The Centre currently has three substantive themes of teaching, research and publication, as follows:
1. Recovering the Anthropological Foundations of Social Life
Arpad Szakolczai, Professor of Sociology at UCC, is a leading social theorist and political anthropologist. In a series of six books Prof. Szakolczai provides a comprehensive genealogical analysis of pathogenic currents in modernity. Drawing from social and political thought from the Greeks to Weber, and from anthropology and literary criticism -Arnold van Gennep, Marcel Mauss, Rene Girard- he argues that modernity and enlightenment are characterized by a series of schizmogenic logics and by spiraling and recursively intensifying mimetic errors, culminating in the present global liberal market society as a sacrificial carnival. Pathways back from our potential descent into darkness towards guiding radiant ideals are explored in themes of the redemptive and transfigurative powers of beauty, joy, friendship, care, love, and ethics of mutual reciprocity as persisting in anthropologically universal social forms such as play, sociability, rites de passage as meaning-giving experiences and gift relation as the basis of general economy.
Prof. Szakolczai is a member of al scholarly networkl in International Political Anthropology (IPA) based in Florence which runs an annual Summer School, an academic journal, conferences and related activities.
2. Moral Censure, Legal Norms and Social Harm
Professor Colin Sumner is Head of the School of Sociology & Philosophy at UCC. Prof. Sumner, a renowned criminologist and social theorist, author of The Sociology of Deviance: an Obituary, radically revises the whole enterprise of criminology, arguing that what is censured has come to bear an inverse relation to social harm. In this project, criminology is seen ‘through the looking glass’ as it were: as technocratic in the service of the state and ethically upside down. Prof. Sumner’s work sees the ‘normal business’ of corporations and governments, banking and international finance as a paradigmatic example, often causing immense social harm, whereas what routinely incurs harsh censure continues to be relatively minor deviance, or interpersonal crime concentrated amongst the poor and socially excluded, and still understood within an anachronistic paradigm of social pathology.
An Africanist and former Law School Head, with previous professorships in Sociology, Jurisprudence, Law and Criminology, Colin Sumner has published on crime and underdevelopment, social control and legal theory as well as ideology and culture. He has run international conferences on crime and the policing of multicultural democracies for Cambridge University, the Philippines government, and developed a ‘coeducation for peace’ law school in Israel. He edits a website called CrimeTalk to promote public debate about the meaning, basis and value of contemporary criminalization patterns.
Prof. Sumner is re-inventing criminology in Ireland, with a revised new interdisciplinary MA in Criminology and Ireland’s first undergraduate BA in Criminology a new social science degree closely linked to the humanities and liberal arts at UCC, with programmes containing modules specifically oriented to CPD for policy-makers and professionals in the Gardaí, prisons and related services. These new degrees, alongside a planned international postgraduate programme for public servants in African and other developing or underdeveloped countries, will be key components of the Centre’s infrastructure.
3. Amnesia and Ethical Social Memory
Dr. Kieran Keohane teaches and researches on the transformation of everyday life under conditions of the neo-liberal revolution. Recent publications include The Domestic, Political and Moral Economies of Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, and The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization. Dr Keohane co-anchors an international scholarly network on Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization (SPCC), and his current work focuses on the fading and dissolution of individual and collective memory due to ongoing processes of individuation and the weakening of traditional institutions, as identified by Durkheim and formulated by Halbwachs; and a parallel psychoanalytic literature highlighting the importance of shock, trauma, repression and aphasia in the psychic life of individuals and societies. Lacking memory, persons and societies live in a liminal extended present and become prone to manipulation. What is remembered -and what is forgotten- is central to power in contemporary societies, and the recovery of memory is one of the most urgent ethical-political problems of our age.
With Dr Tom Boland and Dr. John O'Brien, Dr Keohane co-directs an annual Summer School on Economy & Society; this takes up the theme of re-ethicizing economics and rethinking Irish culture. The SPCC network and the Economy & Society Summer School lare key components of the Centre’s infrastructure.