Linear vs. Polarizing Trends in World Social Processes

Over the past two centuries, the dominant view in social science has been that the modern world shows a pattern of linear development in which all positive trends go upward in more or less linear fashion (albeit perhaps at an uncertain speed), and that therefore over time discrepancies between the leaders and the laggards are … [Read more]

Literacy Practices of Multilingual Students

Traditionally, teachers of reading and writing have assumed texts as monolingual and monomodal. This dominant orientation to textuality, variously referred to as alphabetic literacy or autonomous literacy, has resulted in the multilingual literacy practices of students being perceived as deficient. Schooling has engaged in suppressing the multilingual and multimodal literacy practices and imposing alphabetic literacy … [Read more]

Lawmaking for Global Crisis Situations

More likely than not, the world will be facing a series of serious crises, connected to climate change, environmental disasters, natural catastrophes, shortage of all kinds of raw materials and sources of mineral energy, as well as new financial crises. To the extent they are man-made, they probably have common denominators, most importantly a short … [Read more]

Population, Land, Food: Malthus and Africa

A study of how Malthus relates to understanding, and resolving, the food-land-population predicaments of sub-Saharan Africa. After “green revolutions”, most of Asia enjoys rapid growth and stabilizing population. Yet growth in sub-Saharan Africa is slow and patchy, while projected 2050 population is ten times 1950 levels (already it has risen sixfold).  Food production – and … [Read more]

What is a Rational Response to Catastrophic Risk?

When it comes to low probability-high impact (even catastrophic) risk, the judgment of ordinary people, it seems, is not to be trusted.  Emotions (like fear) are said to override our capacity for rational response. As one commentator puts it, “we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against … [Read more]

Rethinking Capitalist Crisis: A Neo-Polanyian Perspective

This project seeks to overcome the (economistic, functionalist) limitations of received understandings of crisis, by drawing on the thought of Karl Polanyi, especially his 1944 work, The Great Transformation.  My aim is to reconstruct Polanyi’s key ideas (fictitious commodification, the double movement) in a form suitable to clarifying the crisis tendencies of the 21st century. … [Read more]

Faith and Fabric (The status of ‘secular modernity’ in an African context)

In 2005/2006 the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin hosted an inter-disciplinary research project on “secular modernity” in which world-renowned Fellows like Hans Joas (German sociologist at the Freiburh Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), professor of the University of Chicago), who led the project, Charles Taylor (Canadian philosopher) and Jose Casanova (sociologist of religion from New York), amongst … [Read more]


The discipline of Bioinformatics has emerged in the field of molecular and cell biology to deal with the huge amounts of information generated first by genomic and more recently by transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic studies. A parallel field labelled Ecoinformatics is emerging to encompass the interpretation of data relevant to ecological and broader environmental processes. … [Read more]

The Role of Knowledge Experts

The advent of the knowledge society has placed the spotlight on the role of experts as gatekeepers and as brokers of knowledge. This is a problem that concerns developed and developing countries alike. In developing countries the problem is exacerbated by the imbalances in the production and access to knowledge, increasing the possibility of a … [Read more]

The Global Crisis and the Future of Democracy

The project is concerned with the sustainability of democracy around the globe in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis. Its underlying hypothesis holds that the crisis might have occasioned a shift towards a different geo-political configuration, away from the paradigm established in the mid-1970s and accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet … [Read more]