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Publics

© Dmitry Vereshchagin - Fotolia.com
© Dmitry Vereshchagin - Fotolia.com
We focus on understanding the registers and mediums through which publics are mobilised, summoned, and performed.

About the programme

This involves exploring the shifting relationships between public and private, personal and political, as matters of faith, sexuality, reproduction, care, and personal morality are increasingly framed as issues of public concern. Critical questions about welfare, wellbeing and social life are at stake in the dynamic reshaping of the boundaries between public and private.

We have a strong interest in how such shifting boundaries bring about new arrangements of relationships, responsibilities and risks in contemporary life. Current studies of how education is governed – and what sort of public interest is expressed in such governing; of how feminism contributed to the shaping of public policy and governance; of how publics mobilise around contentious issues such as urban redevelopment; and of how austerity politics and policies might be remaking public services exemplify the interests of the programme.

The programme acts as a focal point for a network of national and international scholars, activists and professionals and we organise a wide range of events and contribute to many other research projects and publications.

Recent activities include:

  • ESRC, two year, Research Seminar Series on Emergent Publics (with the OU Department of Geography), bringing together scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds to understand the development of new practices, sites and definitions of publicness. This project generated an edited collection published by Policy Press (2010), entitled Rethinking the public: innovations in research, theory and politics, edited by Nick Mahony, Janet Newman and Clive Barnett.
  • Joint project with ESRC and the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) that explored the institutional dynamics behind the proliferation of audience and market segmentation methods in the public and not-for-profit sector. A report on Segmenting Publics was publised in 2011.
  • Governing by Inspection: a three-year research project (2010-2013) funded by the ESRC and the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) currently explores the role of school inspection in governing complex systems of schooling in three different national settings: England, Scotland and Sweden. The rpoject is co-investigated by: John Clarke and Jacqueline Baxter at the Open University (CCIG), by Sotiria Grek at the University of Edinburgh, by Martin Lawn (Centre for Educational Sociology), Jenny Ozga (Oxford University), by Christina Segerholm (UTV) and by Agneta Hult, Joakim Lindgren, Linda Ronnberg at the Umea University. Further details here.

  • ESRC International Partnership and Networking Scheme, 'Making Publics across Time and Space' (July 2012-July 2014). The aim of this project is to construct a new network of connections between researchers in the UK and North America who have been working on similar concerns but whose work has been separated by time and space.
  • Nick Mahony, member of the programme, is currently co-investigator in a three-year project (2012-2015) designed to embed public engagement within research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) – The Catalyst Project, funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK). The project is led by Tim Blackman.

Programme Director

John Clarke and Nick Mahony

Research highlights

Creating Publics

The project emerges out work undertaken under the auspices of CCIG’s Publics Research Programme and the recognition that there is a need to bring contemporary research on public mediation to bear on the public engagement agenda.

Acknowledging that opportunities to perform publicly are both increasingly diverse as well as more and more unevenly available, the project investigates the current drive for publicly engaging social science research by exploring what is at stake in different contexts and experimenting with new approaches to practice.

Mission Impossible?

Mission Impossible? The 1976 Spanish Law for Political Reform

This British Academy funded research project led by Georgina Blakeley seeks to explain an unexpected political outcome: why Francoist deputies voted overwhelmingly for the 1976 Law for Political Reform which brought about their own political demise.

Nick Mahony is openDemocracy’s guest editor of the week

Following on CCIG’s Publics Research Programme June 2012 international workshop ‘Creating publics, creating democracies’, OpenDemocracy has just launched a week-long feature called ‘Creating publics, opening democracies’.

Starting today and running every day this week, it will feature a series of nine specially written pieces, introduced by Nick Mahony, John Clarke, Susan Pell, and Liza Griffin.