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Elias Conference, Leicester: Last Call

Posted on by Jason Hughes

The deadline for abstracts for the next major Elias Conference, to be held in Leicester in June 2014, is just over one week away. Please submit your abstract by 31st December 2013.

We have already received many excellent submissions from scholars from a range of disciplines, and from across several continents. This promises to be a major event. Again, we would like to stress the openness of the event, and invite submissions from any with an interest in the areas covered by the conference.

Please note, the information below has been updated to include details of plenary and keynote speakers who have now accepted our invitation to address the conference.

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 It brings together the entire corpus of Elias’s works, featuring many writings previously unpublished or not hitherto translated into English, faithfully representing his core ideas and his overall sociological position.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 (Friday 20th). A further keynote address on  will be provided by Abram de Swaan (Saturday 21st). Further invited plenary sessions will also be provided by: Behrouz Alikhani, Marc Joly,  Marta Bucholc and Bo Paulle.

The conference is organised around some of Elias’s key works: On the Process of CivilisationWhat is Sociology?The Established and the OutsidersQuest 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 SocietyHumana 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 ( and Jason Hughes ( not later than 31 December, 2013.

Abstracts must:

·         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: