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.

2023: Climate Crisis, Global Capitalism, and Higher Education

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 ISRF invites proposals for conference papers on the relations among climate, capitalism, and education. The conference will be held in Bologna, known for its ancient university as well as the Bologna Accord that launched the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 1999. We warmly welcome papers on the role of higher education in the current situation. At the same time, papers need not focus primarily on education, but can discuss any aspect of the climate crisis and responses to it.

A title and brief abstract are invited from researchers from any discipline. These should be submitted in English, though we expect to have Italian interpreters at the conference. ISRF will cover delegate expenses.


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