Beginning with the 2022 event, the ISRF Conference will provided a platform for conversations and discussions around a theme. Each Conference will be themed around a topic, methodology or debate of interest within (and across) the social sciences and humanities.

2024: Migration and Democracy in a Time of Climate Crisis – Call for Papers

Warsaw, Poland

7-9 October 2024

Our three topics for this year’s ISRF Conference have become trapped in a vicious cycle. Climate crisis increases migration, which has triggered anti-democratic backlash, which reduces international cooperation on climate, which allows the climate crisis to intensify. Each of these relationships is real, and each is rooted in myth. The ISRF invites papers on any of these three topics, or any combination of them. How can we interrupt this cycle and even reverse it? How can we treat underlying causes rather than addressing symptoms?

Migration has become a flashpoint in politics around the world. It divides centre-left parties and pushes them to the right, while radicalising traditional conservative parties into imitations of far-right and/or neo-fascist parties. People who rate migration as a top problem in their society are more likely than members of green or social democratic parties to perceive a danger of imminent societal dissolution. They are also more likely to favour non-democratic and/or military responses and the suspension of human rights protocols and international law.

Meanwhile, global democratisation has stalled or even reversed. The V-Dem Institute reports that 72% of the world’s population live in autocracies, 2% live in democratising countries (the fewest since 1973), and “advances in global levels of democracy made over the last 35 years have been wiped out.” Poland recently reversed its own backsliding, and yet the pressures on its democracy remain intense, including pressures from standard responses to migration.

Climate change continues to run rampant, and both public- and private-sector responses remain inadequate. On the same day that the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that the global average temperature from February 2023 to January 2024 was 1.52ºC above the average of the latter 19th century, the UK’s Labour Party cut their green investment promise in half.

The relationships among our three terms are complex. For example, on the links between climate change and migration, the UN reports that “climate-related disasters trigger more than half of new reported displacements in 2022, but nearly 60 per cent of refugees and internally displaced people now live in countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change.” A relatively low percentage of persons displaced by climate-related events migrate from the global north to the global south. We welcome papers shedding new light on this or any other of the relationships among our various terms.

A title and brief abstract are invited from researchers from any discipline: arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, including legal theory, political theory, ethnic and race studies, and others. We are also interested in papers that continue any of the themes of the past two years: The Digital Condition and Humanities Knowledge (Athens, 2022), and Climate Crisis, Global Capitalism, and Higher Education (Bologna, 2023). ISRF will cover accommodation and catering costs for all invited participants – a limited bursary fund may be available to cover travel costs, but delegates are encouraged to source funding from their home institutions.

Please indicate interest by email to Dr Lars Cornelissen – [email protected] – by 31st March 2024.

2023: Climate Crisis, Global Capitalism, and Higher Education

Palazzo Isolani, Bologna, Italy

2-4 November 2023

The earth’s climate is destabilising more quickly than models had predicted. Yet governments, corporations, and investors are not doing nearly enough about it. The finance and banking worlds have made a strong bid to control climate policy, sometimes called “green finance,” but research suggests the measures that they deem acceptable will be inadequate. Media discourse is divided, guarded, and ambiguous. Although majorities of the residents of many countries have moved to favour stronger climate action, the most powerful economic and political actors are not escalating their responses.

University researchers around the world have taken the leading role in climate science and in studying related analyses of political, economic, and cultural issues. At the same time, universities have been increasingly marginalized, underfunded, and problematised in recent years. Universities have not been willing or able to support all of the teaching and research that needs doing, so that most countries have small armies of independent scholars and precarious instructors working on their own or building small, autonomous institutions. 

In short, the climate crisis is also a crisis of neoliberal capitalism, and both of these are deepened by a knowledge crisis. Not enough research is funded, or is not of the right kind, or is not properly integrated across cultural, economic, and scientific fields, or is ignored by the public, or refused by governments, or denied by industry, or distorted by the media. Many of us have become fatalistic about these problems in a time when research needs to address them. The papers at this conference aimed to confront this fatalism and address these issues directly.

  • Marie Aronsson-Storier
    Lecturer in Law at University College Cork
  • Elena Baglioni
    Reader in Global Supply Chain Management and Sustainability, QMUL
  • Bill Balaskas
    Director, Centre for Practice Research in the Arts, Kingston University
  • Stefano Carattini
    Assistant Professor, Georgia State University
  • Federico Chicchi
    Associate Professor in Sociology and Business Law, University of Bologna
  • Anna Curcio
    Independent Scholar
  • Nicholas Cox
    Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies, Leeds Beckett University
  • Savannah Cox
    Lecturer in Environment, University of Sheffield
  • Serdar M. Değirmencioğlu
    Lecturer in Human Geography, Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Emanuele Fantini
    Senior Lecturer in Water Politics & Communication, Delft Institute for Water Education
  • Angelika Fortuna
    Program Officer, International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
  • Francesca Gagliardi
    Reader in Institutional Economics, University of Hertfordshire
  • Kostas Gavroglu
    RCH Founding Member; Emeritus Professor of History of Science, University of Athens
  • Athena Hadji
    Faculty Member, DIKEMES-College Year in Athens
  • Jane Hindley
    Senior Lecturer, Deputy Director, University of Essex
  • Eleanor Jupp
    Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Kent
  • John Hogan Morris
    Assistant Professor in Economic Geography, University of Nottingham
  • Veronica Marchio
    Independent Researcher, Adjunct Professor of Sociology, University of Parma
  • Bryan Umaru Kauma
    Assistant Professor of History, Southwestern University
  • Adam Leaver
    Professor of Accounting & Society, University of Sheffield
  • Sieglinde Lemke
    Professor of North American Studies, University of Freiburg
  • Eric Lybeck
    Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Manchester
  • Eric Kushinga Makombe
    Senior Lecturer in Economic History & Development, University of Zimbabwe
  • Peter Newell
    Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex
  • Michael Nwankpa
    Founding Director, Centre for African Conflict & Development, London
  • Izabela Orlowska
    Cross-Cultural Communication Consultant, Berlin
  • ‘H’ Patten
    Associate Lecturer in African Caribbean Dance, Goldsmiths University of London
  • Andya Paz
    Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Central European University
  • Gigi Roggero
    Director of DeriveApprodi’s Input series
  • Konstantinos Stylianou
    PhD Graduate (Sociological and Political Sciences), University of Cyprus
  • Peter Sutoris
    Assistant Professor of Education and Social Justice, University of York
  • Lisa Taylor
    Reader in Cultural Studies and Head of Media, Leeds Beckett University
  • Bridget Vincent
    Lecturer in English Literature, Australian National University
  • Duncan Wigan
    Professor at the Copenhagen Business School
  • Joy White
    Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Sciences, University of Bedfordshire

2022: The Digital Condition and Humanities Knowledge

The Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, Greece

22-24 September 2022

The digital condition appears in many forms: second-wave artificial intelligence, virtual assistants, online course instruction, algorithmic trading, bibliometric citation analysis, and economic modeling based on very large data sets, to name a few. It is the dominant framework for momentous transformations in knowledge production and in modes of reading and interpretation, which include a metamorphosis of the printed word into other media. 

There are many reasons for a familiar sense that everything has changed irreversibly. One has been remarkable advances in computer programming, which long ago raised the prospect of artificial intelligence that could match or exceed human intelligence. Another has been the influential “two cultures” paradigm that cast literature and literary intelligence as something like the backward-looking opposite of technology. We are organizing this conference both to assess the history of responses to the digital condition in the humanities and social sciences, and also to identify new directions that might extend and deepen the contributions of these fields to the full range of knowledges required by the current state of the world.

Marking the intersection of many distinct trends, the digital condition has radically restructured methodologies in a host of disciplines. It is often experienced as a radical break with higher education traditions where the humanities play a central role in knowledge creation. Within the digital condition, the social sciences and the humanities are faced with two baseline challenges: to understand more clearly their own processes of knowledge production and, at the same time, to understand the underlying dynamics of the digital framework.

While the social sciences and the humanities have long histories of methodological self-reflection, they must now propose new concepts, devise new methodologies, and test new approaches that acknowledge the digital condition while affirming and extending their distinct ways of knowing the world. In other words, we cannot respond to the digital condition by adapting the humanities and social sciences to it. These fields create essential forms of knowledge not found in scientific and technological fields.

Perhaps most importantly, major global issues are best addressed through partnerships among scientific, technical, humanistic, social, and professional modes of knowledge. Equitable relations among diverse disciplines are hard to find, in part for intellectual reasons and in part because of divergent material infrastructures and research practices. And yet, cross-disciplinary collaborations are increasingly common and often successful: the digital humanities is one such arena of collaboration, and there are others. Our conference aimed at strengthening both the independence of the humanities and the social sciences, and their material powers of collaboration across the disciplines.

Speakers included:
  • Theodore Arabatzis
    RCH Founding Member; Professor of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Athens
  • Nishat Awan Senior Research Fellow, TU Delft
  • Thanasis Betas Research Fellow, National Hellenic Research Foundation
  • Natalia Cecire Senior Lecturer in English & American Literature, University of Sussex
  • Io Chaviara
    Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences
  • Lars Cornelissen ISRF Academic Editor
  • Hanne Cottyn Independent Scholar, University of York
  • Ada Dialla
    RCH President; Associate Professor of European History, Athens School of Fine Arts
  • Foteini Dimirouli Postdoctoral Researcher in Comparative Literature, University of Oxford
  • Kate Dossett Professor of American History, University of Leeds
  • Patrick ffrench Professor of French, King’s College London
  • Vasilis Galis Associate Professor of Science & Technologies Studies, IT University of Copenhagen
  • Kostas Gavroglu RCH Founding Member; Emeritus Professor of History of Science, University of Athens
  • Lauren Goodlad Professor of English & Comparative Literature, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • Costas Gousis Project Coordinator, Eteron – Institute for Research & Social Change
  • Athena Hadji Faculty Member, DIKEMES-College Year in Athens; Adjunct Professor, The American University of Rome
  • Eleanor Jupp Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Kent
  • Ernestina Karystinaiou-Efthymiatou
    Ph.D. Candidate, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
  • Danae Karydaki Postdoctoral researcher in History, University of Thessaly
  • Michalis Kastanidis
    Visual Anthropologist, Filmmaker
  • Katerina Konstantinou Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology, Panteion University of Social & Political Sciences
  • Leandros Kyriakopoulos Research Fellow, Department of Music Studies, University of Athens
  • Stelios Lekakis Research Fellow in Landscape Heritage, McCord Centre, Newcastle University
  • Sieglinde Lemke Professor of North American Studies, University of Freiburg
  • Styliani Lepida Postdoctoral researcher in Ottoman History, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Kallirroe Linardou RCH Board Member; Assistant Professor in Byzantine & Medieval Art, Athens School of Fine Arts
  • Liz Losh
    Professor of English & American Studies, College of William & Mary
  • Colleen Lye Associate Professor of English, UC Berkeley
  • Myrto Malouta RCH Board Member; Assistant Professor in Greek Papyrology, Ionian University
  • Reggina Mantanika
    Adjunct lecturer, Department of Balkan, Slavic & Oriental Studies, UOM
  • Giorgos Mattes
    Dr. in History & Philosophy of Science & Technology, St. Andrews University
  • Sabelo Mhlambi Technologist in residence at the Library Innovation Lab, Harvard Law School
  • Chris Newfield ISRF Director of Research; Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Literature & American Studies, UC Santa Barbara
  • Illay Romain Ors Independent Scholar, University of Oxford
  • Costis Repapis Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths University of London
  • Kyriakos Sgouropoulos Laboratory Teaching Staff, Democritus University of Thrace
  • Eleni Stambogli RCH Board Member; Historian
  • Sergios Strigklogiannis Ph.D. Candidate, School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens
  • Lisa Taylor
    Reader in Cultural Studies & Head of Media, Leeds Beckett University
  • Alexandros Teneketzis Postdoctoral researcher in Art History, Democritus University of Thrace
  • Penelopi Tsatsouli PhD Candidate in History & Museology, Democritus University of Thrace
  • Despoina Valatsou RCH Administrator; Adjunct Lecturer of Digital Humanities, Athens School of Fine Arts
  • Atti Viragh Lecturer in English, University of California, Berkeley
  • Antonis Vradis Lecturer in Sustainable Development, St. Andrews University
  • Gavin Weedon Lecturer in Sociology of Sport, Nottingham Trent University