Rafael Wittek holds a chair in Theoretical Sociology at the University of Groningen and is the Principal Investigator of the NWO Gravitation Program Sustainable Cooperation – Roadmaps to a Resilient Society (SCOOP). This 10-year research and training program connects research groups from sociology, psychology, history, and philosophy, uniting scholars from the Universities of Groningen, Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Nijmegen. Its newly developed PhD-training program aims to prepare the next generation of transdisciplinary scholars to develop better solutions for societal challenges. Prof. Wittek’s own work focuses on cooperation mechanisms. More specifically, he studies the interplay between institutional and organizational arrangements, social networks, and the sustainability of societal value creation. For Cambridge University Press’ Elements series, together with Francesca Giardini, he currently works on a short monograph on the evolutionary foundations of gossip, reputation and cooperation.
During his three month stay, prof. Wittek, together with colleagues from different Italian Universities, will also work towards the launch and consolidation of the Cultures of Resilience (CuRe) Research Alliance between the KNIR and the SCOOP program. Despite the fragility of social systems and their underlying institutional foundations being widely recognized, resilience does not play a key role in the research agenda of contemporary social and behavioral sciences and the humanities. Many scholars indeed perceive it as a contested, even “Janus-faced” theoretical construct that – while it might have added value for the study of ecological systems – would be far too ambivalent to be meaningfully applied also to social systems.
The CuRe Alliance challenges this pessimistic view. Not only does this scholarly reluctance contrast strongly with the increasing attention that resilience as a societal challenge receives from policy makers, politicians, managers, and civil society practitioners. This attention is also accompanied by a plethora of local, regional and global sustainability transition initiatives that not only aim to understand what contributes to the fragility of social systems, but that also experiment with alternative institutional and organizational arrangements that may contribute to strengthening the capacity of society, at all scales, to adapt to changing circumstances. In line with such societal initiatives, the CuRe Alliance considers resilience as a powerful boundary concept that facilitates inter- and transdisciplinary progress. Taking the concept seriously, analyzing threats to resilience and working towards solutions are tasks that are overdue for the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities.
From July 1-3, 2022 KNIR will host the Cultures of Resilience kick-off symposium, co-sponsored by SCOOP. During this event, scholars from different disciplines will present their work and jointly reflect on how to build a powerful agenda for transdisciplinary resilience initiatives in academia and beyond. The keynote speaker will be sociologist Delia Baldassarri (New York University). So far, the list of confirmed other speakers includes historian Domenico Cecere (Federico II, Naples), economist Enrica Chiappero (Pavia), social psychologist Naomi Ellemers (Utrecht), cognitive scientist Francesca Giardini (Groningen), philosopher Martin van Hees (VU Amsterdam), sociologist Liesbet Heyse (Groningen), demographer Letizia Mencarini (Bocconi), and social psychologist Stefano Pagliaro (Chieti).