"How do we 'do civil society' in a changing world?: On cultivating flexible, transversal engagement in intersecting processes"
Lecture followed, for those who can stay, by a "Dialogue hour"
Prof. Peter Taylor, Director of the Masters programs in Critical & Creative Thinking and Science in a Changing World at the University of Massachusetts Boston
“I made the wrong turn 30 years ago,” remarked a senior researcher during the final session of a half-day workshop I led late in 2011. His comment invites us to think how we can reduce our vulnerability to staying too long with our chosen path of research? To this challenge, let me add two others that seem especially relevant to researchers in Cosmopolitan Civil Societies who take seriously the creativity and capacity-building that seems to follow from well-facilitated participation among people who share a place, livelihood, or cultural roots, namely:
- how to mitigate adverse trans-local decisions, such as those made in governments and corporations operating on a larger spatial and temporal arena; and
- how to incorporate the knowledge-making of non-local or trans-local researchers—people who do not share experience of and commitment to livelihood in one place.
These challenges -- as well as the terms in the sub-title -- are illustrated with brief case presentations from socio-environmental studies in Mexico and Australia and interdisciplinary workshops for reflective practice.
The lecture will involve some reflective activities for the audience, but for those who can stay for a second hour, we'll use a "dialogue hour" format that allows participants to listen, reflect, and take turns talking about connections between the topic at hand and one's own work and emerging ideas. The format is readily learned and transferred into other civil society spaces.
Having worked for many years on ecology and environmental research (Unruly Complexity, U. Chicago 2005), I have been taking my interests in heterogeneous complexities in new directions through engagement with various social epidemiological approaches that address the intersections of environment, health, and development. Bringing critical analysis of science to bear on the practice and applications of science has not been well developed or supported institutionally, and so I have contributed actively to new collaborations, programs, and other activities, new directions for existing programs, and collegial interactions across disciplines. This work has led to the publication (with J. Szteiter) of Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research and Engagement (The Pumping Station, 2012), a field-book of tools and processes to help readers in all fields develop as researchers, writers, and agents of change.