Recommended event – Social Morphogenesis: Five Years of Inquiring Into Social Change – 30 May 2017


Postmodernity. Second modernity. Network Society. Late modernity. Liquid modernity. Such concepts have dominated social thought in recent decades, with a bewildering array of claims about social change and its implications. But what do we mean by ‘social change’? How do we establish that such change is taking place? What does it mean to say that it is intensifying? These are some of the questions which the Social Morphogenesis project has sought to answer in the last five years, through an inquiry orientated around the speculative notion of ‘morphogenic society’.

In this launch event, contributors to the project discuss their work over the last five years and the questions it gas addressed concerning social change. The day begins with an introductory lecture by the convenor of the project, Margaret S. Archer, before a series of thematic panels presenting different stands of the project. It concludes with a closing session in which participants share three issues the project raised for them, as well as a general discussion.

At the end of the day, there will be a wine reception to which all participants are invited. There will also be an opportunity to purchase discounted copies of the books from Springer.

Ismael Al-Amoudi
Margaret S. Archer
Mark Carrigan
Pierpaolo Donati
Emmanuel Lazega
Andrea M. Maccarini
Jamie Morgan
Graham Scambler (Chair)

More speakers to be confirmed.
DATE AND TIME: Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 1:00 PM – 7:00 PM BST

LOCATION: The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

‘Decolonising the curriculum’: Seminar 1

Editor’s note: Susan L. Robertson, Faculty of Education, Cambridge

The Decolonising Curriculum in Theory and Practice seminar series kicked off yesterday  at the University of Cambridge to a great turn-out. This provocative and important series has been convened by Drs Arathi Sriprakash (Education), Adam Branch (POLIS), Monica Figueroa (Sociology) and Manali Desai (Sociology). This initiative has been  funded by the Centre for Research in Arts Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge. More details can be found at

This blog post was written by Lottie Hoare to capture the conversation.


Question: Can we change the structure of universities? From the outset it was obvious that this event was not an opportunity to present ‘decolonising the curriculum’ as an easy answer to all the struggles universities face today. Instead it was a chance to interrogate why this idea has come to the fore now in the UK and to ask how ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ can be used to introduce an experience of learning that does not leave students graduating with a shiny photograph of themselves in an antiquated outfit symbolizing ‘qualifications’, a huge debt and a body of knowledge which has reinforced the assumptions, experiences and limitations of past generations of scholarship.

Kehinde Andrews, Associate Professor of Sociology, who runs the UK’s first Black Studies degree at Birmingham City University, opened the discussion with a reminder that it was no coincidence that ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ had become widely discussed in the UK at the very time that fees had been raised to 9000K. Universities are concerned, up to a point, to offer students courses that they want. Modules that build on students’ awareness of societies’ entrenched inequalities attract attention. If someone is going to take on that debt it soothes their conscience to know that they are researching problems that urgently need attention. However, as Kehinde pointed out, the university, as a ‘progressive institution’ is a relatively recent concept, perhaps dating from the 1960s. Historically universities in the UK have been ‘the master’s house’ reproducing inequalities and devising and propagating ideas such as Eugenics. The audience was reminded that it was not simply a case of seeing the university as a racist institution, it has been argued that the university IS racism.

Kehinde conveyed conviction and optimism about how despite these contradictions there is no point in wallowing in apathetic despair about the predominantly white neoliberal university, that has developed out of a troubled legacy of intellectual elitism. Instead we need to use the privileges of the space of the university to have discussions, write books that will be read and crucially, genuinely break down the divides between universities and every one else.

The audience and the other two speakers were then left to juggle with the tensions around how we break down that very divide when much of universities income is drawn from asking young people to borrow large sums of money to buy an identity which sets them apart from everyone else.

Kerem Nisancioglu,  a Lecturer in international relations from SOAS, spoke next about the problems of working in a field such as international relations, which remains relatively silent on the topic of Empire. Kerem observed that using a word like ‘decolonising’ without deconstructing what it means brings pitfalls. Decolonizing the curriculum is in danger of becoming ‘buzz words’ and being co-opted, as diversity has sometimes been, as a means of an institution drawing attention to itself to say ‘How great are we!’

Kerem pointed out that decolonizing anything can be a project of complete chaos and asked how we can find a way to ‘be toxic’ to universities as institutions and yet at the same time rescue the university as a safe space for shared learning. Can we de-colonise our minds and contribute to the construction of new ideas and practices through training and research that is informed by a university community that reflects a genuine widened participation?

Sarah Radcliffe, Professor in Latin American Geography, University of Cambridge, spoke next of the strengths of geography as a discipline which has a long history of introducing the destructive impact of colonialism to students, not just through an understanding of the ‘colonial present’ for example in the Middle East but also in looking at how the domination of the natural world can also be understood as a form of colonialism. She however acknowledged that she was working with a mainly white group of students and staff who both actively enjoy their research and simultaneously become disillusioned about the world in which they were living and working. She also referenced research that reveals how working in unfamiliar underprivileged communities does not often change the mindset of those who go with good intentions. Often the condescension of neo-colonialism lives on through travel.

The audience participation at this gathering grappled with how we find a realistic way to work in universities so that we don’t reinforce the culture of those who can easily afford the costs filling all the places. If in the process of decolonizing the curriculum we become so unwilling to compromise with those in powerful positions in universities, because the nature of their power was built on decisions with which we do not wholly agree, do we then unwittingly put off certain students from even applying?

Those for whom no predicted family inheritance will pay off their debts and who chose to ask difficult questions about society which mean that a career working to help their local community seems a more ethical choice than finance – will they be put off from signing up for degrees at all? The ensuing discussion also touched on how global power networks can ignore local antagonisms; why anti-austerity protesters are so often white; how universities may play a part in exacerbating certain problems around the pay gap for Black students and whether the curriculum needs to be decolonized from primary school onwards to really challenge long held assumptions?

The underlying tension loomed up in conversation, namely that some universities avoid concrete change in their curriculums because they perceive the debates within white scholarship to be the rigorous and established debates. However, students spoke up to acknowledge respect for the appointments that were made where staff had the courage and the experience to tackle those fears about how curriculums evolve across the centuries. We were left with a compelling problem of how we pull the struggles together and recognize that activism plays a part in learning. Kehinde observed that we are working within boundaries in a university and in the long term those boundaries might become untenable, but in the here and now we need to work ‘in, through and against’ the university, all at the same time.

About the author:

Lottie Hoare is a PhD Candidate (AHRC 2013-2016) in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and  Research Assistant for ‘Sir Alec Clegg Revisited’

Seminar on global regionalisms and higher ed – by S. Robertson, R. Dale and QA. Dang, 27 October 2016 12:30 – 14:00 IoE, London

Global regionalisms and higher education: from projects to politics and theory.

  • Thursday, 27 October 2016 12:30 – 14:00
  • Room TBC, UCL Institute of Education
  • Susan L. Robertson, University of Cambridge
  • Roger Dale, University of Bristol
  • Que Anh Dang, University of Bristol


Drawing on their recently published book on Global regionalisms and higher education (published by Edward Elgar, 2016) Robertson, Dale and Dang argue that despite the proliferation of various region-building projects around the world as a reaction to globalisation – from Europe to Latin America, Africa and Asia – that there has been very little, if any, systematic engagement by higher education scholars in theorising these developments.

The presenters outline some lines of theoretical and empirical enquiry developed by the different authors in the book, which open up some new ways of thinking about regionalisms and inter-regionalisms, where higher education is both a key sector in regional development.

Collectively the chapters make the case that globally, higher education is being transformed by regionalising and inter-regionalising projects aimed at resolving ongoing economic, political and cultural challenges within and beyond national territorial states.


All seminars are free and open to the public. No advance booking required.


You can watch this seminar via CGHE’s livestream link

The seminar will draw on a recent publication by the presenters: Robertson et al., Global Regionalisms and Higher Education, published by Edward Elgar – see here for more details.

GESF at ECPR in Prague – Day 3

Day 3 

Most of the presentations for the Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation have been held in the Faculty of Arts Building of Charles University, here in Prague. This Faculty building of the University sits on the banks of Smetana’s famous Vltava River, a waterway which flows through the city – Prague Castle on the one side, the fantastic Old City Square on the other, with elegant bridges that span its banks.

It is easy to be distracted from matters of the mind; the seats gracing the river are well used perching points to just sit and contemplate. Numerous boats,  all loaded with eager tourists  hoping to make the most of the generous last days of summer, steam up and down.  We have already posted some thoughts on arriving, along with a review of Day 1 and 2. Day 3 beckons, and we head inside.

GESF’s Que Ang Dang presented her paper the final panel under the broad title of  Transnational Actors in Knowledge Policies – Ideas, Interests and Institutions.  Her paper on the Anatomy of Influence, Regional Governance and the Bologna and ASEM Secretariats, draws from her European Commission funded project as part  of the Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE) – to be concluded in 2016. Que Anh is also one of the editors of our new book on Global Regionalisms and Higher Education which was launched at ECPR this week, as well as having a chapter in it on ASEM.

Lots of great questions were asked of Que Anh from the audience and the discussant. But sitting in the audience listening, and it repeatedly reminded us all of the importance of extensive and intensive field work that gets at the complex details of the micro-processes of power within bigger power structures. This takes a great deal of skill in knowing who to approach to get access, and how to use that privilege in ways that are both ethically consistent but also revealing of the complexities of – in this case – advancing inter-regional projects.

GESF’s Tore Sorensen also had a paper in this panel on Industrial Relations in Global Education Governance. Tore was unable to make it in the end because of pressing commitments to finish his PhD. But his paper is on the ECPR website, and makes for a fantastically interesting read on the ways in which the OECD and teacher unions globally have been advancing new tools of governing with major implications for where and how industrial relations work gets done.

The Conference is now over. We have enjoyed meeting old friends and making new acquaintances.  We’re back to Bristol tomorrow, and reluctantly say goodbye to Prague and ECPR.

We’d particularly like to thank the organizers for this Conference. Having recently run our own in Bristol, and in comparison ours was a baby conference, we know the amount of work it takes. Mitch Young our Standing Group Host who is at Charles University deserves a special thanks who, along with Meng-Hsuen Chou from Nanyang University in Singapore, have done so much to bring ensure the growth and success of the Standing Group.

So, thankyou ECPR from GESF, and we’ll see you again next year.

Signing off: Susan, Roger, Janja, Que Anh, Maria, Tore, Aliandra

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 (GESF). 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:

GESF at ECPR in Prague – Day 1 and 2

Day One

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. img_0440

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.



From left: Roger Dale; Rogers Brubaker; Maria Guerrero Farias

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.

Day Two

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.


Janja Komljenovic

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.

20160909_092038 (1).jpg

Susan Robertson

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


Prague Castle by night

City Hall, Prague

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:

Call for Contributions: ‘Utopia at the Border’ – September 2016

The fourth symposium of the Imaginaries of the Future Research Network

University of Regensburg, 20-22nd September 2016

‘There was a wall. It did not look important…’ – Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed

‘[We seek]…a world without borders, where no one is prevented from moving because of where you were born, or because of race, class or economic resources…’ – No Borders UK

‘We resolve…to strengthen control over our territories and to not permit the entry of any government functionary nor of a single transnational corporation.’ – The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador

Borders are a key feature of our present. Whether national, regional, physical, electronic, cognitive, performative or cultural, they unevenly regulate the movement of bodies, ideas, objects, capital and bytes. Geopolitical borders are frequently sites of domination, but they may also provide solace for oppressed groups, some of whom actively call for or construct borders so they might protect their ways of living and advance their struggles. Conceptual borders allow us to grasp a complex world, but may inhibit understanding, communication and change. Temporal borders, meanwhile, seek to fix history into discrete categories of past, present and future.

Yet borders are not permanent. They remain a key site of contestation and struggle; and must continually be remade through technology, performance and often violence. And border crossings transform subjects, the space-times they leave, and the space-times they enter; as well as borders themselves. This means that utopianism – praxis that seeks to transform space and time – has much to offer contemporary ways of relating to borders. It can educate our desire for alternatives, and by showing us these alternatives – in fiction, theory or practice – estrange us from borders as they currently exist. The need for utopian rethinking and contestation of borders strikes us as particularly urgent given the current refugee crisis in Europe, and the continued role of borders in neocolonial dispossession around the world. Yet whilst a utopian lens may have much to offer the thinking and practice of borders this does not mean that the utopian is without borders of its own. Indeed, despite a turn to ‘the horizon’ and process in recent utopian theory, borders play a key role in many fictional utopias and dystopias; in ‘real world’ utopian communities; and in definitions of utopia itself.

Utopia at the Border aims to consider the relationship between borders and the utopian. Borders are to be critically examined even as participants question their own relationships to borders through their work and travel. We would also like to think through what is gained and lost by extending the notion of borders beyond the geopolitical. We welcome papers of up to 20 minutes and are open to artistic or activist contributions; as well as to interventions that fall between or go beyond such boundaries. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this informally before submitting a proposal, or if you would like to take up more than 20 minutes.  A special issue of the Open Library of the Humanities journal will be produced drawing on presentations from the symposium. This will form part of the Imaginaries of the Future publication series.

Papers may engage with one or more of the following aspects of borders, although this is by no means an exhaustive list:

The borders of utopia and dystopia

  • Borders in utopian and dystopian texts
  • The borders of utopian communities
  • Anti-borders utopianism in theory, fiction and practice

Colonialism, Indigeneity and borders

  • Colonial border construction and praxis
  • Reservations
  • Indigenous borders
  • New and future borders: Antarctica, under the sea, extraterrestrial?

(Anti-)border technologies and practices

  • Passports
  • Walls, fences, barricades
  • Raids, detention and deportation
  • Metrics and biometrics
  • Anti-borders activism

(Refusing) temporal borders

  • The division of time into past, present and future
  • Spatial borders as temporal borders
  • Spatial history
  • The ‘not-yet’, the immanent, the prefigurative

Borders, identity and the body

  • Borders, race and racialization
  • Non-conforming bodies at the border
  • Affect at the border
  • Mestiza and cross-border identities

Public space, the commons and enclosure

  • Borders and the commons
  • Gated communities
  • Border technologies in urban space
  • Vertical borders

Cross border (non-) communication

  • Online borders
  • Disciplinary and conceptual borders
  • Censorship and gate-keeping
  • Communication technologies and border activism

More-than-human/non-human borders

  • Non-humans at the border
  • Finance, goods and trade
  • Wilderness, nature and ecology
  • Chemical, biological and physical borders/boundaries

Art of the border; art at the border; art against the border

  • The architecture and aesthetics of (former) border crossings
  • Artistic performance and representation of/at borders, their crossings and their refusals
  • Passport design

 Beyond borders

  • Non-state space; the state of exception
  • Necropolitics and the border
  • Exile and statelessness
  • International waters

Struggles with and against borders

  • Fortress Europe and the migrant crisis
  • Border struggles and crossings in history, religion and myth
  • Smuggling

Borders and labour

  • Freedom of movement and ‘the career’
  • Borders and divisions of labour
  • University staff as border agents

The Network

Questions about the future are usually either goal-oriented, presupposing specific outcomes; or presume that the future is impenetrable, rendering thinking about it as irrelevant or fanciful. Confronted with these modes of thinking, the Leverhulme Trust funded Imaginaries of the Future Network investigates questions about the nature of futural knowledge; and seeks to understand how different disciplines conceptualise the future in order to enact change. Organised around a succession of internationaltransdisciplinary encounters between leading and emerging scholars, artists, activists and others, the Network intervenes in current disciplinary methods and approaches to questions about the future.

Cost & Bursaries

There is no fee to attend the symposium. Lunches and refreshments will be provided during the conference. Five bursaries – two of up to £1000, and three of up to £350 – will be awarded through open competition to individuals who wish to contribute to the symposium. These can be used to cover food, travel and accommodation costs, but can only be reclaimed after the symposium upon production of receipts. The larger bursaries are intended for applicants traveling a significant distance to attend the symposium. We welcome submissions from all academic career stages, as well as from non academics. Bursary recipients will be expected to contribute a piece of writing and/or embedded media to the Network blog.


Please send proposals (up to 300 words) to and Please indicate in your email if you would be interested in contributing to the special journal issue, which would have a deadline in spring 2017. The deadline for proposals is midnight (BST) on Sunday June 12th.

 If you have any questions about this call please email


2nd International Conference on CPE – 25 and 26 August 2016 @GSoE University of Bristol

This is a reminder about the approaching abstract submission deadline for the Second International Conference on Cultural Political Economy (CPE)which will be held on 25 and 26 August 2016 in Bristol, UK.

This year’s theme is Putting Culture in its Place in Political Economy

The conference will be hosted by the Centre for Globalisation, Education & Social FuturesGraduate School of Education, University of Bristol.

It builds on the highly successful event held at the University of Lancaster in 2015 hosted by Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum in partnership with Lancaster’s Cultural Political Economy Research Centre (CPERC). The conference is an important part of the ongoing development of a theoretical and empirical engagement with Cultural Political Economy. Continue reading

Lunchtime Workshop with Isabella Bakker – 26 April

Lunchtime Workshop with Isabella Bakker

Tuesday, 26 April 2016, 12-2pm

35 Berkeley Square, Helen Wodehouse Building, Room 3.18

Isabella Bakker is Distinguished Research Professor of Political Science at York University and a York Research Chair on Global Economic Governance, Gender and Human Rights. She is a leading authority in the fields of political economy, public finance, gender and development. She has held visiting professorships at a number of institutions including the European University Institute, New York University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has also held consultancies with the United Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Canadian government as well as with numerous advocacy groups dedicated to advancing economic and social justice. Her most recent book (with Brigitte Young and Diane Elson) is Questioning Financial Governance from a Feminist Perspective (Routledge).

The Gender and Global Political Economy Research Groups are delighted to host Professor Bakker and we have organised an informal lunchtime session with her, open to all. She will be making a brief presentation about her work with an interactive session afterwards for participants to discuss our shared research interests.

Please sign up for a place here to arrange catering:


Özlem Onaran – Wage-led growth and the political aspects of wage-led recovery – 19 April

Global Political Economy Seminar

Professor Özlem Onaran
University of Greenwich
Tuesday, 19 April, 16:00-17:30
Room G.15, 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road.
Wage-led growth and the political aspects of wage-led recovery
This paper presents the empirical evidence about the impact of the simultaneous race to the bottom in labour’s share on growth after taking global interactions into account based on the Post-Kaleckian theoretical framework. The world economy and large economic areas are likely to be wage-led; and parameter shifts in different periods are unlikely to make a difference in this finding. The effects that can come from a wage-led recovery on growth and hence employment are positive, however they are also modest in magnitude. We then present an alternative scenario based on a policy mix of wage increases and public investment. A coordinated mix of polices in the G20 targeted to increase the share of wages in GDP by 1%-5% in the next 5 years and to raise public investment in social and physical infrastructure by 1% of GDP in each country can create up to 5.84% more growth in G20 countries. The final section addresses policy proposals and the political aspects and barriers to a wage-led recovery.
The two papers for the talk:
Özlem Onaran is Professor of Economics at the University of Greenwich and the director of the Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre. She has done extensive research on issues of inequality, wage-led growth, employment, globalization, gender, and crises. She has directed research projects for the International Labour Organisation, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, the Foundation of European Progressive Studies, the Vienna Chamber of Labour, the Austrian Science Foundation, and Unions21. She is member of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation of European Progressive Studies, Scientific Advisory Board of Hans Boeckler Foundation, and the Policy Advisory Group of the Women’s Budget Group. She has more than seventy articles in books and peer reviewed journals such as Cambridge Journal of Economics, World Development, Environment and Planning A, Public Choice, Economic Inquiry, European Journal of Industrial Relations, International Review of Applied Economics, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Eastern European Economics, and Review of Political Economy.


In pictures: GESF at CIES 2016

Congratulation to GESF Members: Professor Roger Dale, Que Anh Dang and Janja Komljenovic on their compelling contributions to the 60th Annual Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) in Vancouver earlier this week. They have presented a series of papers on regionalism and market-making, as well as convening panels on the significance of ‘civilisation’ in comparative education research, and on markets and trade in education. Here are a few imagines from their sessions.

For more information about their contributions to this year’s CIES conference, please visit: