CfP: Figurational Sociology: Prospects for the Future, 2–4 April 2012

Norbert Elias and Figurational Sociology: Prospects for the Future Copenhagen, 2–4 April 2012

Call for papers

Department of Political Science & Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2–4 April, 2012.

The focus of this two=-day conference will be on the development of figurational sociology in relation to other disciplines.  In ‘What is Sociology?’, Elias argues that sociology needs to develop new ways of ‘thinking’ about its relationship with other disciplines like biology and physics. But since that time, we have seen a rapid expansion of these academic disciplines, yet there has not been sufficient time to consider the theoretical implications of what this would mean for the future development of a figurational sociology. This conference will bring together sociologists, together with other important and relevant cognate disciplines – such as history, political science and economics – to explore attempts that integrate different disciplinary perspectives.

Keynote speakers include Richard Kilminster, University of Leeds (confirmed), Abram de Swaan, University of Amsterdam (tbc), Stephen Mennell, University College Dublin (confirmed), Andrew Linklater, Aberystwyth University (tbc), Nina Baur, TU Berlin (tbc), Stefanie Ernst, Universität Hamburg (tbc), Steven Quilley, Keele University (tbc).

It will address these issues by focusing on the following themes: The first day will explore the ‘boundaries’ and relationships between figurational sociology and the following disciplines: 1) Politics 2) Economics 3) History 4) Psychology 5) Biology 6) Anthropology.

The second day will further discuss the major themes that emerge from this ‘boundary’ work across disciplines, considering some of their strengths and limitations in relation to the following 1) Survival Units 2) Organisational Sociology and Economic Sociology 3) Civilizing Processes 4) Informalising Processes 5) The expanding Anthroposphere (Environmental issues)

The conference will consist of plenary sessions with keynote speakers, followed by themed parallel sessions.

The deadline for submitting abstracts of papers is 16 December 2011. These should be no more than 150 words and submitted to the conference email address: We look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen!

Lars Bo Kaspersen, University of Copenhagen,

Norman Gabriel, University of Plymouth,

Practicalities and formalities

Registration: Please, register by sending a mail to Mette Cruse Skou with your name, affiliation, address, phone number and email address.  

Conference  fee: 50 euro covering lunches, coffee/tea and fruit. Students: 15 euro. The conference fee needs to be paid at the conference venue /registration desk when the conference starts.  

Venue: University of Copenhagen, CSS (Social Science campus), Øster Farimagsgade 5, Copenhagen K – see

Accommodation: There are plenty of hotels in Copenhagen. However, we have reserved rooms at two hotels close to the venue and the city. You need to book your own hotel room by mail or phone.    

Ibsens Hotel Vendersgade 23 DK-1363 København K. T: 33 13 19 13 F: 33 13 19 16 E: Reservation: +45 33 95 77 44   Prices: Single Room: 985 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast). Double Room: 1.240 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast).    

Hotel Kong Arthur Nørre Søgade 11 DK-1370 København K. T: +45 33 11 12 12 F: +45 33 32 61 30 E: Reservation: +45 33 95 77 22   Prices: Single Room: 1.225 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast). Double Room: 1.520 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast).

Don’t forget to mention that you are participating in conference organized by University of Copenhagen (Department of Political Science/ Sociology)    

Organizers: The Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam The Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen The Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen

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Civilization Deconstructed: A Figurational Theory of Genocide

Just published:

Christopher Powell, Barbaric Civilization: A Critical Sociology of Genocide. (Montréal, Ithaca, and London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011) 368 pp. ISBN: 9780773538566.

Why have the largest mass murders in human history taken place in the past hundred years? And why have European colonizers, bearers of Enlightenment ideals of universal humanity, so often denied the humanity of the people they have colonized?  Building on Elias’s work,  Barbaric Civilization traces the connections between state formation and habitus in the civilizing process to advance a radical thesis: that civilization produces genocides.

From its beginnings in the early 12th century CE, the Western civilizing process has involved two interconnected transformations: the monopolization of military force by sovereign states, and the cultivation in individuals of habits and dispositions of the kind that we call ‘civilized’. The combined forward movement of these two processes channels violent struggles for social dominance into symbolic performances of distinction.  But even as the civilizing process frees its privileged subjects from the threat of direct physical force, violence accumulates behind the scenes and at the margins of the social order, kept there by a deeply habituated performance of dominance and subordination called deferentiation. When deferentiation fails, interdependency becomes impunity, difference becomes dangerous, and genocide becomes possible.

Using a deconstructed reading of Elias’s account of the civilizing process, and discussing examples ranging from 13th century Languedoc to 1994 Rwanda, Barbaric Civilization offers a wholly original framework for analyzing, comparing, and discussing different genocides as variable outcomes of a common underlying figuration.  This analysis raises unsettling questions about the contradictions of Western civilization and the possibility of a world without genocide.

For more information or to order:

Author’s web page:

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Johan Heilbron delivers Uhlenbeck Lecture: But what about the European Union of Scholars?

Johan Heilbron was invited to give the 29th Uhlenbeck Lecture at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS), Wassennaar. The prestigious annual lecture was delivered before an audience of past and present NIAS Fellows on 9 June 2011.

Among the existing analyses of European integration, Heilbron noted, there is a noticeable dearth of research by scholars into their own modes of association. That is not because the subject is unworthy of attention. Aside from a single market and a political union, European institution building has unmistakably extended into the domain of scholarship and science as well. This emerging field of transnational research is often depicted as the continuation of a European tradition of higher learning, exemplified by medieval universities and early modern academies. But the time-honoured European heritage also includes the counter-force of rival nation states and distinctly national academic systems. How, asked Heilbron, against this ambiguous historical background, has the current process of European integration affected the world of scholars? What patterns of exchange and collaboration have emerged? And how do these relate to developments in other parts of the world?

Johan Heilbron holds posts as the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris and at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he formerly held the Norbert Elias Professorship.


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New blog

The Elias-I blog has now been embedded in the Norbert Elias Foundation website. Go to:

and click on “Blog” (top right).

Please change your bookmarks to this address.

All subscribers have been transferred into the new blog, although for the moment the old blog will remain online. We hope that the email function will work better than before, and that subscribers will receive notification of new posts promptly.

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Locations for BSA Conference

On Wednesday 6 April, registration for the British Sociological Association starts at 8:30 at the Peacock Theatre, LSE, which is on the right-hand side of Kingsway (facing north from Aldwych), on the corner with Portugal Street.

The two Elias sessions, at 9:30-11:30 and 12:00-13:30, are in Room 214 in the New Academic Building, which is just a short distance further up Kingsway, on the corner with Sardinia Street (the street that leads into Lincoln’s Inn Fields).

A map of the LSE campus can be downloaded at

Wellington Street, where we are having lunch afterwards in the Café Rouge, is in the Covent Garden area just a short walk over the other (west) side of Kingsway. It can be reached via various minor streets, but if you prefer not to take the risk of getting lost, just walk down Kingsway to the Aldwych, turn right (west) to where it meets the Strand, and then turn sharp right up Wellington Street until you spot the Café Rouge. Neither route is a great distance.


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Elias-I Blog up and running again

Thanks to Robert van Krieken, the Elias-I blog is up and running again. It looks a bit different, because for some unknown reason the old “theme” (layout) would not work – but otherwise it is much as before.

The maintenance work also triggered the transmission (or re-transmission)  of emails about several recent posts. This may be good news – perhaps the email is functioning properly for the first time, but only time will tell.

Stephen Mennell


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Lunch after BSA Conference Sessions, 6 April 2011

We have booked a table for lunch after the two sessions on Elias, which will take place on the first morning of the British Sociological Association’s conference. The sessions are from 9.30 to 11.30 and 12.00 to 13.30, and a late lunch will follow at 14.00, at:

Café Rouge

34 Wellington Street

Covent Garden

London WC2E 7BD

This branch of Café Rouge is very near the Royal Opera House, and only about 5 minutes walk from LSE.

Map: Click here <>

Besides those who are participating in these two sessions, we hope that other Eliasians who are taking part in other sessions during the conference will be able to join us. Please let Katie Liston know whether you will be joining is for lunch, at:


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Figurations 34 in the post – at last

Figurations 34, which should have been posted out to readers at the beginning of December, has been posted today from Amsterdam. Apologies again for the delay.

To make matters worse, today we observed that the issue says “June 2010″ on the cover, rather than “December 2010″.  We are becoming fallible.

Stephen Mennell & Katie Liston

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2012: IISA and IIS both announce major conferences

As you may be aware both the International Institute of Sociology (IIS) World Congress (Delhi between 16–19 February) and International Sociological Association (ISA) Forum (Buenos Aires between 1–4 August) are being held in 2012. Obviously this is not ideal – especially for people resident in Europe, but also for anyone whose funds will not run to two such gatherings in a year – and we are wondering if it is feasible to organise sessions in India and Argentina.

The IIS has just issued its call for proposals for regular sessions and we have to establish whether there would be sufficient interest to request one or more sessions. Consequently, can you contact Robert van Krieken ( and Stephen Vertigans ( before 28 February 2011 if you would be likely to submit a paper? It would also help us when deciding on potential themes if you could give us an indication about the possible topic. Further details of the conference can be found at

The details of the ISA programme in Buenos Aires have yet to be issued. To assist us in responding when the call for papers is issued, can you again let us know whether you are thinking about attending this conference?

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BSA Conference 6-8 April 2011 – TWO Elias sessions

From Katie Liston and Jonathan Fletcher (Convenors)

We are pleased at last to be able to notify participants, and especially those who have offered papers, that the British Sociological Association has now allocated a second session to Elias and figurational sociology at the conference at the LSE on 6–8 April 2011 marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the BSA

Details of the two sessions are given below. The first, as originally planned, will focus principally on Elias’s position as an outsider in British sociology. The second, additional, session includes papers on a wider set of concerns.

Those who are planning on attending this conference might also be interested in the sociology of sport stream, information on which is available on the conference website.

The presenters identified here should now contact the BSA office directly to register for the conference, ideally by the end of January. The BSA office has already received has over 700 bookings and the maximum capacity (per day) is 960 delegates.

You can book online at In the meantime, abstracts should also be forwarded directly to Liz Jackson ( to complete the stream programme.

Open Stream 2: ELIAS

Session 1: Wednesday 6th April 2011 at 09:30–11:30

John Goodwin and Jason Hughes: Ilya Neustadt, Norbert Elias and the development of sociology in britain: formal and informal sources of historical data

Eric Dunning: Long-term patterns of sports-related violence: some figurational observations and related concepts

Marc Joly: Norbert Elias’s networks in the field of British Sociology before his appointment in Leicester

Norman Gabriel: Collar the lot! Norbert Elias on the Isle of Man

Hermann Korte: Norbert Elias at the University of Leicester

Session 2: Wednesday 6th April 2011 at 12:00–13:30

Marjorie Fitzpatrick: The hidden agenda for ‘absolutist’ monarchical power in the eighteenth century court society in England: the libretto of Handel’s Messiah

Matt Clement: Trade Unions: A Significant Social Figuration?

Abram de Swaan: On genocidal perpetrators

Miguel Fernadez Llanos: Norbert Elias meets Karl Marx at the British Museum: towards the civilizing process model of models

Michael Dunning: Figurational Sociology and the Study of British ‘Islamist Terrorism’

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