Bridging the Gap between Academic Theory and Community Relevance: Fresh Insights from American Pragmatism


Principal Investigator: Professor Mihaela Kelemen, Keele University
Co-investigators: Dr Anita Mangan, Keele University; Professor Graham Crow, University of Edinburgh; Dr Busayawan Lam, Brunel University; Dr Theodore Zamenopoulos, The Open University
Collaborators: Sue Moffat, Director, New Vic Theatre; Sophia de Sousa, The Glass-House Community Led Design; David Humphries, Mondo Challenge Foundation; Professor Toru Kiyomiya, Seinan Gakuin University, Japan;
Duration: From 2013 to 2014

‘Bridging the Gap’ focuses on what is considered ‘actionable’ knowledge by communities and what makes knowledge relevant, useful and/or practical at their end. The four AHRC projects involved in this collaborative grant application share the view that academic theories are not ends in themselves; rather that they must serve the needs of the communities studied. Our collaboration is unique in that it has a dual focus on rigour and relevance and seeks to advance and promote a ‘Pragmatist agenda’ across the humanities, arts and social sciences. Underpinned by the American Pragmatist philosophical school of thought and a cross-disciplinary approach, the collaboration taps into narrative methods, dramaturgical approaches, visual studies, sociological theories, design studies and community studies. Its innovative mode of delivery includes open participant sessions, drama exercises, experiential workshops, story telling, visual methods and crowd sourcing in an attempt to address issues of language translation and cultural capital across academics and community partners. The work of our Japanese partner which relates to and involves communities affected by the Tsunami (2011) and their way of coping with a crisis situation will benefit greatly our project by providing insights into an ongoing successful collaboration between academics and communities.