Yesterday I attended a conference run by Warwick colleague Will Davies, at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies. The idea of the conference was to explore the relation between two senses of the term ‘social’. On the one hand there is ‘the social’, which framed political aspiration and policy interventions through much of the twentieth century, and which constitutes the object and ideal of socialism and social democracy (alongside, as Nik Rose pointed out later, nationalism, welfare-capitalism and all the attendant arts of normalisation). ‘The social’ is related to caring about ‘social issues’ such as inequality, public health, alienation and demography; and with locating the causes of the most important things in human life (both good and bad) in the realm of collective, transindivdual, forces and contexts. Many believe that ‘the social’ – at least as an ideal – is dead (Rose, 1996); and that both socialism and sociology are in crisis as a result. On the other hand there is ‘social’ as adjective, in social media, social finance, social marketing and the like (summarised by Will as ‘the social economy’). These forms are burgeoning. At the same time, the ‘hard sciences’ and the ‘life sciences’ are adopting much more social, or sociological, modes of explanation. For example, neuro-scientists describe the brain as social. Contemporary physicists and biologists emphasise the complexity, sociality and contextually of matter. Relationships – not essences – are the centre piece of scientific investigation and causal explanation. The conference was asked to consider if there is a link between the two senses of the term ‘social’ – is there a new socialism, or social ideal, that is emerging within the new social economy?
Speakers included Nikolas Rose, Yuval Millo, Nick Taylor, Liz Moor, Adam Arvisson, Evelyn Ruppert, Noortje Marres and David Stark. Most of the papers concentrated on outlining aspects of the ‘new social’ that is being constructed in the context of social media, social finance and the like. The papers departed from the usual angle of the critical social sciences – which is be to denounce all aspects of the social economy as components of ‘neoliberalism’. Such a broad brush characterisation of everything as neoliberalism (and thus basically evil) was set-aside as unhelpful and inaccurate. Instead the papers attempted to give an empirical outline of the ontologies – the relationships, knowledges and modes of evaluation – that are becoming established in contemporary practices of governance. Whilst the social economy might deploy aspects of market logic or ignore the domains of transindividual life associated with the social; they are not necessarily just about exploitation and commodification and might even do some good (see Ferguson 2011 for a good statement of this case). Generally the speakers didn’t say much, however, about the more difficult question of what the positive, ‘socialist’, aspects of the new social might actually look like or how we could identify them.
The key note paper by Nikolas Rose set out a narrative of shifting forms and figures of governmental knowledge of recent decades. He was keen to point out that, in 1996, he had proposed the idea of the ‘death of the social’ as a question not a conclusion. At the time it appeared that ‘community’ had replaced ‘society’ as the spatialisation and ideal of government (see Powers of Freedom, 1999), but today ‘community has lost its allure’ – so what now? What is the new social? Rose offered some speculative reflections. Whilst the new socials are very much geo-political, and bound up with the geo-political problems of security and inequality, he claimed, they are ‘deterritorialised’ – unlike the old social which was firmly terrotrialised on nation-state borders. In the new social, he added, ‘traces’ have replaced ‘public opinion’. In the 20th Century ‘public opinion’ was a key ‘thing’ in the creation of the political subjects of the ‘old social’. From the 19th Century idea of public opinion as the coffee-shop chatter of the bourgeois classes, there was a ‘democratisation of the opinionated attitude’ in the 1930s as sample survey techniques were used for producing/recording the opinion of the masses (Osborn & Rose, 1999). In this context ‘experiential opinion’ acquired a kind of ‘super-objectivity’. Today, in the new social, a new type of objectivity (or ‘objectivity effect’) is emerging. This is the traces of activities recorded in ‘big data’ sets, including records of online activity, consumption practices recorded by shops, and digitalised records of interactions with health services (see Uprichard, 2013). The question is whether these traces are mere aggregations of individual experiences or if they can constitute a new collective, political subject – like public opinion did? Is there a new political subjectivity based on traces, that could replace the failing form of the political party? Rose went on to link the issue up with his more recent work on the neurosciences (The Politics of Life Itself, 2007;Neuro 2013). The governance of society through psychological theories and forms of knowledge, what he calls the ‘psy-complex’ (Governing the Soul, 1990), is being supplemented or displaced by a ‘neuro-complex’. Governmental practices (such as child protection services) are no longer concerned with the attempt to access the deep underlying psychology of subjects, rather they refer to the theories of neuro-science and ‘go straight to the brain’. Rose stressed the existence and importance of social neuro-science. Whilst neuro-science is materialist it is not (or not always) reductive, individualist or deterministic. Rather there is the idea that the human brain is ‘evolved for sociality’ and programmed for and through interaction with other people and environments. Contrary to popular social-science opinion, Rose maintains, the neuro-sciences do not simply treat people as ‘dividuals’ (sub-parts of people). In the new forms of subjectification, created through social neuro-science, people are seen as ‘emergent collectivities’ existing within complex networks of relations. The real difference between the old social and the new social (of the neuro-complex) is not about a shift from collective to diviudal, but from trans-individual categories and forces to network-collectivity that is emergent from multiple dyadic (one-to-one) relations.
Whilst I found Rose’s paper fascinating (especially for what it says about the multiplicity of objectivity effects), I am, as ever, skeptical of the epochalising periodization implied in his narratives of changing modes of governance. The differences that Rose draws between forms of knowledge (such as psychology and neuro-science) and the types of intervention they make possible are hugely incisive. But I struggle to see the rationale (beyond that of providing a nice narrative) for treating these as historically distinct stages in a linear sequence of ‘modes of governance’ – even if they do mark different periods in the history of UK health care. The invention of new forms of power/knowledge, new techniques of subjectification, or authority production, does not magically do away with and replace all previous forms. Rather new forms exist alongside old forms, sometimes working with them, sometimes against them, sometimes coexisting in state of oblivion and indifference – and this is true of the ‘new’ and ‘old’ socials. Indeed, throughout yesterday’s discussions of ‘the new social’ speakers were constantly referring to the concepts and categories of early 20th Century sociologist Georg Simmel. We were able to do that because ‘the new social’ has been in existence for a very long time alongside ‘the old social’. Moreover, it is all too obvious that ideas, identities and emotional investments associated with the ‘old social’ and transindivdual investments continue to be immensely important – for example the issue of nationalism and its attendant demonization of immigrant populations.… Narratives in which a new form of power/knowledge is assumed to replace a previous form, always confuses our comprehension of the specificity of each, effacing the specific contexts and struggles from which they emerged. Positing different types of power as equivalent always implies, at some level, a reductive functionalist analysis, and it always does violence to history – generalising the specific with all the ‘centric’ implications that entails. Of course Rose knows this really, and before he sat down at the end of his talk stressed the import of detailed empirical analysis and the not-necessarily generalizable nature of his account. Nonetheless, he does keep telling those stories! He gets away with it because the ‘specific’ from which he is generalising is health care, which is draws upon such an enormously pervasive and persuasive set of values (biopolitical values of caring for life). Rose’s ephocalising narratives have the effect of eclipsing political questions that are not to do with health, and, in the process, obscuring the need for pluralistic, genealogical/critical reflexivity about the value of values associated with health itself. See my book (Biopolitical Experience 2012) for a detailed critique of Rose’s problematic epochalisation of forms of biopolitics and an alterantive account of recent developments of transindividual biopolitics in the UK (pertaining to cultural racism) - pdf of the relevant chapter here.
Noortje Marres paper ‘what is social about social media’ was especially interesting for sociologists (see her book Material Participation, 2012). She stressed the fallacy of accounts that posit a move from sociological knowledge to digital computation. In fact sociological knowledges and theories are central to the modes of reasoning deployed in computing. In computing (like biological science) there has been a ‘rise of sociology as a paradigm’. This means that we sociologists need to take some kind of responsibility for the modes of sociality that are being produced through computing – computing is partly down to our paradigms! As such it is partly down to us to engage critically and reflexively with computing. More controversially (!) Marres argued that we sociologists might actually learn something from computing. In particular she suggested that we could learn from social media, amazon and the like how to engage with the social in a style that is more open – leaving the question of what the social is open to constant redefinition and constitution by its users. I understood this to mean, that we might learn something about how to work critically and reflexively on the social without applying rigid categories of sociological analysis, which presume-in-advance what is important and interesting in the things we investigate.
Closing remarks from David Stark were some of the most interesting of the day – and perhaps the first real attempt to address the question the ‘two socials’. The question, as he framed it, is ‘what’s socialist about the new social?’ Challenging some of the claims made throughout the day, Stark argued that ‘the social’ within the new disciplines of network analysis, computer science, physics etc is precisely not the reductive forms of dyadic relations, quantification or surface traces. For the staff at Google, ‘the social’ is what escapes obvious analysis, it is what emerges, what we can’t see, what we need a sophisticated methodology to even begin to grasp. This sense of ‘the social’ as that which escapes easy perception, is in fact very similar to the way that Durkheim and Marx used the term social. In ‘suicide’ Durkheim was trying to establish the idea of the ‘social fact’, because the social was precisely the not-obvious, not-apparent dimension of the reality in question. The social is not psychology, not individual rationality, not obviously apparent and not-reducible. Further, Stark suggested that it is the fact that the social is not reducible, especially not reducible to market logic, that makes it so valuable – not only as a value in socialism, but also as valuable to capitalism. The social is always escaping and beyond commodification, as such it is always valuable to the capitalist market – because markets are always seeking new things, outside the market, to commodify and capitalise. Stark’s comments here were (as he noted) reminiscent of Marx, but made me think also of A.N. Whitehead, the philosopher of science for whom everything (animal, molecule, human) is composed as society and sociality is something like the creative capacity of the universe (see Process & Reality). Stark suggested that the conference had rather missed the most crucial aspect of the new social, which is to say the ‘intensified socialisation of production’. Digital media, big data and network analysis make sociality itself (being connected) an object of commodification. Contrary to general opinion, Stark concluded that when it comes to thinking critically about the new knowledge technologies we should be talking about privatisation, not obsessing about invasions of privacy. The intensified socialisation of productive is happening - that is the ontological transformation and it brings with it enourmous potential. The political question is whether the results (the data sets, the knowledges, the insights) are being privatised (in the service of pharmaceutical companies etc), or being put into public service.
A research team based at the University of Warwick, led by the sociologist Dr Hannah Jones, has won a grant to research the wide-ranging impacts of the Home Office ‘Go Home’ immigration campaign. The project will go beyond the Home Office’s internal evaluation of the ‘Go Home’ van to uncover impacts on local migrant and non-migrant communities, public debate and activism.
The grant, for £200,000 over 18 months, is one of the first successful applications to the new Urgency Grants Mechanism, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, to support social science research projects responding quickly to urgent or unforeseen events.
The project will be carried out by researchers from universities across the UK and in conjunction with research partners including the Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network, Migrant Voice, Runnymede Trust and Scottish Refugee Council. Researchers will collaborate with community groups in Barking & Dagenham, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Ealing and Hounslow, and Glasgow.
Dr Hannah Jones said: “In July 2013, the UK Home Office launched a series of high-profile interventions which directed public attention to an increasing ‘hard line’ from the government on ‘illegal immigration’, including: an advertising campaign in London boroughs calling on migrants with insecure legal status to ‘go home or face arrest’; high-profile immigration checks and raids in public spaces; and pictures of arrests circulated through the Home Office Twitter account using the hashtag #immigrationoffenders. These initiatives have drawn public attention and generated debate and activism in an acute way which needs urgent attention.”
Using a combination of online, textual and visual analysis, large-scale surveys, interviews and participant observation, this project will study the operation, impacts and implications of these initiatives, and the responses to them. The project will engage directly with policy makers, local activists and public debates, including through a series of public events and online dissemination through social media and a project blog.
Rita Chadha, Chief Exec of RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London), said: “In areas like Barking and Dagenham, where the Go Home Vans toured this summer and where the local authority and councillors were reluctant to speak out against what some viewed as an act of incitement to racial hatred, it is absolutely vital that we develop a strong and robust evidence base to capture and chronicle what local communities think about race and immigration today.
“The Government’s own evaluation report is full of inconsistencies and many continue to doubt the numbers put forward, especially in view of the Home Secretary’s own admission and acceptance that Go Home vans were a failure. We need a way of understanding what the short and long term impact of the Government’s Go Home campaign was on communities, just in the same way as money was invested in understanding the impact of the riots.”
Dr Rob Berkeley, Director of the Runnymede Trust said: “Runnymede is deeply concerned about the impact that recent developments in immigration policy and enforcement has on race relations and access to citizenship for people from minority ethnic communities in the UK. Immigration is a policy area that remains largely driven by ideology and anecdote, and research like this will be exceptionally useful in providing a credible base to begin to tackle this.”
Course: Doing research inclusively, doing research well
Date and place: 7-8 February 2013, Southampton
Presenters: Professor Melanie Nind and Dr Hilra Vinha
Fees: £60 for UK registered PhD students; £120 for staff at UK academic institutions, ESRC funded researchers and registered charity organisations; £440 for all other participants.
Further info and register: http://www.ncrm.ac.uk/training/show.php?article=3820
This training is a dialogical encounter based on the approach of Paulo Freire. It builds from an ESRC study looking at quality and capacity in inclusive research in which researchers outside and inside the academy, with and without a label of learning disabilities, came together in focus groups to discuss their research methods, priorities and working practices. The research generated guidance for judging quality in inclusive research with people with learning disabilities, together with practical guidance and case study materials for teaching which are used here. The trainers work from the position that it is unhelpful to limit ourselves to an uncritical ‘nothing about us without us’ agenda in which one way of doing inclusive research becomes prescribed and policed. Instead, there are many different models of inclusive research and much to be learned from exploring these. Participants should expect an interactive/active experience using dialogue and involving seeing, reading, using and developing a range of methods that change the dynamics of knowledge production. The examples come from the field of learning disabilities but the methods have relevance for researchers in other fields.
Against the backdrop of decolonisation, a global economic boom was accompanied by tightened border controls, ever more punitive asylum regimes and limited access to citizenship. Immigration from former colonies to former metropoles has been limited in the postcolonial period as racialised discourses have set the West in opposition to an alien ‘rest’. Now, in this ‘age of austerity’, the strength of the old powers is weakening as other parts of the world, the so called ‘BRICs’, grow in strength. Yet the old racial hierarchies appear stubbornly resonant within Europe and the white settler colonies, and other hierarchies, for example around caste, are increasingly coming to the fore in other countries. Foregrounding postcolonial and decolonial perspectives, this conference will provide a forum in which to discuss the context for emerging patterns of exclusion, for asking what the conditions for political equality might be, and for posing the question “what has ‘race’ got to do with migration and citizenship?” among many others.
Keynote Speakers: Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (Duke University), Bernadine Evaristo (Novellist), Inderpal Grewal (Yale University), Ylva Habel (Soderton University), Alana Lentin (UWS), Walter Mignolo (Duke University)
Abstracts of no more than 200 words are welcomed from across the social scences and humanities. There will be 7 streams at the conference, listed below. Please identify clearly which stream you would like to be included in when submitting an abstract.
1. Race, Racism, and Prejudice
2. Racial and Colonial Institutional Orders
3. Modernity/Coloniality and Global (In)justice
4. Asylum after Empire
5. Cosmopolitan Citizens and Multicultural Societies: The New Crisis of Europe
6. Europe and Africa. Citizenship and the Legacies of Colonialism
7. Diaspora, Colonialism & Postcolonialism
Further details about the streams can be found here: http://rmcconference.wordpress.com/streams/
Send your abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Deadline for abstracts: 14th December 2012
Thinking the present with Max Weber: The University, the Scholar and the Student
Organised by the Max Weber Study Group of the BSA. Supported by the University of Salford & UCU Salford
The hypothesis of the University of Warwick’s Being Human Research Network notes that, “Human life is increasingly driven and mediated by technology and technological change with profound implications for human identity and behaviour.” Indeed, the way in which we express ‘what it means to be human’ occurs in close relationship to the technology of our age. As actors in this phenomenon we find ourselves constantly redefining who we are through the way in which we both use and understand the metaphors associated with latest technological advancements.
HOST: Dr Emma L. E. Rees, the Department of English, University of Chester, UK
DATES: 26th-28th March, 2013
VENUE: The University of Chester, Parkgate Road, Chester, CH1 4BJ, UK
PAPER PROPOSALS: 20-minute papers (or poster presentations) are invited on topics related to the themes of the conference. Scholars, practitioners, researchers and postgraduate students from a wide range of disciplines (art, performance, art history, social history, and history of science, literary criticism, theology, (eco)feminism, political theory, medicine, jurisprudence, and more) are invited to submit proposals. Questions to be considered include (but are absolutely not limited to):
- How does the idea of the ‘taboo’ impact on self-perception? How do writers and artists articulate that taboo?
- How do visual artists represent the complexities of the embodied self? Or, how can writers, performers, or musicians do so?
- How is sexual identity articulated by and in the body?
- What happens when the ‘talking body’ conflicts with the ‘talking mind’?
- How do (consensual or non-consensual) body modifications silence the body, or ‘allow’ it to ‘talk’?
- What relationships do erotica, porn and the ‘obscene’ have with the embodied self?
- How does representation of the body facilitate political activism?
- Where do gender and ideology intersect on the site of ‘the body’?
- Is language ever sufficient in talking about bodies?
In addition to the conference presentations, there will be an exciting feminist keynote speaker; a talk from an editor from a prominent publishing house; a conference ‘Marketplace’ with book and craft stalls; a feminist pub quiz; a small exhibition by artists from the ‘Birth Rites’ Collection; and a reading/performance by the pioneering, Brighton-based ‘Trans-Mangina Monologues’ group.
ABSTRACTS of no more than 250 words should be emailed to the conference organiser, Emma Rees, at email@example.com
DEADLINE for submission of abstracts: Friday 30th November, 2012
CONFERENCE ORGANISER: Emma Rees
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (Queries about the conference should also be directed to this email address.)
The Lady Doth Protest: Mapping Feminist Movement, Moments, and Mobilisations
Biennial FWSA Conference
21-23 June 2013, University of Nottingham
Professor Nadje Al-Ali (SOAS, University of London)
Professor Diane Elson (University of Essex)
Dr Nirmal Puwar (Goldsmiths University)
The Feminist and Women’s Studies Association (FWSA) is pleased to announce details of its 2013 conference, ’The Lady Doth Protest: Mapping Feminist Movements, Moments, and Mobilisations’ that will be held from 21 - 23rd June 2013 at the University of Nottingham, UK.
Full details of our Call for Papers can be found in the attached poster. We welcome the submission of abstracts for panel proposals by 15th October 2012 and for individual papers by 30 October 2012 via email to email@example.com
Full details of the conference can be found on our conference website: www.fwsaconference.co.uk
If you have any questions regarding the conference, please contact the conference organising team: Trishima Mitra-Kahn, Claire O’Callaghan, and Srila Roy.
CALL FOR PAPERS CLOSES 2ND NOVEMBER – CRFR International Conference, Edinburgh 10th – 12th June 2013
We are delighted to announce the Centre for Research on Families and
Relationships 4th International Conference will take place in Edinburgh from
Monday 10th – Wednesday 12th June 2013
Researching Families and Relationships: innovations in methods, theory and
10th – 12th June 2013
John McIntyre Conference Centre, University of Edinburgh
Full Registration Fee @ £325.00
The 4th international conference, hosted by CRFR, will explore ways in which
research on and with children, families and relationships have been
developed in new and innovate ways in recent years.
The call for abstracts is now open and closes on 2nd November 2012.
Abstracts are invited which address the conference themes. Abstracts will
be considered for either an oral or poster presentation
. Theoretical, substantive and ethical challenges in children, families and
. The impact of the digital age and access to resources across the world
. The development of participatory, sensory and visual methods
. Learning from the challenges of time and the life course
. Innovations in understanding transnational families and relationships and
addressing minority/majority worlds
. Addressing issues of inequality
. The role of families and relationships in big ‘global’ issues
The venue will be John McIntyre Conference Centre, which is an ideal
conference venue, set in the heart of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, with
accommodation on-site or within walking distance.
MORE INFORMATION AND REGISTRATION:
Please circulate this email to any individual, network or organisation you
think relevant. Apologies for cross posting.