Keynotes

Keynote Speakers

Michel Agier – École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Empathy as method: reflections on the ethnographic encounter

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Wendy Espeland – Northwestern University (US)

Visibility and Invisibility Through Numbers

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Lonnie Athens - Seton Hall University, New York

Park’s Theory of the Human Habitat: A Radical Interactionist’s Critique

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Michel Agier is a French ethnologist and anthropologist, Professor at the Development Research Institute and as well as the School of Higher Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. His research focuses on the relationships between globalization, places of exile, and the formation of new urban contexts. Engaged in the associative world, Michel Agier militates for the opening of borders for migrants. ( Adapted from https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Agier )

Professor Wendy Espeland works in the areas of organizations, culture, and law. Her book, The Struggle for Water: Politics, Rationality and Identity in the American Southwest was awarded the Best Book Prize by the Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, the Rachel Carson Award from the Society for the Social Studies of Science, and the Louis Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration. (From http://www.sociology.northwestern.edu/people/faculty/core/wendy-espeland.html )

Lonnie Athens is Professor of Criminal Justice. His research interests  are in criminology; domination,violence, and conflict; and naturalistic methods. He is the author of three books : Domination and Subjugation in Everyday Life, The Creation of Dangerous Violent Criminals, and Violent Criminal Acts and Actors Revisited. He also has edited or co-edited several anthologies, including Violent Acts and Violentization: Assessing, Applying and Developing Lonnie Athens’ Theories  and Radical Interactionism on the Rise. (From https://www.shu.edu/profiles/lonnieathens.cfm)

Conferences’ abstract below

Wendy Espeland - Northwestern University (US)

Visibility and Invisibility Through Numbers

How does quantification shape what we do and do not notice, what we act on and what we ignore?
Efforts to count and quantify people, practices and organizations can have powerful effects for how members and others know themselves and their communities. Drawing on three cases where the stakes of representation are high, I analyze how quantification makes possible and highlights certain understandings and assumptions about identity, at the same time that it obscures others. Using evidence from a range of ethnographic methods and archival work, I examine how measures of sexual behavior shaped the gay rights movement in the United States; how efforts to quantify the social impacts of a proposed forced relocation of a Native American tribe influenced their participation in fateful public policy; and the role that university rankings have played in how professional and
organizational identities are understood and contested. These cases reveal that quantification can help produce visible identities that can give rise to political mobilization; it can erase what some understand as the core features of their cultural heritage; and it can reconstruct status systems that shape how opportunities are distributed and how organizations compete with one another. The force and stakes of quantification require the depth of understanding and flexibility that qualitative methods offer because they reconstruct meaning, power, and participation in dynamic and sometimes provisional ways.

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Lonnie Athens - Seton Hall University, New York

Park’s Theory of the Human Habitat: A Radical Interactionist’s Critique

When Park died, he left his theory of the human habitat not only incomplete, but in considerable disarray. Although few present-day scholars have demonstrated much interest in building on this critical body of Park’s work, which was based by him on dominance, it probably represents his most important contribution to American sociology. I argue that the key to systemizing his highly discursive account of the human habitat is to view it from an emergent social evolutionary perspective, which makes it possible to differentiate his notion of “community” from “society,” as well as explain how they can logically be viewed as both separate and unified entities. A community is not only a necessary stage in the social evolutionary process of producing a society, but it also provides the habitat needed for a society’s later emergence. Among other things, Park’s theory of the human habitat is also criticized for its failure to (1) distinguish dominance from domination, (2) identify the reciprocal relationship existing between power and domination, (3) accurately characterize the nature of the economic order operating in communities, and (4) explicitly demarcate a pre-literate communal stage that precedes the communal one in the social evolutionary process leading to the development of a society. In passing, I also point out critical, but often overlooked aspects about Park’s theory of the human habitat that contradict popular, but uninformed characterizations of his work as being purblind to the operation of dominance and power, social Darwinist, conservative, sexist, and racist. Finally, I deduce the implications of his theory for the future emergence of a “world society.”

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