ISA Forum of Sociology

Common Sessions

Common Sessions approved by the Program Committee (August 2019)

Applying Intersectionality to Understanding Diverse Forms of Racialization  
17 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC05 Racism, Nationalism, Indigeneity and Ethnicity, RC31 Sociology of Migration and RC32 Women, Gender and Society
Organizers: Helma Lutz (RC05),  Evangelia Tastsoglou (RC32, RC31, RC05),  Nira Yuval-Davis (RC05, RC32)

Intersectionality has been one of the major sociological analytical frameworks of understanding social inequalities internationally and within many societies, locations and social groups. More recently, however, its general usefulness and politics have been questioned and become the subject of heated debates, such as the accusation of anti-semitism and appropriation by “white scholars” (“whitening”). This panel will explore some of these debates, analyze their methodological and political implications and assess the ways in which intersectionality can help analyze different forms of racialization.

The Life and Work of Erik Olin Wright  15 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC44 Labor and Labor Movements, RC02 Economy and Society, RC20 Comparative Sociology
Organizer: Michael Burawoy (RC44)

Internationally renowned sociologist Erik Wright has been lauded across the planet as scholar, teacher, colleague, and human being. He left us with an intellectual legacy that has two strands: class analysis and the exploration of real utopias.  On the one hand, starting with his dissertation in 1976, he advanced novel Marxist frameworks for the study of class – frameworks that he elaborated and tested in social surveys conducted in more than 15 countries, culminating in 1997 with the book Class Counts. On the other hand, starting in 1991, he began a seemingly different project to discover actually existing institutions, organizations and visions that exemplified socialist values of freedom, equality and solidarity, what he called real utopias.  The project has so far given rise to a series of 6 investigations of real utopias – associational democracy, market socialism, recasting egalitarianism, deepening democracy, basic income grants, and gender equality. They are all based on conferences at the Havens Center in Madison, Wisconsin (recently renamed the Havens Wright Center) and published by Politics and Society and Verso. Wright wrote two programmatic assessments, one in 2010, Envisioning Real Utopias and a second one, intended as a guide to “strategic logics” to transform capitalism, completed only a few months before he died: How to be an Anticapitalist in the 21st Century (Verso, 2019 forthcoming).  

The Politics of the Population Census: Key Indicators for Sustainable Development? 
16 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC41 Sociology of Population, RC55 Social Indicators, RC02 Economy and Society, RC09 Social Transformations and Sociology of Development, RC11 Sociology of Aging
Organizers: Walter Bartl (RC41, RC55) and Christian Suter (RC02, RC55)

The slogan „Better Data, Better Lives“ of the United Nations Statistical Commission captures the widespread instrumental belief that better information, such as collected through the 2020 World Population and Housing Census, will lead not only to better collective decision making but also to better individual results. However, this instrumental view becomes debatable if we look at the performative effect of counting populations. By producing key indicators on the populations to be governed censuses shape the knowledge of democracies about its demos in important ways. The systematic description of standardised features of the population transforms the object itself by defining those to be included and the classification of subgroups. Hence, otherwise latent subgroups become visible by their operationalisation and description through certain indicators. For example, the US census created racial categories that ultimately came to represent heterogeneous populations as homogeneous and consequentially changed patterns of identification in private and in public life, which are very different from the patterns of identification in Brazil. On the other hand avoiding the application of existing social classifications during the production of population indicators, might contribute to a blurring of social boundaries but also to a neglect of social problems relating to particular subgroups. This common session aims at exposing the current state of the art on the politics of the population census and sparking a more vivid sociological debate on what some may see as a rather technical and hence uncontroversial field of inquiry. 

Climate Change and Collective Action towards Societal Transition   
16 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC17 Sociology of Organization, RC24 Environment and Society, RC48 Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change
Organizers: Debra Davidson (RC24), Robert Jungmann (RC17), John Foran (RC48)

The landscape of climate politics is shifting rapidly, from social movement activity such as the ‘Water is Life’ Movement, involving a coalition of over 350 Native American tribes and countless non-indigenous supporters seeking to oppose a new oil pipeline through the central U.S. and the ongoing protests of Fridays for Future, to rapid technological developments aiding in the increased viability of renewable energy at multiple scales, to the mass movement of people forced to migrate at least in part to the impacts of climate change on local livelihoods, and recent efforts of big companies like Volkswagen to reframe themselves as climate-aware.
While until recently climate change has been relegated to the fringes of politics as an ‘environmental issue,’ today climate change is undeniably at the heart of growing concern over the ability to pursue global democracy, equality, economic development, health and food security.
Sociologists have not only produced crucial knowledge about climate change and societal transition; we have also engaged in a significant amount of disciplinary reflexivity, as the global challenges we face today force a reckoning with many elements of our epistemology, from our reliance on nation-states as a unit of analysis, the interwoven dynamics of human and nonhuman elements as well as organizations and movements in coordinating collective action, the problematic focus on formal organizations as central actors in driving transitions, and increasing recognition of the intersectional determinants of inequity. There nonetheless remains a pressing need for further sociological attention, in particular to the mechanisms of coordinating collective action in supporting or hindering social change. Far too many policy prescriptions to date, however well-intended, have fallen short of expectations, in large part due to overly simplistic understandings of human and social practice. Devoting time at the Forum to dialogue with sociologists deeply engaged in understanding the mechanisms of collective action in the context of climate change and societal transition can not only provide an opportunity for sharing knowledge and ideas, it can also inspire conceptual innovation. We therefore aim to initiate discussions between scholars engaged in the sociology of the environment and researchers focussing on organizations and movements as two important types of mobilizing collective action. The panel will follow the Koppel method, in which each panelist will provide a short presentation, after which a facilitator will ask each panelist a set of questions, followed by open Q&A discussion with attendees.

Gender, Democracy and Inequality in Latin America  15 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC32 Women, Gender, and Society, RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, CLACSO GT Critical thinking and emancipatory practices, and Argentinian Sociological Association GT Gender and Society
Organizers Melanie Heath and Alicia I. Palermo (RC32)

The contributions of Chicana and Black feminists, questioning the complexity of gender relations and proposing intersectionality, have advanced the understanding of the dynamics of gender inequalities. The social processes that the countries of Latin America are experiencing in the second decade of the 21st century imply processes of reconfiguration of a new political scenario in the region, framed in the global crisis of capitalism and in the neoconservative offensive, which implies a regression of the advances that have been made in social policy, such as gender equality and racial justice. In the global context, this crisis is manifest in political, economic, financial, environmental, human rights and scientific areas, among others, and in the strengthening of neoliberal hegemony. Increasing processes of social and economic marginalization, concentration of wealth and precariousness of work (Castel and Dörre, 2009), the migratory crisis, ethnic and gender intolerance have led not only to the dismantling of citizens' rights but also to the strengthening of ultra-right groups and even ultra-right, xenophobic and nationalist political parties. This setback in rights aggravates or increases inequality in one of the most unequal regions of the world—Latin America. Nationalist politics weakens democracies, because the state is not capable of processing the demands of all and uses authoritarian methods of control. This is why social protest is criminalized, social expenditures are being cut, and precarious employment grows, among other problems.
On the other hand, it is necessary to highlight the emergence of new spaces that promote participation and social integration, the struggles of different feminisms and the strong participation in these movements of young people and dissident identities, as well the implementation of public policies of different types: affirmative, distributive and welfare. The scope of the social is widened, which seeks to promote new rights, and new approaches are conceived that give foundation to social policies and actions.
This panel will discuss the contributions of thinking about gender inequalities and their intersections with other relevant categories to analyze the social consequences of rightwing setbacks, as well as movements for social justice, in Latin America.

Democracy, Inequalities, Intersectionality: A tribute to Marielle Franco   
16 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC 05 Racism, Nationalism, Indigeneity and Etnicity, RC 25 Sociology of language, RC 29 Deviance and Social Control, RC34 Sociology of Youth, RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements, RC48 Social Movements, Collective Actions and Social Change, RC53 Sociology of Childhood, RC56 Historical Sociology, ALAS, CLACSO
Organizers Lucia Rabello De Castro (RC53) and Geoffrey Pleyers (RC47)

Marielle Franco was a 38-year old Brazilian sociologist, a single mother, a defender of human rights and a local councillor of the city of Rio de Janeiro. She was murdered on March 14th 2018. Ever since, she has become a global symbol of a struggle against racist, colonial, hetero-patriarchal domination and police violence and for social justice, human rights and democracy. Her life as a black woman from the favelas shows that intersectionality is not only a theoretical concept. It is a daily life experience for millions of women living in slums all over the world, suffering from racism, patriarchal and economic discriminations. As a single-mother, black, homosexual and politically active woman that lived in a favela, she also shows how paths of personal and collective emancipation find their roots in daily life experience, communities, feminist conviction as well as in social policy and in the right to higher education. Her life also exemplifies the importance of opening careers of sociology beyond the middle and higher class. Sociology played indeed a major role in this path towards emancipation, as she attended classes in her favela and then graduated at the university. She kept acting as a sociologist, a social activist and a political actor until the end, as she was in charge of a report on military violence in Rio’s favelas, which is the most probable reason of her assassination.

Knowledge, Social Inequalities and Power in Latin America 17 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC07 Futures Research, RC09 Social Transformations and Sociology of Development, RC12 Sociology of Law, ALAS GT10
Organizer Miguel Serna Forcheri, ALAS

Sociological reflection in Latin America has paid attention to the mechanisms of reproduction of traditional and contemporary forms of inequality and domination, such as gender inequalities, ethnic inequalities, access to and use of digital technologies among others, as well as its differential impact in the territories. Some of the results of the investigations display the link of these inequalities with the existence of different public policies as well as actions of the social movements that intervene. The pro-rights movements around diversity, gender inequalities among others, add to the more traditional actions of workers and business actions. Knowledge, inequality and power are recurrent topics in the debate of sociology of all times that acquires particular relevance in the agenda of contemporary sociology. Several factors and reasons contribute to its prominence. On the one hand, sociological reflection is linked to its relation to society and the historical context. From classical authors, through critical theory, to decolonial and decentered readings of sociological knowledge and social sciences, there is a permanent and recurrent concern with the intellectual commitment of sociology to the society. The role of social commitment and intellectual criticism assumes various forms, but most of the time criticizing the structures of domination and authoritarianism. On the other hand, the role of epistemological criticism is also exercised within the scientific field, hierarchical power structures and uses of different knowledge in society.

Knowledge Production and Circulation in an Unequal World  15 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Common Session endorsed by RC08 History of Sociology, RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, RC56 Historical Sociology
Organizer: Aysa Saktanber (RCC)

At the beginning of the 1990s, when the "globalization" spread worldwide there was an extended belief that nation-state limits had been erased once and forever. But some time later we realized that the phenomenon only applied for peripheral nation-states, while the central countries were increasingly protectionist. Within the scientific realm something similar occurred. International publishing, networks, invisible colleges were supposed to replace national attachments and this was also going to blur traditional academic powers such as the US, UK or France. “Mainstream” journals were universalized as synonymous of “global science” while it was the result of a particular style of writing forged by bibliometrical indicators that boosted journals published in English. In this process, Citation Indexes, Impact Factor and mainstream databases were globalized as means to evaluate institutions and individual careers, fading the fact that these databases, created on the basis of ISI-Web of Science, were highly endogamous. The “mainstream” was successfully identified with the top universities selected in World University Rankings which became progressively more dependent on “citation impact” along with its central role in funding competitions. This particular form of universality didn’t increase cosmopolitanism but inequalities and segmented circuits of circulation.

During the second half of XXth century, the opposition between scientific centers and peripheries was reinforced by indicators that were considered objective and neutral, such as public investment in research and development. Publishing became one of the most valuable assets to affirm centrality and, at the same time marginalize “peripheriality”. The classification/peripheralization of the non-mainstream communities was fulfilled through its displacement from the worldwide publishing reports. As a result, the mainstream-periphery dichotomy was successfully “globalized” –being the first the autonomous/universalist and the latter the dependent/parochial. This session will analyze these inequalities around the circulation of knowledge and the potential of Sociology for its understanding and boosting alternative kinds of circulation.

Another World Is (still) Possible: 20 Years of World Social Forum and the Future of Global Movements  17 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC44 Labor Movements, RC47 Social Classes and Social Movements, RC48 Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change
Organizer Sabrina Zajak (RC47)

In January 2001, the city of Porto Alegre hosted the first World Social Forum. The meeting was thought as a counterweight to the World Economic Forum and neoliberal globalization and it implemented the slogan of the Via Campesina: “Globalize the Struggle, Globalize the Hope”. The Forum gathered four times in Porto Alegre (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005), the latest edition gathering over 170.000 people from 132 countries, with the slogan “Another world is possible”. Its latest meeting took place in Bahia in 2018. Two decades later, the city hosts the ISA Forum of Sociology in a very different context, far from the hope of global justice, tolerance and deep democracy raised by the World Social Forum. This panel will be the opportunity to gather balances from the World Social Forum process over two decades, to analyze its success, its limits, its internal debate, its difficulties to connect with the 2010s major movements and its contributions to the building of a global movement in the 21st century.

Youth Activism: Contributions to the Democratic Movements of the 2010s, Repression and New Challenges 15 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Common Session endorsed by RC34 Sociology of Youth, RC53 Sociology of Childhood, CLACSO GT Youth and Childhood
Organizer: Carels Feixa (RC34)

All over the 2010 decade, young people have proven they were major of actors of social movements, revolutions and democracies. From the Arab spring to the recent revolutions in Sudan and the prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong, they have developed different ways in taking part in protest and in setting up alternative. Young activists are however far from a homogenous category. Some of them have joined political or movement organizations, other stick to more autonomous cultures of activism such as alter-activism, neo-anarchism or autonomous projects. Many combine features of various culture of activism While young activists have foster the hope of democratization all over the decade, they have also face an increasing repression by authoritarian, illiberal and democratic regimes. From the analysis of these movements and mobilizations, in this panel we propose to address the ways that youth political practice acquires in the second decade of the 21st century describing different ways of understanding the political and highlighting the centrality that young people have had in both the traits that these experiences acquired as well as in their interpretation.

Democracy, Inequalities, Intersectionality: Perspectives from the Global South 
17 July 2020: 17:45 - 19:45
Endorsed by RC10 Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management, RC56 Historical Sociology, CODESRIA
Organizer: Isabel Maria Casimiro, CODESRIA

This common session provides a space for perspectives from Africa and South Asia on the ISA Forum themes: Democracy, Environment, Inequalities, Intersectionnality. Based on recent research in their country and regional approaches, the panellist of this session will provide insights from the Global South to a better understanding of these four major global challenges, their interconnections and the way actors and researchers tackle them in different contexts. They will ask how our discipline has been meeting these four global challenges and it has been transformed by them. What are the new trends in global sociology that allow innovative analyses of these challenges? What are the main obstacles we face to tackle these problems? How can innovative sociological analyses contribute to grasp and to face our common problems in the Global Age?