Theo Aalders | 23 May 2018
When I realised that I would start working in Gothenburg, I wanted to know as much about SGS as possible. So of course I googled it. What I found was a sleek website that featured a long list of research projects with daunting titles, a list of names of people I didn’t (yet) know and a link to a video that didn’t work (that was before Anita’s awesome student blog). Don’t get me wrong: the SGS-website is everything it’s supposed to be and – apart from a broken link here and there – it does a good job at that. The thing is: it’s supposed to represent the institute and not give a close and personal insight into the everyday life and work of the people here at SGS. But that was exactly what I was looking for. That’s a really important reason for me to start this project: to enable people outside of the department to get to know the let’s-talk-about-our-projects-over-lunch us, and not only the here’s-my-polished-presentation-at-a-conference us.
But there are many more reasons why I think this blog is an important project – even if it will be only one among a million similar “department blogs”. One of the first questions I was confronted with when starting my work at the School of Global Studies – apart from “where the heck do I find a flat?” – was asked by Jan Scholte in his “Social Science Theory”-course: What does it mean to be global? Is the global - as Bruno Latour famously posited - not much bigger than a pumpkin?
To do global studies, I would argue, means more than the things we write about; it’s a perspective and a way to engage with the world - and it’s certainly not just about publishing papers in journals that are available in some universities around the world. Granted, it would be hubris to assume that this blog will reach more than a couple of dozen people – especially now in its early stages – but it makes a big difference when you make an effort to write about your work in a way that is not blocked off to most others by way of inaccessible language and pay walls. We’re by far not the first to notice that – in fact we are embarrassingly late – and many journals such as Security Dialogue or ISQ in fact already run a “blog-version” of their academic publications.
For me it’s always a tight rope to walk. On the one hand I do not want to flatter myself by seeing my own work as too important; by approaching the third mission with missionary zeal and imagining that the world graciously awaits my words of wisdom. But on the other hand I think that we need to appreciate that academics actually do have a lot of influence in the way public debates are formed and framed. In that latter sense, we may even have an obligation to engage in public debates instead of relying on detached and self-referential chatter in peer-reviewed journals and fancy conference lobbies.
A blog has the additional benefit that it doesn’t have to engage in the frenzy of social media, where outrage is the most valuable currency. It allows for a moderated and level-headed debate, while remaining flexible enough to be able to react to current events and without having to go through an equalizing process of peer-review, which makes many people hide their own voiced behind a veil of formalistic speech. That hides the let’s-talk-about-our-projects-over-lunch us.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, this blog is also a new way for us within the school of global studies to engage with each other’s research. Let’s be honest: nobody manages to keep up with all the publications this department produces – which is probably a good sign, because you guys just write so god damn much. Catching up with other people’s work by skimming through the latest blog posts is something you can do during a coffee break.
So yeah, we hope you’re with us on this little experiment – be it as a casual coffee-break-reader, as an engaged discussant in the comment section, or even as a contributor (get in touch with Theo at email@example.com if you wanna get in the roster). Welcome at the School of Blogal Studies!
/Swati and Theo