May 17, 2017

Social Studies of Institutions: Recursive Learning – Case Studies, Theories and Concepts

June 4-5, 2015, Amsterdam

In this workshop we aim to reflect on and reconceptualize recursive learning, which we define in the broadest terms as learning by individuals, groups, and institutions through reflection on past experiences and practices, both positive and negative, including those of others as well as their own. We will draw on case studies and conceptual frameworks in anthropology, sociology, political science, disaster studies, global health and economics, and we will suggest a future research agenda.

Themes of contributions

The workshop invites contributions that examine a range of types of recursive learning in institutional settingsThese include the micro-dynamics of learning in families that may continue across generations, shaping health and other practices and that may become taken for granted common knowledge. They also include illicit experimentation of young people with drugs, learning from natural disasters, and learning in virtual communities through which novel practices travel. In addition, we seek contributions which examine the coordinated monitoring and review of local experimentation in fields such as regulation and service provision, as well as less formal processes of feedback between central rule-makers and actors on the ground in national and transnational governance institutions, including the European Union. And we seek studies of how learning processes may become institutionalized in diverse institutions such as marketing firms, courts, police, and science laboratories. We ask in what ways learning is generated and how does it support or encourage appropriate practices and network relationship during a subsequent event? How through such recursive learning practices are “good practices” identified, how do they travel, and do they shape learning elsewhere? We invite contributions that address these issues in different geographical contexts, both within and beyond Europe, as well as cross-regional comparisons. 


The workshop is sponsored by the Amsterdam Centre for Contemporary European Studies - ACCESS-EUROPE (University of Amsterdam-VU University Amsterdam) and the Global Health Research Priority Area (University of Amsterdam) and held at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (University of Amsterdam), in collaboration with Washington University’s Transatlantic forum, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. Together we have been engaged in a multi-year joint project on conceptual and methodological dimensions of studying institutions, which included a series of workshops and training of graduate students.

Organizing Committee 

Anita Hardon, Jonathan Zeitlin, Jan Willem Duyvendak, Karen Kraal, Joris de Vries (AISSR) and Gijs van der Starre (ACCESS EUROPE); John Bowen (Washington University); Nicholas Dodier (EHESS- Paris).