About our MEDEA project in detail.

Taking a comparative and inter-generational perspective, the project addresses the impact of development paths on livelihoods, transmissions of knowledge and innovative responses to changing local and global circumstances. Focusing on four detailed case studies (Argentina, Brazil, Slovakia and Spain) the project traces patterns of connections between different forms of employment and unemployment, relations of solidarity and cooperation, and the elaboration of alternative or complementary entrepreneurial projects across the social spectrum. Starting from the premise that the analysis of any (dominant or alternative) development path must be situated within the complexities of historically unfolding links and relationships, the project explores how these emerge in specific socio-economic environments.

Drawing on a theoretical background that engages critically with development models, the project draws on the work on global trajectories carried out by the research team in Brasilia. The interdisciplinary approach combines qualitative research and comparative methodologies with modelling to explore the dynamic effects of development models and their context-bound implementations, and to trace and outline the interconnections of micro and macro level phenomena.

By focusing on heavy industry, primarily the steel industry, the research will identify critical points in the transmission of knowledge and skills across generations, regions and economic spheres. An ethnographic approach enables the detailed recording of social networks (including those of solidarity and support), both within work places and formal economic activities and beyond them, in informal economies and strategic friendship, kinship and neighbourhood relations. These are envisaged as potential vehicles for the reconfiguration of work practices and new forms of economic activity. The project will thus contribute to the comparative analysis of models for both policy and entrepreneurial action and will elucidate the complexity of development paths as they unfold within and across social terrains.

Collaboration of anthropologists with sociologists and economists is central to the project, and in particular to its aim of exploring the relationship between models and qualitative research. Using System Dynamics simulation techniques, the research team at Bologna University will explore the implications of the range of variables emerging from ethnographic fieldwork in the four sites. At the same time, this exercise will provide critical purchase on the limitations of SD, particularly its assumptions about causality and its reliance on notions of individual behaviour.