EUROPE AND BEYOND: BOUNDARIES, BARRIERS AND BELONGING
In encouraging presenters and other conference participants to think Beyond Europe we wish to consider contemporary developments, processes, practices and subjectivities not only through the lens of Europe and European sociology, but also as central to the development of sociology, or sociologies, for the present and the future. We cannot and should not ignore the factors which are re-shaping Europe from within, such as the effects of globalisation, nationalism, populism and migration and, of course, ‘Brexit’. However, it is also crucial that we continue to look towards the possibilities of a global sociology which also takes account of the local without being parochial.
Boundaries and boundary making spans the sociological spectrum, from how we create and reinforce the markers of distance and difference in social interaction, through the ways in which communities and groups are divided from each other by ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation and other dimensions of inequality. Boundaries are underlined through the extreme divisions of our living conditions: homelessness, ghettos and gated communities. Divisions are being reinforced between citizens and non-citizens as well as between Europe and the rest of the world. Social, symbolic and material boundaries affect us all.
We will also explore the Barriers which reinforce these boundaries: barriers to movement, whether for asylum, migration, work or education; barriers to reflection and understanding; barriers to better living conditions; barriers to cooperation and empathy; barriers created through politics and policy – intended and unintended.
Belonging is an increasingly contested idea, reinforced as nationality through populism and the far right, disrupted by war, violence, racism and other forms of rejection. It is also created and re-created in communities of necessity and choice and through intimacies, transformations of the self, and our understandings of home. New types of belonging are emerging through virtual networks and communities which challenge both traditional and sociological thinking.
The 14th ESA conference will offer opportunities to engage not only with the content of sociological research and theorising, but also with the ways in which our discipline has been and is being shaped, both in and beyond Europe. Where are the boundaries of the discipline? How can we address barriers to its development both inside and outside of academia? What does it mean to belong to the community of sociologists?
We are sure that the conference will give a wide range of sociologists, other academics, practitioners and fellow travellers, an excellent opportunity to present and engage with research and scholarship and also to explore the potential influence of sociology in the public sphere. The conference theme calls for thinking in new ways about persistent inequalities, for challenging dominant discourses and for taking a fresh look at abstract concepts in order to better understand how sociology can contribute, both in theory and practice, to the unmaking and rethinking of ‘boundaries’ and ‘barriers’ and to understanding ‘belonging’.