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26–28 June 2024, Hybrid at SOAS University of London
rights and representation; redistribution and restoration; reproduction and production
The conference theme is detailed below. However, the conference will also be open to submissions outside the conference theme of relevance to current development theory and practice, or topics covered by DSA Study Groups, even if these are not strongly aligned to the theme.
Theme summary: The DSA2024 conference will explore what thinking more explicitly about global development from a social justice perspective can offer development theory and practice, with a particular focus on the three core strands: Rights and representation; redistribution and restoration; reproduction and production.
Underpinning all global development discourses, practice and policy – sometimes explicitly, often implicitly – is the issue of social justice. Whether framed within formal discourses of human rights, representation or redistribution; an intended or unintended outcome of development policy and interventions; or a contested idea around which debates on equality, equity, fairness and responsibility are framed and debated, social justice is at the heart of global development. Orthodox development priorities and institutions, too, acknowledge explicitly (if perhaps problematically) social justice as a core feature of global development priorities and interventions.
Over recent years, an increasingly fracturing world has faced challenges from a succession of crises (economic, climate, health, conflict), growing global and domestic inequities, and challenges to rights and representation amidst a growing populist politics of exclusion. The growing polarisation of global and national politics; debates around rights, reparations and legacy responsibilities; around identities and identity politics, has fed into debates and policy in global development and social justice, contributing to the further marginalisation of already vulnerable populations and communities.
The DSA2024 conference provides an opportunity to reflect on issues, structures and processes of power, justice and equity within global development action and relationships; on the need for de-centring development theory within the discipline; and the ways in which these challenge existing ideas, and demand new ways of thinking about, perhaps even re-setting, thinking and practice around social justice and development.
The DSA2024 conference will explore what thinking more explicitly about global development from a social justice perspective can offer development theory and practice, with a particular focus on the three core strands:
Rights and representation: This strand will not only consider the existing international human rights and other systems, asking whether they provide an effective framework for social justice in development; but look at emerging alternatives to those frameworks and the ways in which they may construct new ways of thinking about rights and social justice. The way in which decisions are made on behalf of others; power dynamics within local, national and international policy-making fora; and the mechanisms for representing and speaking on behalf of communities is a critical dimension of social justice within global development.
In doing so, this strand will consider how rights are claimed, by individuals, communities and nations within overlapping political communities at multiple levels, and the place of protest (including through digital technologies) and role of civil society and other types or organisations such as trade unions, cultural organisations and protest movements, in asserting and making claim to particular rights. It will look at locations of power within global development, and alternative sites of power and representation, addressing fundamental power imbalances and inequities within the global development architecture. This might include a focus on the rise of new global development players and fora, for example the new infrastructure banks and south-south forms of cooperation.
Redistribution and restoration: This strand will look at the ways in which various redistributional and restorative justice claims are being articulated and contested in different socio-economic contexts and against the backdrop of mounting crises. It will also engage with the issue of reparations within development discourse and theory, an idea rising in the political agenda around the question of climate justice and reparations as seen in the UNFCCC negotiations. In doing so it will engage with ideas around aid, development, and redistributive and restorative justice that are embedded in debates around decolonisation, climate-related funding, racial capitalism amongst other areas.
It will also reflect on the ways in which redistribution and restoration intersect the new geopolitical polarisation and development debates. In doing so, it will welcome both contemporary and historical ways of approaching this strand. Bringing environmental justice into these discussions will highlight both the potential clash between social and environmental justice, as well as the relative absence of environmental concerns in most mainstream theories of social justice.
Reproduction and production: This strand will look at the ways in which the worlds of production and social reproduction are shaped and embedded into local, regional, and global structures of production, work, and livelihoods. In doing so, it will also address how societal and environmental shocks are revealing new socio-economic vulnerabilities, new interdependencies among communities and sectors, as well as introducing new compression mechanisms and trade-offs in development and policy. It will highlight the importance of ‘work’ within global development, and the role of precarious labour in deepening vulnerability and insecurity.
It will also engage with the ways in which responses to these multiple developmental challenges are leading to new forms of organised contestation, new institutional mechanisms for social provision and more sustainable forms of production; and how, in this context, technology can enable or constrain social justice. In addressing these interdependencies and challenges, including their highly gendered nature, social justice will not be considered only as a developmental outcome, but as an intrinsic feature of different modes of production and social reproduction on which a social contract that delivers sustainable development must be built.
DSA2024 will invite participants to engage and grapple with theory (with a particular focus on de-centred theory), policy and practice, and the ways in which this demands a reset of ideas and practice around social justice in development. Participants will engage with social justice as it relates to development research and teaching, to ensure the academic discipline works in ways that reflect commitments to social justice-led and informed global development.
Questions that might arise from this theme and be addressed in papers and panels include:
How does adopting a social justice approach change how we think and act in relation to global development?
Sub-questions might include:-
In a context of profound change and crisis, what is the link between rights and social justice in global development, especially where differing expressions of rights, or rights in differing realms, may clash?
Sub-questions might include:-
How can development studies contribute to evolving debates and redistributive mechanisms around colonialism, the legacy of slavery, the impact of climate crisis?
Sub-questions might include:-
How can social justice be embedded within our understanding of different modes of production and social reproduction?
Sub-questions might include:-
The Conference convenor is Michael Jennings and the Local Committee: Antonio Andreoni, Laura Hammond, Miguel Nino Zarazua, Alessandra Mezzadri, Sara Stevano, Tom Tanner, Surbhi Kesar, Sarah Njeri and Miguel Nino Zarazua.
Additional activities in DSA2024 to support this theme:
1. A mentoring and support programme for early career researchers participating in the DSA. Although these activities will be focused on all ECRs, they will be organised in a way that will make them especially accessible to global South scholars. It will include a number of elements:
• In advance of the conference, in Spring 2024, SOAS will host an online set of workshops oriented towards helping ECRs understand how to move from research to impact through publication. This will include advice on writing for journal publications and how to approach journals.
• During the conference, there will be an in-person session on publishing academic work, bringing together an invited selection of relevant journal editors and members of editorial boards. This will be recorded to supplement the pre-conference workshop.
• The most exciting part of this work will be a mentoring system. We will be inviting attendees to the conference to sign up as mentors. This will involve a one-on-one online session with a mentee and be focused around a research paper they are working on. The mentor will read the paper and during the online meeting will offer advice on best next steps in moving towards publication. Although this will be open to all ECR participants, priority will be given to scholars from the global South.
2. ‘Conversations with…’. Given the focus on social justice, as part of the conference we would hold a number of roundtable panels, inviting policy-makers, activists and others engaged directly in social justice and development, to speak and engage with the themes of the conference. This will allow for the themes run across individual panels to be brought back together to reflect on the bigger picture, and to think about ways in which development research can feed into policy, action and activism.