Please note that this website is no longer updated. You can find all the latest information about AGORA and our activities on our new website https://www2.helsinki.fi/en/researchgroups/agora-for-the-study-of-social-justice-and-equality-in-education
The AGORA Centre coordinates and develops educational research, international networks and research projects. It brings together scholars from a wide variety of multidisciplinary backgrounds, who share an interest in critical theories and methodologies in education. Members of AGORA are interested in questions such as social justice, equality, differences, power, global issues, collectivism and multiplicity. Politics and practices of education and beyond are studied in various contexts. It also provides research based teaching and supervision for PhD students and educational programmes. Collaboration with public, private and third sector organisations is active.
AGORA wants to promote inclusive, non-hierarchical and collaborative academic culture. The concept of rhizome reflects theory and research that allow multiple ways of doing. There is no particular shape the rhizome has to take and no particular territory to which it is bound. Rhizomatic activity encourages getting involved, refining and improving research. AGORA is also vigilant about the policies regarding the education and takes part in public discussions. In the research centre, critical thinking is strengthened. Fresh rethinking of the conventional is encouraged. Members of the AGORA are invited:
- to conduct and share research related to education
- to drive for new thinking, critical theories and creative methodologies
- to create collaborative research agendas and to engage in relevant research projects in multi-disciplinary ways, also to establish a platform for greater funding
- to help each other in our research by disrupting neoliberal individualization
- to provide mentoring for graduate students
- redefine the politics and practices of education
Within the AGORA centre several researchers conduct research around questions of social exclusion as well as mental health and welfare/wellbeing. Interestingly we are raising critical questions related to imperatives of social justice as well as mental health politics and practices in education and in society.
The research center also serves as a regional center of the Nordic Centre of Excellence Justice Through Education in the Nordic Countries.
Why Social Justice and Equality?
Despite the diverse perspectives on and definitions of social justice we should be aware of its conceptual limitations. The concept of social justice is complex due to its historical background. It is important to acknowledge its roots in certain political, economic, cultural and societal systems, one of the most essential ones being the western liberal democracy, where capitalism enables and constrains action and the state has the main authority in regulating the functioning of society. The notion of social justice is being criticised for being able to exist only within the framework of these societal conditions. This means that certain aspects of society, such as the state or the capital cannot be problematised from within this notion of social justice.
What can be said is that social justice is a power relation between individuals and groups. This brings us to the questions of equality and the possibilities of its definitions.
In AGORA, we are aware of different interpretations of social justice, and therefore we ask:
- What are the different definitions of social justice and equality and what is the relation between these concepts?
- What are the limits and possibilities of the concept of social justice?
- How should we organise the society in order to enable alternative notions of social justice and equality?
- How do social justice and equality get produced and regulated?
- How can theory be made more relevant to the struggles related to inequalities?
- How can theory as a form of practice be directed into social activism?
We live in a societal situation where keeping theory separate from politics prevents researchers from recognising the political nature of their own research and actions. This separation creates the illusion of the researcher as a neutral expert who can offer commoditised best practices for a range of society’s ills. In AGORA research and teaching are understood as political and knowledge as situated.
The AGORA research centre focuses on empirically-grounded theoretical considerations and developing further understanding of social justice and equality as a multifaceted economic, cultural and social phenomenon.