'London Inequality Studies' (LIS)
In this post, I write about a recent initiative I have launched: London Inequality Studies (LIS). The study group, established with former colleague Dr Simon Reid-Henry (of Queen Mary University of London), brings together scholars based in the London area who are working on in/equality, broadly conceived.
The purpose of the group
Fundamentally, we want to establish a space where we give inequality, as both an empirical reality and theoretical concept, the critical attention it necessitates. LIS is very different to a traditional reading group: it seeks to foster a conversation that builds on the foundations established in each meeting over a number of years, and that leads to a range of different meaningful interventions.
Our motivations for setting up the group are twofold. The first is to change the terms of the academic debate, specifically by addressing two limitations of current literature on inequality. Firstly, there is a tendency in intellectual debate to treat inequality as an object of secondary interest. Inequality is often treated as an externality, outcome or by-product of other phenomena. By curating a space where in/equality is the primary subject, the aim is to rescue critical understandings from passivity and apolitical accounts, and to strive for a more explicit engagement with the politics of unequal life.
Secondly, even when inequality is approached as a primary object of study, it has tended to be done in strongly disciplinary ways. Indeed, different academic disciplines—be they economics, philosophy, sociology, human geography, political science—have each developed their own intellectual language and set of concepts for theorising inequality. What is notable, however, is the general lack of interdisciplinary conversation between these different avenues. It is hoped that LIS will go some way to fostering multi-disciplinary conversations to address this trend.
Our second, and perhaps more ambitious objective, is to establish an academic network from which impactful interventions can be made into popular and public understandings of inequality. As I have noted previously in this blog, inequality is arguably the most central and urgent challenge of our times. It is hoped that, by establishing a scholarly network and academic collective, shared critical viewpoints might be shared and disseminated to a wider audience.
The practicalities of the group
The group will meet four times per academic year at the University of London’s Senate House. Our practical approach aims to be as equally innovative as our set of conceptual questions. This will include seminar-style discussions, presentations by members and selected guests, break-out groups and creative methods for establishing a conversation that builds on previous sessions consistently.
We will be providing updates on our website, including regular blog posts. If you’re interested in finding out more, do get in touch!