Centre for Social Transformation
It has never been so difficult to know who we are, in a globalizing world, when every day seems to bring an important new scientific discovery about ourselves and the kind of world we find ourselves in. It seems that what most distinguishes us from our closest relatives among the higher primates is our species-wide capacity to work closely with one another, shaping society together and pursuing common goals. And yet it is precisely this capacity to bond with others which can also create a strong rejection of those outside our group, threatening the breakdown of society. Cross-cultural social bonding in the face of planetary challenges can seem elusive in a rapidly diversifying world.
The Centre for Social Transformation, which is based in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies at King’s College London, works with partners in King’s and elsewhere to explore new ways of understanding the human today. We seek to learn from successful, long-term societal projects which are quite removed from our own late Western world. We work with Chinese scholars, exploring the contemporary relevance of ancient Chinese religious and philosophical traditions to sociality, and we study medieval Christian mystical texts as dynamic transformational texts in medieval society. We work too on implicit accounts of the social self in the Hebrew scriptures and, with anthropologists, study surviving contemporary small-scale, indigenous societies, observing how they negotiate change. We seek to learn lessons from these important human resources in the light also of contemporary insights from neurology, including the ‘second person’ neuroscience of human social cognition. We draw also upon the experience of practitioner mediators who are skilled in forms of intensive social transformation by facilitating agreement in ‘divided societies’ or fractured communities, through practices of the ‘face-to-face’. The methodology of our study of the human is interdisciplinary therefore, combining both theory and practice, and is aimed as far as possible at generating integrated accounts of how we manage change together.
Our current projects include:
- What does Neuroscience mean for the Human? (collaborators from the University of Exeter, University of Cologne, University of Dusseldorf)
- Meister Eckhart: Transformational Texts (AHRC, Max Weber Institute, Erfurt)
- Dialogue between China and the West (School of Philosophy, and Centre for the Study of Christian Culture, Renmin University of China, Beijing)
Presentations (2012-13) include:
- Beijing, China (three occasions), London (four occasions) (Davies, Sedmak, Yao);
- Embassy of the Russian Federation, London (Davies, Kerr);
- Al-Jazeera (Kersten);
- Max Weber College, Erfurt, Germany (Davies, Sedmak).
- 'Religion, Politics and Ethics: Towards a Global Theory of Social Transformation’, Frontiers of Philosophy in China, 2012, 7:4, 593-618
- ‘Encounter between China and the West: Towards a Global Theory of the Practice of Being Human’, Journal for the Study of Christian Culture (in press, in Chinese)
- Adam Zeman and Oliver Davies, ‘A Radical New Way to Understand the Brain’, Standpoint, Sept. 2013, 53-55
- Theology of Transformation. Faith, Freedom and the Christian Act, OUP, 2013.
- Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam , 2011;
- Demystifying the Caliphate: Historical Memory and Contemporary Contexts, 2013
- ‘Urbanization, civil society and religious pluralism in Indonesia and Turkey’ in Chiara Formichi (ed.) Religious Pluralism, State and Society in Asia, 2013
- Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values, Hurst and OUP, 2014 (forthcoming)
- Carool Kersten & Susanne Olsson (eds.), Alternative Islamic Discourses and Religious Authority, Ashgate, 2013.
- Lebanon: After the Cedar Revolution (with Are Knudsen), 2012
- The Destructors: The Story of Northern Ireland's Lost Peace Process, 2012
- ‘Lebanon: the Hybridity of a Confessional State’, (with Amal Hamdan), Routledge Handbook on Regionalism and Federalism, 2013.
For Archive (2003-11), see Centre for Religions, Theology and Public Life.