Living in and coping with world risk society – Ulrich Beck

In this talk (from a few years ago, 2011 I think), sociologist Ulrich Beck outlines and updates his theory of reflexive modernization and the ‘risk society’. He suggests that, to the extent that risk is experienced as omnipresent in the current age, there are only three possible reactions: denial, apathy or transformation. The first, he says, ‘is largely inscribed in modern culture, the second resembles post-modern nihilism, the third is the “cosmopolitan moment” of world risk society’.

In the talk that follows he structures his argument around three key points. In  the first he outlines the distinctive, new features of this world risk society. There is a distinction between risk and catastrophe – they are not the same things. Risk is about the anticipation of catastrophe. This is why, despite the fact that Europe and ‘The West’ are relatively safe, globally speaking, or perhaps even ‘objectively’ so, it is the global anticipation of catastrophe (propagated via symbolic forms in the mass media etc) that is fundamental to the shaping of contemporary societies. These global perceptions of risk have three features: de-localization ( in spatial, temporal and social terms), incalculableness, and non-compensatibility.

His second key point stresses the fundamentally global character of these process, over and against the nation-state as a political level of analysis, and transformative action. Against this methodological nationalism he offers a defence of his cosmopolitan vision for the social sciences, outlined in more detail in his Power and the Global Age (2005). His final point offers some consequences of his position, in general, and a (sympathetic) critique of alternative theoretical conceptions of risk, most notably those of Mary Douglas and Michel Foucault. What is needed is a paradigm shift in the social sciences – the emergence of a cosmopolitan social science – a ‘cosmopolitan turn’.

This defence of cosmopolitanism – his cosmopolitical realpolitik –  is, of course, open to many criticisms and questions, as are his wider arguments about risk, decision-making etc.  There are some questions/discussion after 26 mins or so.

Call for Papers – ESA Emotions Network Midterm Conference 2014**DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 6TH 2014**

Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004 4 mm square section mild steel bar 225 x 218 x 170 cm Photograph by Stephen White, London
Antony Gormley: FEELING MATERIAL XIV, 2004
4 mm square section mild steel bar
225 x 218 x 170 cm
Photograph by Stephen White, London


The ESA Emotions Network (RN11) will hold their 6th midterm conference between 25-27 September, 2014. The conference will take place on the island of Rhodes, Greece, in the University of the Aegean. This year, in addition to the usual streams, the conference will feature two special workshops on emotions – one for PhD students (featuring Prof. Helena Flam and Prof. Helmut Kuzmics), and one on the use of literary analysis for sociology of emotions research (again, featuring Prof. Helmut Kuzmics and Dr. Stephanie Bird). The proposed sessions, towards which you might pitch your abstracts, include: Theorizing Emotions; Emotions and: Morality; Globalization; Religion; Civic Action; Power; Literature; Law; Finance; Visuals; Migration-Sensations-Spaces; Post-Atrocity Emotions; and Researching Emotions Empirically. The full call for papers is here: CfP RN 11 Midterm Rhodes final(pdf).

Abstracts not exceeding 300 words should be sent by the 31st of March 2014 to Jochen Kleres ( Please use “RN 11 midterm submission”in the subject line of your email. Also, please send your abstract indicating whether it is for a specific session listed above. Notifications about the abstracts selected for presentation at the midterm conference will be made by mid-May 2014. Conference fees, more precise conference times, and links to accommodation will be announced then.

I hope to make it this year myself and I urge those working on affect or emotions to submit an abstract. I have been to other conferences with this group and always found them both intellectually stimulating and, perhaps more importantly, filled with interesting, warm and (not least) fun social scientists from all over the world. But hurry up! The deadline is Monday!


Diana Coole talk on May 20th, NUI Galway – on the ‘Population Question’


We are delighted to announce the second guest speaker of the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Cluster (School of Political Science & Sociology) this year is Prof Diana Coole of Birkbeck  University of London. The talk, based on the ‘Population Question’ (specifics below), will take place at 3pm on 20th May in the SAC Room/CA110, Cairnes Building (St. Anthony’s, ground floor)  NUI Galway. All are welcome.

The title of the paper will be ‘From Population Control to Behaviour Modification: Liberty, Coercion and Behaviour Modification in Pursuit of Sustainable Wellbeing’. The abstract is below, but a useful introduction to these issues and Coole’s perspective on the population question in general may be found in her 2013 paper ‘Too Many Bodies? The Return and Disavowal of the Population Question’, which is currently open access (as one of Routledge’s ‘most popular’ politics papers of 2013).

The abstract for the Galway talk, and the speaker’s bio, are below the fold.


Continue reading “Diana Coole talk on May 20th, NUI Galway – on the ‘Population Question’”

41st SAI Annual Conference May 10th 2014: Call for Papers



The 41st Annual Conference of the SAI will be held at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street on May 10th 2014. This will be an open conference with no prescribed theme. This one day conference will focus on high quality papers and presentations with time for discussion and debate.

This year’s conference will also feature a Plenary Roundtable on ‘Teaching Sociology’. Speakers include Dr. Daniel Fass (TCD, Provost Teaching Award 2012), Dr. Amanda Haynes (UL, Excellence in Teaching Award 2005 & 2011) and Dr. Rebecca King O’Riain (NUIM,

You may submit an abstract from two different forms of presentation:

1. Ordinary Paper (300 words)

2. Poster Presentation (200 words)

Those wishing to present a paper at the conference should submit an abstract as a Word attachment by email to: no later than Friday 14th March 2014

Submissions will be reviewed and authors notified by Friday 28th March 2014.

Further details on abstract submission and more below the fold.

Continue reading “41st SAI Annual Conference May 10th 2014: Call for Papers”

William Reddy – Do Emotions Have a History? The Example of Romantic Love.

In this fascinating talk William M. Reddy, the William T. Laprade Professor of History and Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University, expounds on the theme of romantic love.  This is the subject of his recent (and award-winning) book called The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia, and Japan, 900-1200 CE (2012).  The talk took place at the University of Melbourne in March of last year, in association with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. The blurb for the talks is below.  Reddy’s earlier work, and his concept of ’emotional regimes’ in particular has been influential for my own work in the sociology of emotions.  I have recently aquired this book and look forward to reading it.  The talk offers a reasonable summary of the main arguments, which suggests that the history of love is different in Europe to elsewhere, where love and sexual desire are united.  In Europe this was the case prior to, but not after, the 12th century CE, when the medieval notion of courtly love developed in opposition to moral theological definitions of sexual love as an ‘appetite of the body’ to be suppressed, controlled and subject to discipline. Love became ‘split’ or bifurcated, as is the Western tendency, into ‘bad/profane’ sexual desire and ‘pure/sacred’ sublime love – body and soul.  This split did not occur elsewhere, according to Reddy, who uses (primarily) literary examples from Japan, Asia and other cultures to make a comparative ethnography of love.  These themes, and much more besides, feature in the talk.      

Are emotions hard-wired, or are they subject to cultural or historical variation? In general, emotions are not subject to voluntary control; we do not get to pick which ones we will feel. Some emotions, like fear or anger, may trigger physiological changes. Others, like pride or nostalgia, do not. Are emotions hard-wired? Or are they subject to cultural or historical variation? Or perhaps, some are hard-wired, others shaped by culture?

For decades experts have been divided on the subject. The question of romantic love is a good entry point for appreciating the complexities social scientists face in trying to make sense of emotions. It seems that romantic love, of one kind or another, can be found in almost every part of the world. Is it universal, a product of neurotransmitters interacting with subcortical structures? The record suggests, on the contrary, not only that romantic love has gone through some striking transformations over the centuries, but also that collective action can make a difference in how we feel.

Professor William M. Reddy is the author of the seminal work on the History of Emotions, The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions. (Cambridge University Press, 2001). His most recent book is The making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan, 900-1200CE (University of Chicago Press) was published in 2012.

Call for Papers: The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

This new and exciting journal has issued a call for papers.  First issue will be out in 2014.

Call for Papers

The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology

Official Journal of the European Sociological Association

The study of culture is the fastest growing area in both European and North American sociology. After years of mild neglect, political sociology is also re-establishing itself as a central plank of the discipline. The European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology aims to be a forum not so much for these fields of study considered separately, as for any work that explores the relationship between culture and politics through a sound sociological lens.  The journal takes an ecumenical view of ‘culture’: it welcomes articles that address the political setting, resonance or use of any of the arts (literature, art, music etc.), but it is also open to work that construes political phenomena in terms of a more philosophical or anthropological understanding of culture, where culture refers to the most general problem of meaning-formation. As for work that lies between these poles, it might address the relationship between politics and religion in all its forms, political symbolism past and present, styles of political leadership, political communication, the culture of political parties and movements, cultural policy, artists as political agents, and many other related areas.  The journal is not committed to any particular methodological approach, nor will it restrict itself to European authors or material with a European focus.  It will carry articles with an historical as well as a topical flavour.  The journal aims to have a robust book reviews section, and while the language of reviews will be English, we wish to promote reviews of and review articles about significant new work written in other languages.  The journal’s most general aim is to foster and perhaps rekindle the sort of intellectual sensibility that was once a staple of the sociological tradition.

Editor in Chief:

Charles Turner (University of Warwick; UK, )


Ricca Edmondson (National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland;

Paul du Gay (University of Copenhagen, Denmark;

Eeva Luhtakallio (University of Helsinki, Finland;

 Reviews Editors

Beatriz Padilla (University of Minho, Portugal;

Erle Rikmann (University of Tallinn, Estonia;

Editorial Assistant

Zeynep Talay (

Call for Papers – Poesis: The ambivalent creation of truth.

Poesis Hands
Call for Papers: (Submission deadline 1st of November)
Sixth International Political Anthropology Workshop in Ireland on
Poesis: The ambivalent creation of truth.
29th & 30th of November, 2013
Waterford Institute of Technology
Organised by the Department of Applied Arts, Waterford Institute of Technology, the Journal International Political Anthropology, and the School of Sociology & Philosophy, University College Cork
Conveners: Tom Boland (Sociology, WIT,,)
                   John O’ Brien, (Sociology, WIT,
Poesis, from the Ancient Greek (ποίησις) means production or composition. This creativity is central and vital to humanity; from language, story and song through objects, homes and art to political and social institutions. To study society and culture separately is scarcely tenable: this conference concerns the centrality of meaning, narrative and even beauty to human life. Yet, in modernity poesis and culture are often relegated to being little more than entertainment or even frothy ideology which distorts ‘real’ social processes. Furthermore, for academics oriented to investigating, interpreting or even measuring social forces, how poesis creates truth is a matter of deep ambivalence.
There is nothing more poetic than the sense, or even the sensation, of moving through fiction towards the truth. As Nietzsche pointed out, all of our truths are fictions which we have ceased to recognise as creative poesis: the foundational concepts of philosophy, theology and all the modern disciplines emerge from stories. Inevitably, we live culturally within one fictional world or another, or even in many worlds that overlap in complex ways. Yet, we are ambivalent about this poesis: Whose fiction is it? Does fictional mean false, ideological and erroneous? And what might happen if the fiction starts to wear thin – will there be disenchantment, alienation or renewal?
The intersections of culture and society are no narrow specialism, but increasingly a concern common to many disciplines. Cultural anthropology, at least since Geertz, has taken the meaning-making practices of human societies as a central area of inquiry. Cultural sociology has grown from a minor field to a central paradigm. Literary and performance theory, musicology and cognate disciplines have become increasingly concerned with culture and context, from new historicism to reader response theories. This conference will bring together papers concerned with poesis and culture from all of these areas which engage with the ambivalent status of truth after the cultural turn, the historical turn and the performative turn.
The question of poesis and truth cannot be confined to the sepulchral realms of high art or the distracting froth of popular culture. Despite the dominance of technocratic discourse, the political world is animated by fictions, from universalising utopian visions to images of the nation. Ultimately politics is a contest over meaning. Similarly that thing which we sometimes call ‘economic reality’ is also a storied world, with confidence, booms and busts the material of our contemporary morality tale. The tale of technological world domination, the bildungsroman of entrepreneurial success, the Faustian pact of progress and the carnival world of the market are all fictions. And of course, culture is now an industry, so that tourism, advertising and education are sites of the production and consumption of poesis and truth.
However, this brings us to problems of distinction: Are all societies alike in creating meaning? Modernity is associated with a dearth of meaning, a decline of poesis and truth becoming singular and univocal – but is this our near-sighted parochialism? Are all elements of society meaning-making? Every human action exists in a nexus of meaning, but it is hardly an undifferentiated continuum, and surely there are particular sources of meaning which deserve academic attention, from poetry, to religion, to authority, to ritual and beyond.
We invite plenary and session papers on:
–          Poetry and truth, theory and meaning.
–          Society as a fictional world: in modernity and beyond.
–          Politics as the contested field of meaning.
–          Poesis and everyday life.
–          The marketplace for meaning and productive poesis.
Deadline for abstracts is Friday 1th of November 2013.
Feel free to contact the convenors earlier for consultation and information

Conversations with History: Nancy Scheper-Hughes

[EDIT: Tried to link to clip so it begins 18mins in, where they begin to discuss Ireland, but it didn’t work. You might want to skip to there yourself…]

In class with some second year undergraduate students of sociology & politics (NUI Galway) this morning we discussed qualitative research methods, particularly participant observation, ethnography, the issues surrounding access, and ethics.  During this discussion I mentioned the controversial work of Nancy Scheper-Hughes, and her book Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland (1979).  This was a study of madness among bachelor farmers on the Dingle Peninsula in West Kerry in the early 70’s.  The research is notable for many reasons, not least, the contrast in how the work was received by different audiences.  While Scheper-Hughes won the Margaret Mead Award from the Society for Applied Anthropology in 1980, she was vilified in Ireland and in the local community in which she conducted her study most of all.  She discusses this in the interview above, and in paper in 2000, Ire in Ireland (paywall).  The ethical dilemma, she says, was best summed up by one of the townspeople of ‘Ballyban’ on her (short-lived) return in 1999, when he said:

‘It’s not your science I’m questioning but this: don’t we have the right to lead unexamined lives, to not be analyzed?  Don’t we have a right to hold on to an image of ourselves as “different” to be sure, but as innocent and unblemished all the same? (Scheper-Hughes, 2001, p.xvi).

The question we need to ask ourselves as social researchers is why; why are we doing this work; who benefits; is it worth it, in the end?  This a question of ethics, but it is more so a question of justification.  Is our intervention justified and what are the consequences of our work?  If, after all, we can make the case, on whatever grounds, for the value of what we do then may we invoke the right to upset participants or their communities?  And what of the role of power here and in other aspects of the research process?


CfP: European Sociological Association 11th Conference-Turin, Italy, 28 – 31 August 2013


This year’s European Sociological Association (ESA) bi-annual conference will be held in Turin (Torino), Italy, on the 28 – 31 August 2013.  The general theme is on ‘Crisis, Critique and Change’, and the pdf containing calls for all the networks and streams is here (though, annoyingly, without hyperlinks in the contents section to each of the different streams…sigh).  I hope to attend, and have a few potential papers that I am thinking of presenting.  Hopefully I will be able to drum up some money from somewhere.

Abstracts must be submitted online by the 1st of February-so hurry up!

The network that I am most associated with is RN11, the sociology of emotions network.  These are a a great bunch of international scholars-warm, welcoming, interesting, insightful-so I urge you, if you have research that engages with emotions and emotionality, to consider submitting to these sessions.  The specific RN11 call is below.  Hope to see you there!


RN11 – Sociology of emotions

Jochen Kleres University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
Stina Bergman Blix Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Sylvia Terpe Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, Germany

The continuously growing field of the sociology of emotions has demonstrated that emotions are of fundamental significance to all aspects of social life. As a theoretical endeavor, the sociology of emotions aims at becoming superfluous as a separate field of scholarly interest by integrating into mainstream sociology. For this reason, we welcome papers that investigate the role of emotions in all aspects of society and social life. While all high-quality papers with a central focus on emotions will be considered, we also suggest a number of possible special topics listed below. This includes also contributions from neighboring disciplines that have significant relevance to sociology.


Key theoretical frameworks for the sociological analysis of emotions have stood the test of time during more than thirty years since they launched the sociology of emotions. Nevertheless, the potential for sociological theorizing of emotions is far from exhausted. For instance, the classics of sociology, far from mute on emotions, provide a valuable source of inspiration. Theoretical frameworks such as that of Norbert Elias may also engender innovative theorizing. While sociological interest in emotions is swiftly growing, emotions are still not recognized by mainstream social theorizing as a fundamental aspect of social life. We want to encourage contributions that try to develop innovative theories of emotions as well as theories that demonstrate how emotions can be integrated into social theorizing more generally.

Despite a history of several decades, the sociology of emotions has by and large not explored and theorized specific emotions. We welcome papers which develop theories of specific emotions that are highly relevant to social theorizing in general as well as useful for empirical research.

Morality, moral orientations and moral values have a long tradition in sociological research and theorizing. But how is their relation with emotions to be conceptualized? Are there particular ‘moral emotions’, and if so what constitutes a ‘moral emotion’? How are moral orientations and moral actions affected by emotions? Do emotions qualify as a substitute for lacking moral values? We welcome theoretical contributions as well as empirical studies dedicated to these questions.

Recent periods of economic turmoil in the world have the potential of shaking entrenched beliefs in the sober objective rationality of the economic sphere and its actors. Arguably, not only the recurring economic crises but also everyday finance business demonstrate that emotions are a key to all economic action and finance in particular.

Just like finance, the law is often conceived as a realm of objectivity and rationality. Burgeoning research shows that emotions are a pervasive feature of law and the court system. Papers that pinpoint, for instance, the role of emotion management by judges, emotions in court interaction, emotions and notions of justice, etc. are welcome.

There is still a dearth of methodological reflection for empirical emotion research. We welcome papers that present approaches to studying emotions empirically. Specific issues could include, but are not limited to: how can researchers deal with their own emotions within the analysis? How can one delineate an emotional culture empirically? How can one approach emotions within a transnational analysis? How can different approaches to empirical research inform a focus on emotions? How would they have to be developed?

In the past two-three decades resurgence in idealism, calling on societies split by violent conflicts to pursue truth, justice and reconciliation (often cast as a preconditions for making a transition to democracy), has re-asserted itself. Both trans-nationally and in each of the societies whose members had taken part in atrocities, there are attempts to formulate rules for post-atrocity times which spell out which emotions are prescribed and which are proscribed. Contributions are welcome highlighting in a critical way these emotional regimes and the vested interests behind them. How are emotions and emotional practices used and negotiated in order to come to terms with what has happened, to castigate perpetrators or to heal and forgive? This might also relate to explorations into the emotional dimensions of trauma.

Continued after the jump!

Continue reading “CfP: European Sociological Association 11th Conference-Turin, Italy, 28 – 31 August 2013”