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


RC homepage


Research Committee on
the Body in the Social Sciences RC54

Programme Coordinator

Bianca Maria Pirani, “Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy,

Congress Programme


Sessions descriptions

Session 1: The architectures of the body: the cultural evolution of embodied action in technologies and social habitats
Organizer Bianca Maria Pirani, University of “Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy, biancamaria.pirani@uniroma1.it
Embodiment is a complex phenomenon that envelops both the locative, perceiving active body I am and body permeated with the cultural significances that are also experienced. Human bodies are an intriguing pivot for theory, and it is difficult to imagine any geography that would matter without them. They straddle the dichotomy erected between nature and culture, their space both influenced by social relations and influencing what forms these social relations may take. Embodiment affects the way we approach cities, the way we evelop, and practice a sense of place. According to the definition of habitus by Bourdieu, Bourdieu P. (2008), The Logic of Practice, Stanford: Stanford University Press]: “the active present of past experiences”- “embodied action” is a precious key to unlock the doors into the unmapped and unexplored cultural and ethical conditions of the current state of social memory.

Session 2: Technology, physiology and memory
Organizer: Guido Nicolosi, University of Catania, Italy, gnicolos@unict.it
Man is no longer considered the only ‘tool-user/maker’ amongst living beings, nevertheless ‘modern Homo Sapiens is the most constructive and the most destructive life form on this planet’ (Gibson). Furthermore, Man is a species bundled together with technology. We are changing our image of the human species, replacing Man considered solely as an evolving biological (or genetic) form, with Man bundled together with technology and culture as an evolutionary package. Moreover, even the classical dualistic ‘individual/society’ image appears blurred: human technical skills are embodied skills where individual intentionality, creativity and dexterity are inextricably interweaved with social pragmatic memories.

This is the main topic of this session. Several questions arise from this socio-anthropologic assumption. Probably, the most important concerns how social organization and technology co-develop. In this respect, in the last twenty years, we witnessed an epistemological ‘paradigm shift’ introducing a revolutionary dynamic characterization within scientific evolutionary theory. Today many scientists claim that organisms do not simply adapt to their pre-existing environments, but are themselves active agents orientated to modify and co-construct the world where they live. This point makes constructive processes the core of any scientific reflection on Man. But technique is a ‘bodily skilled practise’ (Ingold) which often, but not necessarily, implies the use of a tool, that is an extra-somatic object.

This definition let us to consider technique as a bottom-up social practise, a ‘property’ of the agent-environment relation system. A dimension, therefore, embedded within a specific experience in a local context. But what about very recent history? The attention of many social scientists over the last three decades has been given over to understanding the social implications of digital technology. This technology - ICT, biotechnologies, bio-nano-info-technologies, etc. - is crucially associated with the human body, and pose new challenges for body analysis.

Session 3: Embodying computational power
Organizer: Tatiana Mazali, Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, tatiana.mazali@polito.it
Embedding “computational power” inside objects, place is the technological trend of the next future so as embedding “memory power” inside object, place and also on bodies. Which kind of social, political cultural power is going to be embedded or enabled in object and places? This session aims to explore in particular the social and cultural relations between body and object, actual places in the Internet of Things scenario. In this emerging cultural context, that is constantly redefined and remediated by individual and personalized forms of elaboration, it is important to understand the way in which every single person or group, through embodied actions, leads his/her own way towards re-appropriation of the technological realm.
This session aims to explore potential and real capacities of these new technologies to generate a creative use among individuals or collectivities.

Session 4: Social habitats and high-tech: the internet of things
Organizers: Gianni Corino, University of Plymouth, UK, gianni.corino@plymouth.ac.uk and Chris Speed, Edinburgh College of Art, UK, c.speed@eca.ac.uk
Ubiquitous computing, locative media and electronic tagging is moving data from hard-disks into the street, and building networks between people, objects and places. The established territorial boundaries that formerly distinguished shoppers from shops, consumers from producers, and friends from strangers are beginning to disappear. Technology of the near future will support our embodiment of an entire social habitat as we begin to‘see’ the connections, relations and resources that constitute its sense of society.
This panel asks: How will this emerging habitat transform the social transactions that bind economic, cultural and personal relations?

Session 5: Waving the bloody body: The modern mobilization of a wounded imagery on behalf of multiple identities
Joint session of RC36 Alienation Theory and Research and RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences [host committee]

Session 6: The evolution of the social brain
Key note session
Jarl-Ake Anders  Risberg, President of the Swedish Neuropsychological Society, University of Lund, Sweden, will give a lecture on The Evolution of the Social Brain and will introduce the book The Frontal Lobes. Development, Function and Pathology, Jarl-Ake Anders Risberg, Jordan Grafman (eds.) Cambridge University Press, 2006.
He will also present a preview of the new book by Elkhonon Goldberg, The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex World , Oxford University Press, 2009.

Session 7: Bodies in action: The nature of the social mind
Organizer:Bianca Maria Pirani, “Sapienza”, University of Rome, Italy,
According to the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology, the session intends to study how our interactions shape our emotional habits and sculpt the brain trough the interactional sets. As Daniel Goleman points out (Goleman D., Social Intelligence, New York, arrow books) “We are wired to connect”. Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge let us impact the brain-and so the body-of everyone we interact with, just as they do us. The more strongly connected we are with someone emotionally, the greater the mutual force. Emotions are adaptive reactions to life situations, which in the human almost always involve social relations. The session suggests the body as the result of the interaction among the biological substratum and the whole of relations and emotional experiences.

Session 8: Body and nature in leisure: A gender perspective body and nature in leisure
Joint session of RC13 Sociology of Leisure and RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences [host committee]

Session 9: Bodies and religions
Organizer: Nicola Porro, University of Cassino, Italy, nicolaporro@gmail.com
According to Rosmini, Catholic priest, philosopher and founder of a religious congregation, our starting point is the consciousness of one’s own corporeity that allows feeling life in all its expressions, therefore, to become aware of the external events. Thanks to the body we can perceive what is external and foreign. The feeling of belonging derives from the body as well as the conception of oneself and of the other. Corporeality offers an extraordinary supply of religious meaning: it is language, message, in one word it is culture and one can experience it through gesture, communication, intelligence, awareness and consciousness.

Session 10: Movement and diversity
Organizer: Florent Gaudez, Université Pierre-Mendès-France, France, florent.gaudez@upmf-grenoble.fr

Session 11:  The boundaries of the body
Joint session of RC36 Alienation Theory and Research and RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences [host committee]

Session 12: Round table
Presentation of the RC54 book 'Acting Bodies and Social Networks: A bridge between Technology and Working Memory'. Edited by B.M. Pirani and Ivan Varga (2009).
Chair: Devorah Kalekin-Fishaman, University of Haifa, Israel

Session 13: Business Meeting

Session 14:  Gender, work and bodies
Joint session of RC36 Alienation Theory and Research and RC54 The Body in the Social Sciences [host committee]