The Research Group on Collective Vulnerability and Social Change is part of the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Lausanne. Its members share a common interest in the way collective calamities such as war or social crisis affect the fabric of community life. Their joint research activities organise around several core questions: What makes collective vulnerability different from the sum of individual fragilities? Why do the disruption of social practices and the spread of moral ambiguity constitute traumatic experiences in themselves? When do collective catastrophes provide an impetus for progressive social change? Which collective resources can people draw upon to resist spirals of anomie or to overcome historic legacies of violent breakdown?
Over the last decade, these questions have motivated a variety of studies in the following subfields:
• Collective vulnerability, conflict and human rights
• Collective values, social stability and change
• Political nationalism and ethnic violence
• Collective resistance and disobedience
• Shared beliefs and community resilience
• The combination of micro- and macro-level approaches
However, the Transition to Adulthood and Collective Experiences Surveys (TRACES) conducted in 2005 and 2006 across the entire region of the former Yugoslavia, with the aim to document collective exposure to violent breakdown and the impact of war on one generation, has played an outstanding role in the history of the research group. Currently, as two doctoral theses drawing on the material gathered from this project and an edited synthesis of the overall findings are in their final stages, the group is preparing its own transition and exploring ways to apply theoretical models and methodological tools yielded by previous research to new sites and phenomena.
The research group is firmly rooted in European social psychology and is guided by an understanding of social psychology as an interdisciplinary crossroad in the midst of the social sciences, rather than as a sub-discipline of psychology. The group is linked to the Lausanne Life Course and Inequality Research Centreand to the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research , ‘LIVES – Overcoming vulnerability’. Its members are involved in a dense network of scientific collaborations with excellent international research groups.