11th ESA Conference

The 11th ESA conference "Crisis, Critique and Change" took place in the University of Turin on August 28th-31st, 2013.

More information is available on the Conference Website.

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THEME

Crisis, Critique and Change

Which crisis? Whose critique? What changes? Making the world safe for banks is only one side of the coin. The present crisis is multi-faceted. It is not just a debt crisis, but also a political and a social crisis.

The debate calls for a sociological turn. Crises do not follow natural laws, they increase the viability of agency. A country is more than an economy. What are the historical roots and social effects of the financialization of the economy? Does the crisis of the Eurozone threaten the political existence of the EU? Will it push aside the social agenda of the European Union? The crisis is likely to produce seismic shifts in and for European sociology — across its substantive areas of research — from ageing, biographies, and families, all the way to religion, science, theory, and women’s studies.

What is behind the crisis? Two processes are at work. First, there has been a systemic transformation driving the shift from public to private power and adapting the state to capital markets. But, second, there has been a proliferation of vital types of critique too. Think about the deepening of existing divides. The Occupy protests, the social uprising in the Arab Spring, the unrest in Greece, and discontent in other European countries are all indicative of a reconfiguration of the link between crisis and critique.

To foster an understanding of the crisis and the dual role of critique in interpreting and affecting changes, European sociology has to rely on (1) rediscovering its subject matter as being more than a technical order, as a social world that has a history and a place, and (2) a broad-ranging debate on consequent conceptual and empirical questions. Toward both ends, we cordially invite sociologists and social scientists from around the globe to join us in Turin — to attend the conference, to participate actively in the discussions, and to contribute their own work.


ESA Programme Committee

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TORINO

Without Italy, Torino would be more or less the same.
But without Torino, Italy would be very different.

Umberto Eco

To understand the soul of Torino we can start from here: its discrete ability to create every time something new and valuable, for itself and, often, for the rest of Italy.

Torino has always been considered a sort of "laboratory-city": in that it represents a small but almost paradigmatic example of a society that shifted from a pure Fordist social-economic model to one of the many post-industrial outcomes.

On the one hand, the city inherits a recent past made of science, R&D and industry, that have not been left aside. On the other, Torino re-interprets and takes to the future a less known older past, where the leading industries were filming, clothing, design, publishing, art, music, architecture, sports and culture.

Torino has in its very heart also social relations and solidarity, having promoted and witnesses the birth of the Italian welfare state since its origins: from a vibrant involvement in charity and voluntary service, through the workers’ movements, to its leading role in the recent development and experimentation of modern policies against social exclusion.

In these challenging times, Torino seems particularly suitable to mirror the profound changes contemporary societies (not only) in Europe are experiencing. The city embodies the idea of change in its motto already: "always on the move".

Of course, a considerable part of the readers may be surprised by this premise. Listening to one of the hardest enemies of Sociology, the common sense, Italy is well-known for its ancient history, sun, nature and breathtaking scenery, art, culture and good food. Usually, these attributes are associated with cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice, to name only the major ones. Whereas the public imagination that has accompanied the name of Torino for decades, in Italy and around the world, was more like that of a sort of “gray Detroit of Europe”. 

If you have never seen the city, prepare to be challenged in this view by the artistic, elegant but discrete, historically rich, ethnic, vibrant, dynamic, and sometimes contradictory and bizarre setting you will be surrounded during your stay for the ESA 2013 Conference.

Lively but not overcrowded (around 1 million inhabitants), Torino captures a wealth of European history from its Roman foundations, to the “Royal” legacy and its past as the first capital of Italy in 1861, to establishment of FIAT as an international industrial giant. The embodiment of social inequalities are visible from the city being a heartland of radical working class movements, whose presence is still urbanistically visible in many popular districts, to the Baroque palaces and sumptuous royal residences, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site: from the city centre, with Palazzo Reale and Palazzo Madama, to the Palazzina di Caccia in Stupinigi (southbound) and the Venaria Reale (westbound), one of the largest royal residences in the world, comparable in size and structures to Versailles.

The cultural richness of Torino is also found in its museums and historical churches, capturing the heart and soul of the city and Italian culture. From the ex-voto collection in the Sanctuary of the Consolata to the Holy Shroud kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and, among many other masterpieces of inestimable value, less known is that Turin hosts the famous Self-portrait in red chalk by Leonardo da Vinci in the Biblioteca Reale (Royal Library).

Torino is now also one of Europe’s leading capitals of Contemporary Art, thanks to a vast range of collections, museums and foundations, events and fairs, among which a recently established Museum of Oriental Art.

Make sure to reserve some extra days in Torino before or after the conference because art, research and creativity – in one word, culture – find common ground here. You will have the opportunity to live a full immersion in the Ancient Egypt, as the city’s home to the second world’s most important Egyptian Museum. If you’re interested in Italian history, you shouldn’t miss the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento, in the wonderful baroque masterpiece of Palazzo Carignano, where the first Italian Parliament met in 1861. May you be interested in the cinematic industry, you’re in the right place, because it is Torino that saw the birth of Italian cinema at the beginning of the 20th century and to testify it now hosts the National Cinema Museum in the spectacular setting of the Mole Antonelliana, the very symbol of the city.

The Regional Museum of Natural Sciences, a former hospital built at the end of the seventeenth century by Amedeo di Castellamonte and completed by renowned baroque architects, testifies to the excellence that Torino and Piemonte have historically achieved in science and research, as scientists such as Amedeo Avogadro, Galileo Ferraris, Giulio Bizzozzero and Ascanio Sobrero were from here. Then, the Cesare Lombroso museum presents an attempt, we would call bizarre and questionable today, to apply scientific methods to identify criminality.

Torino boasts an old and prestigious tradition also in the Humanities: authors who have made the history of literature and philosophy, such as Nicola Abbagnano, Norberto Bobbio, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Antonio Gramsci, Primo Levi, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emilio Salgari, to name a few, have lived and worked here, where the most important Italian publishers were also founded.

Surrounded by the arc of the Alps, Torino is in Italy one of the cities with most greenery in its parks and gardens, crossed by the River Po and flanked by luxuriant hills (the “Collina”), dominated by the Basilica of Superga, a XVIII century masterpiece by Filippo Juvarra, which is still today a place of pilgrimage, also for sporting reasons, since on May 4th 1949, the plane that was carrying home the champions of the Grande Torino, the strongest and most victorious football team in the world at that time, crashed against the embankment behind the basilica, killing everyone on board.

The city will not disappoint you on the gastronomic side either. The heart of what is well-recognized as the Italian region with the higher standards in gastronomy, Torino has been for centuries the home of the rite of the aperitivo, and where extraordinary Italian specialities have been created, such as grissini (bread sticks), agnolotti (filled pasta) and  gianduiotti chocolates. With its tradition of antipasti (set of entries) and small pastries (pasticcini), Piemonte is the second biggest region for wine production after Tuscany. When you sit down to eat, you will find one of the world’s richest menus, all accompanied by wines of excellence from the region’s great tradition (very renowned are its Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto and Moscato wines). 

We hope we were able to properly portray you Torino as a multi-faced city, each one of which deserves to be seen, heard, tasted. And we invite you in the discovery of all what hides behind the character of the city and its inhabitants; a well worth undertaking!

Looking forward to welcoming you in Torino in 2013,

Giuseppe Tipaldo and Tiziana Nazio,

for The Local Organizing Committee,

Department of Cultures, Politics and Society,

University of Turin, Italy

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(Picture: the ESA Executive Committee and Local Organizing Committee during their last meeting in Turin - 11 May 2012)

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