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Global Challenges and Social Justice

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The Centre fosters and nurtures an interdisciplinary and inclusive research culture, indispensable for addressing pressing global challenges in ways that advance social justice. It recognises and supports different modes of research, engagement and impact, cultivating research-led teaching and scholarship that addresses societal challenges across the globe and promotes social justice.

GCSJ research is organised into four clusters.

People and Societies

This research cluster brings together research on micro-, meso- and macro-level relationships that structure the lives and experiences of individuals, groups and communities in global societies.

It focusses on the uneven geographical, social, political and cultural impact of global changes in different parts of the UK, Europe and across the globe; on issues of crime, criminalisation and social harm; exploitation and victimisation; gender, sexualities, intimacy and relationships; feminist theory and movements; racialization, racism and anti-racism; transnationalism, migration, mobilities and refugees; health and well-being; paid and unpaid work; care and reproduction; and critical citizenship studies.

SSGS academics working in this field collaborate with researchers in the Citizenship and Governance Strategic Research Area, the Open Psychology Research Centreresearch groups hosted in the School of Arts and Humanities as well as research groups housed with the Health and Wellbeing Strategic Research Area (H&W SRA), including The Centre for the Study of Global Development (CSGD).

Systems and Institutions

This research cluster brings together research focusing on transformation and challenges within the institutions and systems that shape life at the local, national, international and transnational level.

In examining the systems and institutions that shape everyday activities, research within this cluster addresses some of the most pressing challenges facing interconnected and interdependent global societies, including inclusive international development; political economy; political institutions; technology and digital innovation; education; global social policy; social organizations and resistance; criminal justice and social justice; penal and semi-penal institutions; welfare; and conflict and (in)security.

SSGS academics working in this area collaborate with researchers in the Citizenship and Governance Strategic Research Area, the Innogen | Institute for Innovation Generation in the Life Sciences, the Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC), and Technology Enhanced Learning (OpenTEL) amongst other networks and initiatives.

Examples of knowledge-exchange activities coming out of this cluster of research interests include The Open University film Grenfell Tower and Social Murder, which won the British Documentary Film Festival’s Life Changing Award 2018, and the OU/BBC co-production The Fires that Foretold Grenfell, which won the Learning on Screen Awards 2019 Broadcast Award; Who Are We? project, a long-standing collaboration with the Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London, reflecting on identity, belonging, migration and citizenship; and COVID-19: Chronicles from the Margins, a project that focuses on what life is like during the Covid-19 pandemic from the perspective of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants from different parts of the world.

Environments and Sustainability

This research cluster brings together research on the challenges facing built and natural environments across the globe.

It focusses on climate change and adaptation; ecological resilience; economics and the environment; environmental ethics and multispecies entanglements; religious environmentalism; inclusive innovation; resource politics; science, technology and society; space and place; and infrastructure and connectivity.

SSGS academics working in this field collaborate with researchers in the International Development and Inclusive Innovation Strategic Research Area, and the OpenSpace Research Centre.

Work in this area includes Sounding Coastal Change, a research project, in partnership with the National Trust, that focuses on social and environmental change in North Norfolk, a collaboration with IF: Milton Keynes International Festival around Luke Jerram’s Gaia, and Picturing Climate, a project exploring the use of arts methodologies for climate change activism and education.

Values and Cultures

This research cluster brings together research focusing on challenges generated by value- and culture-shaping aspects of local, national and global communities.

It examines the construction and reconstruction of diverse (and often competing) ways of living, attentive to both historical and contemporary experiences, practices and ideologies. It includes research on secular and religious beliefs and practices; media and popular culture; belief systems and ideologies; social movements and value transformation; history, heritage and memory; food and foodways; sport; social and personal ethics; and decolonising knowledge and learning.

SSGS academics working in this area collaborate, among others, with researchers in the Values and Reasons Research Group.

Work in this area includes the research project Decolonising Peace Education in Africa (DEPA) and the Heritage in War Project.