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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - Domain of Faith: The Future as Fate, Fortune, Fiction and Fact

4th November 2010, 17:30, Room 21, Pemberton Building, Palace Green, Professor Barbara Adam (Cardiff University)

The future used to belong to god(s). Today we assume the future to be ours to make, shape and take. This brings with it consequences. The social sciences are best placed to identify these. But are they? As a science they are charged to deal with facts. What kind of knowledge, evidence and methodology could they draw on to access the future, a domain of faith that becomes factual reality only once it materialises in the present?

A historical perspective on approaches to the future provides clues that help to answer this question and show the enormity of the task. Fate, fortune, fiction and fact are the key concepts chosen to tell this story and to map contradictions, paradoxes and conflicts that arise with each new phase of knowledge and practice. This lecture seeks to identify the challenges to and requirements from social science to engage with the futures that will outlast their creators by millennia.

Barbara Adam is professor of sociology at Cardiff University and is best known for her path-breaking work on time and social theory. She has applied her temporal perspective to the breadth of social life and its institutions. She has written extensively on the subject of time and futures and two of her five research monographs have been awarded book prizes. She is founder editor of the journal Time & Society. As scholar and editor she has set the global agenda on social time. She is currently an IAS Fellow, hosted by St Cuthbert's Society and engaged with the Institute's annual theme on 'Futures'. For further information please visit:; and

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