Dr. Sara Curran is Professor of International Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, and Section Editor of the Social Institutions, Organizations, and Relations section of UC Press’s journal Global Perspectives, which publishes its first articles in January 2020. Her research interests include migration, globalization, gender, development, and climate change and adaptation, and she employs a variety of research techniques, including qualitative field work, survey field work, regression modeling, mixed methods, and spatial and network analyses.
UC Press: Welcome to Global Perspectives!
Sara Curran: Thank you! I’m delighted to be a part of the GP initiative, helping to facilitate the boundary breaching approaches and supporting the resulting scientific insights.
UC Press: In your section description, you note that one consequence of globalization is that national sovereignty and the international order are unraveling. First, how alarming! Second, what’s your sense of how communities might bind back together again?
Sara Curran: Well, you’re right. It is alarming and we see the challenges to institutions and organizations all around us, on a daily basis and in every region of the globe. That said, while we must be aware and concerned, we might temper our concern with a bit of sangfroid and use our heightened concerns to focus and intensify our observational capacities around the social forces at play and that may be yielding new forms of organizations and institutions from BOTH below and above. This means that we will need transdisciplinary approaches and a mixture of inductive and deductive analyses to peel back our disciplinary conceptual assumptions and unmask taken for granted relations and categories. This is the social scientific aspiration of the SIOR within GP.
UC Press: It makes sense then that you would choose social institutions, organizations, and relations as the conceptual framework for your section of the journal. What disciplinary perspectives do you think could lend insights into these big questions? And what types of papers would you like to see published in your section?
Sara Curran: Right! Easier said than done! I would argue that it’s not about picking disciplinary perspectives to achieve the scientific goals within the SIOR. In fact, the section will be looking for transdisciplinary approaches that seek to breach disciplinary boundaries across anthropology, economics, geography, political science, public affairs, psychology, and sociology (and other disciplines) to describe the formation of, or dissolution of, meaningful organizations and institutions that are shaping global-local relations. However, even more importantly, the SIOR seeks to invite research from scholars from every part of the globe, especially seeking rigorous and insightful studies from scholars who bring perspectives beyond the global north or the west.
UC Press: What made you want to be a part of Global Perspectives?
Sara Curran: In one way or another, I have been asking questions about globalization for most of my academic career. Long ago, I spent a summer working as a research scientist at the Ford Foundation in their Rural Development Program. There they were seeking to articulate a funding program that recognized how rural development challenges in the global north were structurally linked to rural development challenges in the global south. They were one of the first philanthropic organizations to ask fundamental questions about structural linkages between global and local phenomenon. Since then, I have been asking questions about de-industrialization and re-industrialization, the globalization of food trade, demographic dynamics, and climate change. In addition, for a number of years, I directed the University of Washington’s Global Studies Program and sought to push undergraduate and graduate curricula beyond the disciplinary boundaries of international relations and studies. There is a dearth of established evidence and theories from which to effectively articulate arguments within the field of global studies. Thus, I was delighted to join the editorial board of GP because it truly seeks to push our intellectual boundaries and to substantively establish a body of knowledge that systematically investigates the multifaceted structural linkages between global and local without undue simplification, with plenty of nuance, and recognition of the powerfully dynamic interplay between structure and agency.
UC Press: If academics reading this post would like to submit their work to your section, what should they do?
Sara Curran: I am happy to be contacted directly about possible submissions and provide some guidance and feedback, although authors should know that when they do submit their papers, they will be subjected to a blind peer review. I would love to see papers that identify, elaborate upon, and evaluate the formation, function, strength and mutability of global organizations and institutions or organizations in relation to local contexts. Alternatively, I would love to see papers that examine the emergence of local organizations and institutions that resist, challenge, or seek to transform global institutions and organizations. We really need more systematic examinations, comparisons, and elaborations of global-local organizational linkages that are being enacted up and shaping people’s lives. These might be those that emerge in the face of existential threats like climate change, or those that are endogenously emergent like migration or economic development, or even those that are combination of both exogenous and endogenous forces like war, cyber threats or populist movements. Finally, and most importantly, I would hope that papers in SIOR would seek to evaluate or identify the mechanisms that structure global-local forms, processes, and relations defining institutions and organizations–including such elements as the norms, rules, and strategies enacted by individuals and their meaningful associations.
UC Press: Thanks for your work on Global Perspectives, and here’s to a successful launch of your section!
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About Global Perspectives
Global Perspectives is a peer-reviewed, transdisciplinary journal seeking to advance social science research and debates in a globalizing world, specifically in terms of concepts, theories, methodologies, and evidence bases. The journal is devoted to the study of global patterns and developments across a wide range of topics and fields, among them trade and markets, security and sustainability, communication and media, justice and law, governance and regulation, culture and value systems, identities, environmental interfaces, technology-society interfaces, shifting geographies and migration.