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‘We are not all equal!’

Raising achievement and aspiration by improving the transition from the BTEC to higher education

Richard Peake

In my role as programme leader of the BA (Hons) Criminal Justice and Criminology, I observed that students who entered with A-levels were more likely to achieve a 2:1 or 1st class degree than students from other routes of entry. Analysis of five cohorts showed that less than half of entrants with Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) qualification achieved a 2:1 classification, compared to over 90 per cent of A-level students. In the interests of equity, this phenomenon deserved further investigation. I set out to identify issues in the transition to higher education that may cause BTEC students to struggle to adapt to academic study and any skills deficits that may ultimately lead to underachievement. As a result of the study, a toolkit was devised to smooth the transition, raise aspiration, enhance self-esteem and improve outcomes.

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Unbuilt and Unfinished

The Temporalities of Infrastructure

Ashley Carse and David Kneas

Infrastructures have proven to be useful focal points for understanding social phenomena. The projects of concern in this literature are often considered complete or, if not, their materialization is assumed to be imminent. However, many—if not most—of the engineered artifacts and systems classified as infrastructure exist in states aptly characterized as unbuilt or unfinished. Bringing together scholarship on unbuilt and unfinished infrastructures from anthropology, architecture, geography, history, and science and technology studies, this article examines the ways in which temporalities articulate as planners, builders, politicians, potential users, and opponents negotiate with a project and each another. We develop a typology of heuristics for analyzing the temporalities of the unbuilt and unfinished: shadow histories, present absences, suspended presents, nostalgic futures, and zombies. Each heuristic makes different temporal configurations visible, suggesting novel research questions and methodological approaches.

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Adaptation Lived as a Story

Why We Should Be Careful about the Stories We Use to Tell Other Stories

Nicole Klenk

Abstract

Within the field of climate change adaptation research, “stories” are usually simply mined for data, developed as communication and engagement technologies, and used to envision different futures. But there are other ways of understanding people’s narratives. This article explores how we can move away from understanding stories as cultural constructs that represent a reality and toward understanding them as the way in which adaptation is lived. The article investigates questions such as the following: As climate adaptation researchers, what can and should we do when we are told unsolicited stories? How can storytelling, as a way of life rather than as a source of data, inform and elaborate scientific approaches to adaptation research and planning? In this article, I move away from the literature that seeks to develop narrative methods in adaptation science. Instead, I focus on stories that we do not elicit and the world-making practice of storytelling.

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Theodore Schatzki

An important issue in contemporary social theory is how social thought can systematically take materiality into account. This article suggests that one way social theory can do so is by working with an ontology that treats materiality as part of society. The article presents one such ontology, according to which social phenomena consist in nexuses of human practices and material arrangements. This ontology (1) recognizes three ways materiality is part of social phenomena, (2) holds that most social phenomena are intercalated constellations of practices, technology, and materiality, and (3) opens up consideration of relations between practices and material arrangements. A brief practice-material history of the Kentucky Bluegrass region where the author resides illustrates the idea that social phenomena evince changing material configurations over time.

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Veronica Davidov

This literature review of biomimicry and related models of treating nature as a meta-resource on a mega-scale integrates concepts of resources and abundance. Biomimicry, which lies at the intersection of biosciences and industrial design, is a praxis for drawing on designs and processes found in nature and using them as inspirational sources for technologies. Environmental anthropology often focuses on processes such as extraction and commodification that position nature as governed by an economy of scarcity with its existential state characterized by attenuation. The paradigm of biomimicry, on the other hand, construes nature as an infinitely renewable and generative mega-resource and meta-resource, one that is governable by an economy of abundance rather than scarcity. This literature review analyzes intellectual and epistemological trends and frameworks that have served as precursors to and have emerged around biomimicry across disciplines that treat the paradigm of biomimicry as a highly variable epistemological object.

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Rebecca Lave

In order for nature/society scholars to understand the dynamics of environmental appropriation, commercialization, and privatization, we must attend to the production of the environmental science that enables them. Case studies from anthropology, geography, history of science, science and technology studies, and sociology demonstrate that the neoliberal forces whose application we study and contest are also changing the production of environmental knowledge claims both inside and outside the university. Neoliberalism's core epistemological claim about the market's superiority as information processor has made restructuring the university a surprisingly central project. Further, because knowledge has become a key site of capital accumulation, the transformative reach of neoliberal science regimes extends outside the university into the various forms of extramural science, such as citizen science, crowdsourcing, indigenous knowledge, and local knowledge. Neoliberal science regimes' impacts on these forms of extramural science are strikingly similar, and quite different from the most common consequences within academia.

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Christianity and the City

Simmel, Space, and Urban Subjectivities

Anna Strhan

This article examines the growing scholarly interest in urban religion, situating the topic in relation to the contemporary analytical significance of cities as sites where processes of social change, such as globalization, transnationalism, and the influence of new media technologies, materialize in interrelated ways. I argue that Georg Simmel's writing on cities offers resources to draw out further the significance of “the urban” in this emerging field. I bring together Simmel's urban analysis with his approach to religion, focusing on Christianities and individuals' relations with sacred figures, and suggest this perspective opens up how forms of religious practice respond to experiences of cultural fragmentation in complex urban environments. Drawing on his analysis of individuals' engagement with the coherence of God, I explore conservative evangelicals' systems of religious intersubjectivity to show how attention to the social effects of relations with sacred figures can deepen understanding of the formation of urban religious subjectivities.

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This issue of the International Journal of Social Quality looks at the socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability in social quality analysis. Some articles refer to the notion of sustainability, which stimulates transformative changes in society, and the consequences for the explicit or implicit integration with the sociopolitical dimension and the environmental dimension, as well as for the well-being of people all over the world, thus the socio-cultural dimension. Two interesting questions are, first, how can new forms of public participation and democratic practices and policies to stimulate environmental protection be developed, transforming the socio-political and legal context in order to contribute to the development of overall sustainability? Second, how can community involvement and new communication technologies be stimulated, which can be productive for the adequate transformation of the socio-cultural and welfare dimensions? Both issues were addressed in the Aarhus Convention of 1998, which highlighted information on environmental matters as a key right for citizens and a condition for effective public participation in decision-making processes. The concept of “social empowerment” connects the dimensions and – with reference to the four normative factors of social quality as well – delivers arguments for changing the dominant production, distribution and consumption systems and patterns.

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The 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris (COP21), December 2015, reached a consensus to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, including by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (UN 2015: 22). The agreement has to pave the way for rules, modalities, and procedures and all Parties have to “recognize the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches being available to Parties to assist in the implementation of their nationally determined contribution, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a coordinated and effective manner, including through, inter alia, mitigation adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity building, as appropriate” (UN 2015: 24). Of interest to note is that sustainable development and poverty eradication seem to be presented as two sides of the same coin.

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Jutta A. Helm

For more than a century, Germany has had a well-balanced system

of cities showcasing considerable variety in their social and physical

make-up. It has lacked spectacular global cities like New York,

Tokyo, or London. Instead, western cities include industrial cities

like those in the Rhine-Ruhr Valley and cities shaped by universities

and research (Göttingen or Freiburg), media and publishing (Hamburg),

culture and high-technology sectors (Munich), banking and

finance (Frankfurt/Main), wholesale trade and insurance (Cologne

and Düsseldorf), as well as government and administration (Berlin,

Bonn, and most state capitals). Dramatic social or economic crises

that generate debates about urban decline have not happened.

Thanks in part to effective urban governments, no German city has

come close to the near-collapse of American rustbelt cities during

the early 1980s, or the fiscal meltdown of New York City in the

1970s. Crime has been consistently lower and less violent, and the

American racial divide has no equivalent in German cities. East German

cities, while more unevenly developed, have been no less stable.

East Berlin was the dominant center, linked to the industrial

cities in the North (Rostock) and South (Leipzig, Halle, Dresden) by

a rather creaky infrastructure.