A Brief History of Liberty – and its Lessons: A Public ‘Ethics Initiative’ Lecture by Professor Philip Pettit of Princeton University in NUI Galway.


Distinguished Irish philosopher Prof. Philip Pettit of Princeton University will give a public lecture on ‘A Brief History of Liberty — and its Lessons’ in the Aula Maxima, NUI Galway at 4pm on Tuesday, 17th June 2014. This talk is being presented as part of the President of Ireland’s ‘Ethics Initiative’, and organised by the Power, Conflict & Ideologies Research Cluster of the School of Political Science & Sociology. The President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, will be in attendance at the lecture.  All are welcome and the event is free, but we would appreciate if you could register your attendance here.

Philip Pettit, originally from Ballygar Co. Galway, is L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, where he teaches philosophy and political theory. He is particularly renowned for his revival and development of republicanism within political philosophy, and for his work on group agency.  Among his books are The Common Mind (1996); Republicanism (1997); The Economy of Esteem (2004), with G. Brennan; A Political Philosophy in Public Life: Civic Republicanism in Zapatero’s Spain, with J.L. Marti (2010); and Group Agency (2011), with C. List.  Professor Pettit is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of academies in his two countries of citizenship: Ireland and Australia.  His recent book On the People’s Terms (2012) is published with Cambridge University Press. It is based on the 2009 Albertus Magnus Lectures in Cologne, and the 2010 Seeley lectures in Cambridge.  Also forthcoming is a book with W.W.Norton for a general audience, entitled Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World. He is giving the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Berkeley in 2014-15.

While in Ireland, Prof. Pettit will also be involved in a number of workshops, based on his work, in UCD, and will give the opening keynote address, on the infrastructure of democracy, to the third annual Garrett Fitzgerald Summer School in Dublin later in June.

Abstract for the lecture is below the fold.

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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.


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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:

sai2014conferenceabstractsATgmail.com 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”

Economy and Society Summer School, 12-16th of May 2014, Blackwater Castle, Cork

blackwater castle

** applications opening Janurary 2014 **

Tom Boland of WIT has asked me to post this call for applications for the Economy & Society Summer School, which will be held in the beautiful Blackwater Castle in Cork.  The school is aimed primarily at doctoral students from across the social sciences, and offers a unique and intensive week of theory, reading, thinking and discussion for up to 30 students.  It is an excellent event, and space, for developing your own thinking and research, and students can also earn credits (5-10 ECTS, 3-6 American Credits), where relevant.  The site with all of the details on the programme, requirements and application etc is HERE.  The blurb is below:

Doctoral candidates from across disciplines in business and social sciences need to address both economy and society. Clearly, the economy shapes society, and economic institutions are irreducibly social. Furthermore, in an increasingly interdisciplinary academic world, sociology, anthropology, politics, geography and history on the one hand, and organisation studies, management, marketing, finance and economics on the other can indeed be mutually illuminating. Thus, this summer school is oriented to the contemporary social science concern with the economy and the turn towards the social in the broad range of economics and business. Bridging the gap between these paradigms and developing a new language to address the intersections of economy and society is a vital contemporary concern.

To some, the economy appears as a sort of autonomous assemblage of law-like forces; supply, demand, labour and capital, and yet it can be concretely investigated through more micro phenomena such as offices, factories, companies, entrepreneurship, internationalisation, networks or cultural practices such as consumerism, leisure and credit. Furthermore, historical perspectives suggest that there is a complex and often surprising lineage in the emergence, transformation and consolidation of money, private property and markets. Another concern is the subjective experience of economic processes, for instance, the trials of job-seeking and ‘selling yourself’, the experience of indebtedness, poverty or social mobility. And in the quest to make a contribution, researchers examining these phenomena look to a broad set of theorists and researchers from across the social sciences, a selection of which will be presented in detail in the summer school reading groups.

The most important political ideas in the last century are liberalism and socialism, both of which are economic philosophies; these paradigms dominate public debate and politics. The main activities of the contemporary state are economic management; taxation, regulation and providing social services. Furthermore, many areas of social and personal life have become suffused with economic logics; we work on ourselves, our families and our relationships; there is a marketplace for ideas, for love and for friendship; we ‘consume’ media history and politics. While there is much to critique in the injustices, excesses and absurdities of the ‘economy’, it is first of all necessary to understand it interpretatively. Since Weber’s ‘protestant ethic’ thesis, it is clear that in modern society one of our highest values, our most important institutions and primary markers of identity is work. Paradoxically, a gulf has opened between economic practices and social norms, even as society has increasingly taken on the market principle.

The Economy and Society summer school aspires to help early stage researchers strengthen and widen their theoretical basis in ways that allows them to position their work amongst broader discourses, extend and sharpen their understanding of their theoretical and empirical practices and to contribute to their formation as independently-minded academics. In this way we hope to offer a space to move beyond the narrowing of fields and hair-splitting discourse of some contemporary research.

Organisers: Tom Boland, Ray Griffin and John O’Brien – Waterford Institute of Technology,
 In collaboration with Kieran Keohane, Colin Sumner and Arpad Szakolczai – University College Cork

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, tboland@wit.ie,)
                   John O’ Brien, (Sociology, WIT, jfobrien@wit.ie)
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?