In addition to its Annual Workshop, the ISRF also supports smaller events convened by – or in partnership with – ISRF Fellows and associated.

2022

The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture

Queen Mary, University of London
5pm GMT, 23 November – Register Here

This is a collaborative event jointly hosted with International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) and School of Politics and International Relations (QMUL).

Lisa Hajjar will discuss her new book which traces the fight against the US torture policy in the “war on terror.” This fight was waged by lawyers who used the courts to challenge the government’s gross violations of law. Their victories, though few and far between, forced the government to change the way prisoners were treated and focused attention on state crimes perpetrated in the shadows. If not for these lawyers, US torture would have gone unchallenged because elected officials and the American public, with a few exceptions, did nothing to oppose it. This war in court has been fought to defend the principle that there is no legal right to torture.

Lisa Hajjar is a Professor of Sociology at the University of California – Santa Barbara. Her work focuses on issues relating to law and conflict, including military courts and occupations, torture, targeted killing, war crimes, and human rights. Her publications include Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (University of California Press, 2005) and Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (Routledge 2013). Her new book, The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture, is published by the University of California Press. She is a founding co-editor of Jadaliyya and a member of the editorial committee of Middle East Report.

Economics & Semiotics

Goldsmiths, University of London
28 & 29 October – DOWNLOAD FLYER

Part of the Economics &… Workshop Series

This workshop aimed to gather together a broad range of scholars in order to address issues relating to the intersection of economics and semiotics. Our purpose was to open up a new space for reflection on economics and the economy through the use of tools and concepts developed in semiotics. Lately there has been a rekindling of interest in the way semiotics relate to economics and, more precisely, in discovering the way economics and semiotics share common concepts or means in order to interpret social and cultural activity. This workshop aimed to investigate how a dialogue between semiotics and economics is capable of throwing new light into a better understanding of today’s changing world.

More specifically, despite the fact that economists use empirical evidence in the form of numerical data to answer theory and policy questions, what most economists do not customarily reflect on is the fact that they pre-impose interpretation patterns and broad conceptual frameworks to form policy or theory related questions at the very start of any policy or research process. Semiotics is the study of signs within which processes of interpretation play key-roles in coding and decoding meanings. In both fields, interpretation as a social process is a central element that leads to recognised theoretical results, estimates, and conclusions. From economic concepts to semiotic value(s), everything in our world can be regarded as a sign capable of meaning, through the process of interpretation. How, then, do we proceed from semantics to pragmatics, from theory to practise and vice versa? What is the nature of the relation between interpretation, results and reality? How can we define the hermeneutics of economic discourse and the economy behind semiotic interpretations both in our abstractions and in practice? The application of the semiotics approach to the economics discourse is vital in helping us unpack the various meanings of loaded terms in common use in economics.

The workshop was organised around key concepts that have special weight both in semiotics and in economics, these are: value – discourse – narrative – sign – framework. The workshop focused on an effort to understand what we mean with these and related concepts. It also aimed to start a broad discussion not only on how terms/constructs are used in the economics discourse, but also on the performative relationship between discourse and reality. The sessions intended to use this discussion as a foundation for a tentative understanding of the nature of the economy – and the type of ontological statements that well-grounded economic analysis may develop. This allowed participants to speculate on future avenues of research that build on a dialogic relationship between economics and semiotics, and therefore attempt to re-orient the way discourse construction is performed in economics.

Participants included:

  • Louise Braddock
    Researcher in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis
  • Ivano Cardinale
    Reader in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Maria Giulia Dondero
    Research Director of the National Belgian Fund for Scientific Research
  • Jose Fevereiro
    Post-Doctoral Researcher in Economics, Open University
  • Claudia Jefferies
    Senior Lecturer in Economics, City, University of London
  • Foteini Lika
    Researcher, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University
  • Nuno Martins
    Professor of Economic Thought, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
  • Stratos Myrogiannis
    Adjunct Lecturer, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University
  • Giorgos Politis
    Associate Professor in Social Philosophy, University of Athens
  • Stephen Pratten
    Professor in Economics and Philosophy, King’s College London
  • Constantinos Repapis
    Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Roberto Scazzieri
    Professor of Economic Analysis, University of Bologna
  • Dimitris Sotiropoulos
    Senior Lecturer in Finance, Open University
  • Nicholas J. Theocarakis
    Professor of Economics, University of Athens
  • Ragupathy Venkatachalam
    Head of Institute of Management Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Louise Villeneuve
    Doctoral Researcher in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • James Wible
    Professor of Economics, University of New Hampshire

2021

Humanities Knowledge in the Digital University

10th & 11th May 2021

These sessions brought together researchers from the ISRF and the Research Centre for the Humanities (Athens) to note the main current effects of digital platforms on humanities research, and to identify the questions for further study that we can most usefully pursue.

Day One: Understanding the Digital University

Educational technology is a multi-billion Euro industry that operates all over the world, and that shapes every aspect of university operations. It includes back-office functions like payroll and course registration, and in recent years has expanded to front-end arenas where it supplements and sometimes replaces classroom instruction. In between lie Course Management Systems (CMS), e-advising applications, and other digital platforms that provide essential services, services that universities increasingly outsource to private vendors. In 2012-13, it seemed that Massive Open Online Courses (xMOOCs) would replace large sections of the planet’s physical universities, starting with the mass-scale institutions that already operated through large lectures and offered very modest individualized feedback. MOOCs failed pedagogically, but online instruction has been given a new lease on life through Covid-19 requirements for social distancing. This session will discuss the future of non-digital higher education. What hybrid structures are most likely? What activities will not be mediated through ed-tech? What functions should universities turn over to third-party ed-tech providers? 

Speakers: Chris Newfield, Aristotle Tympas, and Yorgos Stamboulis

Day Two: What is Humanities Knowledge?

Universities distinguish themselves from high schools by offering courses with content that reflects current research, and that teaches students to become researchers and knowledge creators themselves. Disciplines that do not create knowledge, perhaps because they are entirely applied, are generally not eligible to become university subjects. The humanities disciplines create knowledge in fields such as history, philosophy, linguistics, and literary criticism; at the same time, many academics and administrators outside those fields do not know what the knowledge is that they produce—as opposed to commentary, embellishments, and opinion. One issue is an irreducible plurality of methods. A second issue is scale, which is smaller or more individualized in the humanities than in the natural or physical sciences. A third is uncertainty about the nature of human intelligence at a time when artificial intelligence seems about to transform knowledge, technology, and the economy. A fourth is the status of evidence, which in the humanities is non-quantitative and often not positive or present. Panelists will analyze these or related problems and offer a range of conclusions and proposals about how the humanities might respond. 

Speakers: Lauren Goodlad, Nishat Awan, Theodore Arabatzis, and Elpida Rikou.

2019

Money & Finance in a Time of Flux: Economy, Space, Time & Value

Museum of London
9 July

The challenging post-crisis environment of low interest rates and weak growth has encouraged financial actors to make new interventions in time and space in their search for yield. In contrast to the ‘secular stagnation’ of the real economy, therefore, the ‘new normal’ for global finance has been one of great change: its reach has spread into new assets, whilst it has become differently entwined in older assets; it has used new mechanisms for extraction through innovative valuation practices; and has reorganised its spatial and relational arrangements in search of new sources of yield. 

This workshop attempts to capture the new dynamism of money and finance in the post-crisis era. It will examine how financial actors gain power and wealth by connecting with actors in other realms, sectors and sites, including law and accounting firms, real estate developers, policy-makers and alternative financial services providers. It will set those relations within a spatial context of geo-political flux where rising powers are now both a source of new investment resources as well as investment opportunities. It will also explore the entanglements forged through valuation practices which open out new, extractive possibilities which require interventions in time and space. This workshop therefore aims to draw out the cross-cutting dynamics of economy, space, time and value to provide novel observations on the changing character of the contemporary international financial system.

Participants included:

  • Rowland Atkinson
    Research Chair in Inclusive Societies, University of Sheffield
  • Bruce Carruthers
    John D. MacArthur Chair and Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University
  • Daniela Gabor
    Professor of Economics and Macro-Finance, University of the West of England
  • Sarah Hall
    Professor of Economic Geography, University of Nottingham
  • Adam Leaver
    Professor in Accounting & Society, University of Sheffield
  • Rex McKenzie
    Senior Lecturer in Economics, Kingston University
  • Ekaterina Svetlova
    Associate Professor in Finance and Accounting, University of Leicester
  • Duncan Wigan
    Associate Professor of International Political Economy, Copenhagen Business School

Economics & The Plastic Arts

Goldsmiths, University of London
4-5 July

Part of the Economics &… Workshop Series

Gotthold Lessing in his seminal enlightenment work, Laocoön, wrote about the strengths of the arts in representing different aspects of reality, and created the groundwork both for renewing the link between the perception of reality and mimetic representation, and for distinguishing the domain of the different arts in what they can faithfully capture. In contrast, August Schlegel’s work, distinguished between ancient and the modern aesthetics, by both problematizing the very nature of representation in art, and as a consequence the distinct separation of fields of art.

Schlegel is chiefly remembered today as a central figure of the German Romantic movement. He argued that modern art relates to an environment that arose within specific historical conditions, and, as a result, requires a completely new framework of understanding. Art cannot be seen to mimic nature, an aspiration of ancient art that was re-affirmed in the Enlightenment and the classicist tradition. For Schlegel, art could not be a mere ‘imitation’ or ‘representation’ of nature; it is the product of a creative force and, therefore, of expression. Thus he writes in relation to poetry, “the poetry of the ancients was the poetry of enjoyment, and ours is that of desire” (Schlegel, 2015 [1845], 10).

This workshop examines the potential relation and dialogue between plastic arts and economics. Both terms are widely used, but definitions are elusive. If plastic arts essentially relate to the world as something that can be moulded, shaped and transformed, then it is nothing more than a mode of expression, a state of mind. Is, then, economics with all its devices and other trappings another plastic art? According to some of its practitioners, economics appears to be a rational, enlightenment-inspired machine to uncover social and economic reality. Economic theory has been described as representing, predicting, abstracting, imagining, mimicking and simplifying reality, in its effort to define how it relates to the social sphere. Also, economic theory is not monolithic and different traditions that emanate from past eras and strands within the discipline come up with a range of answers on the relation between economic theory and reality. Perhaps, one result of this plurality may be to see economic theory as a romantic reengineering of our society, its values and its processes. This leads us to the following questions: Does theory explain and uncover natural, immutable and ever-present tendencies or does it form and transform our understanding of the social environment by appealing to modern aspirations? How does art mediate this difficult relation between reality, representation and transformation? These are the themes that this workshop investigates.

Participants included:

  • Stavros Alifragkis
    Adjunct Lecturer, Hellenic Open University & Department of Architecture, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Jorella Andrews
    Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Sheila Dow
    Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Stirling
  • Leah Durner
    Painter, New York
  • Jill Gibbon
    Senior Lecturer in Graphic Arts, Leeds Beckett University
  • Ariane Hillig
    Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Sarath Jakka
    Postdoctoral Researcher, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent
  • John Latsis
    Associate Professor in Social and Organisational Theory, Henley Business School, University of Reading
  • Foteini Lika
    Researcher, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University
  • Jamie Morgan
    Professor of Economics, Leeds Beckett University
  • Stratos Myrogiannis
    Researcher, School of Humanities, Hellenic Open University
  • Claire Pignol
    Associate Professor of Economics, Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne PHARE
  • Constantinos Repapis
    Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • C.D. Rose
    Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing, University of Birmingham
  • Sara Stevano
    Lecturer in Economics, University of the West of England
  • Ekaterina Svetlova
    Associate Professor in Finance and Accounting, University of Leicester
  • Michael Uebel
    Research Affiliate, Office of the Associate Dean for Research, Steve Hicks School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin
  • Astrid Van den Bossche
    Lecturer in Marketing, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Ragupathy Venkatachalam
    Lecturer in Economics, Goldsmiths, University of London

2018

Referenda & Euroskepticism

Universiteit Leiden & Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
2-3 october

At two related but distinct research events in The Netherlands – at Universiteit Leiden (2nd October 2018) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (3rd October 2018) – the ISRF intends to facilitate conversations around pressing political issues facing Europe – Referenda and Euroskepticism – whilst highlighting the value that publications such as The Conversation can bring to widening public debate. Each event will comprise a presentation from Stephen Khan, Editor of the UK branch of the The Conversation, about the value of such a news platform: the benefits that it can bring to universities and the professional trajectories of individual researchers, and also, its important role in countering ‘fake news’. This presentation will be followed by specially invited lectures on Referenda (Universiteit Leiden) and Euroskepticism (VU Amsterdam), responses from ISRF Fellows, and plenty of time for open discussion among the audience.

Participants included:

  • Annelien de Dijn
    Professor of Modern Political History, Universiteit Utrecht
  • Stephen Khan
    Editor, The Conversation UK
  • Matt Qvortrup
    Professor of Applied Political Science and International Relations, Coventry University
  • Geerten Waling
    Researcher in History of Democracy, Universiteit Leiden
  • Claes de Vreese
    Professor of Political Communication, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Catherine de Vries
    Professor of Political Behaviour in Europe, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Antoaneta Dimitrova
    Professor of Comparative Governance, Universiteit Leiden
  • Patrick Overeem
    Assistant Professor in Political Theory, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Monika Sie Dhian Ho
    General Director, Clingendael Institute
  • Hans Vollaard
    Assistant Professor in Dutch and European Politics, Universiteit Utrecht

Law: Social Organisation & Social Control

All Souls College, University of Oxford
15 June

As a system of rules upheld through a variety of state-endorsed institutions to control human behaviour, the law affects everyone – the living and the dead – and, in its quest to protect people and private property, it is administrated through the use of violence where the state deems this necessary. The epistemological roots of the law developed from distinct historical, political, and cultural contexts, discourses of colonialism, and class-based ideologies. As such, although it is intended that the laws of the country apply to and will be felt by all people equally, the truth is that its application and weight continues to be biased according to race, access to social and financial capital, and gendered ideology. For example, police are six times more likely to ‘stop and search’ black people than white people in the U.K. and legal aid has fallen dramatically since the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 was implemented. In the eyes of law, only those identified as legal citizens are considered members of society and therefore ‘deserving’ of its protection, those ‘undocumented’ – migrants, travellers, refugees, homeless people – are cast as outsiders, left to the mercy of underground gangs and protection rackets.

This study day brings together a small group of scholars working on a variety of aspects of law, policing, criminology, prisoner rehabilitation, and social welfare, to discuss the social, legal and governmental institutions by which U.K. law is upheld and administrated. This workshop will consider ways in which notions and practices of the law are challenged and reconfigured in different disciplinary domains and epistemic traditions, and in conjunction with contemporary developments ranging from ‘austerity’ to rave culture. The workshop will be informal and exploratory, it seeks to involve the audience in discussion of emergent themes and hopes to identify possible directions for future study and critical elaboration.

Evidence & Temporality

Westminster College, Cambridge
16 March

How might evidence and temporality be productively thought in tandem? Construed as the grounds of knowledge, prevailing constructs of evidence often seem to have a retrospective tilt: past occurrences and observed patterns are consulted to make sense of the present and as guides to future action. So conceived, evidence reinforces Occidental ideas of temporality as a continuously flowing current of successive and irreversible moments. In this way it might be said that prevailing constructs of evidence and temporality work to co-constitute one another as figures and frames of continuity and determination.

This workshop will consider ways in which notions and practices of evidence and temporality, and the relations presumed to obtain between them, are being challenged and reconfigured in different disciplinary domains and epistemic traditions, and in conjunction with contemporary developments ranging from advances in genomics and the emergence of a “promissory” bioeconomy; climate change and anthropocenic precarity; and the phenomenon of “fake news” and the dawning of a “post-truth” era.

The workshop will bring together a small group of researchers from across the social sciences to consider evidence and temporality as objects and optics of analysis, and the affordances of thinking about them together. The workshop will be informal and exploratory, and is intended to identify possible directions for future study and critical elaboration. Some preliminary orienting questions are as follows: How do different ways of doing/thinking about evidence anchor and give meaning to different temporalities; reciprocally, how do different kinds of temporality and timescapes inflect different ways of doing/thinking about evidence? In what contexts are received ideas and practices of evidence and temporality being challenged and reconfigured, with what kinds of effects and implications? How are such shifts reconfiguring perceptions of possibility and limitation, and the experience and enactment of contingency and determination? How is that which is absent or non-existent (temporally, materially) evidenced? How do different semiotic modalities support or subvert various constructs of evidence and temporality, and the relation between them?

Economics & Anthropology

Goldsmiths, University of London
12-13 January

Part of the Economics &… Workshop Series

This workshop aims to explore key interfaces between economics and anthropology. It will include four sessions, on the themes of production and work, industrialization and development, credit and debt, and economic action.

The central themes will be the interface between work practices and social contexts in the understanding of production; the interplay of industrialization, de-industrialisation and re-industrialisation in the process of economic development; the individual identities and social relationships associated with credit and debt positions; and the dichotomy between instrumental rationality and the societal provision of material means as a foundational problem in both economics and anthropology.

In each session, an anthropologist and an economist will give a talk on related issues, also commenting on what is specific to their disciplinary approach to the issue. Talks will be followed by in-depth discussion with participants, also in view of i) comparing insights on specific issues, deriving from different disciplinary angles; ii) discussing the fit between issues and methods; and iii) exploring the potential for some elements of a shared language.