Keynote Address: Uncertainty: a stage in the research or the spirit of research?

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The last year and a half have been some of the most uncertain many of us will have lived yet. The Covid19 pandemic has led to last minutes changes of plans, interruptions of studies and in some cases led to the rescinding of research grants altogether, while climate change and our relationship with nature challenges our taken-for-granted assumptions which is a very unsettling and disorientating process. All this plays out in the backdrop of the so called culture wars, where the global and international agreements and assumptions are being challenged by populism and nationalism – and we are not sure how they will bear up or what will replace them. Yet while this has been challenging it has also led to new innovation in research and data collection, opened-up new questions and directions of research and re-connected us with our communities and priorities. And it is from this generative start I will start, as in this address
I am going to suggest that uncertainty is not something to be universally feared, but that it can be the spirit of discovery itself. Drawing on Derrida’s of the event ‘to come’ and experiences from my own fieldwork I will explore how indeterminacy and uncertainty can be understood as an opening, the very opening necessary to enable to ethical space to come. While not ignoring the very real and difficult consequences for those at the very sharp end of uncertainty I will also argue for a new solidarity and empathy we can draw from the shared experiences of the last couple of years to inform a new research agenda to consider how our social institutions and structures work for those most exposed to uncertainty and research methods that incorporate the representation of the uncertain through co-constructed research.
Period10 Oct 2021
Held atSWDTP (UKRI) , United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionRegional