Programme

At its conferences, the European Sociological Association usually offers Plenary, Semi-Plenary and Midday sessions, each with two selected speakers. All sessions will offer the opportunity to engage in core debates, with the different formats including time for open discussion.

ESA's 37 Research Networks and a number of Research Streams offer so-called regular sessions with four paper presentations per session. Below, you can find the list of RNs and RS.

The Call for Papers for the ESA 2021 conference is online here (deadline: 15 February 2021).

List of Research Streams

With his relentless work in defining the patterns of sociological analysis, both in conceptual and methodological terms, Weber has been one of the authors who has contributed the most to the objectivity of sociological knowledge, especially with regard to alternatives to positivism in social sciences. By emphasizing an actor’s multiple perspectives, the distinction between fact and value, as well as between behaviour and action, Weber has helped to establish the field of comprehensive sociology on solid foundations. Indeed, the Weberian concept of verstehen, recognizing social actors as knowing subjects, seeks to explore their motivations, as well as their morals embodied in social practices. However, Weber never ceased to worry about the hegemony of the ongoing rationalization processes, especially with what he called the «disenchantment of the world», where social action guided by values and the coherence of meaning was increasingly losing its centrality. Actually, for Weber, the extrication of the individual resides precisely on values as references to the methodical ordering of ways of life, in the sense that values were constituted as a reservoir of ethical alternatives to counter the hegemony of instrumental rationality. Weber's work can be seen from this perspective as an attempt to understand how different cultures might generate knowledge and reconstruct the social world from their ethical practices. The aim of this RS is to bring together empirical or theoretical proposals, of different sensitivities and backgrounds, which reflect on alternative ethical rationalities (ecological, cosmopolitan, etc.), their significance, and the way their meaning can be accessed.

The aim of this Research Stream Proposal is twofold. On the one hand, it focuses on the study, reflection and analysis of the different social aspects that will constitute the so-called "new normality", stating from the Covid-19 pandemic at the European level. On the other hand, it contributes to the development of proposals, based on social sciences research, that will not only prevent or mitigate the negative economic, social and cultural effects of this new situation, but also contribute to better decisions.

The starting point assumes that the current situation at the global level and, in particular, at the European level, cannot be compared with other socio-historical moments. Societies were in full lockdown; and although it is true that we have already witnessed other global health emergencies, the Covid-19 pandemic is the best evidence that a local problem can become a global problem which has affected all countries. Health, education, housing, and labour problems have mostly been attended to as pure economic and geopolitical issues. This reality results in the crisis being understood more as a problem of economic rather than social utility, which can exacerbate social inequalities and create new ones. However, as social scenarios of vulnerability and racist attitudes grow, solidarity and cooperation have also been multiplied. At the same time, the key role of digital interconnection opens up new scenarios and possibilities for the “new normality”. This Research Stream proposal attempts to provide answers to this new European situation by dedicating each of the sessions to key questions in a focused way.

For this particular Research Stream, you may submit abstracts in Spanish

Despite the omnipresence of architecture and its potential to shape societies, sociological findings so far received only little attention in the field and beyond. Sociology of architecture has so far been represented in past ESA conferences with only very few contributions and subsumed under various research networks. This low visibility is opposing the growing interest of sociology in architecture as a central «‹medium› of the social» (Delitz 2018: 39). Current debates are increasingly attempting to open up architecture through the lens of social theory. Additionally, there is a growing body of empirical studies on architecture as an important means of social integration. The research stream aims to bring architecture as a sociological subject back into focus and welcomes contributions that investigate – though not exclusively – following aspects:

  • We invite contributors to explore the conference theme by sharing their findings on the transformative potential of architecture, spatial configurations and materiality in relation to social practices, interactions and processes – from planning and construction, administration and maintenance, decision-making and participation, renewal and heritage discourses to everyday living and working on-site.
  • We are interested in empirical studies on different analytical levels, e.g. (visual) discourses on the built environment, social practices of professionals and users, and in terms of its socio-structural and political dimension with regard to social inequality, conflict and (dis)integration.
  • We call for submissions to discuss current conceptual, theoretical and methodological approaches to architecture that are trying to bridge architecture and sociology with genuine and innovative approaches.

This research stream is dedicated to Institutional Ethnography (IE), an approach first developed by the prominent Canadian sociologist Dorothy Smith. The field of IE research arose from feminist activism and was influenced by Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology and Marx’s materialist method, but recent reformulations extend this approach.

IE is both a social ontology and a social scientific procedure for investigating discourses as social relations. It is a theoretical and empirical investigation of the linkages among local settings of everyday life, organizations, and translocal (meso/macro) processes of administration and governance. The notion of ‘institution’ does not refer to a type of organization, but rather to clusters of text-mediated relations organized around particular ruling functions, for instance education or health care. IE is a sociology that starts out in people’s experiences, and it is labeled a ‘sociology for people’ because its commitment is to identify and challenge the shaping effects that ruling relations have on everyday life.

The aim of this RS is to share, discuss, develop and advance the application of IE. We will provide a platform for Europe-based researchers, scholars, social activists, and students who utilize IE in their research. This stream is also for networking and exchanging experiences with IE scholars outside Europe who will be interested in joining the sessions.

Networks of IE researchers emerged in North America and in the Nordic countries. This RS wants to contribute to building a network of European scholars who are increasingly developing expertise in IE.

Despite its long tradition, the study of the relationship between society and the sea, and the sociology of sea-based human activities, is still regarded an under-researched area. While in Europe and across the world, there are several important research institutions committed to maritime sociology, many of these centres are not, or only loosely, connected with each other. Examples in Europe are the long-standing research activities at the University of Szczecin in Poland and the Seafarers International Research Centre in Cardiff. On a global level, the Shanghai Ocean University in China should be mentioned.

With our proposed research stream, we endeavour to bring together and connect scholars in maritime sociology and related disciplines, and to facilitate international interdisciplinary exchange on maritime research fields. The maritime field has often been shaping alternative futures by pioneering social developments which later diffused into the wider society, e.g. the globalisation of seafarers’ labour markets, and the emergence of fully multinational work environments in the shipping industry. Other instances for the significance of sociological knowledge of human use of, and interaction with, the seas are the study of seas as spaces of (im)mobility, facilitating or hindering migratory movements of people, and human coping with transforming marine environments in the course of climate change. With ever-increasing worldwide connections between places and societies, and the rising significance of global environmental challenges, we expect the growing importance of maritime-related issues for the social sciences in the future.

Today’s communities struggle with old and new troubles: disputes over political projects, environmental crises, and even everyday habits and routines reach unforeseen dimensions on multiple levels of social organisation. The resulting tendencies of radicalization, polarization, and tensions within and between nations and localities invite us to pose anew the question: “How to build commonality”. In other words: how to solve conflicts and adjust different ways of relating and belonging to the world, in order to create and maintain mutual understandings? How to build common ground while simultaneously acknowledging and reserving space for differing voices? How to create societies based on multiple modes of valuation?

These questions open avenues for analysing key cultural trends in today’s societies, including processes of politicization, participation, or marginalization. In addition, understanding the processes in which common ground is found – or lost – requires an approach that is anchored in situations, chains of events, and processes. It also emphasizes the material world not only as an immobile context, but a dynamic, and mobilizable, part of people’s efforts to live together.

In asking these questions, this Research Stream continues the project of pragmatic sociology, departing from, but not restricted to, Laurent Thévenot’s sociology of engagement. At the core of the project is taking seriously the critical capacity of ordinary actors: how critique is not confined within specific settings, but happens in everyday situations, at all levels of society. We welcome contributions from cultural and political sociology, with a broad range of empirical themes, in Europe and beyond.

Precariousness is a complex phenomenon grounded on the deregulation and flexibilization of labour relations and employment conditions. It is one of the main salient features of the contemporary transformations of employment relations in post-industrial societies. Its wide extension and evolving nature require further research on elements such as the shapes of such phenomenon, the driving factors that foster it as well as on the social inequality lines across which it moves. In addition, precariousness not only concerns employment and industrial relations. It creates a frame of insecurity and exposure to contingency that strongly impacts subjectivities and experiences, and has implications for many life spheres that exceed the domain of employment, such as housing, health, welfare provisions, family arrangements, life transitions, collective action and personal relationships. In this perspective, precariousness refers to a generalized set of social conditions, and an associated sense of insecurity experienced in different stages of the life course, in different social and institutional contexts and regions of the world. In this sense, precariousness as a vulnerable condition also defines the ways individuals face the Covid-19 health, social and economic crisis and the contingencies derived from it, while transformations in the post-Covid social world open up new questions about the forms, experiences and implications of precariousness in this new context. The Research Stream encourages contributions from diverse sociological fields, theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches that contribute to the analysis of precariousness among individuals and social groups in Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern Europe.

At the ESA 2019 conference in Manchester, we had the pleasure to host a very exciting research stream on ‘Practicing the Future: social, material and affective futures’. ‘Practicing the Future’ hosted the largest number of presentations of any of the research streams at ESA 2019 – demonstrating the growing interest in taking the future seriously in sociological analysis. ‘Researching Social Futures’ builds on that interest. The theme of ESA 2021 asks us to consider the role of ‘the sociological imagination … in rethinking alternatives for the future’. Within this general project there is a specific space for a sociology that has an explicit focus on how social futures are imagined and enacted. The modernist future of ‘mass utopia’ (Buck-Morss, 2002) has long been declared dead. Yet one of the effects of the pandemic has been to bring a renewed societal focus on the anticipatory mode of societies and a space of political possibility for visions of alternative futures. What can social futures contribute to this moment? ‘Researching Social Futures’ asks:

  • What innovative forms of sociological knowledge, theory and methodologies are needed to address the future as an analytical object?
  • How do we articulate the future-oriented dimension of individual human agency and the collective future?
  • What does it mean to view society in an anticipatory mode in the wake of multiple crises (financial, ecological, pandemic)?
  • How do imaginaries of the future empower (or disempower) agency?
  • What are the key contributions of a sociology of the future for Sociology in the 21 Century?

Research on the so-called “second generation” has proliferated during the past decades. In Europe, studies on migrants’ descendants mainly focused on educational and labour market attainment, intergenerational mobility, identity and belonging, experiences of inclusion and exclusion across different national contexts. The goal of this RS is to provide new and critical insights into the everyday practices and experiences of citizenship among second-generation youth (18-35 years old) in the European context, by focusing on new ways of be(com)ing citizens. Rather than reducing citizenship either to a formal status or to formal practices, we approach citizenship as being constituted by individuals’ acts and lived experiences of belonging. We suggest that more attention should be devoted, on one hand, to the agency involved in practicing and experiencing citizenship, and on the other hand, on the conditions that may hamper such agency. In this RS we focus on novel forms for claiming belonging and rights, and on the emergence of new narratives and practices of citizenship in second-generation youth’s daily lives, also by paying attention to local, supranational and transnational forces that shape them. Hence, through an analysis of the acts and lived experiences of citizenship among second-generation youth, this RS aims at bringing together theoretical and empirical research that can enhance our understanding of the broader transformations concerning citizenship and political (dis)engagements in general.

The RS of Sociology of Celebration was founded in 2007, at the ESA Glasgow Conference, and has since been active and productive every ESA Conference thus far, the number of accepted papers ranging from 12 to 25.

The pathbreaking idea of bringing together researchers, scholars and students of celebration has been surprisingly fruitful thus far. The contributors' renewing capacity to redefine sociology of celebration has shown to be vital for the continuity of the RS.

The scope of sociological study of celebration ranges from of ways and meanings of having fun to the socialising functions of clubbing and student parties, to celebrating by going out in the evening together, to religious as well as non-religious feasts and carnivals, to festivals old, new and revived, to the role of solemn banquets in changing social conditions, etc. The presentations may deal with methodological or theoretical issues, or empirical phenomena as such.

This time we invite papers/presentations on social, economic and political effects of pandemic restrictions on celebration, religious and non-religious. However, we also maintain interest in and welcome all kind of sociological and cultural study of celebration outside the current pandemic framework.

The conference theme Sociological Knowledges for Alternative Futures refers to core questions of the sociology of knowledge. Since its beginnings, the classical sociology of knowledge has been concerned with the connection of knowledge about possible (alternative) futures, as e.g. Karl Mannheim's famous writing “Ideology and Utopia” emphasizes. Other approaches in the sociology of knowledge have focused on everyday actions as always oriented towards a temporality and thus towards the future. Key concepts are the “in-order-to-motive” or the idea of “anticipation” in Alfred Schutz’s writings, or the sociological concept of “phantasy” as a driving force for creativity and innovations. The sociology of knowledge has developed a rich set of tools to understand how forms of knowledge are implemented in everyday practice, and how this can be both empirically investigated and captured with theoretical concepts. These range from “projects” and “expectations” to “daydreams” or “trajectories”, or more generally to “the imaginary”.

We invite empirical as well as theoretical contributions based on the tradition of the sociology of knowledge. Papers may deal with the investigation and reflection of future knowledges at the level of everyday action and practice, the level of institutional forms and discourses, or the level of worldviews, symbolic universes and utopias. It could also be fruitful to look from this perspective at social figures dealing with futures, such as fortune-tellers, prophets, sci-fi writers or futurists, or of course, as the conference theme suggests, at the role of sociological imaginations in this respect.

(i) Crisis legislation has involved legal scholars originating in the particular regulatory structures which relate to public services, army, civil defence, and public health. We propose to invite contributions describing examples of these issues which have occurred during the Covid crisis, for example, the use of troops in enforcing lockdown arrangements, and demands made on medical personnel to work without protective equipment. In addition, we wish to invite commentary on the regulatory structures which are developing to manage the compliance of the public with Covid related legislation, including quarantine, and the balance between public and individual rights nationally and across national borders.

(ii) The central institutions of the justice system, the courts, are not only places for legal decisionmaking, they are also the site of complex social interactions which have measurable effects on the way these decisions are reached. But with Covid, many courts have closed, and hearings are held remotely online. The impact on access to justice and quality of decision-making requires urgent investigation by sociologists on the nature and quality of interaction by audio and video means, particularly for parties who are unable to afford good equipment or the support of a lawyer. As sociologists we can contribute analysis of the impact of new forms of social interactional formalities. We propose to invite contributions on the analysis of court-related social interaction since the onset of Covid, and the related impacts on access to justice and the rule of law.

In recent decades, more complex forms of spatial mobility have developed, such as multi-residential living, studying abroad, intensive traveling, daily long-distance commuting, and virtual mobility via the Internet. Important social changes, such as globalisation, the deregulation of the labour market or the development of new digital technologies, have made the study of spatial mobilities increasingly crucial for a more comprehensive understanding of many sociological issues. Spatial mobility is, in many respects, linked with central sociological concepts. For instance, it is often considered a basic prerequisite for upward social mobility and social participation. However, access to spatial (digital) mobility is unequally distributed, resulting in different barriers to movement among diverse social groups, in particular across gender, ethnic or class lines. This unequal propensity to benefit from (im)mobility is particularly visible in times of crises like the Covid-19 pandemic. The Research Stream will bring together researchers from different sociological fields, and will investigate how spatial (im)mobilities can be conceptualised from different perspectives and how these mobility-based concepts can be integrated into existing sociological traditions.

Possible session themes include:

  • Theories, concepts and (qualitative & quantitative) methods of studying spatial (im)mobilities
  • Spatial (im)mobilities and decision making (not) to move
  • Practices of spatial (im)mobilities and organisation of everyday life
  • Spatial (im)mobilities over the life course and interrelations with various life domains
  • Spatial (im)mobilities, social mobility and social inequalities
  • Meanings and ideologies connected with spatial (im)mobilities
  • Virtual/digital spatial mobility and its relation to corporeal spatial mobility
  • Mobility-related inequalities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sociology of the Commons: Refiguring Social Life Through Education Research Stream (RS) focuses on the commons and particularly on the processes of commoning social, political and economic life. Special interest is given to formal, non-formal and informal education, since under certain conditions education can play a crucial role in refiguring society on a footing of the commons’ logic and ethics. The spreading paradigm of the ‘commons’ is an alternative value and action system, a different way of building and living our cosmos, which nourishes democratic ideals, egalitarianism, creativity, and sustainable relations between humans and nature. The ‘commons’ or ‘common-pool resources’ or ‘commons-based peer production’ comprise goods and resources that are collectively used and produced.

There are many different common goods, from natural resources to productive assets, such as workers’ co-operatives, and digital goods, such as open source software. Their common baseline, however, is that they involve shared resources which are managed, produced and distributed through collective participation in ways which contest the logic of both private-corporate and statepublic property. It is well-established that the commons are not primarily resources or goods, but practices of commoning, that is, of actively making and managing a collective good in a manner of openness, equality, co-activity, plurality, and sustainability. Education is of particular significance in this regard, as it can operate as a catalyst for advancing such processes of experimentation, alternative social construction, and active inclusion. In addition, the focus is on how children and young people are involved in commoning processes.

The research stream aims to bring together sociologists and social scientists from Europe and beyond who study the impact of forced lockdown due to Covid-19 measures on teaching, training, and learning. These measures imposed great pressure on all parties involved in education, and it is worth studying how organisations and individuals coped with the situation.

The stream aims to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of information and knowledge on obstacles, challenges, and solutions given by those involved in the provision of education and training, such as education authorities, schools, educators, students, and their parents or guardians. As a result, conclusions may be drawn for future challenges.

In the last couple of decades, European countries invested in the development of digital teaching and learning in the context of a “digital knowledge society”. Regardless of the level of available digital resources, during the lockdown online teaching and learning appeared to be an inevitable solution to reach students of all ages and at all levels of education, formal and non-formal, and all school types, including vocational and extra-curriculum schools.

However, the impact of the lockdown varied: Students with limited access to resources or poorly developed digital media literacy were at higher risk of being left behind. Hence, the question arises: How did teaching strategies developed in response to lockdown reinforce or modify existing patterns of social inequality and exclusion? The stream invites colleagues interested in empirical and theoretical work on the subject. Research results, reports on promising practices, and refinement of theoretical and empirical tools are most welcome.

In recent years, European sociology has been regularly enriched with research on men and masculinities. On the one hand, researchers recognise significant changes both in masculinity models and male gender roles, which have been shifting into a more egalitarian approach. At the same time, we must recognise that there has been a rise in anti-liberal/right-wing parties and social movements accompanied by the challenges of recent migration processes in Europe. As a result, one can observe the re-traditionalisation of gender roles and the resurgence of patriarchal, hegemonic forms of masculinities. These particular changes have already been researched, and a significant number of studies focusing on specific topics have been produced. Particular findings have led to the development of theories rooted in a European context. One is caring masculinity theory (Elliott 2015), which has been expanding for almost a decade now (Hanlon 2012, Scambor et al. 2014). Another theory with a clear European lineage is protective masculinity (Wojnicka 2020) which is a European contribution to the development of hegemonic masculinity theory (Connell 2005). Hence the main aim of this RS is to create an intellectual space for discussion focused on development of European theories related to Critical Studies on Men and Masculinities, which will enrich the preexisting theoretical landscape which is dominated by American and Australian scholars. When theories are discussed, however, new forms and challenges of methodologies linked to men and masculinities should also be taken into account. Thus we also invite papers on the methodological dimensions of sociological analysis of men and masculinities phenomena.

The Research Stream “The role of co-creation in current societies” has as a main objective the opening of academic discussions about the ways co-creation is conceptualized, practiced, evaluated and/or successfully developed in European territories and countries. Citizens are increasingly demanding to make real Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with their real participation in scientific developments. The European research agenda and national funding programmes have the spirit of co-creation at the core of their strategies to involve stakeholders in research. Although the advancements in the field are relevant, there is still room for improvement, as the concepts and strategies underlying some of the efforts have limitations that require further advancements to be successful.

In this arena, Sociology emerges as a key discipline capable to effectively contribute to achieving cocreation in all sciences, moving from the mere participation of civil society in science to real involvement of all agents in research. Concepts such as engagement, participation, or citizens´ awareness are in the common language of special issues in ranked journals, calls for proposals of funding agencies, and dissemination research initiatives. If such topics are not inspired and articulated by sociologists in collaboration with other disciplines, who will take the lead to understand the social dynamics to enable real co-creation processes?

We welcome abstract submissions addressing the role of co-creation in current societies to advance knowledge that can benefit not only Sociology and social science debates, but also to improve the role of Sociology in other sciences and, most importantly, to improve society.

This stream considers the relationships between the State and other organisations in the form of established-outsider relations. It considers how these relations shape existing social contexts, their dynamic nature, and possible alternative organisational forms that may emerge. The State has long been recognised as a form of complex organisation (Weber, 1978) that performs a significant function in shaping (in conjunction with other social processes) the structures and practices of other organisations. The relations between the State and extra-State organisations can be understood as characterised by an established-outsider structure (Elias and Scotson, 2008[1965]), with the State, through those representing it, often holding an established position.

We invite submissions including (but not restricted to) the following:

  • How does an analysis of established-outsider relations involving the State and organisations contribute to sociological knowledge?
  • How do the relations between State and non-State organisations produce specific organisational structures and/or new social movements?
  • How can we theorise the State, organising practices and extra-State organisation in terms of established-outsider relations?
  • In what ways, and to what extent, can the relationship between the State and extra-State organisations, like MNCs, be understood as having been reversed in terms of established-outsider relations?
  • How can various social movements, as outsider groups, re-shape organising and organisations?
  • How do organisations at different tiers of social organisation shape the organisation of a state or state functions such as education, defence, taxation etc.?
  • What are the social dynamics that lead to the greater integration of outsider groups in organisations?

Rural areas are generally considered as isolated places of conservative and traditional values and ways of living, while their connection to urban areas and wider societies allows them to modernize and transform. However, this representation of rural areas is not real any more in the European context. In fact, rural areas and rural populations are increasingly linked to/fused with non-rural spaces and realities in different ways. These rural-urban connections may be considered in most cases as transformative connections, as they tend to have a significant impact in rural areas and in urban areas, at least to some extent.

The aim of this RS is, first of all, to focus on the various ways rural and urban areas and populations are connected in transformative relations. For instance, the encounter of local population and new residents due to the increasing pro-rural migration, amenity migration, commuters, transnational migrants, nomads, and so on; the development of rural areas linked to the consumption of urban populations (i.e. rural tourism, recreational countryside, production of ‘natural and artisanal’ goods, etc.); the growing presence of ‘nature’ in urban spaces (i.e. urban allotments, communitarian gardens, and so forth), all represent relevant points of transformative connections where ‘the rural’ is continuously reshaped/reconstituted.

The RS intends to attract academic papers which address the theoretical and methodological issues, as well as empirical observations, related to the various contexts of transformative rural-urban connections, and how these interactions impact on rural areas, whether they are remote, intermediate, or suburban ruralities.

Subject to change.