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Sociological Research and Public Debate

First ISA Forum of Sociology

Sociological Research and Public Debate

Barcelona, Spain
September 5 - 8, 2008



The idea of the Forum gathers and redefines the traditionally organised Research Council conference and the interim conferences of Research Committees. It will be an event with two kinds of programs: a general program conceived as a dialogue between RCs and made up of the papers presented by the RCs’ delegates to the Research Council conference, and the parallel programs of the RCs organised by them.

The general theme is Sociological Research and Public Debate and a comprehensive plan of communication will be elaborated trying to project as much as possible the Forum towards the media and citizenry, and organizing a series of debates open to general public amongst prominent sociologists participating in the event, specialists of other disciplines and relevant actors of the public sphere.


May 30, 2007
for sending a title of RC-WG-TG programme to the Scientific Committee Chair [email protected] and to the ISA Secretariat[email protected]

June 30, 2007
for sending RC-WG-TG call for papers to the Scientific Committee Chair [email protected] and to the ISA Secretariat [email protected]

January 31, 2008
for sending to the ISA Secretariat[email protected]:

a) RC_WG_TG final program with complete information (accepted papers and participants, session titles and chairs), and
b) travel grant applications (to be sent directly by applicants)

June 1, 2008
for pre-registration and submission of abstracts to the Cambridge Sociological Abstracts.


Participating research committees


Research Committee on Social Transformations and Sociology of Development RC09

Main theme: Social transformations and societies

If you wish to present a paper, please send your proposal with a title and a short description of the proposed paper (250 words) to the below listed sessions organizers by December 15, 2007.

Session 1: Transformations of social inequality and globalization

Organizer: Ulrike Schuerkens, EHESS, France, [email protected]
In development and transformation studies, the classical model of center-periphery is waning, as there are now new forms of global socio-economic inequality between countries of the geographic South and/or Eastern European countries. Some East Asian countries have known in recent decades economic and social developments that are unknown on the African continent. Thus we would like to ask several questions that may be tackled in the abstracts to be submitted for this session.

Does economic globalization lead to more socio-economic inequalities and, if so, at which scales? The answer may depend on local socio-cultural situations, especially if viewed from an historical perspective. Are globalization discourses used in order to justify and uphold inequities between different economies and/or is it possible to avoid inequality at the global scale? Do we need a global policy, which readjusts social and economic inequalities? Or should the market be allowed to balance these processes?

Why does wide inequality between rich and poor countries, between rich and poor people within countries, and between men and women continue despite strategies, resolutions, and policies? Are we currently confronting inequalities linked to the form taken by capitalism in the global era? Authors may consider that the market society is a competitive society with winners and losers at all levels and unless states take actions to influence market outcomes, the increasingly open trade may change the form of inequalities but may not resolve uneven development.

We invite papers that present challenging case studies within the theoretical perspective outlined here and ask authors to discuss the topic in particular geographic regions or by comparing several regions.

Session 2: Public sphere and capital cities in Asia: Competing claims over religious and democratic space

Organizers: Emma Porio, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines, [email protected] and and Habibul Haque Khondker, Zayed University, UAE, [email protected]
This panel will explore the role of selected capital cities in Asia as an arena for competition between religious use and democratic practice. Historical development of cities and the use of city space provide valuable clue to understanding the process of democratization in Asia. Historical understanding of city development and the use of public space also provide a glimpse of the colonial articulation.

In the nationalist struggles, cities like Manila and Dhaka played critical roles in developing a public sphere, paving the way for secularism and democratization in the Philippines and Bangladesh respectively. The exploration of the capital city and the public sphere drawing upon the colonial history and its influence on contemporary political developments will add an important and new dimension to the understanding of contemporary debates in Asia with regard to democratization.

The papers in this panel will touch on the public sphere in terms of the layout of public space in so far as the political use of space is concerned with competing classes and political parties as well as religious groups. Tensions between representations of regime power versus representations of democratic power over public spaces will also be explored. Various political regimes have used the national capital region as their platform for articulating representations of power before the nation and the world, while the opposition to hegemonic
power has contested the same public space.

The papers in this panel will concentrate on democracy and nationalism in the post-colonial and post-authoritarian era. Various papers and discussions in the panel will also touch on a comparative understanding of Asian city spaces as centers of influence both culturally and economically.

Session 3: The cultural wealth of nations

Organizers: Nina Bandelj, University of California, USA, [email protected], and Fredrick Wherry, University of Michigan, USA, [email protected]
When one sees national governments expending resources to market the non-tangible attributes of their countries for the sake of national economic development, one bears witness to the creation and maintenance of that nation's cultural wealth. We consider a country’s cultural wealth to include the number and the significance of its world heritage sites, its stock of art and artifacts exhibited in the top international museums of art, and the number of widely recognized international prizes earned by its citizens (among other things).

This session welcomes papers that explore the theoretical and empirical implications of the cultural wealth of nations, as a new approach in the sociology of development. The goal is to understand attempts to generate comparative advantage by virtue of the country's intangible (nearly priceless) qualities.
The themes addressed include:

  1. The Division of Labor: Where are the hot spots for handicrafts, artwork, music, and dance production? How did this division of cultural production come about?
  2. The Social Construction of Cultural Circumstances: How do countries frame their national identities when promoting tourism or when attracting foreign investment? How do these different framings give rise to economic inequalities among nation-states?
  3. Pricing Cultural Wealth: Are there forms of cultural wealth that were once "priceless," and if those forms of cultural wealth obtained an economic value, what explains their commodification?
  4. Analytic Strategies: What are the most robust methods for establishing the relationships among structural and cultural factors to understand how a country’s cultural wealth affects
    its economic outcomes?

Session 4: Understanding postsocialist transformations: The role of new actors and new institutions

Organizer: Nina Bandelj, University of California, USA, [email protected]
Since 1989, the Central and East European countries and the former Soviet Union have experienced significant change. Although many social scientists focus on the gradual nature of transformations and strong path-dependency, it is undeniable that the social, political and economic orders in this region are starkly different from the communist times. This session welcomes papers that investigate the role of new economic, social and political actors in facilitating the postsocialist transformations in East/Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.

We are interested in understanding how politics, discourses and legacies shape the new institutions and new (or reconstructed) actors, whose activity constitutes the postsocialist order. We welcome single country studies that specify the detailed mechanisms of change for individual cases or comparative studies that examine cross-national differences in these institutionalization processes.

Session 5: The state and development

Organizer: Wade Roberts, Colorado College, USA, [email protected]
The role and significance of the state and public institutions in development processes has received considerable and growing attention in the literature over the past two decades. State-building and "good governance" are now primary components of national development projects and the international development paradigm. This session invites papers that examine the multi-faceted relationship between the state and development. Among other topics, papers may address such issues as the causes and impact of failed and weak states, the institutional design of developmental states, and state-building and good governance as development.

Session 6: Migrant organizations in the transnational era

Organizer: Eric Popkin, Colorado College, USA, [email protected]
Scholarly interest in transnational migration has emerged in the context of the massive population movements that have occurred in the current era of globalization. Immigrants pursue either individual or collective relationships with the country of origin for a variety of reasons including the difficulty in obtaining economic security in either sending and receiving societies, racial and ethnic discrimination in the host society, and/or a desire to assist in the socioeconomic development of communities of origin often neglected by home governments or destroyed by civil conflict.

Migrant-led transnationalism includes maintaining kinship and social networks across borders, sending or receiving remittances, and the establishment of hometown associations that engage in collective community projects in the home region among other activities. The elaborate linkages between migrant sending and receiving areas that emerge lead some analysts to conceive of transnational migration as a phenomenon that may go beyond individuals and households, incorporating entire communities (migrant and non-migrant members) into the globalization process.

For this session, we would like to encourage theoretically orientated case studies or theoretical reflections based on empirical facts that focus on the emergence and development of migrant organizations that maintain linkages with their communities of origin. In particular, we are interested in papers that examine the commonalities and differences between migrant associations (either from the same or different national groups)in one host community (country), compare migrant organizations from the same national group in several receiving contexts, or assess how different migrant groups shape socio-economic development processes in one community (country) of origin.

Session 7: Multiple modernities, sociology of development, and postcolonial studies (Joint Session with TG02, Historical and comparative research)

Organizers: Ulrike Schuerkens, EHESS, France, [email protected] and Willfried Spohn, Catholic University of Eichstatt, Germany, [email protected]
Sociological approaches to the non-Western world are still moving in separate traditions. The sociology of development is, broadly speaking, based on revised modernization and Marxist approaches, having moved from structural-functional and evolutionist to more agency-oriented forms of neomodernization and neo-Marxist analysis. Post-colonial studies originated from a postmodernist critique of modernist and Marxist approaches to colonial and post-colonial societies, but having their home more in literary criticism and anthropology than sociology. The multiple modernities perspective has developed as a neo-Weberian alternative to modernist approaches to non Western societies, but more with regard to other world-civilization and world centres rather than peripheral or post-colonial societies.

This session invites theoretical and comparative-historical contributions to discuss and bridge these divides in analysing post-colonial and peripheral societies. If there are enough abstract submissions, RC09 will be able to organize the following additional session. A final decision on this session will be made in January 2008.

Session 8: Human Rights Paradigms and Movements: Third World Perspectives and Challenges

Organizer: Peter Chua, San Jose State University, USA, [email protected]
Papers may examine problems of discourse on universalism/relativism, basic needs (from overcoming poverty to providing shelter and cultural/legal rights to women, sexual minorities, and indigenous groups), civil liberties, and institutional protection in varying Third World and other transforming societies.

Working Group on
Social Indicators WG06

Main theme
Are things getting better or worse, and why?
The role of social indicators to inform public policy

Social Indicators – objective and subjective - have been designed primarily to measure the quality of life of the individual citizen and societal qualities, to monitor respective changes across time and to compare how people live in different nations as well as various population groups within countries. Indicator systems as well as social reports as a major application of social indicators research – which are currently being published regularly for numerous countries and world regions around the globe – are thus providing answers to the elementary but likewise challenging question: "Are things getting better or worse, and why?” Answers to this question may provide important information for the individual citizen – e.g. in his role as a voter – but even more so for various kinds of policy makers.

Public policy, which increasingly tends to be evidence-based at least to some extent, needs appropriate information in order to be able to identify needs for action, but also yardsticks and benchmarks allowing to evaluate the outcomes and success of policy measures. Beyond the descriptive information on how things are and whether they are changing to the better or worse, it is of crucial importance for any intelligent ‘steering’ and policy making to get causal insights into the mechanisms behind those processes.

The sessions organised by Working Group 06 ‘Social Indicators’ will provide opportunities to present results of research on monitoring trends in well-being and social progress and to reflect the role of social indicators and social reporting to inform and to guide public policy and public debate more generally. The Working Group welcomes different kinds of papers addressing these issues. Particularly welcome are papers on national and cross-national indicator-based monitoring of the quality of life and societies, papers on related methodological issues, and examples of ‘good practice’ in policy-relevant social measurement and reporting. Also papers discussing the characteristics which qualify or disqualify indicators as well as specific monitoring and reporting intiatives for policy making purposes would be welcomed.

Proposals, 1 page max., should be sent to Dr. Heinz-Herbert Noll,
[email protected]. The deadline for submission of abstracts is December 31, 2007.


a specific fund for giving grants to participants will be established. A Grants Committee constituted by representatives from ISA and the Local Organising Committee will be in charge for its distribution. Applications by participants in the RCs, WGs and TGs programs should be seconded by them.

Grant applications have to be sent directly by applicants to the ISA Secretariat [email protected] before January 31, 2008

Official web site

Please check the conference's official web site for further information and updates.


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