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2nd Annual Research Festival on Global Challenges and Social Justice

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 - 11:00 to Friday, May 17, 2024 - 15:00
Online and in-person, Library seminar rooms 1&2

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We would like to invite you to join the GCSJ Research Festival on Global Challenges and Social Justice between 15 and 17 May 2024. The festival will include both in-person and online elements and will bring together a variety of speakers and formats to showcase exciting OU research and give researchers a platform to exchange ideas and expand their networks.

Time Title and Speakers

Decriminalisation of Sex Work in Cape Town

Speaker: Bev Orton

Violence against women and girls in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. This also applies to femicide. Sex workers in South Africa face many challenges, murder, rape, sexual assault and significant barriers to safety. The reasons for becoming sex workers are varied and reflect their vulnerabilities and poverty. Not only financial poverty but also educational and skills poverty. Many experience violence within relationships and stigma from communities. They are also targets of violence for police and clients. Sex work enables their children to go to school, puts food on the table for their children, the parents, the children of their brothers and siters and some even manage to pay University fees for their children. Decriminalisation of sex work would enable safeguarding and access to health care.


Imaginaries of Environmentalism: Epiphanies, Fantasies, and Rituals
Organised by the disciplines of Philosophy, Religious Studies, Politics & International Studies

Charlotte Weatherill: Colonial Fantasies of Invulnerability to Climate Change
Sophie-Grace Chappell: Epiphanies and the Environment
Maria Nita: Rituals for the Climate Crisis

Abstract: Environmentalism has a politics of policy and activism, but it’s also a contested space of emotion and imagination. These papers bring together different ideas around environmentalism and imagined alternatives to the harm and violence that is being enacted upon the world.




Borders and the Hostile Environment

Kathryn Medien
Dan Taylor

In this roundtable, Dan Taylor and Kathryn Medien discuss two recent projects exploring how migrants in the UK are experiencing and responding to the UK’s “hostile environment” policies. Over the last year, Dan has been undertaking an Open Societal Challenges project exploring borders, community and connection in the Fens, a part of England which produces much of the UK’s food, much of it through low-waged farm and factory work that has become systematically reliant on migrant labour, some of it trafficked. Working with community partners, Dan discusses the challenges that face migrants in England and the forms of help and solidarity he’s encountered. We’re joined at the roundtable by one community partner supporting migrants in the area. For some years Kathryn has analysed the historical development of and resistance to a “hostile environment” in the UK towards migrants and racialised Britons. Drawing on archival work and contemporary fieldwork, Kathryn explores how activists framed their resistance to the hostile environment through identifying connections between internal bordering and the ongoing legacies of the British Empire and colonialism. Such a framing illuminates the intimacies between bordering policies in Britain and elsewhere, allowing us to create solidarities between anti-border and anti-racist struggles globally.

Library Atrium area – for refreshments and lunch. Download today's programme

Time Title and Speakers
9:30-10:00am Coffee on arrival


Seminar I: Contemporary Challenges of Information and Trust
Organised by the disciplines of Philosophy, Religious Studies, Politics & International Studies

Dan Cavedon-Taylor:
Deepfakes, Hollow Political Harms
Precious Chatterje-Doody: Religious Institutions as Information Actors: Identity, Emotions and War
Paul-Francois Tremlett: From Manila to Wolverhampton and Back Again: The Return of Religion and the Rise of Religious Literacy

Abstract: The contemporary crisis of social, political and media trust is well-documented, as is the range of the challenges it poses for reliably making sense of news and current affairs in a real-time global media ecology. In this context, our immediate affective responses can significantly condition how we react to social stimuli, creating conflicting trends in who and what we trust. This panel looks in more detail at some of these trends. Placing the spotlight on some of the most pressing issues in studies of contemporary information manipulation, the panel interrogates their philosophical and conceptual backstories, as well as their real-world relevance.


Seminar II: Tackling Multi-dimensional Inequalities
Organised by the disciplines of Development, Economics

Thais DeCarvalho-R-Lopes
: The loss of environmental capital and intergenerational impoverishment in the Peruvian Amazonia
Julia Chukwuma: The financialisation of healthcare: Public-Private-Partnerships and health in Africa
Andrew Trigg: Rosa Luxemburg on inequality and economic crises
Charlotte Cross: Title TBC

Chair: Dinar Kale

Abstract: Building on the research conducted in the Development and Economics stream, this session engages with causes, consequences and potential solutions associated with multi-dimensional inequalities. Inequalities have become a pervasive and ubiquitous part of everyday lives in the Global North and Global South. These inequalities are shaped by historical contexts, social structure, and power dynamics, and they manifest in various dimensions such as income, gender, race, and relationships underpinning them. Within this context, this session will examine how individuals, communities, firms, and countries navigate, negotiate and challenge these unequal relationships in different areas such as health, gender and the environment.




Keynote Speech: Whose side is the law on?

Jolyon Maugham KC, founder and director of the Good Law Project

Chair: Umut Erel

Abstract: The Good Law Project is a not for profit campaign organisation that uses the law for a better world. We know that the law, in the right hands, can be a fair and decent force for good. It is a practical tool for positive change and can make amazing things happen.


Coffee break


Seminar III
Organised by the disciplines of Social Policy & Criminology, Sociology

Final session abstract to follow shortly


Seminar IV: Thinking Spatially in Turbulent Times: the Future is Open?
Organised by the discipline of Geography & Environmental Studies

Final session abstract to follow shortly

4:15-5:00pm Networking and refreshments
Time Title and Speakers


Seminar: Actually Decolonising? Frictions, Facilitation and Frontiers

Speakers: Parvati Raghuram

Abstract: Decolonisation has taken up a lot of print space in recent years. First there has been a wholesale endorsement of decolonisation including in Geography where authors have tried to decolonise this and decolonise that (Raghuram and Sondhi, forthcoming). Similarly, many research projects have obtained funding by using the decolonial word to make claims to justice and equality. There has also been, for some time, a critique of rhetorical decolonisation and warnings against simply jumping on the decolonial bandwagon (Moosavi 2020). Authors have argued against the tendency to make this only an epistemic endeavour devoid of the political impetus within which original decolonial thought was embedded. They have urged us to think through the inheritances and responsibilities that decolonisation entails. Between these two ends are many attempts to actually decolonise. Institutions have attempted to change curricula, reading lists, and even staffing.




Seminar: Participatory Action Research (PAR) Methods for Reflective Collaborative Practice: Engaging with Local Authority Policies in Britain and Brazil

Andrea Berardi
: Community-led Policy Innovation for Local Food-Growing
Les Levidow: Brazil’s EcoSol-agroecology networks engaging Local Authority policies
Commentary by Agnes Czajka

Rationale: Participatory Action Research (PAR) is research into practice undertaken by those involved, aiming to improve their situation. To pursue common aims, practitioners jointly plan actions, implement them, observe the effects and reflect on the practical implications; then they repeat the cycle. Through this process, they can become a stronger collective actor. They gain new understandings of the change process. Separate individuals become a more cohesive group, learning how to devise more effective actions. This webinar will focus on PAR methods for Local Authority policy-change, especially for promoting solidaristic agri-food alternatives in Britain and Brazil.

After the talks, webinar participants can describe their own efforts with PAR methods. Contributors should contact the hosts beforehand at

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