People, Heat, Dust and the Stars: Social Science at the Extremities

Social life is being pushed to extremes. While billionaires explore outer space, city residents from Parramatta to New Delhi contend with the proliferation of heat and dust – by-products of local and global industrial activity. If science could once imagine society as an independent object of research, today there is no area – from the economy to geopolitics, law and the habits of everyday life – that is not conditioned by our environment. And that environment is not the one we once thought we knew…

How are social scientists responding? How do they investigate the interchange between materials, beliefs and attitudes which marks our newly emerging social extremes? If the interview and the survey are no longer the only tools at our disposal, what are the methods for an invigorated social science needing to respond to these extremes and the sense of crisis they produce? And what are the ethics of engaging people and things already pushed to their limits?

Our panellists discuss a series of compelling projects that explore society at the extremities:

  • Outer space and terrestrial extremes
  • Heat and dust in the cities of Parramatta and Kolkata
  • Environmental disasters in Australia and Nepal
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