From the Past to the Present and towards Possible Futures: The Collected Works of Norbert Elias
College Court, University of Leicester, 20th–22nd June 2014
Call for Papers
‘One cannot ignore the fact that every present society has grown out of earlier societies and points beyond itself to a diversity of possible futures.’
‘Today we have basically lost the ability to think of a future. Most people do not want to go beyond their present – they do not like to see themselves as a link in the chain of generations’ – Norbert Elias, 1987
In 2014 the eighteenth and final volume of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias in English will be published by University College Dublin Press.
The mammoth undertaking, in association with the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam, and under the stewardship of Professor Stephen Mennell, has taken a decade to bring to fruition. It brings together the entire corpus of Elias’s works, featuring many writings previously unpublished or not hitherto translated into English, faithfully representing his core ideas and his overall sociological position.
The conference marking the completion of the whole project will appropriately be held at the University of Leicester, where Elias lived and taught from 1954 to 1977. It both honours Elias’s association with the University of Leicester, and recognises the widespread, international and interdisciplinary interest in his work, and its resurgence within the University and more generally within the human sciences.
Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics, has agreed to give the opening address.
The conference is organised around some of Elias’s key works: On the Process of Civilisation; What is Sociology?; The Established and the Outsiders; Quest for Excitement; and Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences.
Despite its focus on the Collected Works of Elias, the spirit of this event is one of openness to, and dialogue with, competing sociological positions. It will pose questions including:
· How might Elias’s work be employed to address some of the challenges of the human sciences in the twenty-first century?
· Elias was not a sociologist in the narrow sense: he aimed at a grand sociological, historical, psychological synthesis. Did he succeed?
· To what extent does Elias’s work provide a means of redressing the fragmentation of the human sciences and, especially, reintegrating sociologists who have intellectually migrated to different, increasingly diverse, specialisms and sub-disciplines?
· Is Elias’s critique of sociologists’ ‘retreat into the present’ still valid today? What role might Elias’s work have in the more general ‘relational turn’ that has become a major topic of discussion in recent years?
· Is it possible to reconcile Elias’s ‘figurational’ sociological practice – marked by its emphasis on long-term processes and its caution regarding the intrusion of ‘heteronomous values’ – with the institutional demands for short-term ‘impact’, ‘accountability’, and the increasing emphasis on the short-term practical and monetary value of social scientific research for specific ‘user groups’?
· Can Elias’s approach be squared with recent calls for a more ‘public’ sociology, and indeed, more explicitly politically-involved and directed ‘partisan’ scholarship’?
In addition to a series of postgraduate workshops and keynote presentations on these and related central concerns, the conference will feature five parallel streams organised according to Elias’s key works as follows:
On the Process of Civilisation
Civilising processes, decivilising processes, ‘dyscivilising’ processes and debates about processual ‘directions’
Violence, war, terror and international relations in long-term developmental perspective
Sociogenetic and psychogenetic relationships
Critiques, revisions and extensions to Elias’s magnum opus
(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Court Society, Humana Conditio and Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity)
What is Sociology?
Power, figurations, interdependence, and theoretical debates about them
Sociogenesis of sociology and the concept of ‘society’
Game models and relational thinking
Structure/agency and the society of individuals
(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Society of Individuals and Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities)
Essays I: The Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences
Knowledge and scientific establishments
The politics of figurational sociology
Problems of method and methodology
Unplanned long-term processes versus planning and policy
Prospects for a grand synthesis of history, psychology and the social sciences
Elias’s sociological practice
(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as Involvement and Detachment and The Symbol Theory)
Quest for Excitement
Sport, social bonding and violence
Mimetic and leisure activities
Work, leisure and consumption
Gender, power and identities in the spare time spectrum
The Established and the Outsiders
Community studies and community relations
Blame and praise gossip in the formation of communities
Developments in established–outsider relations theory
Ethnicity, migration and locality
Abstracts of no more than 500 words for the conference should be submitted to the conference organisers, John Goodwin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jason Hughes (email@example.com) not later than 31 December, 2013.
· Specifically address one or more of the conference themes (and specify preferred stream)
· Include details of institutional affiliation
· Be written in English, since all presentations will be in English
Abstracts received after the closing date will not be considered. Registration for the conference will open 3 February 2014.
Further information about the Collected Works of Norbert Elias
Besides containing many texts never before published in English, or not published at all, the Collected Works contain new editions, extensively amended, annotated and cross-referenced. Intending contributors to the conference are recommended to consult the new editions.
1 Early Writings
2 The Court Society
3 On the Process of Civilisation
4 The Established and the Outsiders (with John L. Scotson)
5 What is Sociology?
6 The Loneliness of the Dying and Humana Conditio
7 Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process (with Eric Dunning)
8 Involvement and Detachment
9 An Essay on Time
10 The Society of Individuals
11 Studies on the Germans
12 Mozart and Other Essays on Courtly Art
13 The Symbol Theory
14 Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences
15 Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity
16 Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities
17 Interviews and Autobiographical Reflections (Autumn, 2013)
18 Supplements and Index to the Collected Works (Spring 2014)
For further information, see the UCD Press website: www.ucdpress.ie