Faculty of Management Research Workshop; Yrjö Engeström, University of Helsinki

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Wed, 17 Jan 2018

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

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Cass Business School, 106 Bunhill Row
Room: 2003

106 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TZ, UK

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Yrjö Engeström, University of Helsinki

Social movements have often an ephemeral quality, appearing and also disappearing rather quickly. Thus, resilience is a major challenge both for researchers and for the activists themselves. The emergence and development of social movements has been largely addressed as formation of political awareness and commitment to social justice through civic engagement. This literature tends to rely on case descriptions of specific social movements. Theoretically ambitious studies of resilience in social movements are rare. Cultural-historical activity theory and the theory of expansive learning (Engeström, 2015) offer a potential framework for such analysis.

I will examine three sources of resilience in social movements, namely (1) nature of collaboration, (2) material grounding, and (3) expansive learning.  I will first discuss and frame theoretically each one of these sources. Using the three sources as conceptual lenses, I will then analyze resilience in four social movements, namely the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI), the Abahlali baseMjondolo in the shack communities of Durban, the Herttoniemi Food Cooperative in Helsinki, and La PAH in Barcelona.

Each case affords a specific focus and scale for the analysis. In NYCCLI, I will analyze the evolution of the entire movement, focusing in particular on the materiality of the instruments. In Abahlali baseMjondolo I analyze the transformation of a community of shack dwellers, focusing on the materiality of the community itself. In the Herttoniemi Food Cooperative I analyze transformation in the board of the cooperative, focusing on the materiality of the object. And in La PAH, I analyze the transformation of individual members engaged in the movement, focusing on the materiality of the subject. I will conclude by proposing a framework for future studies of resilience and sustainability of social movements.

Yrjö Engeström is Professor Emeritus of Adult Education at University of Helsinki and Professor Emeritus of Communication at University of California, San Diego. He is Director of the Center for Research on Activity, Development and Learning (CRADLE), and serves as visiting professor at Rhodes University in South Africa and at University West in Sweden. In his work Engeström applies and develops cultural-historical activity theory as a framework for the study of transformations in educational settings, work activities and communities. He is known for his theory of expansive learning and for the methodology of formative interventions, including the Change Laboratory method. Engeström’s most recent books are From Teams to Knots: Activity-Theoretical Studies of Collaboration and Learning at Work (2008), Learning by Expanding: An Activity-Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research, 2nd Edition (2015), and Studies in Expansive Learning: Learning What Is Not Yet There (2016), all published by Cambridge University Press.

Please contact faculty.administration@city.ac.uk should you wish to attend

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Cass Business School, 106 Bunhill Row
Room: 2003

106 Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TZ, UK

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