Engaging Tactics

/////// Conference outline

Engaging Tactics is a two-day BSA Postgraduate Conference with presented papers and practical workshops being held by Goldsmiths Department of Sociology in collaboration with the British Sociological Association and Goldsmiths’ Methods Lab in April 30th – May 1st, 2012.


The aim of this year’s symposium is to explore social sciences’ ways of engaging with the social world. The event seeks to explore how to (re)imagine the ‘tactics’ for producing and sharing social knowledge, focusing on the construction and upholding of meaningful and confiding relationships with both research participants and ‘emerging publics’.

The event builds on the previous successful New-Scholar Symposia staged by the department with (Re)Creating: Methodologies, Concepts, Practices in 2005, Exploding Methods in 2007 and Exploding Objects in 2009.


In the light of wholesale changes to the UK’s higher education system Engaging Tactics asks what we understand the place of sociology and inter-related disciplines to be. Social sciences must (yet again) think about their multifaceted, diverse and (to a great extent) ambiguous engagement with the world. The removal of funding and political support brings into question the critical social sciences’ ability to operate as spaces of intellectual exploration and poses the question of how we can establish alternative value systems for the production of knowledge outside a commodity driven market logic. To find answers to this question, we suggest, it requires engaging audiences in ways that challenge the conventional generation and measurement of ‘impact’. Diverse and inventive tactics might be needed in order to rethink and recast the relationships social sciences build with their participants, users and beneficiaries of research; with policy makers, funders, interested publics and colleagues from other disciplines.

Further, in engaging with the world around us, what tactics and methods are suitable to respond to the pulse of contemporary life? Researchers increasingly make use of sensory or relational methods in the process of doing research. What tactics of engagement do we have at our command to deal with lived experience? And how might these tactics show us possible roads to take for sociology to remain of relevance?

The symposium invites post-graduates and early career researchers to explore engaging tactics under the light of the three topics: Space, Collaboration and Experiment. Papers and any other forms of presentations will be organised into sessions of site and tactic specific presentations and practical workshops, encouraging constructive criticism through joint exploration. As the conference aims to question the engagement with the public, special care will be taken to establish innovative forms of dialogue across and outside established university spaces. The symposium thus seeks to explore spaces, collaborations and experiments neighbouring the college premises such as: London New Cross and Deptford. Furthermore, the symposium intends to foster connections across the postgraduate community.

1. Spatial tactics: Under this heading we invite participants to address the ‘socio-spatial dialectic’ within which knowledge is produced and shared through engagement with the world. It seeks to explore those engaging tactics that challenge the ‘openness’ of social, institutional and physical space and that reflect on the intersection of space, knowledge, and power.

2. Collaborative tactics: This session seeks to encourage a broad and  interdisciplinary dialogue regarding the art of crossing boundaries between you and me, us and them. It invites participants to explore tactics of engagement under the light of trust, respect and the ‘art of listening.’

3. Experimental tactics: This third strand of discussion encourages the formulation, performance and critique of research/dissemination settings that place actors and topics in processual, path-dependent and outcome-open relationships. Participants are invited to explore those engaging tactics that make public matters – objects and issues – matter for what is coming next.

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