Theme

Sociological Knowledges for Alternative Futures

We live in a globalised world where emergencies and hybridities arise from several challenges posed by climate change, sustainable development, violent conflicts and mass migration. Social inequalities (gender, class, age, ethnic, racialised, religion, territorial, embodied, etc.) are constantly reshaped by those challenges. Sociological research is analysing them as well as the actions designed to overcome such inequalities. We see how especially younger generations mobilise and develop solidarities, engaging in social movements focused around topics such as climate change and human rights. Those social movements are being studied and reflected in sociological research, contributing to other ways of seeing and building society.

Discussion about alternative futures is taking place all over Europe, particularly in those contexts with an established democratic history seeking egalitarian, just and better environments to sustain more satisfactory and flourishing lives. Citizens want to decide which paths to take to achieve such goals and sociological knowledges provide key analyses about which actions might contribute practical accomplishments and which will not. We believe that sociology has a big role to play in rethinking alternatives for the future starting from solid scientific knowledge and working out from it.

How can we build sociological knowledges to face so many challenges? This is a pertinent question at a time of “fake news” and “post-truth” when scientific expertise is frequently brought into question. The distinction between knowledge and opinion becomes blurred. Populist and authoritarian politics gain even more power and attention, undermining democracy in multiple parts of the globe. Therefore, now is the time to discuss how sociology offers better understanding and relevant knowledges to improve society. The complex relations between centres and peripheries, understood in a global perspective, must be explored, and the social implications of the use of technological tools in a digital era must be identified and applied so as to imagine and create other futures.

We know that gatekeepers do not always recognise the relevance of sociological knowledge for society, postponing funding for social scientific research and not providing enough resources to generate bridges between the contexts of knowledge production and application. However, today citizens are demanding to see how research in all scientific fields is contributing to the improvement of their lives, and the social sciences are well positioned to analyse those contributions. We encourage sociologists, and social scientists more generally, from Europe and beyond, to feed the scientific discussion with fresh data, thoughts and ideas and to contribute sociological knowledge envisioning and building alternative futures.

We invite colleagues to share and discuss recent research concerning all areas of society, with a view to building alternative futures together in the ESA 2021 conference in the vibrant city of Barcelona. Approaches to these problems from different methodological frameworks (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, experimental) will be welcome. Barcelona will be a place for joint work, dialogue and networking, focusing on future possibilities.

The construction of new epistemic communities is a crucial step towards creating alternative futures. We count on you to think about and practice new ways of overcoming the complex social challenges of our time!