The ISRF Bulletin

Beginning with the November 2013 inaugural issue, the thrice-yearly ISRF Bulletin will provide information on the interdisciplinary research of its Fellows. Each issue will be themed around a topic, methodology or debate of interest within (and across) the social sciences, and will consist of a number of short articles produced by our Fellows based on their research, as well as calling on our academic advisors and others following the ISRF’s work for their views.

Queries regarding the bulletin should be directed to Dr Rachael Kiddey.

Issue 14: 'So Far So Good...?' - Conversations on Today's Future

Why is the future a topic for social science? Why was it one for the ISRF’s 2017 Annual Workshop? The theme answers to the focus of the ISRF on ‘real-life’ problems; the ones we have now, and the ones we might encounter in the future having all too often brought them upon ourselves. As we tell our students, the social world is an object of study for us because we are curious about what happens to us and want to understand things now, and also because we want to act so as to secure or at least to influence the future in our favour. We want, that is, the best possible future we can imagine.

Featuring contributions from Annelien de Dijn, Alessandra Gribaldo, Erin Kavanagh, Josephine Lethbridge, Ian Loader, Emanuele Lobina, Nina Moeller, Patrick Overeem, Murray Pratt, Jayne Raisborough, William H. Sewell Jr., Charles Stewart, Sherrill Stroschein, James Symonds, Jay Wiggan and Hansjakob Ziemer.

Issue 13: Today's Future - Challenges & Opportunities Across the Social Sciences

What does the future look like from where we are now? For a brief, post-Second World War period, ‘the future’ looked to be ripe with opportunity, promising a fairer and less divided society, better public services, and a gradual softening of Europe’s cultural, economic and geographic boundaries. Nevertheless, following the U.K.’s EU Referendum and the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA, and while tensions continue to escalate in Syria, Turkey and the Korean peninsula, we find ourselves at what might well be looked back on as a significant crossroads. So what does the future hold now?

Featuring contributions from András Bozóki (Central European University), Elizabeth Chatterjee (University of Chicago), Jurgen De Wispelaere (University of Bath), Adam Leaver (Alliance Manchester Business School), Emanuele Lobina (University of Greenwich), and Keir Martin (University of Oslo).

Issue 12: Quantitative/Qualitative - Challenging The Binary

The theme for this issue arose from the recognition that often (but not always) social researchers define themselves by whether or not they use broadly quantitative or qualitative analytical approaches. It seems strange that this is so since who can really claim that they never rely on the clarity and fixity of numbers during some stage of their work? Equally, how can those who depend on complicated mathematical models to explain the world (but rarely venture out to look at what exists) suggest that none of what they do may be characterised as qualitative? Surely, the binary is nonsense!

Featuring contributions from Gabriele Badano (CRASSH; Girton College, Cambridge), Trenholme Junghans (CRASSH; Girton College, Cambridge), ISRF Early Career Fellow Patrick Overeem (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), and ISRF Mid-Career Fellow Sherrill Stroschein (UCL).

Issue 11: The Ethical and/is the Social

ISRF Bulletin Issue XI: The Ethical and/is the SocialPartly inspired by the long-standing theme of transformation implicit in the work of Margaret Archer and colleagues at the Centre for Social Ontology, this issue is entitled ‘The Ethical and is the Social’; contributions share a common goal which is to combine methodological, conceptual and empirical approaches, drawn from across the social sciences, to improve understanding of society and tackle the challenges we face. Truth be told, this edition is economics heavy but, as contributors variously argue, let this serve a friendly invitation from the rest of social science to economics to embrace the ‘social’ in ‘social science’.

Featuring contributions from Sheila Dow (University of Stirling), Christopher Gregory (Australian National University), 2015 ISRF Essay Prize in Economics recipient Julie A. Nelson (University of Massachusetts, Boston), and the team behind the ISRF-funded Responsibility and Human Enhancement project.

Issue 10: Discovery & Recognition

ISRF Bulletin Issue X: Discovery & RecognitionThis issue of the Bulletin is brimming with ideas and reflections on how social science interrupts the world. Beginning with a note from Charles Stewart (University College London), this edition contains articles written by ISRF Fellows, incoming and outgoing, and an informal conversation on the theme with David Graeber (London School of Economics), one of the ISRF’s first Fellows.

Featuring contributions from ISRF Early Career Fellows Nishat Awan (University of Sheffield) & Oche Onazi (University of Dundee), and ISRF Independent Scholar Fellows Joel Lazarus (University of Warwick) and Maja Petrović-Šteger (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts).

Issue 9: Economics - ...Serious, But Not Hopeless

ISRF Bulletin Issue 9: Economics - ...Serious, But Not HopelessIn the previous issue, Economics: The Situation is Serious…, problems with global economics in its current incarnations were identified. Economics, to crudely paraphrase contributors to the last edition of the Bulletin, left out History, refused to collaborate with Philosophy and Social Science and made an impolite gesture to Ethics, before racing off with all the toys. The result was not only disappointing and immoral but dangerous and potentially fatal for those with financial shoulders less broad. In this issue, Economics: …Serious, But Not Hopeless, the aim is to suggest possible ways to tackle problems posed earlier.

Issue 8: Economics - The Situation is Serious...

Axel Leijonhufvud once remarked that the conclusions of economics and the policies it prescribes ‘offend people’. While this phrase can be taken in the ordinary sense of offending feelings, we can notice (what may well have been behind his remark) that to ‘offend’ is, etymologically, to strike against and so, by extension of meaning, to injure. Economics’ failure has not only been one of delivery. The situation is (even) more serious than that, for economics has become injurious to human beings, in ways that need no spelling out.

In this issue of the Bulletin we bring to the fore the ISRF’s founding concern with the ethical dimension to economics, a concern which Axel Leijonhufvud insistently kept in view during his years as an Academic Advisor. The contributors have all met their brief to make their views accessible to the general social scientific readership of the Bulletin. The articles are demanding but not obscure, and their different takes on the current state of economics are neatly summarised in Rachael Kiddey’s Editorial.

Issue 7: Social Science as Communication

Following the third annual ISRF workshop, this year held in Edinburgh, it seemed only correct that the Bulletin should reflect the wide range of discussions and comments raised in response to the workshop theme, ‘social science as communication’. The interdisciplinary mix represented by Fellows made for diverse conceptions of both ‘social science’ and ‘communication’, while the active, multi-media approach to presentations stimulated a tantalising array of questions and comments from audience members. Is all social science communication? With whom are we communicating when we do social science? Why limit communication solely to that between humans? How does perception affect the potential for miscommunication? Are new technologies and mass-communication tools a help or a hindrance in conducting social research? These questions and more are ruminated upon by workshop organisers and ISRF Fellows in a number of ways in this workshop edition of the Bulletin.

Issue 6: Power

For the sixth issue of the ISRF Bulletin, Fellows were invited to offer contributions on the broad and ambiguous theme of ‘power’. The contributions received were remarkably consistent: engaging with power right now, for these ISRF Fellows, meant engaging with neoliberalism, colonialism and resistance. How power works matters for these social scientists because understanding its operations provides some clues as to how people can resist and self-determine.

The written contributors, Fellows and former Academic Advisor Chrysostomos Mantzavinos, were joined for this issue of the Bulletin by two guests. Swedish artist Mats Brate and Aboriginal elder and artist June Mills (from the Larrakia nation) worked with ISRF Editorial Assistant Rachael Kiddey to produce the very first ISRF Bulletin comic. Words and Power takes up the Bulletin theme in visual form.

Issue 5: Freedom

The issue captures a shared commitment of ISRF Fellows: to engage real world social problems in original ways. Freedom has long been a central concern of social scientists. In recent years, however, the words ‘resistance’, ‘critique’ and ‘agency’ have often replaced ‘freedom’ in academic discourse. Perhaps this is in part due to a turn away from large-scale thinking and theorizing, and a recognition of the risks and challenges attendant to researching something called ‘freedom’. Nonetheless, contributors to this Bulletin have risen to the challenge and returned ambitiously to the question of freedom.


This issue of the ISRF Bulletin is based on the annual workshop held this year at York on the theme of Critique and Critiques. For the foundation, the workshop is our opportunity to engage with large, unwieldy subjects and to ask our Fellows to discuss them in the contexts of their own research and scholarly fields. As a result, we are able to consider these topics from a number of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives.


This issue of the ISRF Bulletin explores one of the cornerstones of many a project in the social sciences: fieldwork. At once a methodological necessity and a disciplinary ‘rite of passage’, the fieldwork experience shapes both the researcher and project in equal measure. Three of our fellows – each of whom have employed ethnographic methods in their work – were asked to reflect upon their time ‘in the field’, and how it had impacted upon their projects.


Following our annual Workshop in May we at the ISRF discussed the benefits of drawing on the knowledge and experience of a group of interdisciplinary scholars, and realised that in addition to funding projects on very disparate topics, we had the opportunity to ask a series of interesting questions of this group and have them answered from a range of disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) perspectives. What could this reveal to us about the nature interdisciplinary research?

To this end, this issue of the ISRF Bulletin has taken as its focus some of the key areas of discussion at the Workshop on the theme of interdisciplinarity and innovation:

  • What role do established academic disciplines play within interdisciplinary work, and how should they be integrated?
  • How could interdisciplinary work be considered ‘innovative’?
  • What are the obstacles that face the interdisciplinary researcher, and how can they be overcome?


One of the ISRF’s key objectives is to look beyond what is inherently ‘interesting’ about a topic and imagine how exploring social, cultural, economic and political phenomena from an interdisciplinary perspective could have tangible impact on the world beyond academia. With this in mind, this issue will consider the real-life values of interdisciplinary social sciences research. It contains four articles on this theme, three by our Fellows Pál Nyíri, Andrea Ruggeri and Olly Dowlen, and one by Charles Stewart, Professor of Anthropology at UCL. The Fellows’ articles provide an outline of their projects before suggesting how their research could have wider implications beyond academia. Each, though only coincidentally, is sited within areas which might traditionally be categorised as ‘Politics’, but take place at three different levels.

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