Public engagement and outreach

My interest in how universities build their relationships with the public, and how academic knowledge is communicated and created in relationship with differently defined communities is not only theoretical – I am also involved in practical projects that seek to engage with and challenge boundaries between universities and their environment, as well as contribute to thinking about them within universities.

September 2017: Designing, organising and running “Practice of theory“, first Cambridge summer school in social theory. The idea for this occurred in the conversations I was having with Mark Carrigan about the ‘compartmentalisation’ of social theory in the UK academia (and beyond), both in the sense of divisions between different ‘schools’ (Bourdieusians, Marxists, critical realists, etc.) and in its being sealed off from research. The punny title intended to convey both the desire to go beyond these (largely unproductive but often self-imposed) boundaries and to focus on what doing theory really means.

The event, which took place from 4 to 6 September at the Department of Sociology of the University of Cambridge, gathered graduate students and other early career researchers from a variety of backgrounds, across the UK and beyond, engaging in critical and constructive discussions on what it means to ‘do’ theory in the current economic, political, and historical context. With talks by Linsey McGoey (Essex), Simon Susen (City), and Nicholas Gane (Warwick), responses by Cambridge-based academics, and a host of practical activities, we hope to have contributed significantly to changing the idea of theory as distant from practice and, specifically, from the communities outside of the university.

June 2017: Entry for “Sociology of knowledge” for HE Plus website. HE Plus is a Cambridge-based initiative that aims to bring topics in a variety of academic disciplines closer to pupils considering doing their A-levels and, potentially, applying to university. Sociology of knowledge is particularly important in the context of post-truth epistemic landscape; being able to talk about how social context influences the production of knowledge has important bearings not only on young people’s decisions concerning their educational and professional futures, but also, and more importantly, on what kind of citizens they will become.

October-December 2016: Writing for The Question UK, a website/portal that gathers answers from academics and other experts to relevant social questions asked by the audience (or by The Question team). I answered questions such as “What economic philosophy will come after neoliberalism?“, “What is the link between education and liberal values?“, and “How will online dating change society?“.

July-August 2016: “Who should own knowledge?”, and “Gender stereotypes and the media”, talks at the Sutton trust summer school, University of Cambridge. Sutton Trust is an educational charity that aims to encourage disadvantaged students to apply to universities; the summer school gives an opportunity to students to experience Cambridge education in less formal setting.

December 2015: “In(n) between worlds: Negotiating boundary spaces between academia, practitioners, public engagement, and the rest”, workshop on boundaries between public engagement practitioners and academics, and how this influences public engagement, held at the Engage conference of the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement in Bristol. Building on my research on public engagement practices in the UK and in New Zealand, together with Kate Miller and Jelena Nolan-Roll (University of Bristol), I developed a collaborative space where participants could engage in open discussion (and a bit of role-play!) to stimulate thinking about how professional identities and positions influence how we interact in the practice of public engagement.

September 2015:Making sense of public engagement” Engaged practice learning exchange – workshop for academics and public engagement practitioners organized by the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and the University of Bristol. Together with Paul Manners (NCCPE), I developed a workshop where participants could explore the relationship between global and national policies concerning universities’ relationships with the society, and their own experiences of public engagement and developing impact, and reflect critically on both.