Launch of the FRINGE centre

By Blog Admin, on 8 December 2015

On Thursday 3 December, UCL SSEES launched an exciting new project: the FRINGE centre, an interdisciplinary collective of scholars dedicated to exploring all that is Fluid, Resistant, Invisible, Neutral, Grey and Elusive. The launch was held at the Common Ground space in the UCL Institute for Advanced Studies, and featured 8 mini-presentations from SSEES academics on how their projects relate to the concerns of the FRINGE centre. To mark the launch, SSEES blog will be publishing a series of blogs based on these presentations, but we begin with a re-post of a recent interview given by FRINGE director Alena Ledeneva which outlines the centre’s aims.

The interview was originally published on the UCL website. For more see the FRINGE website.

Members of the FRINGE team: Michał Murawski, Peter Zusi, Alena Ledeneva, Udo Grasshoff, Jan Kubik, Uilleam Blacker, Tim Beasley-Murray, Filipa Figueira, Titus Hjelm, Tomáš Cvrček. Photo: Akosua Bonsu

You have just started your role as Director of FRINGE Centre, an initiative founded and funded by the UCL SSEES and housed at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies. Tell us more.

The FRINGE Centre has been a result of a constellation of factors. Intellectually, it emerged as a cross-disciplinary, cross-area platform for those intrigued by the social and cultural complexity, especially where it resists clear-cut categorisation, visibility or measurability.

Tensions and paradoxes constituting social and cultural complexity have been duly reflected in the oxymoron The Fringe Centre. The diversity of the Centre’s intellectuals became the founding principle of consensus. Last but not least, the support of SSEES and its Director Professor Jan Kubik have been vital.

The name of the Centre was inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe festival, but evolved into a novel research agenda on seemingly opposed notions such as centrality and marginality, clarity and ambiguity, measurability and elusiveness. Our interest lies in the hidden complexity of all embedded practices, taken-for-granted and otherwise invisible subjects. Illuminating the ‘fringe’ – by highlighting subjects that are Fluid, Resistant, Invisible, Neutral, Grey and Elusive – sheds a new light on the ‘centre.’

What are the challenges?

My main challenge is to test the model of collaboration between researchers with different disciplinary and area-based background. If the platform for cross-discipline and cross-area studies works, I envisage a variety of implications, led by our members: area studies without borders, global informality project, soft power, fringy cities and illegal housing.

What attracted you to UCL?

I love teaching. My courses on Informal Practices and on Global Governance and Corruption are based on the use of simulation games. The first one is run as a collective research project. The second as a business environment simulation. Teaching is closely linked with my research, which is very attractive for me, but also for the students.

What are your priorities?

I think priorities as practiced and priorities as stated are two very different things. I try to close the gap between the two. I try to make sure that I start my morning with writing, however early that start may have to be. This is actually the only way to get something done. At the moment, I am working on the Global Encyclopaedia of Informality, which is an ambitious and ever-growing project. And this is also my stated priority – I would love to have the Global Informality Project to develop and make a difference. This project is part of the FRINGE initiative too.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

Fountains of ideas, creativity and good humour.

What is your life like outside UCL?

Is there a life outside UCL?

If you weren’t doing this job, what would you like to do?

Curate FRINGE exhibitions – so much to share!

Note: This article gives the views of the author(s), and not the position of the SSEES Research blog, nor of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, nor of UCL.