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ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC)

What we do

We are living through dramatic socio-cultural turbulence the outcomes of which are unclear. CRESC offers interdisciplinary analyses of social and cultural change using state of the art research methods to challenge contemporary myths and offer empirically grounded accounts of change in specific key areas. Opened in 2004, as the main investment of the Economic and Social Research Council to address issues of culture – in their interface with economic, social and political processes, our core funding (£4.5million) has been extended unto 2014. Our research on cultural participation, on the challenge of the digital, on financialization, and on the media and transnationalism has driven both academic and policy debates.

We draw on the expertise of leading sociologists, historians, anthropologists, museologists, business analysts, geographers and cultural and media studies researchers based at The University of Manchester and The Open University. We use rigorous quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the extent, direction, and dynamics of socio-cultural change over recent decades, not only in the UK, but globally.

Our annual conferences have proven to be major international events, with several hundred participants from all over the world. Our research has shown itself to be of direct relevance to users working inside the cultural and media sector, in numerous government departments, and in the private sector. We have worked with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport; the British Film Institute; the Office of National Statistics; the BBC; KPMG; the Equality and Human Rights Commission; ARUP engineers; the Olympic Park Legacy Company. We are keen to explore other collaborations.

Our methodological strengths

We pull together strengths in both quantitative methods (including longitudinal survey analysis) and qualitative research (in ethnography, in-depth interviewing, and visual analysis). We have particular interests in developing methods for addressing the challenge of digital data, in finding ways of effectively linking different research methods, and in exploring the significance of visual methods. We pool our collective interests in a cross cutting theme on The Social Life of Methods, which examines how social science methods can themselves become agents of change.

Our research themes

Remaking Capitalism

Theme 1: Our analysis of this active process emphasises changing conjunctural logic and shifting borders where much is uncertain and undisclosed. But the results so far include sharply increased inequality, instability and financial crisis as part of a financialization process where elites are beyond democratic control and expert knowledge fails.

Reframing the Nation

Theme 2: Changing constructions of the nation, and of national cultures and institutions such as the British Army and the BBC World Service are analysed through the prism of transnationalism. Our empirical enquiries link to diverse policy domains including diaspora cultures, sport and trans-national identities, digital cultures and democracy and cultures of diplomacy.

Governing Cultures

Theme 3: Cities, Policies and Heritage - Explores the different modes by which human beings are made subjects through practices of government and self-government. More specifically focusing on the ways in which practices of governance, conducted at the level of cities and cultural policies, produces both individual and collective subjects engaged in particular communities and environments.

Topologies of Social Change

Theme 4: Topological approaches seek to address the fluidity and elasticity of social life. We approach notions of stability and change through an appreciation of the spatial and material qualities of relations, looking specifically at the more affective, messy, and hybrid aspects of transformative practice.

Trajectories of Participation and Inequality

Theme 5: Studies how different kinds of social involvement and cultural participation change over the course of people's lives. We place these trajectories in long term historical context and are collectively pursuing interconnected studies of cultural engagement in the Greater Manchester area.

Visit the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) website