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


RC homepage


Research Committee on
Community Research RC03


Programme Coordinator
Rachel Harvey, Columbia University, USA, rmh2148@columbia.edu

Congress Programme

Sessions descriptions

Session 1: Communities, tribes, and consumption
Organizer: Ada Cattaneo, IULM Univeristy, Italy, ada@adacattaneo.com

Session 2: Social capital, political and civic participation, and electoral systems
Joint session of RC03 Community Research [host committee] and RC18 Political Sociology

Session 3: Spanning research silos: Integrating multiple perspectives of the global city and its communities
Organizer: Herman L. Boschken, San Jose State University, United States, Boschken_h@cob.sjsu.edu
The term “global city” is evolving to connote a unique urban habitat acting as a portal and stage for world connectivity. It bestows an image that is contemporary, international, multicultural, “wired,” cosmopolitan, congested, polarizing, vulnerable to world crises, but commanding geographically-boundless (trans-territorial) spheres of influence. Global cities are distinguished from “less-global” cities along a number of continuums: by their role as agglomerated corporate command centers for the global economy, by the multiple and variegated “scenes” played out on their world stages of art, architecture, entertainment and research, by diverse lifestyles representing a global village that originate from different cultures and social-psychological preferences, by their global “gateways” through which world communities migrate, and by the unique experiments in public/private partnerships that often govern their urban policymaking.

Such a multiple-attribute condition has been studied mostly by slicing up global-city research according to different (often competing) disciplines or research “silos.” This begs several questions: What have we overlooked in the area of integrating relationships? Is global-city sustainability simply the sum of its parts or is it especially different because of the synergies and myriad of relationships that sew the fabric of the city together? Do global cities shape their communities (and their social content) differently than less-global cities? What forces at work in global cities cause some communities to be marginalized? This session seeks papers from any of the silos that are able to shed light on how their particular discipline contributes answers to these and related questions, and to a multiple-perspectives integration of the research on global cities.

Session 4: Communities as ‘cultural scenes’: Exploring the impact of culture on community socio-political processes and local policies
Organizer: Clemente J. Navarro, Universidad Pablo de Olavide,  Spain, cnavyan@upo.es
Culture is a rising explanatory factor of community life and its socio-political processes.
Together with the classical axis of social differentiation and their socio-political cleavages (class, race, income,..), new socio-political processes are emerging rooted by a ‘new cleavage’ regarding lifestyles and cultural consumption (i.e. ‘new politics’, ‘life style politics’, ‘new political culture’ or ‘unconventional political culture’). From this perspective, communities and cities appear as ‘cultural scenes’ where people, groups and political elites interact and are involved in politics according to lifestyle issues. Instead of growth and/or redistribution, events, public spaces and amenities, as opportunities to cultural consumption and cultural diversity expression, are the new issues, sometimes constituting explicit ‘cultural policies’ by local governments. 

At individual level, the emerging ‘cultural cleavage’ seems to explain the importance of new forms of informal mobilization to explain political participation (i.e. similar places or acts of cultural consumption) or new forms of political involvement (i.e. political consumerism). And communities seems to be different according to the spread of unconventional political culture, or, for instance, the presence of a tolerant ‘creative class’ or an antiestablishment ‘neo-bohemian group’ claiming specific community events and spaces, that is to say, scenes for cultural consumption. The presence and differences regarding these ‘cultural scenes’ (among cities and/or among neighborhoods) is influencing patterns of political participation, the issues that emerge in public debate, citizenry demands to local governments, the orientation about local public policies, as well as priorities stressed by local leaders and policies developed by local governments. The session is intended to discuss the development of this ‘cultural approach’ to analyze community socio-political dynamics and local policies.

Session 5: Business Meeting

Session 6: Migration, communities, and economic crises
Organizers: Simone Buechler, University of Illinois at Chicago, United States, simone.buechler@gmail.com and Stephanie Buechler, University of Arizona, United States, buechler@email.arizona.edu   
The current global economic crisis has forced us to reconceptualize long-studied areas of inquiry such as the connections between migrants and their communities.  Empirical research is being challenged by the fast-paced yet uneven nature of the changes resulting from the crisis.  Theory building must be adapted to the discontinuities induced by the realities of a global economic downturn. International and internal migrants and their multi-faceted communities of origin and destination have reacted to and been impacted by the current global economic crisis in different ways. 

Communities of origin have been impacted, for instance, by declining remittances and unemployed return migrants.  Destination communities have also seen huge increases in immigrant unemployment, day laborers, foreclosures of immigrant-owned homes, discrimination, and negative impacts on immigrant businesses.  The session will focus on further elaboration of these effects, as well as explore whether past downturns have had similar impacts on immigrants and their communities.  The social, cultural, and political factors mediating and shaping the responses of and impacts on migrants and their communities of origin and destination (such as gender, border culture, migration policy, etc.), will also be explored.  The degree to which these effects of the economic crisis are likely to be lasting or ephemeral will also be assessed.  This session invites papers that address any of these historical and/or current relationships between migration, communities and economic crises.  

Session 7: Was Tocqueville wrong? New challenges to social capital, civic engagement, and politics
Organizer: Filipe Carreira da Silva, University of Lisbon, Portugal, rmh2148@columbia.edu
Through the Fiscal Austerity and Urban Innovation (FAUI) project, the development of a New Political Culture in cities in the US and abroad since the mid-1970s has been abundantly documented. This new normative cluster of values and practices is the corollary of the cumulative combination of many previous social changes, some of them mutually contradictory in terms of the traditional class political model: e.g. the last decades have seen moves 1) toward social liberalism (captured in the Postmaterialist index and other items), and 2) toward fiscal conservatism. In addition, there has been a significant rise in salience of culture and the arts in the past few decades, the political significance of which is yet to be properly explored. In this session, we suggest that one takes a global view on these general changes in political culture and combines them with detailed local analyses of urban processes of change. As a result, we expect a compelling case to emerge for one to discard the orthodox Tocqueville–Putnam model of political participation and legitimation through formal associations. This session welcomes papers that address these questions. Particularly welcome are papers that make use of original empirical data and innovative theoretical frameworks.

Session 8: Cultural explanation of community politics and policies
Organizer: Elaine B. Sharp, University of Kansas,  USA, esharp@ku.edu
In recent years, attention to culture-war controversies at the nation-state level as well as research on the socio-demographic cleavages underlying those conflicts has led to more serious attention to parallel forms of cultural, or perhaps more appropriately sub-cultural explanation at the community level.  Such sub-cultural explanation focuses on the emergence of communities with unconventional, or non-traditional cultures and on the ways in which the politics and policies of such communities consequently differ from those in communities with conventional or traditional sub-cultures. 

The axes differentiating conventional from unconventional sub-cultures involve lifestyle and identity politics, such as sexual and gender roles, creative class occupations, and religiosity.  In some formulations, racial identity and/or tolerance of racial diversity are also part of the differentiation. Sub-cultural differentiation along these lines is claimed to have supplanted traditional lines of cleavage based upon social class and political party affiliation.  However, questions remain about the conceptualization and measurement of sub-cultural differences and about the range of sociopolitical phenomena at the community level that are appropriately subjected to culturalist explanation. 

While the approach is most obviously relevant for understanding communities’ handling of culture-war issues such as abortion protest, gay rights policies, the regulation of the sex industry, and introduction of gambling establishments, it has also been linked to changing forms of local political engagement more broadly.  Linkage to still other spheres of local decision-making, such as economic development, the politics of policing and other routine urban services, local public health programming, environmental justice, and many other issue areas is in its infancy, but holds some promise.   
The session is intended to discuss the development of this cultural framework, the conceptual and empirical challenges still confronting the framework, and new empirical analyses that extend the range of this style of explanation.

Session 9: Urban communities and citizen action in an age of democratic distrust
Organizer: Stephen Sawyer, American University of Paris, France, Stephen.Sawyer@ens.fr
Unprecedented levels of abstention, crises in citizen confidence, and low levels of associative activity, have all contributed, it has been argued, to a general malaise in democratic politics. How are we to understand the drastic shifts that seem to be taking place in citizen activity as old civic communities appear to be declining? While the changes in our present democratic culture are profound, do they represent a paradise lost or do we simply lack the necessary tools for understanding recent broader shifts in citizen communities and democratic legitimacy that, once understood, might actually strengthen new citizen demands? This panel will explore shifts in citizen politics and their relationship to urban communities. Topics may focus on, but are not limited to, contemporary democratic practices and their relation to neighborhood community politics, the rise of new forms of civic engagement, urban environments and cosmopolitan communities, and shifts in community and civic engagement.

Session 10: Political and civic participation, democracy, and citizenship beliefs
Organizer: Hilde Coffé, Utrecht University, Netherlands, h.r.coffe@uu.nl
A participatory public is seen as crucial for the well-functioning of democracy and has been a central topic in social science scholarship. To understand political and civic participation, studies have often focused on voting and membership in voluntary associations. However, with citizens in Western industrialized nations becoming more highly educated, technologically sophisticated, and policy and issue oriented, citizens are seeking out new ways of engaging that reflect such skills and goals (e.g. ethical shopping, boycotting product, e-activism). The meaning of political and civic participation can thus benefit from a broader definition of active citizen engagement. Also, little is known about whether or how much citizens view participation as an important part of their role as citizen. Discussions of democracy, and political and civic participation are often forwarded with little consideration of how they are viewed by citizens themselves. This session invites papers on political and civic participation, and papers investigating citizens’ atttitudes towards democracy and/or their role as citizen.

Joint sessions hosted by other RC

Session 11: The Impact of im/migration on urban culture, public arts and public space
Joint session of RC03 Community Research and RC21 Regional and Urban Development [host committee]