Interim Conference of ISA Research Committee on the History of Sociology

International Conference at the University of Warsaw


International Sociological Association, Research Committee on History of Sociology
Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
Faculty ‘Artes Liberales’, University of Warsaw
Polish Sociological Association

Advisory Board

Peter Baehr, Janusz Mucha, Jennifer Platt, Antoni Sułek, Stephen Turner, Raf Vanderstraeten, Per Wisselgren

Organizing Committee

Marta Bucholc, Jarosław Kilias, João Marcelo Ehlert Maia, Jakub Motrenko (Secretary), Joanna Wawrzyniak

Conference Venue

2016 RCHS interim conference will take place on 6 through 8 of July, 2016, in the building of College of Liberal Arts of the University of Warsaw (so-called ‘White Villa’), situated at Dobra 72, next to the Warsaw University Library and the main campus, in the immediate proximity of the Old Town and walking distance from the city centre.

Call for Papers

During three days of conference proceedings in Warsaw, a hectic building site of collective memory since the 1989 breakthrough, we would like to discuss the memory of social sciences, and we suggest “Monuments, relics and revivals” to be the main themes of our meeting.
Monuments are figures, works, concepts and ideas which are impressive and overwhelming, but no longer alive. Nevertheless, they continue to occupy a substantial area of our understanding of the history of social science. We leave that area untouched for fear of trespassing. We let the monuments be, because our theoretical habits and research practices evolve around them. Their centrality endows them with a splendour of uncontested timelessness. We invite you to think about monuments in various sociological traditions, the ways in which they are erected and demolished, their stubborn resistance to time and their volatile, malleable meanings.
Despite their semantic flexibility, sometimes monuments are wrecked and their traces wiped out. But they may also linger, useless but not quite forgotten. The reasons may vary from intellectual laziness, conservative mindset of subsequent generations, political demands of the moment, retrospective affirmative actions in the history of thought and many others. The result, however, is always the same: in every époque of social thought, there are relics. They might be holy relics, sanctified by a long standing common practice or raised to sacrum in a spur of a moment. They might be monuments of old, just deprived of their centrality by a new turn of the tide. But they may also be leftovers of previous ideas, which we do not incorporate into our own, but which we are reluctant to get rid of completely.
However, besides monuments and relics, which are residual, there are also ideas and theories which we find in the past precisely in order to grant them new vitality by including them in our present. Revivification of the old is a constant process in any academic practice. But those revivals which are consciously planned and carried out may best demonstrate the multiple potential of sociological tradition. From a historian’s point of view, a revival is usually both preposterous and anachronistic. Nonetheless, in every revival, the historical perspective comes to the fore. We believe that our times are marked by a general tendency to revive portions of our intellectual past and to reinterpret them in the spirit of contemporary debates, and would welcome your insights on this intellectual tendency.
While sessions and talks related to monuments, relics and revivals will be particularly welcome during this conference, we also invite all talks on topics related to the RCHS activities, and we do not set any limitations on the subject of thematic sessions or papers.

Rules for Submissions

You may submit a paper until February 15th, 2016. Each submission should include:
1. name, affiliation and contact data of the speaker
2. title of the paper
3. number and title of thematic session, if applicable
4. a short abstract (up to 200 words)
All submissions should be sent to the following address: interim2016(at)

Organizing Committee and Advisory Board together with session organizers will decide upon the proposals until the 15th of March, 2016. Accepted speakers will be notified per email by the end of March 2016. Conference program will be published in May 2016.

Registration and Conference Fees

All participants will be required to register by the end of April, 2016, by sending an email to interim2016(at)
Conference fees will be collected upon registration. Regular fee for ISA Category A countries is EUR 60 (reduced to EUR 30 for students, PH. D. students included, and independent scholars). Regular fee for ISA Category B and C countries as well as for members of Polish Sociological Association in good standing is EUR 40 (reduced to EUR 20 for students, PH. D. students included, and independent scholars). Membership in Polish Sociological Association is open to all interested parties; for details please contact Jarosław Kilias at kilias(at)chello(dot)pl
Further details regarding payment of conference fees, reaching the conference venue, suggested accommodation, free-time and sightseeing opportunities, and conference dinner will be distributed per emails and on this site.
Should you have any questions regarding this call, please contact the conference Secretary, Jakub Motrenko, at interim2016(at)
All presenters of papers in any session organized by the RCHS are expected to be or become members of the RCHS. To non-RCHS members: should you like to present a paper please join the RCHS first. Please contact João Marcelo Ehlert Maia at joao.maia(at)fgv(dot)br with all your inquiries. RCHS membership fee is only 30 USD for 4 years (and 15 USD for students and non-OECD countries).

Session Descriptions

Session 1
TITLE: Histories of Sociology in the Global South
ORGANIZER(S): Fran Collyer and João Marcelo E. Maia
CONTACT: fran.collyer(at), joao.maia(at)fgv(dot)br

ABSTRACT: History of sociology has been mostly a European subject – we know a lot about sociologists, ideas and concepts produced in Europe and the US, but still lack knowledge about institutions, sociologists, journals and intellectual traditions that have emerged outside the Northern Hemisphere. This session aims to tackle this problem by exploring alternative histories of sociology from a Southern perspective. Therefore, we welcome papers that discuss sociologists and institutions from the Global South in an historical and comparative perspective or address classical topics in the field from non-traditional perspectives. We are also interested in discussing issues of the geopolitics of knowledge production and North-South relations in the history of sociology.

Session 2
TITLE: History of Sociology under State Socialism in Comparative Perspective
ORGANIZER(S): Matthias Duller
CONTACT: matthias.duller(at)uni-graz(dot)at

ABSTRACT: The historiography of sociology under state socialism has been dominated by perspectives that emphasize sociology’s subordination to the political regimes in which it existed. While it is generally acknowledged that the national histories of sociology in the ‘Eastern bloc’ vary greatly between countries and periods, analytically careful comparative studies are still vastly absent. As a consequence, few of the persistent claims about the deficiencies of East European sociology, including its lack of autonomy, ideological distortions, theoretical and methodological bias, or the role of censorship and dissidence, have become the object of systematic empirical studies.
This call invites authors to propose conceptual and/or empirical papers that help make claims about the peculiarities of East European sociology under socialism empirically researchable questions of inquiry, preferably but not necessarily through comparative approaches. Besides the themes already mentioned possible topics include:

- the relation between political regimes and sociology or sociologists respectively;
- the different roles of sociological research at universities, academies of science and party affiliated research institutes;
- the role of historical turning points;
- the role of sociological traditions;
- the relation between sociology and social reform;
- international contacts of East European sociologists (East-East; East-West);
- the reception of classical and contemporary western sociology in Eastern Europe;
- the relative distribution of theoretical and methodological paradigms;
- the legacy of socialism for East European sociology today.
These and other themes can be addressed within:
- comparisons between sociologies in two or more countries of the Eastern bloc;
- comparisons between sociologies in socialist and capitalist countries;
- comparisons of instances within a single country;
- single case studies as long as they involve explicit discussion about conceptual issues that allow for comparison in principle.

Session 3
TITLE: Classification & Categorization: Historical Perspectives on the Sociological Making of Society
ORGANIZER(S): Léa Renard, Alexander Knoth and Theresa Wobbe
CONTACT: lea.renard(at)iepg(dot)fr

ABSTRACT: Historical analysis can be applied to all kinds of technical, administrative, scientific, and practical classifications (Desrosières 2010). By building groups of disparate things, categorization, as a core cognitive mechanism, tends to order things in relation to each other, and thus to create hierarchical systems. In the last decades, many studies have focused on the use and the construction of social categories (gender, race) in various social spheres (administration, politics) but only a few on the contribution of science, and especially of sociology, in the production of classification systems. These classification schemes not only reflect reality but also contribute to the production of social order.

The goal of the session is to reflect on the role played by sociological categories, as ‘building blocks’, in the construction of society. The session welcomes empirical studies investigating either (1) classification and categorization as scientific practices, or (2) the social knowledge included in categories as scientific products.

Session 4
TITLE: Social and Institutional Conditions of Success in Sociology and the Social Sciences. Historical Case Studies
ORGANIZER(S): Thibaud Boncourt & Victor Karady
CONTACT: karadyv(at)ceu(dot)hu; t.boncourt(at)gmail(dot)com

ABSTRACT: The history of social sciences is commonly told as that of a succession of ‘founding fathers’ and ‘great authors’, of dominant paradigms and methods. These ‘monuments’, however, did not become so prominent necessarily because they were intrinsically better than rival scientists and ideas. Rather, their dominance was the combined product of sociological dynamics of intellectual achievements, their organized dissemination and communication in established networks, the promotional backing of academic institutions, their place within symbolic hierarchies of cultural power and the impact power relations between competing scholarly clusters.

This panel aims to gather papers that look at the various processes by which landmark authors and ideas became recognised as such. Contributions will include studies of institutional developments, the social and academic conditions promoting specific paradigms, patterns of diffusion of prominent authors across national and disciplinary boundaries (like Foucault or Bourdieu) and ways in which paradigms happened to ‘win’ controversies against rival ones. The studies presented will also touch upon the ‘objective’ effects of basic socio-historical variables of elite formation and success as well as professional creativity like gender, social recruitment, residential background, language skills, institutional contacts, place of practice, international networks, etc.

This panel proposal is submitted as part of the INTERCO-SSH research project, which is concerned with the intellectual and institutional history of the social sciences in Europe.

Session 5
TITLE: Mainstream Sociology: More than a Spectre?
ORGANIZER(S): Christian Fleck, Dirk Kaesler and Christian Dayé
CONTACT: christian.daye(at)aau(dot)at

ABSTRACT: “Mainstream sociology” is a slick and amorphous term. Very generally, it refers to the adherents of a specific paradigm that dominates the discourses of the discipline simply because its adherents are the majority. But what is more, mainstream sociology is a critical notion because it claims that the majority simply follows the well-trodden paths. The implied allegation is that those in the majority are not innovative, but confined in their thinking by rules they do not engage with critically – they just go with the flow. Mainstream sociologists are, in a Kuhnian sense, mere puzzle-solvers.
The fact that this allegation can, in principle, be uttered by both sociologists from the top-end and from the lower levels of academic hierarchies discerns the notion of “mainstream sociology” from the notion of a sociological elite, although, as Calhoun and VanAntwerpen have shown, the term “mainstream sociology” has de facto been used in the United States mainly by those from the lower levels to attack a perceived elite – the Fat Cat sociologists of the later 1960s. But has something like mainstream sociology ever existed – nationally, or globally? Is it only a spectre, a rhetorical device in the battles over the discipline, or can it be of use as an analytical category in writing the history of sociology?

Session 6
TITLE: History on the Methods of Empirical Social Research and Statistics
ORGANIZER(S): Irmela Gorges
CONTACT: i.gorges(at)fhvr-berlin(dot)de
ABSTRACT: Contributions are welcome that discuss the development of methods of empirical social research or statistics in all countries and all continents of the world. Especially welcome are papers describing and analyzing the development of methods in front of the social, economic or political situation of the country or location that was investigated.
The session is linked to the network on the history of empirical social research and statistics.

Session 7
TITLE: Sociology and War
ORGANIZER(S): Lukasz Dominiak and Wlodzimierz Winclawski
CONTACT: lukasz(at)umk(dot)pl, winc(at)umk(dot)pl

ABSTRACT: We would like to invite all the interested persons to participate in the session focusing on the topic of war both as the subject matter of social scientific research and as a factor that determines activities and writings of sociologists, psychologists, pedagogues and broadly understood intellectuals. Our aim is to point out to the field of study somewhat neglected in academic works or dealt with simply in categories of material and human loss. However, it is known that even under war conditions (including dislocations, military mobilization, occupation, imprisonments) academic activity was continued, and it is the specificity of such academic activity that we would like to capture. As interesting contributions will be social studies devoted to war as such as well as to racial or national wars. The latter studies are not very frequent and usually constitute this body of knowledge which seems to be subject of collective and individual oblivion. These not commonly known issues will be discussed at sessions of the Research Committee on History of Sociology Interim Conference.

Session 8
TITLE: Sociologists and Sociology: Autobiographies in the Making of the Discipline
ORGANIZER(S): Anurekha Chari Wagh
CONTACT: anurekhachariwagh(at)gmail(dot)com

ABSTRACT: The session will explore to what extent reflexive exercises of sociologists help to define and shape the discipline. The concept of ‘self’ here describes how sociologists critically engage with their own autobiographical accounts. We thus seek to understand to what extent the professional identity of sociologists is structured through sociologists’ personal identities and whether engaging with one’s self in terms of autobiographies plays a role in shaping of the discipline of sociology. The session will explore the following research questions:
1. To what extent professional (department, college, university, research center) and personal (race, class, caste, religion, gender etc) locations of sociologists define and structure the manner in which these individuals engage with their discipline?
2. Are professional ethics and the personal identity of a sociologist to be understood as opposite forces?
3. How do sociologists address their personal identities while teaching, researching and performing public intervention?
4. What challenges emerge when an upper class male (or female) sociologist studies and teaches such research issues as Black feminism? Are such questions valid sociological inquiries?
5. Do such questions strengthen the making of the discipline of sociology? If yes, then how do we deal with such issues in our classrooms and in the process of knowledge construction? Do we need to ask ourselves these questions?

Session 9
TITLE: National and global sociology
ORGANIZER: Raf Vanderstraeten
CONTACT: raf.vanderstraeten(at)ugent(dot)be

ABSTRACT: In the early-modern era, science was conceived as universal/global science. Often its findings and observations were communicated in Latin, i.e. the lingua franca of early-modern science. The nineteenth- and twentieth-century expansion of science went along with a ‘nationalisation’ of science, with the use of national vernaculars and the genesis of national scholarly communities. Sociology, as one of many academic disciplines, established itself in different ways in different national contexts in the last two centuries.
In certain respects, the dynamics of discipline formation and specialisation nowadays lead again to global networks of science. It would be unjustified to argue that the national level will soon become (or already is) a non-existent entity in the ‘world’ of science. In a range of respects, the social relevance of the national level has probably augmented in recent times. The dependence of scientific research on state finance has not decreased since the Second World War, while governments have also searched for new ways to increase their influence upon the academic world. Perhaps, however, the increasingly global networks of scientific collaboration and communication will soon make it increasingly difficult to discern distinctive national traditions in disciplines, such as sociology.
For this session, we invite papers that focus on the changing ‘geography’ of scholarly communities, particularly in the field of sociology. Papers may focus on the trajectories of national communities, of international collaborations, or on the globalization of the discipline and the characteristics of a global sociology. Of interest and relevance in this setting is also the rise of professional associations and journals with a ‘regional’ or global focus – such as the European Sociological Association or the International Sociological Association and their respective journals.

While abstracts designed for thematic sessions will be particularly welcome, we expressly invite other talks on topics related to the RCHS activities, and we do not set any limitations on the subject of papers. Accepted papers which are not aligned to one of the thematic sessions listed above will be accommodated in free paper sessions.


Jakub Motrenko

Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw
Karowa 18, 00-927 Warsaw, Poland