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 4. Action and Imagination


Coordinators: Marcel Fournier, Université de Montréal, Canada, Nikita Pokrovsky, Higher School of Economics, Russia and Arturo Rodríguez Morató, University of Barcelona, Spain, with the collaboration of Piotr Sztompka, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Action and imagination: the idea to put together these two large notions gives the oppportunity to move in a way from « old » theoretical perspectives, methodologies and objects (or fields of research) to other ones, which give more place to creativity or imagination. At the same time, both action and imagination have to be considered key elements of the uncertain and moving world of today. This Plenary Theme aims to open discussions on some theoretical perspectives, new methodologies and new objects in sociology of culture. It also addresses some important themes in relation with the increasing role of action and imagination in current society.

Session 1:  Social action and theory of action. New perspectives. Is determinism dead in social sciences?
Monday, July 12, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: Marcel Fournier, Université de Montréal, Canada

Social action and theory of action are both central and classical preoccupations in sociology. Both of them, with the development of new perspectives, have been the topics of many recent debates: one issue is how to give  in our ways to analysis actor, groups and societies, more importance to subjectivity, reflexitivity and creativity.

Session 2: Symbolic analysis versus social analysis
Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizers: Arturo Rodríguez Morató, University of Barcelona, Spain and Marcel Fournier, Université de Montréal, Canada
For mainstream sociology, the symbolic dimension of society had always represented the constitutive basis of social order. But in fact until the seventies the analysis of that dimension was usually neglected, delayed, or left to other disciplines. For contemporary sociology, however, symbolic analysis has become unavoidable. But what kind of symbolic analysis should sociology develop? And how should this analysis combine with the more traditional analysis of sociology, the one devoted to the hard variables of wealth and power distribution? Contemporary sociology pursues different strategies in this respect, often in dialogue and sometimes also in contrast with other disciplines such as cultural studies or the humanities. This session will consider some of the options and some of the problems that arise in the context of this disciplinary and methodological contrast.

Session 3: The aesthetic shaping of society
Wednesday, July 14, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: Arturo Rodríguez Morató, University of Barcelona, Spain
As a consequence of the “cultural turn” in sociology, the analysis of the active role played by aesthetics in the configuration of social forms and the material culture has been re-evaluated. The socially generative character of aesthetic work and aesthetic forms has been convincingly stated, i.e. its essential contribution to the development of identity narratives and models and to the establishment of patterns and contexts of interaction, its notable innovatory effects or its importance as a basis for the evaluation of experience and action. Many sociologists consider that post-industrial developments have significantly increased the importance of the aesthetic dimension in the workings of contemporary societies. They think that aesthetic practices and products and the social imagination in which they resonate have gained a new generative power, a new capacity for shaping society. This symposium will serve to present some of the issues that fire the sociological imagination today.

Session 4: Creativity and innovation across social spaces
Thursday, July 15, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: Nikita Pokrovsky, Higher School of Economics, Russia

Session 5: Visual sociology: The ironic turn in recent sociology
Friday, July 16, 2010, 13:45-15:15
Organizer: Piotr Sztompka, Jagiellonian University, Poland
In recent sociology we may observe a new tendency reflected both at the ontological and methodological level. There are numerous contributions to the study of everyday life, and Georg Simmel acquires the role of a classical guru for several contemporary sociologists. This is by no means the limitation of sociology to micro-sociological analysis, but rather opening of a new window for the study of all central problems of sociology, including macro-sociological problems of power, inequality, class structure, axio-normative regulation of social life and many others. At the same time at the methodological level we observe growing interest in qualitative methods, the return of social-anthropological strategies of observation, participant observation, case-study etc. 

Within this wider tendency there emerges a particular importance of visual studies and the evolving discipline of visual sociology. Again, there are ontological and methodological reasons. The postmodernist discourse in its sane, sociological manifestations (Bauman, Featherstone, Boudrillard, Barthes) has sensitized sociologist to the growing saturation of social life in the current period with images (both the bristling diversity and colorfullness of everyday life: fashions, life-styles, designs, and the purposefully created images surrounding us and colonizing our life-space: TV, Internet, commercials, bilboards, shop-windows etc.). At the methodological level the technological advances in photography and other methods of visual registration making them widely available and relatively easy to use, have provided new opportunities of using photography, documentary film, video-registration for research purposes.  To put it briefly: our subject matter, society, has become more visible, observable than before, and we have acquired new powerful methodological tools of visual registration.

The session is intended to discuss the development of these new approaches, their chances and limitations. We shall argue that in our time they become an indispensable support of sociological imagination.

Organizer and moderator: Piotr Sztompka, Jagiellonian University, Poland
Introductory remarks titled Visible Meanings