Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy of Social Sciences in spring 2023. He is currently Professor of Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki, Finland where he doubles as a Fellow of the Teachers’ Academy, the highest recognition bestowed on distinguished teachers at the university.
Franklin’s research is centred on the political economy of development, urban and regional economics, natural resources and the environment. He has written six sole-authored books in these areas, including Global Migration Beyond Limits (Oxford University Press, 2022), The Commons in an Age of Uncertainty (University of Toronto Press, 2021) and Property, Institutions, and Social Stratification in Africa (Cambridge University Press, 2020), which won the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy Joan Robinson Prize in 2021.
A leader in his fields of teaching and research, Franklin is the Global South Editor of Housing Studies, Associate Editor of the Forum for Social Economics, and Series Editor of the Edinburgh Studies in Urban Political Economy. He also serves on the editorial boards of the Review of Social Economy, Journal of Economic Issues, and the American Journal of Economics and Sociology.
Franklin is also a Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, the oldest learned society in postcolonial Africa.
Why do the social sciences matter?
The social sciences are unique. They are especially well placed to provide the wider context, tools, and spaces needed to understand and change the world in which we live, whether at present, in the past, or in the future. The social sciences also transform how we analyse complexity, generate diverse interests, and catalyse social action to strive for a more satisfying world.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Research, teaching, and some administration. I hope that what I do might be germane to clarifying the nature of social problems, providing some of the building blocks for addressing these problems, and showing ways of further analysing and changing the world in which we live. Listening to others, reading their work, conducting my own investigations, theorising and working with students and colleagues, as well as others outside of academia, might sound mundane, but these sometimes solitary and other times social activities are surprisingly reinvigorating and enjoyable.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
Some might consider war and work, or the economic and ethical dilemmas of AI as the most urgent social questions. In my view, these, indeed, are consequential, but they are reflections of the triple crises of inequality, social stratification, and ecological imperialism. These are existential. I’m not sure if we can tackle them within the next three years, but we need to make haste: the breaking down of social bonds, the warming of the planet, and the loss of biodiversity are not waiting for us. The time to act is now!
What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?
Initially, the feeling of recognition dominated my reaction to the news of being conferred as a Fellow. But that quickly gave way to a sense of duty, a call to leadership, and a responsibility to service. Above all, it is an honour to be a part of the community of Fellows of the Academy Social Science.