The workshop was a follow-up to the November 2014 ZiF workshop "Understanding Southern Welfare–the B(R)ICS countries", also organized by the conveners. Like the previous workshop, the November 2015 workshop aimed at forging a world-wide network of scholars with roots in Brazil, India, China and South Africa, coming from various disciplines such as law, sociology, political science, land policy, developmental studies, development economics, history, or social anthropology. The network is united under a common research question and a common theoretical framework. The network starts from the assumption that–during the last six decades–countries of the global South have followed their own paths of social policies, and not just replicated Northern concepts. Yet, research regarding social policies in the South is still scarce, mostly comprising country studies following their own particular research interest or studies using macro data. The research network wants to break new ground by focusing on a limited number of countries (Brazil, India, China, South Africa, i.e. the BICS countries), by choosing a qualitative approach allowing in-depth research with respect to three thematic fields (social rights and values; income security; land reforms), and by concentrating on the ideas, perceptions, and beliefs of local actors that underpin the social policies in the BICS countries. The main research question is: What ideas informed the definition of social problems in these countries and the choice of social policy instruments since the 1940s (for Brazil: since the 1930s)? Whereas the November 2014 ZiF workshop was more about gathering information and knowledge regarding the social policies in the BICS countries, the November 2015 ZiF workshop was about testing the adequacy of the main research question, the links between the thematic fields, and the validity of the theoretical framework. Discussions concentrated on, for example, how ideas need to be conceptualized in order to be useful to all disciplines involved, how the comparative efforts ought to be framed, and how the network could move theory-building beyond the BICS countries. All discussions fed into a tentative working program of the network.
Tobias Böger (Bielefeld, GER), Albert Chen Hung-yee (Hong Kong, CHN), Vivek Nenmini Dileep (Hyderabad, IND), Andries du Toit (Bellville, RSA), Peter Ho (Delft, NED), Aiqun Hu (Jonesboro, USA), Octavio Luiz Motta Ferraz (London, GBR), Gabriel Ondetti (Springfield, USA), Shitong Qiao (Hong Kong, CHN), Sarbani Sen (Delhi, IND), Shih-Jiunn Shi (Taipeh, TPE), Marianne Ulriksen (Johannesburg, RSA), Sheung Man Wong (Hong Kong, CHN)