GSA Conference 2018

This conference was held from 31st May – 1st July 2018 at the University of Northampton, UK. The GSA conference 2018 covered the following themes:

THEME 1: Globalization and Borders: Thinking about Global Borders

The global age has not led to a borderless world but neither do we live in world of neatly tessellating state borders (akin to lines on a map). Contemporary multidisciplinary research on borders has examined their transformation (from simple lines to complex social/political/spatial processes) with a good deal of emphasis given to ever-changing form, function, location and ownership. Thinking about globalization and borders has tended to focus on the perceived need for more and better borders designed to target and regulate the flows, mobilities and networks that are considered part and parcel of increased (post 9-11) global connectivity. However, even at a time when the so-called need for ‘stronger’ territorial borders is being championed as mainstream ‘common-sense’ politics, there is evidence amongst scholars of a dissatisfaction with the state/security/mobility agenda that often frames research on borders under the rubric of contemporary globalization. The relationship between global processes and bordering is much more complex than such a dichotomy inducing agenda implies. For example, borders are increasingly shaped by governance regimes beyond the state and other actors are involved in doing bordering. Borders are part of the lived experience, are sites of cultural encounters and can represent staging posts to the wider world. Borders can be utilised as political resources by an array of different actors in different ways to navigate the variety of spaces that characterise a world in motion. Indeed, even the relationship between borders and security cannot be assumed; it is always changing, uncertain and must be established on a case-by-case basis. All of this is what Chris Rumford has framed ‘global borders’.

This session/theme aims to invite scholars working across the social sciences to think about global borders and to explore the relationship between global processes and bordering. Both theoretical and empirical engagements are welcome. Interest may include and take into account but not be limited to the following topics:

  • The impact of globalization on all borders.
  • The need to identity new meanings of the border not tied to the state.
  • How thinking about ‘global borders’ requires us to think about how best to study bordering theoretically, methodologically and empirically.
  • The relationship between bordering and cosmopolitanism (and the possibility of cosmopolitan borders).
  • How the securitisation of borders raises new questions concerning governance, democracy, citizenship, territoriality and solidarity.
  • The potential of borders as resources (economic/political/cultural/social).
  • The development and consequences of border encounters as everyday experience (and the development and consequences of everyday forms of border transcending, negotiating and networking).

THEME 2: Globalization, Consumer Society and Development

The development of a consumer society is often seen as indicative of and indeed an unavoidable consequence of globalisation. To be part of globalization is therefore to be part of capitalism, of market economics, of consumer culture, and probably of cosmopolitanism and urban living. ‘Progress’ is often presented as linked to consumer society and its accompanying facets. Many developing nations specifically aim to move away from being producer nations and become consumer nations.  Democracy and consumption are often seen as mutually constitutive. Meanwhile, consumer society is berated in terms of its ecological impact and still (sometimes) the pressures it can place on individuals and society. This session aims to dissect and challenge the relationships between globalization, consumption, and capitalism. We invite papers of both a theoretical and empirical nature, and from scholars across all disciplines.

Topics within this theme might include, but are not limited to:

  • The globalization of ideas on consumer society (e.g. Keynesianism)
  • The globalized/globalizing consumer
  • Economic and social development and consumer society
  • Democracy, capitalism, and consumerism
  • Representations of consumer society/consumers in a globalized context

THEME 3: Human Rights in a Globalizing – and de-Globalizing – World

As an area of study, human rights is implicitly at the heart of the global studies project, and overlaps considerably with such themes as cosmopolitanism and global citizenship which have been substantially theorised by global studies scholars. Even so, there remains a tendency to treat human rights and global studies as distinct fields, and efforts to bridge the two – in particular, to consider the role of human rights as a legal, social and political framework within the context of globalization – have so far been limited. In the contemporary political climate, with the rise of right-wing populism, both the cosmopolitan philosophy that underpins human rights and the neo-liberal philosophy that has driven the project of capitalist globalization appear to be under severe threat. It is therefore imperative that social scientists engage with these challenges within a broader and holistic conceptual framework. We therefore invite papers – both conceptual/theoretical and empirical in focus – from scholars from across the disciplines seeking to engage with these contemporary challenges and contribute to this emergent discourse.

THEME 4: Globalization and Ideology

The ideological dimensions and implications of globalization are manifold and often contradictory. While the hegemonic variant of globalization has been relentlessly promoted by the ideology of neoliberalism, alternative ideological perspectives have likewise acquired worldwide reach thanks to global technologies and forms of organizing. The debate on globalization and ideology often has a normative orientation in that it tends to postulate wide-ranging counter-hegemonic alliances to challenge the neoliberal status quo. The question that is frequently asked in this context is whether attempts to reform, transform or resist globalization can benefit from arguments and insights provided by established political belief systems – liberalism, socialism and so forth. The dominant position in the debate is that globalization has destabilized the ideologies of modernity to the extent that they are no longer able to map the political world or inspire political action. Such assertions may entail new-fangled ideological types with which to navigate the political landscape. Alternatively, the exhaustion of traditional isms may be put forward amid broader doubts about the relevance of ideology as such. Neoliberals have been particularly keen to assert the end of ideology but the claim has also shaped the discourses of anti-neoliberal resistance. Others have argued that both ideology per se and the ideological systems of modernity are alive and well. Accordingly, far from their exhaustion, traditional ideologies have accommodated globalization by interpreting its processes and practices in the light of their own fundamental principles.

Topics within this theme might include, but are not limited to:

  • The relationship between material practices and ideological aspects of globalization;
  • Globalization as an ideological concept;
  • Ideology-laden interpretations of globalization;
  • The condition of ideology in a global age;
  • Origins and nature of explicitly globally-orientated discourses and ideologies;
  • Continuity and change in traditional ideological arguments.

THEME 5: Global Studies and the Challenge of the Anthropocene

As globalization was one of the leading ideas in the social sciences from the 1980s to the first decade of the new millennium, the Anthropocene and its social science/humanities/creative arts offshoot the Anthropo-scene are now serious contenders to be leading ideas of our time. The Anthropocene is a geological concept, coined in recognition of the (generally damaging) human impact on the planet. Earth System scientists conceptualize the planet in terms of ‘Earth System’ in contrast to ‘environment’, and other eco-systems, notably climate change, that have been the main focus of research and popular discussion up to now. It is time for sociologists and social scientists in general, especially those with global perspectives, to begin to engage seriously with the main issue the Anthropocene raises – namely the survival of life on Earth.

Three major narratives have emerged from debates around the challenges of the Anthropocene:

(1) While posing problems, the Anthropocene is a ‘great opportunity’ for business, science and technology, geoengineering, etc. The Earth has always been changing, and humanity has coped creatively.

(2) The planet and humanity itself are in danger, we cannot ignore the warning signs but if we are clever enough we can save ourselves and the planet with technological fixes (as in 1).

(3) We are in great danger, humanity cannot go on living and consuming as we do now, we must change our ways of life radically – by changing/ending capitalism and creating new types of societies.

So, the question remains, what can the social sciences constructively add to these debates.

THEME 6: Cosmopolitanism and the Challenges of Globalization

Cosmopolitanism is a theme that has been substantially discussed, theorized and researched in the realm of global studies for the past two decades. The core idea of cosmopolitanism is that of human beings belonging to a single community, based on universal principles. If this idea was first constructed in a more abstract or idealistic perspective of world citizenship and universalism, more recently scholars have developed theoretically and empirically the understanding of the pathways of creation of human communities and their sharing identities and belongings. Yet, challenges to the idea and practice of cosmopolitanism are presented to our societies, contrasting nationalistic outlooks to world issues, such as migration flows, refugees´ status, global warming, civil wars, nuclear threats etc. We live in a world in which engagement with strangers is no longer optional, and in which inherited ethnic identities and familiar linguistic and territorial boundaries are put under increasing pressure by globalization. At the same time, various elements — nation states, ethnic and linguistic loyalties — uneasily coexist with aspects of an emerging configuration, including supranational economic and political developments and an overall sense of cultural fluidity. For these and many other reasons cosmopolitanism provides an important perspective on processes of globalization and the interconnectedness of the world.

We invite papers of both a theoretical and empirical nature, and from scholars across all disciplines. Topics within this theme might include, but are not limited to:

  • Challenges and limits to cosmopolitanism
  • Cosmopolitanism and global citizenship
  • Cosmopolitanism and global justice
  • Cosmopolitanism and global culture
  • Cosmopolitanism, communities and identity
  • Cosmopolitanism and cities
  • Critical cosmopolitanism
  • Cosmopolitan theory in global studies