News and events

Read our press releases and find out more about CRESC-hosted events.


Why we need social innovation in home care for older people

7 September 2016

The CRESC Researchers' report was released in September 2016 and is available for download. Its key findings are outlined below.

Home care is an essential service in care provision for older people and is important not only to large numbers of recipients of the service, but also as a significant employment sector. Done well, home care encourages social participation of the cared-for and can vastly improve their quality of life. In this report, CRESC researchers argue that social innovation in home care is essential to mitigate the multiple crises the sector is currently facing (financial, care quality, workforce recruitment and retention, and a shortage of providers).

When it comes to home care, the government’s ideal is to encourage personalisation. Personalising home care by putting the cared-for at the centre of their social care needs is beneficial because services adapt to the outcomes users are seeking to achieve, and it gives users more choice, control, and independence. To facilitate the ideal of personalisation, the existing approach of the government is to pursue ‘market citizenship’. This means that purchasing power is given to users, who then use it in a constructed market of care provisions. Local authorities are responsible for these markets, and should ensure that there are a variety of high-quality care providers to choose from.

CRESC researchers argue that market citizenship is unsuitable for older users because the additional choice is often perceived as a burden that limits their freedom rather than enhances it. This, coupled with the fact that local authorities and providers are also not fulfilling their roles in the constructed market, leads to fewer good decisions from users and the achievement of fewer desired outcomes.

Another problem is that this framework permits home care providers to continue to adopt a branch retail business model to their practices. The authors of this report argue that the specifics of the sector are such that these models are inappropriate and adopting them results in waste. Retail business models can allocate specific time-slots to specific tasks. Doing so allows them to be efficient, minimise labour variation, and maximise consistency in their product’s quality. However, the nature of tasks specific to home care (helping someone eat, dress, wash, etc.) have a very different nature and thus providers lose focus on the kind of nurturing and outcomes that actually make living at home valuable. These models also result in waste spent in paying for transport time of carers and thus a temptation for the employers to underpay and overwork their staff.

Finally, home care provision is commissioned unimaginatively, and the practices of Local Authorities (LAs) in outsourcing this work is perpetuating this problem. The authors of this report argue that Radical Social Innovation is needed to encourage LAs to engage with the specifics of service provision, forms of service, and business model. This is a drastic alternative to the centrally-driven government policy change that we currently see in the sector and involves civil society, providers, workers, and older people themselves. This approach promotes a much broader notion of full citizenship for older people and carers who have a right to decent employment. The authors propose three ways in which Radical Social Innovation might operate through LA commissioners:

  1. Open book accounting with contextual information about staffing and hours per branch.
  2. Consider the whole set of living and care arrangements available, rather than Home Care only. Doing this would also include factoring costs of alternative, much more expensive, options for older people that may be incurred if home care fails.
  3. Consider other types of care need such as social interaction and other factors that sustain people at home.

More focus on these issues will enable the sector to move towards an outcomes-based system that focuses on the specifics of each person’s need.

Mapping refugee media journeys

17 May 2016

CRESC/Open University has released a ground–breaking research report on how refugees use smartphones. It was led by Prof. Marie Gillespie and was carried out in partnership with France Medias Monde.

The research is featured in a short video "The map Syrian refugees use to get to Europe” with a commentary by Marie as part of the BBC's multi-platform World On The Move Day.

The report, “Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smart Phones and Social Media Networks” explores the benefits and risks of mobile phones for refugees. It calls for action from the European Commission and Member States to fulfil their responsibilities under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to provide relevant, reliable and  timely information and news for refugees.

For more information, please visit the Mapping Refugee Media Journeys project page

Professor Marie Gillespie has also been featured in the Open University Research News. As she describes the project:

“EU member states have failed to develop a coherent policy strategy to deal with the refugees entering Europe. This is a European policy crisis of the highest order, and as a result member states are effectively reneging on their responsibilities under the UN 1951 Refugee Charter to provide protection and safety for refugees. A vital part of that responsibility is to provide timely and reliable information and news to help them find safe and legal routes to escape and to travel to safety, as well as to access medical and other humanitarian resources”.

Smartphones are seen to be as important as food and shelter. Surprising as it may seem the provision of wi-fi and phone charging hot spots is now essential to access the information and news they need. It’s already happening on a small scale but refugees digital passage to Europe requires governments and news agencies to re-think their responsibilities”.

Syrian refugees are often highly digitally literate and the mobile phone is an essential tool on their journey – helping them to navigate a highly risky and unpredictable journey, often to unknown and/or changing destinations. It helps them to keep in touch with friends and family on their way, and also to use social networks to gain access information news. But the smartphone also poses a threat. The digital traces that refugees leave behind them make them highly vulnerable to surveillance by state and official authorities as well as to exploitation by smugglers. It’s difficult for them to know who to trust and as a result they are forced to go digitally underground where they use avatars and encrypted services to get information and news from smugglers and handlers which they have to rely on and which they often trust more than mainstream media or government information.”

“European Governments and news organisation are not putting out timely, up-to-date information and news for refugees to help to make their journeys as safe and as dignified as possible, and that would help them to gain access to legal, medical and other social services”.

“Tech companies are trying to plug the gap and they have created hundreds or apps for refugees some very innovative but most are not sustainable. Quick tech fixes don’t work”.

“NGOs and organisations like the UNHCR and charities like BBC Media Action and some international broadcasters like Deutsche Welle are doing what they can but they don’t have enough resources to deliver what’s needed in this crisis and there’s a total lack of a co-ordinated effort and approach.”

“We hope that through this report that the European Commission will bring members states together to orchestrate a coherent strategy and sustainable resource base to provide timely news and information for refugees in their home countries, on their journeys and, above all, when they arrive in Europe based on our recommended best practice principles.”

“The refugee situation has become so politicised, not least due to the Referendum on Europe, that news organisations, including the BBC, fear that if they provide news or information for refugees, or even that is favourable to refugees, that they could be seen as facilitating and encouraging them to come to Europe”.

Alexander Nove Prize

3 May 2016

The Alexander Nove Prize was established by BASEES in March 1995 in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late Alec Nove.

The Alexander Nove Prize 2014 (Awarded 2016)

Madeleine Reeves, Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London, 2014)

Drawing on extensive and carefully designed ethnographic fieldwork in the Ferghana Valley region, where the state borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikizstan and Uzbekistan intersect, Madeleine Reeves develops new ways of conceiving the state as a complex of relationships, and of state borders as socially constructed and in a constant state of flux.

She explores the processes and relationships through which state borders are made, remade, interpreted and contested by a range of actors including politicians, state officials, border guards, farmers and people whose lives involve the crossing of the borders. In territory where international borders are not always clearly demarcated or consistently enforced, Reeves traces the ways in which states’ attempts to establish their rule create new sources of conflict or insecurity for people pursuing their livelihoods in the area on the basis of older and less formal understandings of norms of access.

As a result the book makes a major new and original contribution to scholarly work on Central Asia and more generally on the anthropology of border regions and the state as a social process. Moreover, the work as a whole is presented in a lively and accessible style.

The individual lives whose tribulations and small triumphs Reeves so vividly documents, and the relationships she establishes with her subjects, are as revealing as they are engaging. Border Work is a well-deserved winner of this year’s Alexander Nove Prize.

New CRESC working paper

'Digital Ontology' series now available

24 March 2016

This series is by Hannah Knox and Antonia Walford.

It might be argued that anthropology has come late to the question of whether there is an ontology to the digital. Although scholars in software and media studies have long described the logical structure of digital media, anthropologists have tended to critique such accounts as overly generalized, focusing instead on the local specificities of technology use. The aim of this Theorizing the Contemporary series is to provide an interface between these positions. We suggest that anthropology’s recent turn to ontology offers the potential of expanding the anthropology of the digital in a way that allows us to attend to ontological questions without falling into the trap of universalizing claims.

This series emerges from two workshops convened by Antonia Walford and Hannah Knox in London in September 2014 and May 2015 to explore the material, epistemological, and ontological character of digital technologies. The workshops were supported by the Economic Social and Research Council’s Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change and the University College London Centre for Digital Anthropology.

They included a mix of participants working across anthropology, the digital humanities, and science and technology studies. Some had thought a great deal about the relational affordances of digital technologies, but less about whether it was helpful to think of these technologies in ontological terms. Others had strong opinions about the usefulness of an ontological approach to understanding social relations, but had not explored their ideas in relation to digital technologies.

The essays in this series are the culmination of the lively discussions that ensued, as we worked to tease out the difference it might make to an anthropology of the digital to approach digital technologies as ontological formations.

CRESC Public Interest Report

A new report from CRESC on financialised chains and the crisis in residential care.

CRESC Annual Lecture 2015: What Can Devolution Do?

2 November 2015

Manchester Conference Centre

This lecture was co-sponsored by the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

Guest speakers:

  • Natalie Bennett - Leader of the Green Party
  • Mick Moran - Professor of Government, Manchester Business School
  • Kevin Morgan - Professor of Governance and Development, Cardiff University

The CRESC Annual Lecture 2016 was held at the Manchester Conference Centre on the evening of 12 November 2015.  The event attracted more than 120 audience members who saw lively discussions from Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, and short responses from, Mick Moran, the distinguished political scientist, and Kevin Morgan, currently adviser to the European Commissioner for Regional Policy.

This event focussed on the question of what kind of opportunity does devolution represent?  It drew upon the fact that hopes and promises are not outcomes, and devolution is too narrowly framed if it becomes a way of boosting economic growth so that questions of social and democratic renewal are secondary.  Our speakers and audience members discussed whether devolution, more broadly, can be a means to diverse ends including a ‘rebalanced’ economy, fewer inequalities, more public goods and services, and a revitalized democracy?

What a Waste: Manchester Book Launch

12 November 2015

Wednesday 25 November, 5:00pm-7:00pm, MBS East Building, Room B8

What a Waste?: Outsourcing and how it goes wrong

What a Waste? is the latest in the Manchester Capitalism series of short books from MUP which aim to reframe the big issues of economic renewal, financial reform and political mobilisation. This launch event introduces the book through short presentations by CRESC researchers from MBS and Queen Mary about how government outsourcing goes wrong, why and what can be done. This is part of a larger argument about private corporations and the public interest which will be made by Kevin Farnsworth (University of York) whose authoritative work on corporate welfare has been cited by the new Labour leadership.

Past events, conferences and lectures

2015 conference and lecture

CRESC Annual Lecture 2015: What Can Devolution Do?

12 November 2015
Manchester Conference Centre

This lecture was co-sponsored by the ESRC Festival of Social Science.

Guest Speakers:
Natalie Bennett - Leader of the Green Party
Mick Moran - Professor of Government, Manchester Business School
Kevin Morgan - Professor of Governance and Development, Cardiff University

The CRESC Annual Lecture 2016 was held at the Manchester Conference Centre on the evening of 12th November.  The event attracted 120+ audience members who saw lively discussions from Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, and short responses from, Mick Moran, the distinguished political scientist, and Kevin Morgan, currently adviser to the European Commissioner for Regional Policy.

This event focussed on the question of what kind of opportunity does devolution represent?  It drew upon the fact that hopes and promises are not outcomes, and devolution is too narrowly framed if it becomes a way of boosting economic growth so that questions of social and democratic renewal are secondary.  Our speakers and audience members discussed whether devolution, more broadly, can be a means to diverse ends including a ‘rebalanced’ economy, fewer inequalities, more public goods and services, and a revitalized democracy?

Big Data from the Bottom Up: A workshop exploring the relationship between big data and ethnography

21 October 2015
University College London

Sponsored by the Big Data Institute, the Centre for Digital Anthropology at UCL, and The ESRC Centre for Socio-Cultural Change.

This workshop brought together anthropologists and sociologists who explored how ethnography is being used to engage with big data. Presentations were given from those doing ethnographic research on big data in order to explore the kinds of insights that ethnographic studies of users and producers of big data can provide on the ambition, challenges and threats of big data science. In addition, the workshop also saw examples of how big data is being used to extend or transform the principles and practices of ethnography. In these cases, the workshop focussed on what kinds of ‘big data’ are deemed able to answer the kinds of questions that ethnographers are interested in answering? How can big data inform ethnography and what happens to the validity and status of ethnographic data when it is set alongside other kinds of data collection and analysis?

The workshop built on the work of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change on the “Social Life of Methods”, in order to explore these potential alignments between big data and ethnography as two overlapping practices of social research. It brought together perspectives from those who are working at the interface of big data and ethnography and discussed what each of these methods aim to do, what questions they aim to answer and what were the outcomes of recent experiments that had brought these methods together. 

Benoît Peeters: Writing the Life of Jacques Derrida

19 October 2015
The University of Manchester

At this event Benoît Peeters provided a public lecture on his widely acclaimed study, Derrida: A Biography which was first published in English in 2012 by Polity Press. In writing this biography, Peeters was granted first access to Derrida's extensive personal archives and interviewed more than a hundred of his friends and colleagues. The result is a compelling account of one of the later twentieth century's foremost thinkers set in the context of the turbulent and disputatious intellectual politics of the time.

This lecture was jointly organised by CIDRAL, Sociology and CRESC at the University of Manchester, Wallonie-Bruxelles International and Institut français du Royaume-Uni.  Additional sponsorship received with thanks from The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and Blackwell's Book Shop.

Making Devolution Work

7 July 2015
Manchester Business School, Manchester

With the General Election result likely to prompt further powers and responsibilities to devolved nations, cities and to local government, this is a ‘devolution moment’. This conference aimed to explore this ‘moment’ and considered whether and how devolution can herald a better economic, social and democratic future? 

Rethinking Social Mobility

2 July 2015
The People’s History Museum, Manchester

This symposium reflected on the concerns that the post-war mobility boom has been put into reverse and that ‘the problem of social mobility’ is at the fore in public policy discourse in the UK over the last decade and is showing no sign of abating. This event proposed that the study of social mobility has reached an impasse and is in need of renewal and then deliberated what an agenda for social mobility studies in a new age of inequality might look like and considered the range of issues bearing on the way mobility is conceptualised and understood.  

Infrastructure, Social Change and Material Politics

22 June 2015
The Friends Meeting House, London

This event consisted of a group of academics and CRESC affiliates specialising in infrastructure who presented on and discussed topics such as ‘Rethinking the Environmental Fabric’ and ‘The Urban Fabric: Theorizing the Political’.  This event also saw the launch of the book ‘Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise’ written by Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox. 

CRESC's Mediating Religion Network annual event: Social Media, Religion and Political Violence

15 June 2015
The Open University, London

This event involved 60 academics, religious groups, media professionals and policy-makers.  A report on the FORUM will be published and circulated at All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Uncertainties, House of Commons and will be shared on the CRESC website shortly. 

Is there an Ontology to the Digital?

7 May 2015
The Open University, London

In this one-day workshop, contributors were asked to debate whether, and in what sense, there is an “ontology of the digital”. Drawing on recent theorizations of alterity and ontological incommensurability that have constituted the “ontological turn” in social anthropology, the contributors to the Theorizing the Contemporary special issue/section were also asked to what extent such discussions can help us to understand a diverse range of contemporary digital practices, from digitally archiving indigenous knowledge to building genetic databases; from activist citizen science to Big Data cosmologies. 

Posing Problems to Ethnography: New Objects and Matters of Concern in Management and Organization

28 April 2015
Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester

Ethnography is widely regarded as one of the most important methods for studying business and management, and in recent years has been identified as the fastest growing method in organization studies (Czarniawska, 2012). This event saw six new papers presented by scholars addressing issues from a range of disciplinary traditions. 

The Paris Attacks and Eyewitness Media, Legal and Ethical Issues for International News Providers

20 March 2015
The Open University, Camden Town, London

In March 2015, The Open University and Eyewitness Media Hub hosted a closed forum for invited journalists to discuss the main challenges of using eyewitness media during breaking news events. With a central focus on the Paris attacks in January 2015, the event was conducted under the Chatham House Rule and was attended by around 40 journalists working in international news organisations and academics.  Participants were encouraged to share the ethical, legal and logistical issues that they encountered when handling photographs and videos sourced from the social web.

2014 conference and lecture

2014 CRESC Annual Conference: Power, Culture and Social Framing

Plenary speakers

The End of the 30 Year Experiment?

Plenary organiser and chair: Karel Williams

  • Philip Augar (ex banker and government NED)
  • Aditya Chakrabortty (The Guardian)
  • Steve Francis (CEO/CFO specialist in restructuring)
  • Nick Pearce (IPPR, formerly head Downing Street Policy Unit)

This panel considered the Thatcher/Blair project as a 30 year experiment now beset with manifest problems. Should it be completed or consolidated or are we at a turning point, as in the 1970s, when the weaknesses of the post war settlement were exposed and new thinking was legitimated. What are the implications for economy and polity?

Framing the Social: Culture, Power and Policy

Plenary organiser and chairs: Andrew Miles and Marie Gillespie

  • Tony Bennett (University of Western Sydney)
  • Dame Tessa Jowell, MP (former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport)
  • Mike Savage (London School of Economics)

This panel provided a critical assessment of CRESC’s original ambition to reposition the relationship between cultural and social research and the impact of this programme on both academic debates and in the policy field. Reflecting on the legacy of New Labour’s cultural policy experiment in the context of the radical shifts in economy and society that have occurred since 2004, it considered the role of public sociology in framing understandings of social inequality and cultural change.

Framing Urban Infrastructures

Plenary organiser and chair: Penny Harvey

  • Roger Milburn (ARUP)
  • Anna Minton (Author and Journalist)
  • Sarah Green (University of Helsinki)

This panel explored the interplay between the technical, material and social dimensions of infrastructural forms - the systems that underpin the mundane operation of urban public space: transport systems, surveillance systems, information systems, urban furnitures (from bins to bollards), lighting, materials (bricks, concrete, glass and steel), etc.

It explored how such systems create the openings and closures that shape the possibilities and the limitations of public space. Thinking through the figure of infrastructural transformation, we debated the various ways in which infrastructural systems configure public space, discussing, for example, how the current desire for certain infrastructural projects produces tensions between economic growth and environmental concerns, or how the possibilities of open source urbanism are sustained in the face of increased securitization.

We asked how the privatization of public space can entrench inequalities and exclusions in our cities, and discuss what alternatives are currently being explored and developed. Our aim was to compare our understandings of how vibrant public space is created and maintained, and to discuss how we - as citizens, as designers, as intellectuals, and as urban dwellers - might become actively engaged in framing urban futures.


Economic Experiments and the Elites: Assessing the past 30 years

  • Will Davies, Goldsmiths University of London
  • Tamasin Cave, Spinwatch
  • Aeron Davis, Goldsmiths University of London

Laid Waste? Hope and Social Framing

  • Francis Dodsworth, CRESC The Open University
  • Penny Harvey, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Hannah Knox, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Antonia Walford, CRESC The Open University
  • Andrew Miles and Niall Cunningham, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Karel Williams, CRESC The University of Manchester, and John Law, CRESC, The Open University

Soft Power and Its Critiques

  • Marie Gillespie, CRESC The Open University
  • Ben O'Loughlin, Royal Holloway University of London
  • Robin Brown, PD Networks
  • Stephen Hutchings, The University of Manchester
  • Alban Webb, CRESC The Open University
  • Ilya Yablokov, The University of Manchester

London Finance and the Regions

  • Danny Dorling, University of Oxford
  • Alan Sitkin, London Borough of Enfield
  • Nick Shaxon, Tax Justice Network

What is, was or will be cultural economy anyway? A panel discussion with the editors of the JCE

  • Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney
  • Melinda Cooper, University of Sydney
  • Joe Deville, Goldsmiths University London
  • Liz McFall, JCE The Open University
  • Bill Maurer, University of California
  • Michael Pryke, The Open University

Economic Experiments and the Remaking of the Public Sector: Assessing the past 30 years

  • Allyson Pollock, Queen Mary University of London
  • Dexter Whitfield, European Services Strategy Unit
  • Anne Killet, University of East Anglia

Understanding Everyday Participation

  • Andrew Miles, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Mark Taylor, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Lisanne Gibson, University of Leicester
  • Delyth Edwards, University of Leicester
  • Jill Ebrey, CRESC The University of Manchester
  • Susan Oman, CRESC The University of Manchester

Challenging Activisms: Kregg Hetherington and Marisol de la Cadena in Conversation

  • Marisol de la Cadena, UC Davis
  • Kregg Hetherington, Concordia University

Understanding the Interactions of Low and High Finance

  • Bill Maurer, University of California 
  • Joe Deville, Goldsmiths University London
  • Liz McFall, JCE The Open University
  • Zsuzsanna Vargha, University of Leicester
  • Ismail Erturk, Manchester Business School

Power, Framing and the City

  • Elaine Campbell, University of Newcastle
  • Steve Pile, The Open University
  • Francis Dodsworth, CRESC The Open University

CRESC Annual Lecture: The Unsettled State

28 October 2014

Speakers included:

  • Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh Government
  • Susana Narotzky, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Barcelona
  • Stewart Purvis, Professor of TV Journalism, City University London
  • Bill Schwarz, Professor of Modern Literature and History, Queen Mary University of London

The Scottish referendum on independence took place on 18 September 2014 and marked a period of intense debate and reflection on the relationship between national identities and processes of decentralisation.

Many other European states have also been actively involved in re-scaling the state – instituting diverse forms of regional autonomy – some peacefully agreed upon, others highly conflictual. The question as to whether Scotland should be an independent country raises questions around the possibilities of legal and fiscal autonomy in a world of globalized capital flows, shared environmental concerns, and the rapid circulations of social media.

There are important questions about whether regional autonomy and political decentralisation can counter the economic trajectories of internal differentiation and increased inequality; and there are also questions about the role of media representations, arts, literature and cultural practices in reframing people’s sense of national belonging.

The 2014 Annual Lecture debated the unsettling effects of independence movements. Taking place shortly after the Scottish referendum, a panel of distinguished speakers reflected on the shifting character of national identity in Europe and explored its consequences.

Topics covered

Questions explored included:

  • how independence movements articulate understandings of and aspirations for reformed democracy and mobilise media and communications for specific ends; 
  • whether greater autonomy will deliver more of the same economically ie increasing competition and entrenched inequalities within and between regions and groups
  • how national identity equates to citizenship, and the extent to which civic identities resonate with ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other overlapping but non-territorial forms of identity;
  • how national identities work at different scales - intersecting with European, regional, local, and other territorial affiliations;
  • the particular historical circumstances in which national identities become important to particular sections of the population, and the forms that demands for independence, or for integration, have taken.

2013 conference and lecture

2013 CRESC Annual Conference: In/vulnerabilities and Social Change

Precarious Lives and Experimental Knowledge: 4 – 6 September 2013

2013 CRESC Annual Lecture: Isabelle Stengers in Conversation with Michal Osterweil, 

On academic knowledge and activism. 


Isabelle Stengers is a philosopher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and is well known for her work on Alfred North Whitehead and continental philosophers including Michel Serres and Gilles Deleuze, and also for her collaboration with Ilya Prigogine. She is committed to academic work that has an activist and interventionary agenda.

Michal Osterweil is a cultural anthropologist who teaches in Global Studies at the University of North Carolina. She is involved in various forms of activism and has worked with social movements in Latin America, Europe and the US.

Plenary speakers:

  • Stephen Collier (New School of Social Research)
  • Thomas Hylland Erikson (Oslo)
  • Stephen Graham (Newcastle)
  • Andrew Haldane (Bank of England)
  • Kate Pickett (York)
  • Mattijs van de Port (Amsterdam)

CRESC Public Lecture: Andy Haldane

Why Institutions Matter (More Than Ever)

Integration and information have been key drivers of change in social and economic systems. Both come with potential costs – a more fragile, myopic world. This strengthens the case for policy institutions which lean against this fragility and myopia. The recent crisis provides a classic example of these costs – and of how, through changes in institutional design, they might in future be lowered.

Andy Haldane is Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England. He is responsible for financial stability and is a member of the newly established Financial Policy Committee. 

2012 conference and lecture

2012 CRESC Annual Conference: Promises - Crises and Sociocultural Change

Maurice Glasman

An ancient polity for a new economy?

The preoccupation with programmes and policy rather than institutions and practices has not turned out well for either state or market.

Finance capital and public administration are not combining with a virtuous energy and the result is national decline with both an impoverished democracy and private sector. A renewal of democratic institutions based upon relationships, reciprocity and responsibility is now the precondition for the generation of a new political economy. The challenge is to balance interests in corporate governance and embody vocation, virtue and value in institutions like local banks, city parliaments and schools.

Paradoxically, more solidarity, trust and tradition is necessary for competitive advantage and the ancient institutions of guilds, councils and parliaments are necessary for the effective functioning of a modern economy.

2012 CRESC Annual Lecture

The lecture was entitled 'Is Urban Sustainability Possible in the Age of Climate Justice?'

2011 conference and lecture

2011 CRESC Annual Conference: Framing the City

The CRESC annual conference 2011 took the rubric of 'framing' to scrutinise the processes by which the city has been conceptualised, conceived, ordered and depicted - and how these processes have been disrupted and contested - in regard to the meta-themes of: the material, ecologies and environments, publics & politics, economies, the visual, and affect.

Cities are now where more than half of humanity live and urban processes affect the whole globe. The rates of growth, diversity of population, complexity of their activities, as well as the scale of the problems (and possibilities) they pose, are breathtaking.

This conference sought to capture the diversity and complexity of cities and city life and to explore different routes to understanding 'the city' through the forces of materials, objects, economies, politics, microbes and emotions - as well as humans and their projects and purposes.

The conference was organised according to the following themes: 

  • The Material - city objects, plans, designs, built environment, assemblages
  • Publics and Politics - migration, social movements, networks, mobilities, cultural practices, governance, urban policy, security
  • Economies - financialisation, neo –liberal city, diverse economies, post-industrialisation, post recession futures
  • Visual - mapping, photographing, filming, drawing, the unseen city, the act of seeing, digital visualisations
  • Ecologies and environment - sustainability, eco-systems, spatiality, topologies
  • Affect - the imaginary, literature, music, dance, the senses, fear, passion 

2011 CRESC Annual Lecture: Is Urban Sustainability Possible in the Age of Climate Justice?

Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London

How are scholars going to write about cities in the era of global warming? The conceptual tools of urban environmentalism, such as ecological footprint, urban metabolism, or closed-loop economies, have had some influence on the “sustainable cities” movement, but the new demands for climate justice require us to show that what happens in any one city in the global North has direct consequences for populations in the global South.

This lecture described Andrew Ross’s ethnographic efforts in Phoenix, Arizona (one of the world’s most unsustainable cities) to respond to that demand. It focuses on some of the methodological challenges that have arisen in his research and suggests ways of meeting them.

Andrew Ross is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. Author of numerous books including Nice Work if You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times (NYU Press, 2009), Professor Ross' wide-ranging research interests include labour and work, urban and suburban studies, and intellectual history.

2010 conference and lecture

2010 CRESC Annual Conference - The Future of Cultural Work

Keynote speakers

  • David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds)
  • Melissa Gregg (University of Sydney)

As ‘creativity’ and ‘creative work’ have become buzzwords for progress, so the cultural and creative industries have become an instrumental feature of national economic and cultural policies. Most recently, cultural, artistic and creative labour has been identified as leading the transition to a more fluid, affective and converged ‘innovation’ economy, where cultural work is valued more for its ability to diffuse ideas and ‘creative energies’ than for its intrinsic value, or for its (potentially) socially transformative or redemptive potential.

Firms, national governments, promoters of ‘creative cities’ and development agencies alike have offered a plethora of interventions designed to stimulate growth through organizing and managing creative and cultural work (see ‘Creative Britain’ for example). Such a process has rested on the assumption of a frictionless and mutually beneficial relationship between capital and labour, and culture and economics; where distinctive forms of artistic and cultural production and economic and governmental priorities appear to co-prosper in harmonious union.

However, while the specific qualities of cultural and creative work are now assumed to be progressive and beneficial to both capital and labour, recent events cast doubt on the status of creativity as (in Andrew Ross’s words) ‘the oil of the 21st century’.

The instrumental gearing of culture to innovation policy, the consolidation of ‘free’, ‘co-creative’ - but precarious, individualized and poorly-remunerated - work in media, cultural and arts organizations, a deep-rooted global recession that has eviscerated opportunities for cultural labour, and in the UK a general election that may alter fundamentally the creative industries script, has markedly transformed this discursive and material field.

Here, the benign union of culture and economics, the prospects for rewarding and meaningful cultural industry employment, and the extent to which creative/cultural work could or should meet the demands of economic restructuring and governments, come once again under scrutiny.

This conference therefore asked: What is the status of creativity and creative work in this new decade? What is the current and future relationship between the creative and cultural industries and the discursive and material practices of culture and economy?