How do social scientists grasp the gulf between the individual and the global?

Event Concept – Version 2.0 (Previous) (Next)

The Situation: There are over 7 billion people living together on one planet in 2017, as well as a vast diversity of other life forms and ways of living. We are becoming ever more aware of each other, whether through wholesale urbanisation, massive dislocation, climate change, population growth, digital technologies, or resource distribution. There are multiple institutions, groups, and beliefs that try to make sense of the complexity that this involves.

Answers so far: Social Scientists have been a part of studying, mediating, educating and advocating on how people have come to make sense of, live with and relate to this complexity. At times social scientists have been key to developing ideas that can help with this process, in particular in mobilising people through developing, resisting and critiquing ideas of class, race, gender, nation, religion, culture, and capital. Furthermore Social Scientists have supported, resisted and critiqued ways of understanding, resisting and ordering the complexity of life in the form of religions, states, markets, brands,identities, and multinational corporations. These are to name a few of the ideas and structures that help individuals understand themselves as part of larger wholes.

The Problem being Addressed: This event proposes that this world is asking for better ideas for grasping and ways of ordering the complexity of life that exists in the gulf between the individual and the globalised planet.  This event questions whether any of the structures we are working within are still fit for purpose in a world where over 7 billion people and other life forms can live better together. This event further questions whether there is a distinct lack of strategy in answering this problem. This event invites social science researchers to share and discuss how their work addresses ‘the situation’ and ‘the problem’; what examples from the people they work with and ideas that have emerged from their work, can grasp and help people work with this complexity.

Grasping the Gulf: The word grasp is used to signal that we have yet to develop an understanding that goes beyond intellectually bridging the gap between the macro-scale of the globe and its myriad contents, and the micro-scale of the person conceptualised as an individual. To grasp means to be able to meaningfully and personally comprehend, at the same time as acting, but in doing so neither the grasping or the grasped need to have or own the other. The word gulf is used to signal that there is great and challenging complexity between two such vastly different scales (of individual and global), but that it is conceivably graspable. Hence to grasp this gulf is to develop a workable idea that can be related to at both an individual and global scale, for the mutual benefit of both. However this event is open to these word be interpreted in alternate ways including ‘contextualising the complexity of life that exists between the person and the world’.

Politics of Research: The organisers of this event recognise that Social Science is a big umbrella covering a diversity of social scientists and students of various disciplines. This event respects that everyone has a different personal constitution and are comfortable or capable with different levels of commitment to the different facets of being a social scientist, whether that be scholar, educator, mediator or activist. All social science research and projects are inherently political, whether recognised or unrecognised, and as such are using this event to provide a space for social sciences students to reflect on this, rather than be dictated by it. Recognising these points is helpful in developing ideas that address the problem this event is focused on.

This event invites social science researchers to come together to discuss and brainstorm on the above. In particular you are invited to share your research through addressing the following:

  • In what ways do participants in your research, or your research outcomes, make sense of a complex world through grasping the gulf between the individual and global?
  • What methods, aims, and infrastructures of Social Science need to be added, removed, kept or changed, in order to better grasp the gulf between the individual and global?
  • What ideas have emerged from your research that grasp the gulf between the individual and global?