is when a conference really works for a new scholar; dipping one’s feet in, meeting like-minded others, and seeing what future collaborations might be possible.
Up early for a 9.00 start, as some of us are staying away from the main venue – in the Embassy district in a great place called Vila Lanna. It is owned by the Czech Academy of Social Sciences, but they let out rooms to travellers. The Vila itself is a piece of art in and of itself, but it is the peaceful and large gardens, as well as its close proximity to the tube station, that make this a place worth considering for a reasonable cost.
GESF’s Janja Komljenovic organised the first panel today – on Making Markets in Higher Education which she presented on, along with Susan Robertson, whilst Roger Dale was the panel discussant. Janja’s paper presented work from her completed PhD – that is waiting to be examined – on a new approach to markets and HE; as a project that needs a great deal of work through framing new buying and selling activity, sellers pushing at the boundaries of what has formally constituted the university, and the university itself being a buyer in some cases. Janja is a Marie Curie doctoral scholar located in GESF, and part of the Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE) programme funded by the European Commission.
Susan presented her paper drawing on ongoing work on the trade negotiations (TTIP, TTP, CETA, TISA) and education, and the contradictions for the state when effectively it negotiates away the capacity to manage the crises that are inevitable in capitalist development.
In short, capitalism needs political institutions. And when education is also constructed as an economic good and placed beyond politics, the capacity of the state to resolve issues like social inequalities through redistribution and other policy levers, or the means to ensure social cohesion takes place through state imposed norms, the likely outcome is a deep crisis for capital. It was great to see some of these issues being picked up in the twittersphere as the day rolled on.
Overall, a great couple of days in a stunning city, the languid September temperature lulling us into the hope that summer will run and run, at least for a few more days as we talk and walk in the City of Spires. Day 3 rolls in tomorrow; do tune in.
Signing off for a beer……from all of today’s crew….Susan, Maria, Janja, Roger, Que Anh
Editor’s Note: Susan L. Robertson is Professor of Sociology of Education in the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol and Director of the Centre for Globalisation, Education and Social Futures. Her research is concerned with the changing nature of education as a result of transformations in the wider global, regional and local economies and societies, and the changing scales on which ideas, power and politics is negotiated. Contact: S.L.Robertson@bristol.ac.uk