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This is a flexible and open reading group for PhD students. Please be prepared to do the core reading for each session, ask questions and engage with the speaker. Although this is a series, you can attend the individual sessions that interest you. For access to readings and to indicate your intention to attend a session, please contact the organisers, Timothy Potenz and Marion Messmer, at firstname.lastname@example.org
All sessions will be held from 5:30-7pm. Dates/times/seminar topics will appear below as they are booked, but it is recommended that you join the email list for this course by emailing email@example.com in order to be updated about specifics for future sessions.
In this reading group/seminar series, we will examine how specific sociological concepts and tools can be used to develop a stronger understanding of pertinent modern issues. Each term focuses on a central theme: the first term on modern populism (including post-factual society, “the People,” and echo chambers), and the second on modern racial tensions (including Black Lives Matter, the refugee crisis, and Islamophobia). Over the course of three seminars per term, we will discuss various sociological thinkers’ ideas and methods (such as Bourdieu, Williams, Hopf, knowledge production, group theory, and symbolic exclusion) and how they can be used to interrogate elements of these contemporary topics. The aim will be to further our understandings of both these academic tools and the topics themselves. Each seminar will begin with a 10-15 minute talk from a guest speaker, who will then open the floor to a discussion/debate. There will be an assigned core reading each week, along with some additional readings as well. We welcome all suggestions for further reading options (please direct all queries to Marion and Timothy, contact details above).
Please read the core reading for each session and be prepared to ask questions and engage with the speaker.
The theme for the first term is Modern Populism: Post-Facts and Anti-Establishment.
In the aftermath of Brexit and in the run-up to the American presidential election, over the course of three seminars we will investigate three aspects of modern populism from sociological, discursive, and psychological perspectives. We will explore the fundamental characteristics of the modern populist movement along with the social, discursive, and psychological conditions necessary for the emergence of such a phenomenon. Simultaneously, we will question the extent to which the populist label adequately captures modern trends and debate how certain sociological concepts and tools can be used to examine modern populism.
Seminar 1: 5:30pm-7pm, 19th October, 2016, 2.46 Franklin Wilkins Building, KCL Waterloo campus. Didier Bigo. Bourdieu and Anti-Knowledge Production
How can Bourdieu and his understanding of knowledge production be used to analyse the emergence of the basic anti-truths of modern populism (that experts are to be distrusted, feelings outweigh facts, and professional politicians and bureaucrats are less well equipped to run countries than amateurs or outsiders). The seminar will be led by Didier Bigo.
Bourdieu, Pierre., 1989, “Social Space and Symbolic Power”
Bourdieu, Pierre. and L. Wacquant, 1992, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology
Swartz, David. 2013, Symbolic Power, Politics, and Intellectuals. [Chapters 1-4]
Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. ‘The Market of Symbolic Goods’. In The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature.
Seminar 2: 5:30pm-7pm, 14th November, 2016, Room TBA. Ken Jones. Who are “the People”?
Modern populism holds that politics should be for "the People" who are currently taking back control of their various constituencies from the political elite. Yet, "who are the People?" In this seminar we discuss how an understanding of the dynamics that shift group boundaries and develop/reattach the “meaning” of specific groups, helps us to comprehend the rise of a populist movement that transcends old political divides and has united constituencies under the vague banner of "the People." The seminar will be led by Ken Jones.
Williams, Raymond., 1958, “Culture is Ordinary”
Wenger, Etienne., 1998, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity [Chapter 1, Meaning]
DeLuca, Kevin., 1999, Articulation Theory: A Discursive Grounding for Rhetorical Practice
Seminar 3: 5:30pm-7pm, 8th December, 2016, Room TBA. Timothy Potenz. No Habitus Without Habit
Often criticised for holding an affinity for the “infeasible” or “impossible”, modern populism rests on an ability to maintain outlandish world views in spite of “reality”. In this seminar we explore the cognitive and psychological conditions that allow for people to exist within echo chambers that filter out all critiques of their world view. We will also question what this cognitive understanding adds to a purely sociological perspective, if anything. The seminar will be led by Timothy Potenz.
Hopf, Ted., 2010, “The Logic of Habit in International Relations”
Snow, Nancy., 2006, “Habitual Virtuous Actions and Automaticity”
Aarts, Henk., 2000, “Habits As Knowledge Structures: Automaticity in Goal-Directed Behaviour”
The theme for the second term is The rise of Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and the United States.
We will examine how racist and anti-Muslim sentiments have been instrumentalised in domestic politics across Europe and in the United States. Through our seminars, we will explore sociological topics such as in/out-group construction and respectability and identity politics as a political strategy. We will finish off the year with a methods workshop on how to frame an interdisciplinary research agenda.
Seminar 4: 5:30-7pm, 19 January 2017, Room TBA. Léonie de Jonge. How has the European populist right instrumentalised the refugee problematique?
The increased influx of refugees into the European Union has put growing pressure on the EU as well as on domestic European governments, coming to a head in 2015. As more refugees have arrived in Europe, right-wing populist parties have instrumentalised the narrative around the newcomers into one of threat to the extant European population. Léonie de Jonge will help us understand how European right-wing parties have shaped the discourse and what effect that has had on the political climate.
Core readings: tba
Zetter, R., 2007, “More Labels, Fewer Refugees: Remaking the Refugee Label in an Era of Globalization”.
Chatty, Dawn., 2016, “The Syrian Humanitarian Disaster: Disparities in Perceptions, Aspirations and Behaviour in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey”
Seminar 5: Date/Room TBA. What methods have elites and activists used to control the discourse in recent civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter?
The Black Lives Matter movement has put in question police brutality in the United States, as well as led to an increased mobilisation around grievances of minority ethnic groups in the UK. While both sides accuse each other of savagery, how is this new discourse around race being handled?
Core reading: tba
Hill, Marc Lamont., 2016, Nobody: Casualities of America’s War on the Vulnerable
from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond.
Alexander, Michelle. 2012, The new Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
Davis, Angela. 2003, Are prisons obsolete?
Seminar 6: 5:30-7pm, 16 March 2017, Room TBA. Dr Lisa Kingstone. How have President Obama’s two terms in office shifted the discourse on race in the United States?
Dr Kingstone’s research examines how President Obama’s race was interpreted in the public eye during his electoral campaigns as well as his two terms in office. Together, we will examine how this has shifted how race is conceptualised and used in political and public discourse in the U.S., and how this might shift in the future as the demographic distribution in the U.S. shifts away from a white majority
Seminar 7: 5:30-7pm, 27 April 2017, Room TBA. Developing a successful interdisciplinary research programme
King’s College is renowned for its focus on interdisciplinary research - How can we as researchers reflect this in our own work? How can we combine different theoretical frameworks and concepts efficiently and elegantly without losing conceptual depth and clarity? How can we collaborate with scholars from other disciplines most effectively? Our last seminar will focus on a methodological approach to interdisciplinarity.