The Centre for Global Research is dedicated to research excellence in the area of globalisation and social change with a thematic focus on conflict, development and governance.
Globalisation and social change
The world in which we live cannot be understood and its issues adequately addressed without a global perspective. Everything from the most ephemeral social phenomenon to the most complex human environment interactions have clear threads that bind them into a global fabric, the shape of which they both influence and are influenced by. The study of globalisation recognises that all areas of human endeavour can be located within a global frame, and that whether we are to study it as social scientists, or to seek to intervene as agents of social change, a sound understanding of this global frame is key.
The necessarily broad scope of the study of globalisation permits an array of emphases and foci. Thus, as a term that entered the social science lexicon over half a century ago, 'globalisation' as an object of study is contested. That these debates continue, with vigour, is an indication of the importance and urgency of this study. That these debates intersect with work done in diverse fields of research within and beyond the humanities and social science is a testament to their far-reaching significance.
Research into globalisation bridges disciplinary concerns to explore contemporary issues within a hybrid framework of analysis. More so than other social science field, Global Studies takes a nascent global cosmopolis as its primary referent. Notions of national social and cultural space are challenged by the realities of growing cosmopolitan diversity and the decoupling of geography and identity. The nation state may not be dead but there is an evolving sphere of action beyond the state and nation that transcends established notions of the international and which increasingly engages the attention, resources and energies of many transnational non-state actors. The study of globalisation brings together such concerns under a single umbrella while researchers in the field grapple with the conceptual challenge of integrating this globality into established disciplinary discourses.
In the study of our world, the capacity to conceive 'the global' and to contextualise local happenings in a global frame is increasingly prerequisite. However, at the same time, globalisation at once accentuates and multiplies the connections between people and peoples, enabling hybridised cultures and identities to form, while promoting the development of local identities and the importance of place and local culture.
Understandings of the self and locality evolve in concert with the spread of ostensibly homogenising global symbols and identities. Whether the behaviour of people seeks to participate in the global, or to seek rootedness in place and tradition, the only constant is change. Thus, intersecting with the Centre’s research on globalisation is a concern for both continuity, but especially ‘social change’. Adaptation, contestation, resilience and sustainability each become key areas for research as communities across different scales grapple with changing configurations of power and identity that can carry both positive and negative possibilities. We explore these themes particularly in the context of conflict, development and governance, understanding each in a period of intensifying globalisation and taking them in their most localised moments and understanding them as parts of globalising flows. From global governance to local activism, from transnational companies to petty traders, and from international celebrity to personal identities, there is not a realm of human activity that in some way is not impacted and influenced by the tensions between the local and the global.
There are times in which the world seems to be on fire. For all the assumptions of human progress and civilised refinement, conflict and its effects remain a constant in global politics. Yet in all its dimensions, conflict is changing; the patterns of warfare, the use of technology, the impact of terrorism, all evolve, driven by the political conditions in post-colonial states, shifts in power balances between superpowers, North-South relations, and the emergence of new points of contestation both locally and globally. The Centre undertakes innovative research in diverse dimensions of conflict and its prevention and resolution, from security and diplomacy in international relations, through to military interventions and police missions, and local, national and international practices of reconciliation, peace and transitional justice. Our approach is embedded in engaged understandings of the social, historical, cultural and otherwise specific dimensions of particular conflicts. With this, we are interested in the day-to-day subjective responses of people caught in moments of extreme violence through to critically assessing prevailing conceptual and strategic approaches to security and peace.
Development is ostensibly about ensuring the provision of basic material needs (food, clothing, shelter, health and education) and opportunities to live lives that are – in the words of Mahbub ul Haq – ‘long, healthy and creative’. Yet almost everything that development is understood to represent appears to be in question. A sense of crisis has emerged, prompted by changing circumstances in the Global North and South, the growing impact of global financial institutions, the changing nature of conflicts, intensifying environmental threats and ideological contestation that manifests in resistance against global capitalism in its neoliberal form. More than ever before, there is growing awareness that development demands a multidimensional, holistic approach. Researchers at the Centre work at the points of intersection between these complex tensions. Our work is framed through an examination of the relationship between the local and the global, macro and micro policies, endogenous and exogenous development, and relationships at the centre and the periphery. With more than a decade of research and policy experience across local, national and global settings, our researchers bring a critical, vibrant and applied dimension to development research.
Governance is a concept increasingly understood by policy makers, governments and business to be about much more than simply ‘what governments do’. Our researchers extend conventional institutional approaches and engage with governance as the process of how things are done — the exercise of power through social systems and the patterns of social regulation. Since its inception the Centre has researched the intersection between globalisation and systems of governance, and as such our research spans the local to the global, from small communities in remote Australia through to global institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Working between grounded research methodologies, empirical studies and social theory, our research shows for instance how indigenous people and communities in post-conflict settings negotiate multiple and sometimes contradictory systems of authority, responsibility and power that are frequently elusive to and unrecognised by governments and corporations. Understanding how these multiple governance systems intersect, and how they are changing in response to global forces and technologies, can transform policy deadlock into effective engagement and partnership, and underpin longer-term sustainability.