Call for Papers
Control’s Other Side.4th Interdisciplinary Annual Seminar of the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology
9th-11th of February 2012, Bielefeld University
We welcome all contributions that deal with emergences, changes, disputes, failures and con-sequences of control regimes. Examples for possible research-fields are specified in the confer-ence-description below. We explicitly welcome contributions that deal with other empirical areas or tackle the overall conference topic on a theoretical or conceptiual level.
The conference language is English.
Abstracts should be not longer than 500 words.
We accept abstracts until the 31st of October 2011.
Key Note Speaker (among others):
Andreas Glaeser (University of Chicago)
There are no fees for participation in the conference.
Travelling expenses and accommodation will be covered within the frame of our budget for the ac-cepted speakers.
We encounter forms of control in all realms of social life: internalized moral attitudes on the individual level; national or pre-national rules of law; governmental and non-governmental regulatory agencies attempting to contain potentially harmful developments. An observation of the process of how control is set up and maintained allows us to get a better understanding of the institutionalisation of social order. At the same time, the analysis of control may help to learn something about the so-ciocultural justifications, which enable such an order. Important changes in the mechanisms of control in modernity can be traced back to these discursive developments.
Despite general compliance with controlling structures, there appears to be a frame of action for ’criti-cal reflection’ towards the established institutions of control. Control can never be seized as a totality and no attempt at control is without contradictions and ambivalences. Even if dominant claims over control are not entirely balanced by resistance, oppositional and everyday practices disturb the se-quences of control regimes by deliberately or unintentionally introducing functional mistakes, inconse-quentiality, open or concealed critique. An analysis of control therefore forces us to study its limits: Where are measures of control thought to be unsuccessful? Where do attempts to obtain control fail because no internalisation of norms or legitimization of existing norms has taken place? How are new forms of control possible despite the danger that they themselves will be doubted or rejected? Where does the seemingly constant need for control come from? Which conflicts and tensions constitute different forms of relationships between controlling structures and the objects of the control? And finally: Where and how is control modified by its resisting powers?
The interdisciplinary Annual Seminar of the BGHS this year focuses on the forces that limit, irritate, or modify control. The empirical or conceptual contributions should tackle the paradoxes, contradictions and ambivalences regarding control and discuss the social significance of control and its other side. We invite researchers (PhD level or advanced) to a productive exchange among the disciplines of history, sociology, economics, culture and literature studies as well as all others who can contribute to the topic. We welcome all contributions that deal with emergences, changes, disputes, failures and consequences of control regimes, stemming, for example, from the following research fields:
1. Control and political power
This field sets out an approach to political power and the state in terms of their controlling functions. We are interested in presentations that view state control and the legitimacy of political power as inter-dependently connected with social activities and individual conduct. Since order institutionalized through government authority can fail to achieve sufficient acceptance, we also invite contributions which elucidate political power and state regulation as a field of different conflicts and tensions through examples from different social levels. The institutionalized and informal implementations of norms and sanctions are practices with which societies define what should be seen as right or wrong. As a consequence, deviance and crime do not exist as givens that can be diminished by implementing a tighter regime of control. Rather, the regimes themselves participate in creating individuals such as the delinquent or the criminal. We encourage contributions about this organization of norms via state institutions of jurisdiction as mechanisms of normalization and as sources for the genesis and definition of insecurity, crime, deviance and thus the creation of the “Other”.
2. Control and economy
Economic survival depends on the need to make certain decisions about an uncertain future, and under those conditions, actors want to achieve as much control as possible. We are interested in presentations that analyse control in the economy from a number of perspectives, including (but not limited to) the following: Discussions on ‘political economy’ or ‘varieties of capitalism’, in particular on the way that corporations influence and the state regulates the market. (Relatedly, the effects of developments in economic theory could be given specific consideration.) While often viewed as simply ‘controlled’ by state and business organizations, the role of consumers as a third group of actors is pivotal in shaping the market through initiatives such as ‘fair trade’, by boycotts, initiatives to raise consumers’ awareness, calls for transparency and information equality, etc. We would like to stress that activity within the economic field controls, to an extent, its broader social, cultural and physical environments as well as being constrained by them. On that basis, we welcome papers that deal with this interplay, for example: the emergence of a ‘new spirit of capitalism’ (e.g. new forms of employee control in the ‘projective city’); changes in the perception of risk and responsibility (e.g. risk management, CSR, or other voluntary forms of control such as the ISO standards); or the role of economic actors and policy in concerns over climate change and ‘sustainability’.
3. Control and religion
Since ancient times, religion has played a significant role in establishing and maintaining social order. The influence of religion can be traced on different levels from macro-institutional structures (i.e. in church-state relationships, comparative secularisms, etc.) down to individual agency (i.e. to norms and values, worldviews and aspirations). But religious control has also been questioned from within and without. Prophetic traditions have been influential correctives to religious power in most religious traditions, and religion has been used to formulate strong critiques of control – while the Enlightenment questioned religious control at large. The secularization thesis predicted a disenchanted world, with an individual freed of ‘superficial’ and ‘traditional’ control. But not only is (public) religion still very vivid in late modernity; religion also plays a role for innovation and change of social order, whilst at the same time also offering rationales for resisting such change. Phenomena such as Pentecostals in South America, Islamic fundamentalism, New Age counterculture, or holistic spirituality – to mention a few – may shed some light on control and its other side. How are religious forms – conformist and nonconformist, world renouncing and world affirming, individualized and organized – used to both establish and resist social control? We therefore especially invite proposals dealing with transformations of religions in their – at times ambiguous – relation to social order and control at various levels.
4. Control and nature
To control nature has been an aim of science and technology since Francis Bacon’s traditional formu-lation. But this was not always the case. Nature for a long time counted as uncontrollable and as the encompassing setting for society. Which relationships did societies have with nature? How did the will to control and the means to control change over time? And in which regards does nature still retain some its uncontrollability and incalculability? Apart from this, the scientific control of nature itself requires control: After the great success of the natural sciences in the 19th and early 20th century, con-trol’s other side becomes more and more obvious in the recent environmental and technological catastrophes: dying forests, Chernobyl, climate change – this is only the tip of the iceberg of disturbances and resistances that the control of nature now encounters. Science- and Technology studies, risk-research and research in governance reflect those disturbances and the way that societies deal with them. Looking at Fukushima, the failure of technology and scientific control over nature seem more than just a current topic. But how do attempts to control and failures of control change over time? Are the different types of controls and its other side distinguishable? And what can we learn from that ambivalence of control in general?
5. Control and cultural discourses
In every historical period and social context the production of arts and cultural discourses have al-ways been objects of control and evaluation as main forms of representation of moral and of a cultural specificity of its time and space. How do such discourses nevertheless develop opposing points of view against established norms? What new social tendencies arise due to critique and resistance in mass media and arts? One example of the extreme threatening character of control of mass media and art is the restriction of freedom of opinion and of additional forms of representation in dictatorial societies, in which representatives of unofficial art or oppositional actors of media discourses are prosecuted. At the same time there are also controlling institutions in democratic societies that reveal their paradoxes and problems in attempts to influence the media discourses and the cultural production of their society.
6. Control and the body
Self-control and the correct presentation of the body are important criteria to show the determination and discipline with which actors can claim to adhere to their societies’ virtues. At the same time sufferings can be used as positive semantics for the demonstration of compliance. In these examples, the body can be conceptualized as a medium but also as an object of external control or of self-control. Since health and prevention have appeared as new semantics, the distinctions between insanity and society, health and illness, normality and pathology become more important. Health is defined and thus constructed by the medical and the political-economical discourses. In the context of such discourses it could be interesting to discuss the following questions: How can the pathological, the abnormal, be normalized despite a social stigma. And when is it found, how can it be defined as unproblematic? How can control also be internalized as self-control? How does control over all expressions of the own body and soul and the ability to competently handle even unusual situations (expressed for example by the semantic of ’coolness‘) become important, despite the increased pressure for the individual to take responsibility?
Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology
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