XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology, Sociology on the move, Gothenburg, Sweden, July 2010



Plenary Themes

Five PlenaryThemes will be held parallel at 13:45-15:15 during 5 days, from Monday through Friday, July 12-16, 2010. Each Plenary will focus on a different theme which will be developed in five sessions.

Congress Programme

Sessions descriptions

Plenary sessions are solicited directly by the ISA Programme Committee and only selected scholars are invited to present papers or participate in round table debates.

Theme 1. Violence and war


Coordinators: Ulla Björnberg, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and Michael Burawoy, University of California, USA
Violence is a ubiquitous feature of the modern world, expressed as means of domination both within and between societies. It is discussed in disparate fields, from gender studies to criminology, from studies of terrorism and militarism to international relations, but we need to develop a sociology of violence -- a subfield of sociology that treats violence in its own right. A sociological approach to violence should compete with psychological and biological approaches to violence, so as to better grasp the possibilities of its reduction.  

Session 1: Violence in social theory
Monday, July 12, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Chair: Ulla Björnberg,  Gothenburg University

Violence needs to be integrated into contemporary social theory, rather than being left on the margins. Violence is deployed and regulated by a set of inter-related social institutions, which constitute a fourth domain alongside economy, polity and civil society. An analysis of the changing place of violence in social relations can contribute to its reduction as well as to bringing the analysis of violence to the centre of social theory

Understanding the diverse trajectories of women’s individual and collective resistance to oppression and violence has provided a powerful insight for grasping the universal and particular dimensions of violence. It has also demystified the long standing  relativist and essentialist cultural discourses that  reduced violence to a cultural sphere. What are the implications of these shifts for social theory? How can the current gap in paradigm and praxis with respect to violence be bridged?

Violence in interpersonal relations and face-to-face violence has a character that can be metaphorically described as descending into the tunnel of violence, an altered state of consciousness sometimes described as dream-like, frenzied, or out of oneself. The severity of the violence depends on how long persons stay in this tunnel, and on interrelated processes at different levels.

Session 2: Violence in intimacy
Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Chair: Ulla Björnberg, Gothenburg University

Since the 1970s the knowledge on violence in intimate relationships has grown rapidly and feminist understandings of the relationship between gender, power, and violence, have been crucial. However, it can also be argued that what now may be called mainstream research on violence against women in intimate relationships fails to fully recognise and theoretically account for the links between gender and other forms of inequality. The need for such an expanded problematisation of gender and violence becomes apparent when focusing upon the issues of parenthood and children exposed to domestic violence.

The idea of intimacy is intermeshed with multiple levels of normativity, so that sexual violence may in some instances form the conduit through which intimacy is legitimately expressed and transmitted [as in the case of marital rape which is not a criminal offence in India].  In other instances sexual violence may form a central part of the exercise of authority which includes the provision of material needs by a spiritual leader who shares the living space. In yet other instances, sexual violence by public authorities may form part of the attempt to police women found with male companions/escorts in public and suspected of prostitution, where the perception of intimacy as “illegitimate” or “illicit” provides the justification for violence.

To focus on men’s violence in intimate relationships is not to attribute anessentialism to men or violence enacted by men. On the contrary, it is to consider the social contextualizations of and variations in men’s violence across and within societies, including how men can often be understood as specialists in violence. So, what can sociology and sociological theory learn from the study of men’s violence against known women, and the intersections of violence and ‘intimacy’?

Session 3: Violence, peace and war
Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Chair: José Vicente Tavares dos Santos,  Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

What is the relation between liberalism and peace? We examine this question in different contexts. Looking at the history of social theory early optimism about the link between liberalism and peace gave way to a more pessimistic view in writers such as Sombart and Weber that showed the connection between liberalism and war.  Turning to the modern neoliberal era and the context urban warfare, one discovers the ambiguous role of the police in containing and stimulating violence. The state can become crucial in determining how the police presents itself to society, whether it becomes the conduit of war or peace.       

Session 4:  Violence and ethnic conflict
Thursday, July 15, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Chair: Michael Burawoy, University of California, USA

What are the roots of ethnic violence?  Can they be traced back to nationalist struggles against colonialism? How should we understand the relation between ethnic violence and the machinery for reconciliation?  What groups beyond those engaged in ethnic violence can be called upon to rebuild the social fabric? In the development and consolidation of post-conflict official discourses of national unity and reconciliation, there is a danger that accounts perpetuate the invisibility of bystanders’ voices in reconciliation discourses and marginalize their roles as social actors in bridging fragmented social relations. The panelists, all experts on ethnic violence, draw on their experiences in different parts of the world to address these questions.  

Session 5: Whither the Israeli-Palestine conflict?
Friday, July 16, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Chair: Michael Burawoy, University of California, USA

Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not exceptional but has dominated the history of the relations between the two nations. In this context the deployment of violence is generally without legitimacy among the targeted populations.

The objective of this panel is to analyze political developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, exploring how ongoing violence constitutes a danger to future mutual recognition and reconciliation. Internal Israeli and Palestinian politics will be examined, showing how they influence the conflict and explaining the central role of military organizations in shaping the relations of each side towards the other.
Panelists will examine how violence as a means of intimidation and subjugation breads retaliation and escalation that normalize this violence. They will examine diverse discursive practices deployed in the Israeli and Palestinian societies that have been used to legitimize the use of violent force by dehumanizing others and portraying them as inherently violent and, thus, deserving of preemptive control and surveillance.