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Critical Governance Workshops

The past decade witnessed the revival of social critique across many spheres of scholarship, not least in governance studies. This revival has opened many doors for cross-disciplinary and cross-faculty research and recognising this the Institute of Advanced Study awarded a grant to a cross disciplinary group of scholars, led by the Warwick Institute of Education, Politics and International Studies and Warwick Business School, to run a series of four workshops. Each workshop explored different aspects of the potential for collaboration around critical challenges to governance orthodoxies. Participants were invited to come prepared to make a contribution by reflecting on the following issues:

  • In what sense do you see your work as challenging orthodoxies?
  • How/why have particular orthodoxies become embedded in your area?
  • On what basis should given orthodoxies be challenged?
  • In what sense do you understand your work to be critical?
  • What does it mean to be critical; in relation to the concept of 'governance' and more broadly in relation to any field of research?
  • What potential, if any, is there for cross-departmental critical research, either in the field(s) of governance studies or more broadly?
  • How might cross-departmental critical research mount an effective challenge to orthodoxies and develop influential alternatives?

We suggested the following definitions of key terms.

  • Orthodoxies: the term 'orthodox' pertains to established doctrine. In academia, the orthodox may or may not be synonymous with the disciplinary 'mainstream'. We are asking what ‘orthodoxies’, if any, are embedded in particular disciplines and why? Perhaps critique is an orthodoxy? Perhaps what is 'critical' in one field is 'orthodox' in another? What are the grounds – ontological, epistemological, theoretical, methodological and empirical – upon which orthodoxies, including orthodoxies of critique, might be challenged?
  • Critical: the term ‘critical’ has many meanings and we do not wish to pre-define it. We invite scholars to present work which they regard as ‘critical’, but also want to make problematic the notion of critique itself. What does it mean to be critical? What is ‘criticality’, as a disposition or scholarly practice? How can it inform collaborative research? How can it be used to generate influential alternatives to orthodoxies?
  • Governance: We see the term ‘governance’ as spanning everything from the study of political and economic institutions to the mechanisms by which academic disciplines maintain themselves and their own ‘orthodoxies’.

The four workshops held in late 2007 and the first half of 2008 addressed the following issues. Programme and reports can be found in the links on the left of the page.

  1. Workshop 1 - scoping the challenge: The first workshop was held on 12th December 2007. A vibrant discussion was held among some 30 people around the character of orthodoxies in the sphere of 'governance', and some of the grounds upon which these orthodoxies might be subjected to critique. The programme is available at the link to the left of the page. A short note of the proceedings will be added soon.
  2. Workshop 2 - making connections: Workshop 2 was held on 31st January 2008. The programme for this event is also available at a link to the left of the page. Lead speakers, Professors Colin Crouch (WBS), Mike Geddes (WBS), Shirin Rai (PAIS) and Noel Whiteside (Sociology), addressed the questions posed below from their own unique perspectives, informed by the key themes emerging from Workshop 1.
  3. Workshop 3 - developing cross-institutional research: This workshop was held on Tuesday 18th March 2008, bringing together leading scholars from Warwick and a number of partner institutions. The objective was to begin establishing grounds upon which critical research partnerships in the sphere of governance studies might move forward on a cross-institutional basis. Drawing on reflections from the first two workshops, the session focused on developing the potential for cross-institutional collaboration around the following governance themes: citizens, money, space, networks, science and the university. Each theme was co-convened by a lead from Warwick and a colleague from another participating institution.
  4. Workshop 4 - towards a research programme in critical governance studies: The final event was held on 1st July 2008. It took the form of a half-day conference with a keynote speech by Professor Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick. The event developed plans for new collaborative research on critical governance studies and extended beyond 'governance' to reflect broadly on the nature, practice and purpose of scholarly critique. You can find the programme for this workshop on the left hand side of this page.