Kari Norgaard — Living in Denial

In this excellent talk, recorded in 2013, Kari Norgaard offers a wonderful and concise overview of her well known book on the sociology of climate change Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (2011). What is most interesting, from my perspective, is the way that she deploys conceptions of both emotion (specifically: guilt, fear of the future, and helplessness) with questions of power and power relations (especially Lukes’ notion of 3D power) in her analysis to explain how knowledge of climate change is negotiated, and denied, in everyday life. Drawing on ethnographic data from fieldwork in Norway, Norgaard shows how this power-emotion nexus is fundamentally social, and constitutive of the social organization of climate denial. Both the book and this short (36m) lecture are well work checking out.

Via Youtube:

In her lecture, professor Kari Norgaard uses interviews and ethnographic data from a community in western Norway during the unusually warm winter of 2000-2001 to describe how knowledge of climate change is experienced in everyday life. Stories in local and national newspapers linked the warm winter explicitly to global warming. Yet residents did not write letters to the editor, pressure politicians, or cut down on the use of fossil fuels. Norgaard describes the disturbing emotions of guilt, helplessness and fear of the future that arose when people were confronted with the idea of climate change — and then builds a model of socially organized denial to describe how people normalized these disturbing emotions through the deployment of conversation norms and discourses that served as “tools of social order.” Using literature from sociology of emotions, environmental sociology and sociology of culture, she describes “the social organization of climate denial” through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy.

The lectures shared here were given on October 5th 2013 in the following order:

Guðni Elísson: “Earth101”

Stefan Rahmstorf: “The Climate Crisis”

Michael Mann: “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”

Kari Norgaard: “Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions and Everyday Life”

Peter Sinclair: “Communicating Climate Science in the Disinformation Era”

Recorded by Phil Coates and edited by Ryan Chapman.

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 (jkleresATposteo.de). 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’”

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

Multispecies Cosmopolitics: 2013 IHR Distinguished Lecture with Donna Haraway

(Haraway appears about 10 mins in)

‘As the IHR’s 2013 Distinguished Lecturer, Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz and author of “Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature,” calls upon her audience to work, play and think in terms of multispecies cosmopolitics, a new approach to recuperating the Terrapolis on which we live.

After centuries of genocides, environmental destruction and its unevenly distributed suffering, and rampant killing of species, as well as individuals, Haraway suggests that humans turn to SF – string figures, science fiction, speculative fabulation, speculative feminism – as mechanisms for envisioning the future.

Working homing pigeons provide guidance for SF thinking, especially as seen through the methodologies and theories of practicing zoo-ethno-graphers. Their investigations of multispecies attachment, detachment, inter- and intra- patience, and inter- and intra- action bring together the social sciences, humanities, arts, and biological and physical sciences and offer crucial tools and knowledge(s). However, these investigations also reveal stunning human ignorance(s) about how to inhabit the world with other animals, rather than to observe and control them’.

Facing Gaia: A new enquiry into Natural Religion-Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures 2013

Bruno Latour’s recent (Feb,2013)  Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh deserve to be more widely viewed than they have been.  Indeed, if history is any guide, they probably will be, eventually.  Already I have heard about an upcoming workshop organized around the lecture series, and a book based on the series is forthcoming.  Past luminaries of these lectures, which were established to ‘promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term’ have included some of the most influential thinkers (and books) of the last century, including William James (1900-1902, The Varieties of Religious Experience), Henri Bergson (1913-14, The Problem of Personality), Hannah Arendt (1976, Life of the Mind), and, with particular significance for Latour, Alfred North Whitehead (1927-28, Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology).

This last work, still notoriously troublesome despite its various revisions since Whitehead delivered it in Edinburgh almost a century ago, echoes throughout Latour’s six lectures.  Latour speaks; Whitehead stands at his shoulder.  It is clear that Professor Latour enjoyed following in ‘his philosopher’s’ footsteps. The key themes of the lectures circle around the implications of living in a new epoch in which humans are significantly affecting the earth’s ecosystem: the anthropocene.  The abstract for the series as a whole reads:

Facing Gaia. A New Inquiry into Natural Religion.

There could be no better theme for a lecture series on natural religion than that of Gaia, this puzzling figure that has emerged recently in public discourse from Earth science as well as from many activist and spiritual movements. The problem is that the expression of ”natural religion” is somewhat of a pleonasm, since Western definitions of nature borrow so much from theology. The set of lectures attempts to decipher the face of Gaia in order to redistribute the notions that have been packed too tightly into the composite notion of ”natural religion”.

Politics, science and religion are brought into dialogue, via a sustained contemplation of Gaia, rather than nature.  What this shift calls for above all is a (political) shift from matters of fact to matters of concern, which is, in itself, a Whiteheadian shift.  The draft text of the lectures is available here (pdf), but the published book is on the way.  The remaining five lectures are below the fold.  I have only recently finished viewing them all and I am not ready to offer a critique just yet.  I may have to read (and re-read) the notes or the book that emerges to fully grasp what Latour is  saying.  His project is vast, and requires, demands, serious attention.  These lectures are a good place to begin.

The abstract for the first lecture is:

Once Out of Nature – natural religion as a pleonasm

Lecture abstract

The set of questions around the two words “natural religion” implies that only the second word is a coded and thus a disputed category, the first one being taken for granted and uncoded. But if it can be shown that the very notion of nature is a theological construct, we might be able to shift the problem somewhat: the question becomes not to save or resurrect “natural religion”, but to dispose of it by offering at last a ”secular” version of nature and of the natural sciences.

They get better as they go on.  Persevere.  And enjoy!

Continue reading “Facing Gaia: A new enquiry into Natural Religion-Bruno Latour’s Gifford Lectures 2013”

‘Walled States, Waning Sovereignty’ Professor Wendy Brown, CCIG Keynote Lecture

I am affiliated with the wonderfully named ‘power cluster’ in the School of Political Science & Sociology at NUI Galway.  This occasionally makes me feel like a superhero. This intrepid group, somewhere on a scale between the Justice League and the Legion of Doom, meets once a month to discuss work related to our own research interests that has some relation to the notion of power, broadly defined.  This month we are reading the first chapter from Prof. Wendy Brown‘s recent book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).  The lecture posted here basically covers the same ground.  Her argument is that the proliferation of walls and walling that we are witnessing worldwide, such as ‘The Wall’ separating Israel and Palestine  or the one on the US-Mexico Border, is a feature of contemporary globalization and (paradoxically, despite the theatrical show of physical dominance that such walls might symbolize) signals the waning of sovereignty for the nation-state.  These walls are not built to defend states from other national actors but rather to target nonstate, transnational actors, such as migrants and ‘terrorist’ groups etc.  For Brown, who wishes to differentiate her argument from Agamben (Homo Sacer) and Hardt and Negri (Empire), key to the loss of this national sovereignty are the domination of free-floating global capital and ‘God-sanctioned political violence’.  Rather than being a sign of nation-state dominance, these walls actually represent a deep-seated national anxiety about increasing sovereign impotence and an aspect of  the ‘theater state’ (though she does not mention Geertz here).  What is perhaps most interesting is her discussion of the ‘state of emergency’/’state of exception’, always provisional and temporary, yet a perpetual and seemingly permanent feature of the contemporary world.  This, of course, is well-trodden ground, particularly by (again) Agamben, following Schmitt.  But this is perhaps where I  also part company with Brown and her analysis of the waning of the nation-state, which may be a little over-stated.  Is it not the case that, for Schmitt, this discourse of the state of exception, or more specifically, the capacity or power to declare a state of exception is central to the notion of state sovereignty.  Far from being a sign of a weakened nation-state, is this capacity not a sure sign of the state’s enduring power?  And one which is exercised, when it is exercised (power is a capacity and should not be confused with it’s exercise), often in the face of vocal international opposition, such as in the case of Israel.

In any case, I enjoyed the chapter and hope to finish the book.  Enjoy the talk.

Histories of Violence

I have been away for a few days, attending the 10th Conference of the European Sociological Association (ESA, 2011) in Geneva.  I will post on this topic next week (I hope!).  While I was away, the website for the Histories of Violence project at the university of Leeds went live.  This is a trans-disciplinary, multi media project, dedicated to addressing the theoretical, empirical and aesthetic dimensions to violence, and particularly political violence.  There are sections on different approaches to these issues, such as art, film, theatre, literature.  However, what most interests me here is the section on theory.

This section features key-note lectures by key thinkers on key thinkers, and includes short biographies, along with selected bibliographies.  The list of contributors here includes:

In addition, in the symposia section, there are reflective lectures on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by a diverse range of thinkers, including Bauman,  Chomski, Sassen, Kalder, Honderich, Hardt, to name a few.  These individuals were asked by director Brad Evens, and Simon Critchley to critically reflect on the “ten years of terror” which that fateful day engendered.  Their aim in this was not to “establish the “definitive truth” about the initial or subsequent events. Neither have we been content to accept the conventional narratives which tend to receive widespread media attention. Our focus instead has been to re-open the field of discussion so that we may evaluate the impact 9/11 has had on all aspects of life, while in the process offer new critical thinking on a problem that still continues to plague and suffocate the political landscape of the 21st Century”.  The result are both fascinating and stimulating at the same time.  Their efforts represent the future of academic discussion and show how the dissemination of research should be conducted in the 21st century.  Lots of stuff here-enjoy!

Global Sociology – Professor Michael Burawoy

Michael Burawoy and Laleh Behbehanian at the University of California, Berkeley this year conducted an experimental undergaduate course in “global sociology”.  This included a series of talks which were broadcast online via youtube and the ISA website.  Speakers included David Harvey, Ananya Roy, Ching Kwan Lee, and Erik Olin Wright, to name a few at random.  The best way to access the videos and the syllabus is via the blog.  Enjoy!

The Future of Power: Joseph Nye @ the LSE

Joseph Nye is a long-time analyst of power and a hands-on practitioner in government. In this lecture, drawn from his new book The Future of Power, Nye outlines the major shifts of this century: new transnational challenges such as the financial crisis, global epidemics, and climate change facing an increasingly interconnected world; a changing global political and economic landscape, including the rise of China and India; and the increasing influence of non-state actors.

Available as: mp3 (32 MB; approx 71 minutes)

This event was recorded on 4 May 2011 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building