I had the pleasure of attending the very stimulating and enjoyable event in The Netherlands last week. This was the interim meeting of the IPSA research group on power, which was held in the 17th century convent of Soeterbeeck, near Ravenstein. Soeterbeeck is an ideal setting for a conference of this nature, full of atmosphere and history. The participants get to sleep in the original nun’s cells, which offers an extra touch of authenticity and depth to the experience. Our discussions were greatly aided by these “environmental factors”, as well as the excellent food and service provided by the staff who worked there. I cannot recommend Soeterbeeck as a venue highly enough. Special thanks are due to Henri Goverde in particular for his tireless efforts at organization and for making our stay as pleasant as it was.
The workshop itself was fascinating. The topics covered were as diverse as the scholars presenting but all converged on the concept of power in one form or another. Papers included were:
- Flor Avelino (Rotterdam) – Power & Mobility in Transition
- Erkki Berndtson (Helsinki) – Charles E. Merriam as a Theorist of Power
- Marina Calloni (Milan) – A communicative power? Reconnecting the private sources to a legitimate political power
- Phil G. Cerny (Rutgers) – “Smart Power” in a Globalizing World: Groping for a Compass
- Henri Goverde (Nijmegen) – Too Big to Solve? Considerations concerning Climate Change, Power and Expertise
- Mark Haugaard (Galway) – Making sense of power to, power over and constitutive power.
- Ulrike Höppner (Berlin) – Power and Imagination or How to change the world
- Kieran Keohane (Cork) – The Power of Love as a radiant ideal: turning around the mass psychology of neo-liberalism
- Wiebren Kuindersma/Bas Art (Wageningen) – The four faces of power in regional governance
- Nanna Mik-Meyer (Copenhagen) – Empowerment as a modern, neoliberal form of steering and domination
- Pat O’Mahoney (Cork) – Habermas and Communicative Power
- Kevin Ryan (Galway) – Power, Knowledge, and Emotional ‘Detachment’
My own paper: Emotions & Power: Towards a Theoretical Analysis is very much a work in progress. I am grateful to those who offered insightful critical comments and hope to improve the paper as a result.
Toward the end of the conference we began to realize the power of mother earth, as Eyjafjallajokull spat its noxious plume in to the air and grounded air travel over Europe. A number of participants were unable to make the meeting at all, including Jonathan Hearn and Mark Rigstad. The epic story of how we, the five Irish participants, managed to get home from Ravenstein will have to wait until another occasion. Suffice to say it was both enjoyable and eventful, and I am grateful for the comradeship and generosity shown to me, a lowly grad student, by my supervisors, Mark and Kevin, and also by Kieran and Pat. All in all it was an ideal traveling situation.