The Italian journalist and writer Ennio Flaiano once remarked that “we are living, as usual, in a transition period.” Although written in the early 1970s, Flaiano’s witticism sounds dismayingly still very relevant. In the past few years, we have been facing a number of crises in various quarters of society and culture. The financial crisis, and the climate crisis, and, very recently, the pandemic crisis are just selected examples of the troubled times we live through. In browsing such an impressive, albeit short, list, it is natural to fall prey to apocalyptic feelings or, on the contrary, to get caught by the impression that perhaps we have been crying wolf all too often. Neither attitude is ultimately correct. Crises are certainly part of the lifecycle of civilizations, but they do not have to be underestimated nor unnecessarily feared. Philip Mirowski’s book on the 2008 financial meltdown was provocatively titled Never Let a Serious Crisis Go To Waste. Mirowski was referring to Neoliberalism’s cynical attitude, but the message remains: crises have the potential to change our society, sometimes even for the better.
The Summer School 2021 in Human Sciences is dedicated to Living, Working, and Studying in Times of Crises and aims at providing a fresh and multifocal perspective on the phenomenon of “crisis”. This edition draws its inspiration not only from the present health crisis, but also from the rich history of Verona, a city familiar with dramatic passages of regimes and dominations over the centuries and whose beauty has much to do with that. By combining historical, conceptual, sociological, psychological and empirical approaches, the School explores several instantiations of crisis to unfold its meaning for the individual as well as the culture at large. The School will hinge on the following, not exhaustive, list of themes:
The historical and philosophical roots of the crisis. Over the course of human evolution, the experience of the crisis meant different things at different times. This is unsurprising in itself, but surprising in its premises and developments. While a crisis forces us to rethink the world as an ordered system of meanings, the process of re-orienting and re-semanticizing the world shows to be an essential part of this very system, and finally suggests that crises lie at the very origins of human culture as such. Thus, how did the experience of crisis change over the several “times of crisis”? What can we learn from past crises to better tackle the future ones? And what can we learn about ourselves as cultural and historical beings?
Science your way out of the crisis. Science has been traditionally regarded as the site of the “positive crisis”. A scientific crisis is oftentimes the preamble to a decisive breakthrough. However, is this true for any scientific discipline or rather different fields handle crises in different ways? And, more importantly, how do the research practices and work routines change over a period of crisis?
Policing the crisis. It has been claimed that our Neoliberal socio-economic system is particularly prone to crises. Far from being merely financial, such crises spread instability and uncertainty over the entire social fabric. How does this state of permanent crisis affect workers’ self-identity? How does it impact on work relations in terms of age, role, and gender?
Crisis? What crisis? A crisis generates different and contrasting emotions, which can range from desperation to sheer denial. What can psychology and neurobiology tell us about the emotions triggered by a state of distress? How can we make crisis emotion an object of scientific inquiry?
Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s opportunity. Crises are not only vectors of problems. By putting us in front of the unexpected, they might also bring about new scenarios and new resources. What are the ethical problems related to a situation of crisis? What are the abilities and competencies that can be learned and treasured for the future?
Intended Learning Outcomes
At the end of the School the students will be able to:
- analyze the concept of crisis.
- contrast and compare forms of crisis in different disciplinary fields.
- enhance the ethical engagement toward crisis
- understand the scientific, cultural, and societal impact of crises.
- integrate conceptual and historical analysis.
- apply qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
- increase their teamwork competence.
- present and discuss a research project with peers.
September, 6th – 17th 2021