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Social theory is something you can’t get away from

Posted By Sociological Imagination

From an interview with Margaret Archer in disClosure: A Journal of Social Theory:

Well, social theory is something you can’t get away from. It’s indispensible. People in the street are social theorists. They don’t know it, they wouldn’t appropriate the label, but what they’re doing is social theorizing. They do that every time they say things like, “Well, there wouldn’t be any benefits from doing that, would there?” Or, “That’s just how you would expect the bankers to behave, isn’t it?” It’s social theorizing. It may be crude. Quite often you can find that sociologists, really well established names, are saying very much the same thing. It’s just that their language is more technical or sometimes it’s just more
pretentious than lay or folk social theorizing. We should respect lay social theory, not just because we are respecting the people who voice it, which we should do, but because this is what prompts their action. So, whether they’re right or wrong
in what they say, that’s why, that’s their motive for acting. It’s usually a lot more interesting than the alternative. Namely, because we can’t get away from talking about human motives, we, the investigators, impose our own interpretations on
them; our beliefs about why they’re doing what they’re doing, and these can be wildly wrong

Decolonizing Knowledge: Invitation to participate in workshop

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Decolonizing Knowledge
Invitation to participate in workshop
November 2-3, 2015

For at least two centuries, the only knowledge which has been accorded the status “respectable”, whether the site of its production is in the “West” (understood as a region, or as the origin of modernity) or elsewhere, is the knowledge created within the modern human and natural sciences; sciences associated with the European Enlightenment and its attendant site of production and dissemination – the modern university. The cultural and historical specificity, as well as the assumed truth and universality, of this knowledge are rarely questioned. Skills, crafts, popular knowledges, tacit, non-systematic, embodied, and gendered knowledges, whether indigenous or not, hold little claim in the face of the ‘expert’ knowledges produced in the university as well as other privileged sites such as think tanks, governmental agencies, media outlets, and corporations – expertises that are subsequently exported through systems of commerce, trade, development and aid to the rest of the world. More than this, even if other forms of knowledge are recognized, invariably they are domesticated as ‘content’ to be studied and ‘explained’.

The Centre for Postcolonial Studies, Goldsmiths, together with the Linnaeus Centre for Concurrences, Linnaeus University, is proposing a workshop and a special issue of the journal Postcolonial Studies which seek to enquire into the epistemological superiority accorded to modern, Western knowledge, asking whether this is warranted, and what effects it has. To this end, we welcome participants who are engaging in their own work with this theme, either by addressing this knowledge in general, or any of the particular disciplinary manifestations of it, eg, sociology, anthropology, international relations, history and so on. The workshop will be a mix of presentations and of discussion, so rather than ask for abstracts, we ask those interested in participating to send, by September 1, an outline of their research, of 1000-1500 words, and how it speaks to the theme of the workshop. These outlines will be pre-circulated but because space is limited and also because we wish to keep this workshop intimate, so that sustained conversation is possible, only a small number of those who respond to this call will be asked to present a paper, or provide specific commentary. Participation will be confirmed by September 30.

Topics include, but are not limited to:
–          connections between the global distribution of modern western knowledge and a global, economic, geographic, and medialized dominance of the “West”
–          whether and how different knowledge traditions can relate to one another and with what consequences
–          the entanglement between different and rival knowledge traditions
–          indigenous knowledge traditions

The workshop is hosted by Linnaeus University Centre: Concurrences and held at Teleborg Castle in Växjö, Sweden, on November 2-3, 2015. Participants are expected to pay their own travel costs, while the Centre covers accommodation and other workshop costs.

Call for Abstracts: Unlocking the Black Box

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Call for Abstracts: Unlocking the Black Box

Saturday, August 15, 2015 – 12:00pm
Yale Law School See map

127 Wall Street

New Haven, CT 06520

Unlocking the Black Box

The Promise and Limits of Algorithmic Accountability in the Professions

The Yale Law School Information Society Project is seeking abstracts of papers for a conference on big data and algorithmic accountability to be held on April 1-2, 2016. The best papers will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of the Yale Journal of Law and Technology (YJoLT (link sends e-mail)).

The increasing power of big data and algorithmic decision-making—in commercial, government, and even non-profit contexts—has raised concerns among academics, activists, journalists and legal experts. Three characteristics of algorithmic ordering have made the problem particularly difficult to address. The data used may be inaccurate or inappropriate. Algorithmic modeling may be biased or limited. And the uses of algorithms are still opaque in many critical sectors.

No single academic field can address all the new problems created by algorithmic decision-making. Collaboration among experts in different fields is starting to yield important responses. For example, digital ethicists have offered new frameworks for assessing algorithmic manipulation of content and persons, grounding their interventions in empirical social science—and, in turn, influencing regulation of firms and governments deploying algorithms. Empiricists may be frustrated by the “black box” nature of algorithmic decision making; they can work with legal scholars and activists to open up certain aspects of it (via FOIA and fair data practices laws). Journalists, too, have been teaming up with computer programmers and social scientists to expose new privacy-violating technologies of data collection, analysis, and use—and to push regulators to crack down on the worst offenders.

Researchers are going beyond the analysis of extant data, and joining coalitions of watchdogs, archivists, open data activists, and public interest attorneys, to assure a more balanced set of “raw materials” for analysis, synthesis, and critique. As an ongoing, intergenerational project, social science must commit to assuring the representativeness and relevance of what is documented—lest the most powerful “pull the strings” in comfortable obscurity, while scholars’ agendas are dictated by the information that, by happenstance or design, is readily available. What would similar directions for legal scholars and journalists look like? This conference will aim to answer that question, setting forth algorithmic accountability as a paradigm of what Kenneth Gergen has called “future-forming” research.

Algorithmic accountability calls for the development of a legal-academic community, developed inter-disciplinarily among theorists and empiricists, practitioners and scholars, journalists and activists. This conference will explore early achievements among those working for algorithmic accountability, and will help chart the future development of an academic community devoted to accountability as a principle of research, investigation, and action.

The conference seeks abstracts on topics including:

  • The law and ethics of artificial intelligence
  • Algorithmic accountability in medicine, finance, journalism, law, and education
  • Algorithms and transparency
  • How can law enable “innovative” journalism and research?
  • The effect of socio-technological environment on professional practices and norms
  • What are the black boxes lawyers and policymakers most want exposed?

500-700 word abstracts may be submitted by August 15 to Heather Branch at heather.branch@yale.edu (link sends e-mail). Notifications of selection will be made by September 10. Full first draft papers are expected on December 15, 2015. The best papers will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of the Yale Journal of Law and Technology (YJoLT) to be published in Spring 2016.

Conference Organizers

Frank Pasquale (Professor of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law), Caitlin Petre (Resident Fellow, Yale Information Society Project), and Valerie Belair-Gagnon (Executive Director and Research Scholar, Yale Information Society Project)

– See more at: http://isp.yale.edu/event/call-abstracts-unlocking-black-box?#sthash.vCGNnb4g.dpuf

The Groomers and the Question of Race


The Groomers and the Question of Race

Posted By Sadia Habib

by Shamim Miah

The last decade has witnessed a number of prominent police‐led operations relating to child sexual exploitation (CSE) in England. Whilst much of the public discourse related to Operation Yewtree, Operation Fernbridge, and others has focused on the criminal nature of CSE, race has been absent from that discourse; conversely, the public debates relating to grooming cases by men of Pakistani heritage have been marked by the presence of race. By critically evaluating the above cases this article aims to put forward three related arguments. First, it aims to highlight and explain contrasting ways in which CSE is debated vis‐á‐vis the category of racialised politics. Second, it demonstrates how racialised discourse of CSE, initially considered to be a feature of far‐right rhetoric, has taken centre ground. Finally, drawing upon analysis of various reports it aims to question the links between race and CSE to show how racialised discourse of CSE helps undermine its victims.

For more on this paper: http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/24223/1/115.pdf

#CharlestonSyllabus: Readings and Resources

Posted By Sadia Habib

In the aftermath of the terrible events in Charleston, there were politicians attempting to deny the racist nature of the terror that struck the Black people of Charleston, while educators were working hard to challenge the spurious notions of a post-racial USA by directing us towards resources and readings crucial to understanding the persistently pernicious nature of racist inequalities.

#CharlestonSyllabus is a necessary Twitter hashtag directing us to the much needed conversation on the subject of #BlackLivesMatter. Check out the # on Twitter for more useful links and ideas on how to teach slavery, civil rights, South Carolina history and many other related topics from a critical perspective.






A convincing social constructionist account of a broken leg has never been encountered.

Margaret Archer


2015 Social Media, Activism, and Organisations Symposium (#SMAO15) Call for Submissions

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Call For Papers

2015 Social Media, Activism, and Organisations Symposium (#SMAO15) Call for Submissions

Social media (from mainstream platforms such as Twitter to organization-specific tools) have become increasingly pervasive. This is exemplified by the diversity of uses ranging from Twitter and Facebook use during the Arab spring to the use of Snapchat by highly surveilled activist groups. Many social movements have increasingly seen social media as a means to collaboratively crowdsource, to network and communicate with diverse stakeholders. In large  organizations, social media is often supported because the technology can help foster the sense of a “digital village”, where individuals are able to “see” the lives of others within their organization and feel closer to them. However, the literature on social movements and social media has not fully grasped just how much social media has fundamentally changed the landscape of organizational communication, ranging from stakeholders being able to directly mobilize resources to making grassroots transnational social movements more organizationally feasible. Social Media, Activism, and Organisations (#SMAO15) seeks to better our understandings of how social media has shaped social movement organizations and the organization of social movements.

The Social Media, Activism, and Organisations symposium will be held in London, England on November 6, 2015 at Goldsmiths, University of London. The symposium is sponsored by The Sociological ReviewThe Centre for Creative & Social Technologies at Goldsmiths, and the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths.

We invite you to submit short papers which explore the social media-influenced intersections of social movements and organisations. Full papers are not required for this conference, only short papers (~2500 words, excluding references) related to the broad theme of “Social Media, Activism, and Organisations”.

Papers should be submitted by September 7, 2015 via Easy Chair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=smao15 and there is no preset template for submission. If selected, the author(s) will be invited to give a 15-minute oral presentation followed by a 5 min Q&A period at the symposium.

Author(s) of accepted paper abstracts may also be invited to submit full papers to a special issue of The Sociological Review, published by Wiley.


•    Organisational communication and social media

•    Democratizing organisational structures via social media

•    Gender, social media, activism, and organisations

•    Activist knowledge aggregation techniques

•    Enterprise applications and social activism

•    Collaboration, social media, and activism

•    Virtual teams, social media and activism

•    Activist networks and organizational communication

•    Social media and organizational leadership

•    Communicating organizational messages via social media

•    Social media and advocacy organizations

•    Inter-movement organizational communication and social media

•   Visual social media and organisations

•    Implications of anonymous social media

We welcome both theoretical and empirical papers and the symposium seeks to showcase a variety of case studies to advance our understandings of how social media has shaped social movement organizations and the organization of social movements.


methods@manchester Summer School

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Interesting in gathering and analysing twitter data?

The Manchester Methods summer school is fast approaching and runs from 6th-10th July 2015 at The University of Manchester.
Booking is essential to secure a place on the summer school courses.

The school will run for one week, and participants will select a single course for the duration of the school. Each course will deliver four days of content to a five-day timetable (Monday afternoon to Friday lunch-time), building on successful methods@manchester and CMIST short-courses given throughout the year. The courses include software training, qualitative and quantitative analysis, area studies, and research design.

We now have seven individual streams available on the methods@manchester Summer School, including courses on social network analysis, mplus, mixed methods research, content analysis, the Rasch Model and our newest addition ‘Researching public and voluntary sector organisations’.

Available Courses:
•    Advanced methods for social network analysis (SNA)
•    Structural Equation Modelling using Mplus
•    Integrated Mixed-Methods Research
•    Introduction to social network analysis (SNA) using UCINET and Netdraw
•    Content Analysis for Online Data
•    Constructing and Validating Measures using the Rasch Model
•    Researching public and voluntary sector organisations

Full details of the Summer School, courses and booking requirements may be found at http://www.methods.manchester.ac.uk/events/summerschool

Where is the university? #CSOPhD

Posted By Sociological Imagination

A very interesting extract from Gilbert Ryle shared by Adam Wood (MMU) at the Centre for Social Ontology PhD Conference:

A foreigner visiting Oxford or Cambridge for the first time is shown a number of colleges, libraries, playing fields, museums, scientific departments, and administrative offices. He then adds “but where is the university? I have seen where the mumbers of the colleges live, where the Registar works, where the scientists experiment and the rest. But I have not yet seen the University in which reside and work the members of your university.” It has then to be explained to him that the University is not another collateral institution, some ulterior counterpart to the colleges, laboratories, and offices which he has seen. The University is just the way in which all that he has already seen is organized. When they are seen and when their coordination is understood, the University has been seen. His mistake lay in his innocent assumption that it was correct to speak of the Christ Church, the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, and the University, to speak, that is, as if “the University” stood for an extra member of the class of which these other units are members. He was mistakenly allocating the University to the same category as that to which the other institutions belong.

Source: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=291989

25 Years of the Cambridge Realist Workshop

Posted By Sociological Imagination

A reunion conference, generously sponsored by the Cambridge Journal of Economics, is to be held in Newnham College, Cambridge, 7-9 September 2015, marking 25 Years of the Cambridge Realist Workshop.

Conference Themes

The Conference Theme is ‘Social Ontology and Modern Economics’.

There will be no parallel streams, just a series of single sessions.  To allow maximum participation of everyone present the sessions will be mostly round tables on specific sub themes, with two or three individuals giving short introductions.

Those already agreeing to introduce various themes or otherwise participate include: Richard Arena, Bruce Caldwell, Steve Fleetwood, Tony Lawson, John Latsis, Paul Lewis, Nuno Martins, Dimitris Milonakis, Leon Montes, Jamie Morgan and Stephen Pratten.

Likely sub themes include (but are not exhausted by):

  • Philosophical Ontology (emergence; causal reduction and downward causation; process and evolution; entities and stability; order and co-ordination; practice including language; comparing competing conceptions);
  • Ontology and Heterodox Economics;
  • Ontology in the History of Economic Thinking;
  • Topics in Scientific Ontology (money, technology, gender, the corporation, social relations, institutions, communities, power, trust, rules, collective practices; method for scientific ontology);
  • Ontology and Methodology (dialectics/contrast explanation; abstraction; methods of isolation; internal critique; transcendental reasoning);
  • Ontology, Ethics, and Moral Conduct.

Conference structure

The conference will start late afternoon on Monday September 7 and most likely end around lunchtime on Wednesday September 9th.  There will be conference dinners on both the Monday and the Tuesday evening, with a reception on the Monday.

Registration and other administrative stuff. 

A conference fee of £24 (£20 +VAT) will be charged.  However this is merely nominal. Participants will thereafter be invited to participate in both the conference dinners plus lunches, etc., without additional charge. Numbers though are limited to about 70 participants, and we do need you to register. In order to register please go to:  http://www.cpes.org.uk/events/25-crw/


Basic (non en-suite) accommodation is available at Newnham College at very reasonable rates (about £48 per night inclusive of VAT). To book a Newnham College room please contact Marilyn Dowling, the Conference and Events Co-ordinator at Newnham College (Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DF) by email:  marilyn@newn.cam.ac.uk  (telephone : +44 (0) 1223 335803).

Other Cambridge accommodation can be located here (though please check you are not further than you would like to be from Newnham College [CB3 9DF]):  http://www.visitcambridge.org/accommodation

Whether you stay in College or elsewhere in Cambridge, do please register above first, and make sure you have a confirmation of registration. We are restricted to accepting only the first 70 so to register.

Hardship Fund

We do have a small amount of funding to help those whose situations make it difficult to raise the total costs themselves. Applicants for this should get in touch as soon as possible. Apply, sending details, to CSOG@econ.cam.ac.uk with subject heading ‘CSOG funding’.

Other Europes: Migrations, Translations, Transformations

Posted By Sociological Imagination

ther Europes: Migrations, Translations, Transformations
MLA International Symposia: Translating the Humanities
Düsseldorf, Germany, 23?25 June 2016

The Modern Language Association of America, the world?s largest
professional organization for scholars of literature and language,
announces its first conference outside the United States and Canada,
organized in collaboration with the Heinrich Heine University in

Europe remains a conspicuous part of the global public imagination and
a haunting presence in literary and cultural studies across the globe,
even as claims for its centrality continue to be challenged from a
variety of political and theoretical perspectives. This conference
brings together an international group of scholars and engages the
paradigms in and through which they work. It seeks to develop ways of
thinking that emerge from and address Europe?s evolving political,
economic, historical, and philosophical role in a world of
ever-shifting migrations, translations, and transformations.

We invite proposals across a broad range of historical periods and
disciplines that engage with literary and cultural texts and practices
as they interact with or resist political, economic, scientific, or
philosophical models of thought.

Papers might be grouped under the following rubrics:

Marking time: dynasties, empires, revolutions, republics,
regimes; pasts, presents, futures, aftermaths; trauma and memory,
ghosts and hauntings; generations; ?senses? of history; literary times
and periods
European maps: East, West, North, South; city, country, banlieue;
center, margin, periphery; borders, boundaries, contact zones; the
?other? within and the ?other? without
European economies and the economies of European cultures
European subjects and identities: religions, genders,
sexualities, ages, affects, bodies
Community, nation, migration, mobility, roots
Precarious lives: citizens, migrants, refugees
Postcoloniality, decoloniality, subalternity, hegemony, sovereignty
Languages of Europe; multilingualism; Latin, French, English as
lingua francas
European cultural politics and institutions: the economies of
European cultures, book fairs, film festivals, prizes, universities,
publication, national cultural organizations such as the
Goethe-Institut, the Alliance Française, and the Instituto Cervantes
Translation, resistance, transmission
Theory transfers
Media and genres, old and new
Transatlantic Europe

The conference will feature several keynote talks and roundtables, as
well as traditional sessions with three or four fifteen-minute papers,
workshops with precirculated papers, and roundtable conversations
based on five-minute presentations. We invite proposals for any of the
above formats.

The conference languages will be English, German, French, and Spanish,
but papers can be delivered in any language if speakers arrange for
written or oral translation within the time frame of the session.

Paper proposals should include the paper title, a 300-word abstract,
the speaker?s institutional affiliation (if any), and a 1-page
biography or CV.

Proposals for panels, workshops, and roundtables should contain the
above items for each speaker, a brief description of the format
(including an estimate of how many speakers will participate), and a
rationale for the session?s topic(s) and format.

Please send submissions to othereuropes2016@hhu.de. All submissions
must be received by 15 August 2015, and participants will be notified
of the outcome of the selection process by 15 October 2015.

Radical Transfeminism at the London Conference in Critical Thought

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Conference stream on Radical Transfeminism, London Conference in Critical Thought
Friday 26th/Saturday 27th June
University College London anthropology department, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW.

Against a backdrop of social gains made by mainstream LGBT movements, the reality of trans* lives (particular for transpersons of colour) continues to be one of material and social struggle, against poverty, deprivation and violence.

While inclusion in existing structures, whether they be social initiatives or current feminisms, is often the focus of the discussion, this stream looks to radicalise the transperspective. This redistribution of emphasis from inclusion in existing centres to the possibility of elaboration from the limits outward, will give the will create the terrain for alliances, strategies, and politics. We propose to look at points of divergence instead of inclusion, both as means to build practices of solidarity, as well as highlight differences of perspective. By emphasising trans* as an open-ended category without a core, a potential radicalisation of perspective and action, as opposed to erasure, is actualised.

The stream aims to address the social, material and political necessity of transfeminism as a radical and potentially revolutionary sphere of thought and praxis. It will address the importance of a transfeminist critique of the limitations of liberal transgender politics that are being rapidly and unquestioningly taken up across the world. It specifically looks to extend transfeminisms beyond rights discourses, and formulate critiques as evolving practices and theories.

Friday 26 June 9:30-11:00 (room 2/TBC)
1. The End Times of a Failed Political Myth – openingspanel by Mijke van der Drift, Chryssy Hunter, Nat Raha.

Friday 26 June 13:45-15:15 (room 2/TBC)
2. Panel: Radical Transfeminist Activism
Mylo Lewis-Norman – Trans* generational sharing as a form of resistance to normalisation
Andy Misandry – I Have No Photo For You – liberal feminism, Germany’s Next Topmodel and why it doesn’t get better
Raju Rage – Reclaiming Radical Transfeminism: Time-Travelling Trans* Politics In Neoliberal Times
Respondent: Sasha Padziarei
Chair: Mijke van der Drift

Saturday 27 June 13:30 – 16:30 (Panels will happen with a small break in between) room 6/TBC
3. Roundtable: Radical Transfeminism in Communities
Ellis Suzanna Slack – Sexworker transfeminisms
Pum Kommattam – At the margins of margins – the necessity of actual intersectionality and solidarity in transfeminist queer communities
Audrey de Virion & Frankie Hall – The growth and formalisation of radical trans and queer support networks in Brighton, UK
Chair: Chryssy Hunter

4. Panel: Theories of Radical Transfeminism
Charlotte Gage – Reproducing ‘states of injury’ on trans* bodies: How does Wendy Brown’s concept help to think through the idea of a ‘wounded attachment’ to the female body in feminism?
Barbara Neukirchinger – Critical Theory, Poststructuralism and the Intersection of Gender and Disability
Andi Sitwell – The politics of gender variance: a queer materialist critique of identity
Chair: Nat Raha

Paper abstracts and further details at http://londoncritical.org/conference

Datafication, dataism and dataveillance

Posted By Sociological Imagination

An interesting talk by José van Dijck whose Culture of Connectivity is superb.

The Sadistic Irrational Bastards fallacy (SID)

Posted By Mark Carrigan

On a couple of occasions I’ve heard Graham Scambler discuss what he calls the ‘greedy bastards hypothesis’ (GBH):

This asserted that health inequalities in Britain were first and foremost an unintended consequence of the ‘strategic’ behaviours at the core of the country’s capitalist-executive and power elite. It is a hypothesis even more plausible in 2012 than it was in the late 1990s.

The term ‘capitalist-executive’, borrowed from Clement and Myles, contained what I subsequently called a core ‘cabal’ of financiers, CEOs and Directors of large and largely transnational companies, and rentiers. These individuals were perfectly capable of ‘conspiring’ but despite being involved in fierce competition rarely had a need to do so in the post-1970s neo-liberal era of financial capitalism. This cabal, I intimated, has come to exercise a dominating influence over the state’s political elite (that is, the upper echelons of government together with its multifold ‘new middle class’ tacticians). US historian David Landes’ once asserted that ‘men (sic) of wealth buy men of power’; and my contention was that they got more for their money post-1970s than in the postwar welfare-statist era. So the GBH charged leading capitalists and politicians with what the likes of Engels and Virschow in the nineteenth century called homicide. As Michael Marmot has more recently averred, policies can kill, and when these are reflexively enacted their architects shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves liable to prosecution in the event of a regime change.


While I think he’s largely correct, I’d like to counterbalance GBH with my notion of the Sadistic Irrational Bastards (SID) fallacy. Put blunty: we often tend to impute egregious dispositions to those people doing things which we find profoundly disagreeable on a moral level. We exaggerate their deficiencies of character (how else could they do these things if they weren’t evil sadistic bastards?) and correspondingly pay too little attention to how structural circumstances enable actions which have no explanation other than sadism when considered in individualistic terms. SID is morally reassuring. In its most extreme manifestations, it supports conspiratorial thinking where the complex problems of the world are reduced to the Machiavellian machinations of evil men plotting in a room in some secret location. But I think it’s more widespread than this. It underwrites a sense of one’s own righteousness and supports the kind of indignation which can drive valuable protest.

However my problem with it is that it leaves us ill-equipped to make sense of people doing sadistic things who do not in fact seem to be sadists. What’s more, they’re capable of giving reasons to justify their actions. We may dismiss their reasons instinctively or even through careful consideration of their moral and intellectual merits. But adherence to SID leaves a mismatch between our moral experience and our rational appraisal which can be strategically disorientating. It can leave us torn between indignant condemnation and rational acquiesce: allowing us to be content with expressing our contempt without this leading to sustained action. It tends to individualise problems which are not themselves individualistic and supports late capitalist cynicism of the sort described by Zizek: overestimation of subjective disavowal going hand-in-hand with objective complicity.

When Hollywood actors become motivational speakers

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Difficult to know what to make of this:

Apparently one section of this larger project: https://vimeo.com/125095515


‘Eating’ digital data and our differing data tastes

Posted By Mark Carrigan

An interesting post on Deborah Lupton’s blog considering digital data as something we consume. I’m not persuaded by the bulk of the argument, even though it’s thought provoking:

Mol points out that once a foodstuff has been swallowed, the human subject loses control over what happens to the content of the food in her body as the processes of digestion take place. As she notes, the body is busily responding to the food, but the individual herself has no control over this: ‘Her actorship is distributed and her boundaries are neither firm nor fixed’ (Mol, 2008: 40). The eating subject is able to choose what food she decides to eat, but after this point, her body decides how to deal with the components of the food, selecting certain elements and discarding others.

This raises questions about human agency and subjectivity. In the statement ‘I eat an apple’ is the agency in the ‘I’ or in the apple? Humans may grow, harvest and eat apples, but without foodstuffs such as apples, humans would not exist. Furthermore, once the apple is chewed and swallowed, it then becomes part of and absorbed into the eater’s body. It is impossible to determine what is human and what is apple (Mol, 2008: 30) The eating subject, therefore, is semi-permeable, neither completely closed off nor completely open to the world.

Mol then goes on to query at what stage the apple becomes part of her, and whether the category of the human subject might recognise the apple as ‘yet another me, a subject in its own right’ (Mol, 2008: 40). Apples themselves have been shaped by years of cultivation by humans into the forms in which they now exist. In fact they may be viewed as a form of Haraway’s companion species. How then do we draw boundaries around the body/self and the apple? How is the human subject to be defined?


It strikes me that this only works if you hold a ‘subject’ to be something with fixed boundaries and absolute mastery over its inner space. Does anyone actually hold this view? I don’t think even rational choice theorists, surely the strongest advocates of contemporary individualism, would accept such a view. The risk here is of what Andrew Sayer calls a PoMo flip: responding to a problematic position (that may or may not be held by anyone) by flipping to the other extreme while retaining the problematic conceptual structure. This isn’t an obscure matter of ontology because how we conceive of the subject has important consequences for how we make sense of Deborah’s final question:

How are the flavours and tastes of digital data experienced, and what differentiates these flavours and tastes?

This is a fascinating question which I’ve tended to think of as ‘data sensibilities': how do we develop tastes for different kinds of data? The recent work of Will Davies could be read as, in part, an account of how these tastes changed. We’ve developed a taste for quantitative data about our behaviour that increasingly replaces a taste for qualitative data about our action. Making sense of such changes, let alone the political economy underlying them, necessitates that we identify the variable capacities of the subject to ‘consume’ data, to put it to work in some way, as well as how these tendencies can be influenced by broader social and cultural structures.

Mol’s account is a form of what Margaret Archer calls central conflation: responding to the challenge of analytically unpacking the interface between objectivity and subjectivity by blurring the boundaries between them. Whereas I think Deborah’s question, which seems enormously important to me, necessitates an account of the sequencing of objectivity and subjectivity over time: how we ‘consume’ certain kinds of data, the work to which these are put in our lives and how we change in the process, with effects upon our future data tastes. Here are the questions which such a view would lead to:

  • What types of individual data tastes can we identify?
  • How did these types of individual data tastes come about?
  • What work do these types of individual data tastes do in personal life?
  • How do these types of individual data tastes shape the biographical trajectories of individuals?
  • What are the aggregate effects of these outcomes for social life as a whole?
  • What are the collective effects of these types of individual data tastes i.e. how do they condition social participation and collective action?

Any thoughts much appreciated!

Medium: The New Frontier

Posted By Mark Carrigan

If it wasn’t for the fact we’ve been going for over 5 years, I’d be tempted to move SI over to Medium. It’s immensely appealing in a range of ways and it becomes more exciting with each passing month. As this talk by the editor-in-chief of one of the most prominent magazines on Medium makes clear, it’s redefining what digital publishing means in an era of social media:

CfP: Special issue of Porn Studies – Inside Gonzo Porn

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Porn Studies
Special Issue: Inside Gonzo Porn

This special issue of Porn Studies focuses on contemporary gonzo pornography. Emerging in the United States in the late 1980s and pioneered by directors such as John Stagliano, Seymore Butts, Ben Dover, and Rodney Moore, gonzo constituted both a low budget response and an “aesthetic” alternative to the glossy, plot-oriented feature films produced by companies such as VCA or Adam & Eve. Gonzo established a new “mode” of pornographic expression, taking fiction out of hard-core videos and heading straight for the sex, employing a documentary style – hand-held camera, camera-looks, live recording etc. – in order to enhance the authenticity and the realness of sexual representation (Hardy 2008; 2009; Biasin, Zecca 2009; Fuchs 2011; Tibbals 2014). In doing so, gonzo exacerbated the constant dialectic between the immediate, indexical depiction of the “mechanical truth of the bodily pleasure” (Williams 1989), and its symbolical reconstruction and “falsification” through specific representative and stylistic conventions (Dyer 1985; 1994). At the same time, gonzo pushed hard-core videos increasingly to the “extreme,” bringing sex performances and body practices to become more and more “hyperbolic” (Stüttgen 2009; Biasin, Zecca 2009; Paasonen 2011; Maddison 2012) – and almost completely detached from any sexological “idealism”.

Discursive tensions circulate gonzo – where different and often contrasting perspectives (theoretical and political) on porn representation and sexual agency meet and collide with each other. Some identify gonzo as a violent vehicle for the humiliation of women (Dines 2006; Purcell 2012) and “grotesque degradation” (Langman 2004), a chauvinist and hyper-masculinized “fantasy” of retaliation to women’s social assertiveness. Yet other academics and activists promote a queer, (trans)feminist and subcultural re-appropriation of gonzo as a way to explore new “contra-sexual” body practices (Preciado 2000; Stüttgen 2009), and to displace the heteronormative order (Borghi 2014); for them, gonzo constitutes a film form that can be productively re-employed to express new post-pornographic fantasies and desires, and to open alternative markets of porn consumption (Maina 2014). However, despite its centrality in debates about pornography, gonzo has hardly been examined in depth. This special issue of Porn Studies welcomes essays, interviews, and personal accounts from academics, artists, activists, and adult industry practitioners. Proposals are invited to address (but are not limited to) the following questions:

Genders/Bodies: What gender configurations does gonzo perform and (re)produce? What constitution types does it dictate and (re)shape? How are bodies depicted and “treated” in gonzo?
Actors/Stars: What performative abilities and what acting techniques does gonzo require? What actor’s personae does gonzo construct? How is a gonzo celebrity built? And what is its social “aura”?
Styles/Texts: What are the representative conventions of gonzo? What is its iconography? What are the stylistic features of gonzo “aesthetics”? Is there a gonzo textual “canon”?
Contexts/Positions: What are the ways in which gonzo is consumed? And in which contexts? What consumption positions does gonzo activate? And what cultural repertories does it entail?
Markets/Business: How is gonzo positioned within the porn market? How is gonzo produced? What are its business models, its working routines, and its commercial strategies?
Communities/Fans: What reception and interpretive communities does gonzo produce? And what are their dynamics? Is it possible to speak about a gonzo participatory fan culture? Is there a gonzo “cult”?
Tastes/Affects: Does gonzo produce a distinctive sex taste culture? What fantasies and pleasures does it entail? What affects does gonzo generate? What is its carnal appeal? How could gonzo be embodied by the viewers?
Global/Local: How has US gonzo been re-adapted in different national contexts? What are the globalisation/glocalization processes that underlie the international dissemination of gonzo style?

Submission Details
Articles for peer-review should be between 5000-6000 words. Shorter thought pieces of approximately 1500-2000 words may also be submitted, and the editors will make a selection for the Forum section.

Journal Deadline
The deadline for submission of proposals is September 1, 2015. Please send abstracts of 400 words and a short biographical note to federico.zecca AT uniud.it and e.biasinAT libero.it. Authors will be notified by September 7, 2015 if their proposals have been accepted.
The deadline for submission of full articles is January 18, 2016.
The special issue will be published in December 2016.

How to Submit
All the manuscripts must be submitted online. Please consult the Authors and Submissions tab in the journal website for more information, and the Submit Online link is there as well: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rprn20#.VOomnFPF–‐Gh.

Editorial information
Guest editor: Dr Enrico Biasin (e.biasin AT libero.it)
Guest editor: Dr Federico Zecca (federico.zecca AT uniud.it)

White Terrorist Bingo

Posted By Sadia Habib




white terror bingo


via Bipartisan Report @Bipartisanism

Media & Politics 101

Posted By Sadia Habib

media politics 101


via @FoulExpress & @MUSLIMSHOW

Jon Stewart on Charleston: This is Black and White

Posted By Sadia Habib

Jon Stewart on Charleston terror shootings, and his extreme sadness at the “racial wound that will not heal but we pretend does not exist”.

Stewart acknowledges “we still won’t do jack”.

He also talks about the “disparity of response” if we had thought this was “Islamic” terrorism, invading countries and torturing people would have been immediate reaction, but Charleston terrorist attack gets dismissed as a “tragedy” and as “crazy is as crazy does”.

Author Meets Readers: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos

Posted By Sociological Imagination

Author Meets Readers: Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos

Date: Tuesday 30 June 2015
Time: 4-6pm
Venue: Vera Anstey Room, LSE Old Building, Houghton Street.
Author: Wendy Brown (Political Science, UC Berkeley)
Readers: Anne Barron (LSE Law), Nick Couldry (LSE Media and Communications), David Graeber (LSE Anthropology), Anne Phillips (LSE Government).
Chair: Ayça Çubukçu (LSE Sociology)

The argument of Wendy Brown’s powerful new book is that neoliberalism is in the process of draining liberal democratic ideals – liberty, equality, legality, popular self-rule – of their distinctively political meanings. Worse, it is filling these terms with new meanings that represent the political as subsumable, like everything else, within a totally ‘economised’ world, a world ordered entirely by the imperative to maximise capital in all its forms – including that which is supposedly embedded in human capacities and potentials.

Drawing on, but also departing from, Foucault’s writings on neoliberal governmentality, Professor Brown characterises neoliberalism as a form of calculative reason that is colonising every domain of life in Euro-American societies today: from states and workplaces to educational institutions and households. Warning that both liberal democratic practices and radical democratic aspirations are threatened with extinction by these changes, Undoing the Demos (Zone Books, 2015) focuses particularly on three manifestations of what its author calls ‘neoliberalism’s stealth revolution’: the continued rise of governance as a characteristic modality of rule in the post-democratic state, an ongoing judicial trend towards extending ‘human’ rights to corporate persons, and tendencies in the organisation and culture of universities that are reducing higher education to little more than a site of human capital formation, justifiable only insofar as it delivers a competitive rate of return on students’ investments in themselves.

On Tuesday, June 30, Wendy Brown meets a panel of readers – Anne Barron, Nick Couldry, David Graeber and Anne Phillips – who will have approached her book from disparate perspectives informed respectively by legal theory, media theory, anthropology and political theory. This event is free and open to all with no ticket or pre-registration required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries, email a.barron@lse.ac.uk.

Wendy Brown is Class of 1936 First Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, and a Shimizu Visiting Professor in the Law Department at LSE, 2015.
Anne Barron is an Associate Professor in the Law Department at LSE
Nick Couldry is Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE
David Graeber is Professor of Anthropology in the Anthropology Department at LSE
Anne Phillips is the Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at LSE
Ayça Çubukçu is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department and in the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE