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Welcome to IHSRC 2011

The 30th IHSRC conference is hosted by The Open University and held at St Catherine's College, Oxford University, UK from 27-30 July 2011.

The International Human Sciences Research Conference (IHSRC) first met in 1982 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. Since then it has met annually in over ten different countries and we are proud to be hosting the 30th IHSRC in the UK in 2011. The conference is an opportunity to explore the use of qualitative methods in the study of human nature. There has been a strong phenomenological tradition at the heart of the IHSRC but researchers from other qualitative traditions also frequently attend and are very welcome. Indeed, constructive dialogue and debate across a broad spectrum of qualitative perspectives has very much been central to the Human Sciences tradition. Naming the conference 'Human Sciences' back in 1982 was provocative and remains so today but as Giorgi (2010) puts it in his historical account of the conference: "the idea of science was to be preserved because no contradiction was perceived between science and qualitative methods even if the sense of rigor in studying qualitative aspects of phenomena would be different". Participants are welcome from all disciplines, whether this be psychology, education, sociology, nursing or any other relevant disciplinary tradition, in which researchers seek to qualitatively explore human meaning and experience.

Intertwining body-self-world

We invite attendees to explore the conference theme focussed on the challenges faced when attempting to theorise and research on the interface between bodies, selfhood and the social world.
Submissions on other topics within the remit of the tradition of human sciences research are of course very welcome.

The world is not an object", says Merleau-Ponty, it is the "field for, all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions. [It is] "what I live through. I am in communication with it. (1962, p.xvii)

Existential phenomenologists argue that person and world are intertwined: "man [sic] is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself" (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p.xi). Phenomenology wants us to relinquish our conditioning and to bring together polarities of mind-body, self-other, individual-social, feelings-thoughts, body-soul, nature-nurture, mental-physical. The hyphen signifies intertwining rather than separation: the world does not exist 'out there' separate from our perceptions, rather it is part of us and us of it.

While scientists might talk of perception as arising in the senses and interpreted by the brain, existential phenomenologists see perception as arising from our bodily engagement with the world. The world's colours/tones/textures proclaim themselves through our senses; space is disclosed through our body movements; a sense of self arises through our relations with others and is revealed to us through our own embodied reaching out. It is only in the world that we can come to know ourselves.

This intimate interlacing of body-self-world is our theme for the conference and we invite you to explore it (though presentations on other themes are welcome as well). You might, for instance, examine ways the essential permeation between body-self-world shows itself and how human science researchers do not access an 'inner world' so much as an individual's relationship to the world. You might seek to engage the complex interconnections which exist between physical/mental health and social circumstances or how illness is encountered in the context of daily activities and the relational and social realms of the lifeworld. Alternatively, you might wish to examine how to move beyond understandings focused solely on the individual to acknowledge ways self-boundaries are symbolic, practical social constructions formed through cultural convention.

Whatever your topic, please join us in Oxford and through dialogue we can explore our own interconnections.


The conference theme is 'Intertwining body-self-world'.

View the conference programme

The conference will start with a formal welcome at 11:00 on Wednesday, 27 July 2011, with paper presentations beginning immediately afterward. The conference will end lunchtime on Saturday, 30 July 2011.

Keynote speakers

Prof Emmy van Deurzen, Principal, New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling, London
Prof Bernd Jager, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Prof Jonathan Smith, Birkbeck College, University of London

Keynote discussion panel

Prof Scott Churchill, University of Dallas, USA
Prof Karin Dahlberg, Linnaeus University, Sweden
Prof Les Todres, Bournemouth University, UK

Conference events

In addition to the academic programme the conference organisers are planning a conference dinner at Magdalen College, Oxford on Friday 29 July 2011, wine receptions and book launches, tours of Oxford Colleges and, of course, dancing.

About St Catherine's College

The conference is being held at St Catherine's College, Oxford.
Accommodation will be provided in the College as part of the conference package though there are also numerous hotels within Oxford for those that wish to make other arrangements.

The beautiful and historic university town of Oxford is only a 30-40 minute train journey from London and thus easily reachable with numerous rail links or by car. St Catherine's College (St Catz) is a relatively new addition to historic Oxford University, being designed by the great Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen in 1962. It is a stunning modern college set in beautiful gardens and woodland, framed by a fork in the river. The College's policy is to work with the language of Jacobsen's design and this spirit will be reflected throughout the conference. We will have exclusive use of college during the conference (including meeting places and bar) and it is just a short walk from the cloisters and quads of traditional Oxford. The spirit of the College is openness, diversity and dynamism, which fits with the spirit and mission of both The Open University and, of course, the Human Sciences movement.

About Magdalen College

The conference dinner will be held at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Magdalen College was founded in 1458 by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor. It provides an historic location for our conference dinner with a rich history that befits such an occasion. The conference dinner will provide delegates with a taste of the traditional quads and cloisters of old Oxford, providing a historic contrast to the stunning but more modern surroundings of our conference location of St Catz, Oxford.

About The Open University

The Open University is Europe's largest university with over 200,000 students studying with us.

Our mission

Berrill Building

The Open University is open to people, places, methods and ideas. It promotes educational opportunity and social justice by providing high-quality university education to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential. Through academic research, pedagogic innovation and collaborative partnership it seeks to be a world leader in the design, content and delivery of supported open and distance learning.

We are open, first, as to people… Wherever there is an unprovided need for higher education, supplementing the existing provision, there is our constituency. There are no limits on persons.

Lord Crowther, The Open University Inaugural Lecture, 1969

The spirit and mission of the Open University is one of openness, to people from all backgrounds and also to ideas. The OU occupies a unique role in British Higher Education in providing access to higher education to people who might otherwise never have had the opportunity to study. This is combined with academic rigour founded on a strong research tradition that results in the production of learning materials which are not only of very high quality but also advance disciplines themselves. This openness perfectly matches the phenomenological tradition of the Human Sciences research movement with the continuing desire to explore new ideas whilst respecting people's unique experience which is at the heart of any phenomenological investigation.

Over 11 years I officiated at 150 OU degree ceremonies in 10 countries. At those events I talked with some 50,000 graduates. …Time and again, graduates told me that OU study changed their lives … that it gave them greater confidence to develop their own lives and to contribute to the world around them.

Sir John Daniel, Vice-Chancellor 1990-2001

Berrill Building

The OU has grown from a kernel of an idea in 1926 from the educationalist and historian J C Stobart, who advocated a 'wireless university' while working for the infant BBC, to an institution today that provides a rich and often transformative education for over 200,000 students worldwide. The desire of all of us who work at the Open University to have a real and lasting impact on individual lives and the social world is reflected in our conference theme and the existential phenomenological tradition of understanding body, self and world as inextricably intertwined. The Department of Psychology in Social Sciences, which is hosting this conference, is Europe's largest provider of university-level education in psychology and is at the forefront of research and teaching into 'the psychosocial' through our involvement in the University Research Centre on Citizenship, Identities and Governance. Our research explores the multiple and divergent ways in which the self and interpersonal relationships are practised and experienced in diverse contexts. Building on the Faculty of Social Sciences longstanding and influential tradition of inter-disciplinary work on identity (by, among others, Stuart Hall, Margaret Wetherell and Wendy Hollway), it brings together researchers from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including critical and social psychology, critical race theory, cultural studies, organisational studies, sociology and social policy. Members draw inspiration from a diverse array of theoretical perspectives, among them critical theory, feminism, phenomenology, post-structuralism, discursive and narrative research, process philosophy, and psychoanalysis and group relations.

Last updated: 1 July 2013, Header picture by Mark Vesey


6 February 2012

Videos from the keynotes and the discussion panel added.

7 November 2011

Conference report added

19 July 2011

Final conference programme and abstracts published

13 July 2011

Keynote abstracts added

21 June 2011

We have reached maximum capacity for the conference and accommodation in the College and registration is now closed.


Dr Darren Langdridge
Dr Linda Finlay


Faculty of Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom