At the core of changing figurations—indeed, the very hub of the figuration process—is a fluctuating, tensile equilibrium, a balance of power moving to and fro”
— Norbert Elias, What is Sociology?
Relational Studies (RS) Hub brings together scholars sharing a fascination and passion for studying relations, assemblages, processes, fluxes, and flows. We at RS Hub think that whatever happens in life stems from processes and relations. In a world of substances, aggregates, components, and building blocks there would simply be no life. We are also convinced that due to phenomena, events, and challenges like climate change, global inequality, computed sociality, ubiquitous waste, and the crisis of democracy, there is a certain urgency to perceiving reality as relational: the current highly complex and dynamic world can be best understood in relational terms, through interactivity and as fluid constellations of relations.
One of the greatest challenges that social thought faces today lies in understanding the world in which we live as both a human and a non-human world. There are no human relations as such, as if in a human-only vacuum, outside the world of matter and materials and other forms of life. When we are with each other, we are also with fossil fuels, minerals, microbes, technology, pollution, plastic, foodstuffs, animals, plants, and infrastructures, for example. Therefore, to get a full sense of the relations that constitute us and of our entanglement with the world we need to pay attention to how various non-human or more-than-human things and materials participate in shaping us and society.
Relational thinking is at the moment a fairly diffuse cluster of theories that come from varied traditions and sources of theoretical influence, including pragmatism, network analysis, actor-network theory, posthuman feminist theory, continental philosophy, and the work of classical sociologists like Georg Simmel, Gabriel Tarde, and Norbert Elias, for example. At RS Hub we see this variety as richness. Instead of striving for a unified theory or doctrine, we wish to retain relational thinking as a relational constellation and a more or less open field comprised of a multiplicity of parallel, entwining, crossing, and even conflicting ideas and perspectives. The Hub is designed as a space of creativity, bringing together people and new ideas across several countries, disciplines, and research traditions. We study relations by engaging in relations, cultivating and taking care of relations, beyond our academic fields and also beyond academia. Our activities do not stop at writing texts and organizing conferences. We aim to explore and solve problems of the contemporary world that we inhabit and which has made us into what we are.
RS Hub challenges prevalent social scientific categories, explanations, and modes of thinking. Yet we do not conceive it only as a theory. It is also a practice, a way of connecting with the world. We aim to make a change not only in the social scientific thinking, but also in society. Accordingly, one of the key aims of the RS Hub is to forge passages and connections not only between social sciences and other disciplines, but also between social research and art, politics, journalism, fiction, and the wider non-academic public. For instance, the events organized by the RS Hub will cross boundaries and engage with several communities and stakeholders to foster lively discussions and contribute to key questions of our time in the most fruitful ways. To overcome the challenges of our times we need to think, analyse, learn, and live relationally.