How does something become understood as engagement? What are the conditions under which certain actions are seen as engaged? How does engagement become articulated and valued, in accordance with which social expectations? What are the contexts in which engagement manifests itself? Is engagement primarily intentional or socially shaped, and whether it affirms or challenges the norms and rules of social functioning are some of the issues addressed by the Group for Social Engagement Studies.
What we do?
The Group for Social Engagement Studies is conceived as a unique place for multidisciplinary research and cooperation between academic organizations, public institutions, activist groups and media, aiming to provide productive reflection on the phenomenon of social engagement. The group combines theoretical and empirical research, realized by a community of philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, political scientists, cultural theorists, historians, etc. This multi-dimensional approach is crucial for the versatility of both the critical examination of the existing social practices and the efficiency of the proposed alternative polices, designed in common projects. Reflection on social engagement as a field of theoretical and political action, in the broadest sense of the word, requires a wide range of topics and approaches. In the spirit of multidisciplinarity and dialogue, the group critically develops a domain of themes it considers to be vital for action and thought in contemporary society. Taking into account the conceptual and historical legacy of the term (public/civic) engagement, the group tackles a wide array of questions and ambiguities that surround this concept.
With what vision?
The strategic vision of the group is a scientific community which will encourage public engagement and critical thought, actively working on the expansion of the scope of public debates, advocating and aiming to provide systematic education on the history, contemporary dilemmas and forms of emancipatory practices and participation in social life. In that sense, the Group also focuses on the phenomena which present impediments to progressive change, hoping that the understanding of such impediments might facilitate the development of alternative forms of social agency and thought.
Our key concepts
Publicly engaged theory and science. What are the topics, key issues and contexts in which scientific knowledge can become political or publicly engaged? What should be the approach towards the resulting dilemmas, such as the issue of the autonomy of the scientist, fundamental principles of scientific labour, objectivity, situatedness of knowledge, relationship between scientific and lay critique, etc.?
Public role of social theory and its proponents. Does social theory generate social change, and how? How can theoretical knowledge be mobilised for the production of policies and/or public engagement?
Examination of the structure of everyday life experience, conducted at an intersection of different disciplines and perspectives in order to encompass the impact of the state, jurisprudence and institutions on particular experiences, as well as the impact of embodiment in a certain sex, skin colour, etc.
Public/private. Investigation of the borderlines between private and public spheres within which everyday experience is situated, with the aim of their defragmentation. How does public engagement change or conserve the public/private distinction? How are issues of security, structural violence and complex forms of domination related to historical and contemporary disfranchisement in the domain of the home?
Sexuality, body and gender.
Understanding sexuality as a social and political phenomenon that can be genealogically interpreted in conjunction with the way the public (and the private) is formed, along with the development of knowledge about the body, the political definition of citizenship, and the way gender intersects with comparable phenomena, such as class, skin colour, sexual orientation, ability etc.
Examination of the meanings and mechanisms of political and civic community, focused on internal borders of citizenship (inclusion and exclusion from citizenship) and the forms of their overcoming.
Solidarity and resistance.
Examination of the agency ofindividuals, citizens, groups and communities. Examination of the efficacy of public engagement in terms of (self-)emancipation and within (the limits of) solidarity and resistance.
Mapping of emancipatory practices and the critical examination of politics and models of social development. Examination of historical circumstances of the emergence and development of social movements, their influence and relevance today. Focus on new social movements and their (non)emancipatory tendencies.
Coordinator: Dr. Adriana Zaharijević