This project of leadership activities and research is funded under the RCUK ‘Global Uncertainties’ programme and addresses its strategic aim of ‘security for all in a changing world’. The working hypothesis of the project is that this strategic aim is dependent on the capacity to imagine a common ground and a common humanity, which is in turn dependent on the ability to overcome resentment and distrust, and on the ability to deploy a certain utopian form of thinking. What will be explored is the role of prospective and projective thinking in advancing social justice and social cohesion, as well as its potential for impeding such.
Research activities will serve to focus attention on the following topics of enquiry: cross-cultural understandings of extremism, especially from the perspective of youth culture and with respect to its potential common ground; the potential loss of faith in humanity occasioned by violent sectarian conflict and forms of post-conflict rehabilitation; perceived forms of political negligence in relation to social autonomy and welcome and unwelcome forms of state intervention; the role that popular culture and community arts initiatives are able to play in transforming the disadvantaged sectors of developing societies and new democracies through drawing on local resources and advancing social and economic inclusiveness, together with the role played by community leaders in this regard; the destructive and constructive aspects of utopian thinking with respect to questions of idealism, social expectations and aspirations, and the grounds for consensual action.
The programme of research will be carried out through a series of Global Uncertainties events (a conference and workshops) entailing public sector involvement, together with practice-based research in the form of creative projects (including a major documentary in the Middle East and a UK-based hip hop and spoken word production on questions of extremism, political distrust and pathways to justice), fieldwork, various publications, and the setting up of networks, particularly one that comprises experts on popular culture in the Middle East and Africa.