The conference addresses current conditions and modes of academic knowledge production in order to revisit the ethical, political and social visions of research and higher education that were articulated in the second half of the 20th century. At European universities debates on the social commitment of the social sciences as well as the sciences of technology and engineering promoted new approaches at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s. Discourses on the links between academic knowledge production and decolonisation processes in turn played an important role at the mostly newly established African universities during the first years of independence.
The focus of the conference is on ways of implementing and pursuing critical thinking against the background of transformation processes in academic knowledge production due to social developments which have been heavily influenced by neoliberal policies and their reproduction of hegemonic power relations since the end of the Cold War. This includes investigations into the contextualisation of epistemic paradigms in critical thinking, the interaction between differing articulations in the Global South and Global North as well as concepts of critical alliances.
These objectives tackle the academic discourses on the past and present of the geopolitics of knowledge; the critique of notions of centre and periphery; the social and cultural inscriptions of gender and ethnicity; the radical consideration of the links between hegemonic concepts of modernity and development; as well as epistemologies in the Global South with their particular forms of integration, transformation or rejection of (critical) Western concepts. Furthermore, through critical dialogues between social, cultural and engineering sciences we aim to emphasise the needs of particular societal contexts.
In this vein, the conference scrutinises the limits and potentials of networked research between European and African universities. Such research is often framed by the European Union’s efforts to create a European model of higher education within increasingly commodified knowledge on a global scale. Hence, such research settings require analyses of inscribed power relations within (trans)local agendas and the situatedness of epistemologies and methodologies. Given the complexities and entanglements of the respective societal, cultural and economic contexts, new modes of critical knowledge production which follow principles of social commitment thus necessitate reflections on the constitution of research fields and research questions.
In the light of these deliberations the conference aims to address, but is not limited to, the following questions:
- Whose knowledge and which methodologies are accepted, rejected or partly integrated into which knowledge systems? What are the discursive procedures that privilege, neglect or exclude certain epistemic processes?
- What paradigmatic shifts and/or breaks occur in South-North or South-South academic co-operations and discourses?
- To what extent does networked research contribute to changes in academic knowledge production in the respective (local/regional/national) contexts?
- In which ways are knowledge systems moulded and/or critiqued by e.g. orientalism or occidentalism and notions of modernity (western, multiple, other etc.)? To what extent are they linked to questions of race/racism? How are these intersections explored by gender and queer theories?
- What are the correlations of knowledge production with transversal politics or other conceptualisations of critical alliances?
- What are the effects of neo-liberal policies on knowledge production within co-operative academic contexts?
- What are the inter-/transdisciplinary implications of such a critical dialogue between social, cultural and engineering sciences?
- Against the background of ever more technologies and managerial decision making processes structuring daily life and social interactions: What are visions of the future or conceptualisations of a ‘next society’?
The organisers encourage young and senior researchers from different (trans)disciplinary and regional contexts to present papers on epistemological and methodological issues addressing these thematic areas, as well as case studies. Papers integrating social/cultural with engineering/science perspectives are particularly welcome.
Please send abstracts (of 300 words max) with a short biographical note not later than 30 May 2014 to: mik [@] uni-oldenburg [dot] de
By 15 July 2014 the selection committee will inform applicants about the decision. Some travel grants for selected speakers might become available in early October. When submitting your abstract, please indicate if you plan to apply for a travel grant.
We will expect full papers to be submitted by 30 October 2014. Selected papers will be published in an edited collection.