Two Graduate Studentships at the University of Leicester

There are two funded PhD positions in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at the University of Leicester. One is a Graduate Research Assistantship and the other a Graduate Teaching Assistant post. Full details here:

Closing Date: 20th April 2018

This is a fantastic time to join us in the School. As many of the readers of this blog will know, Leicester has long had an association with Eliasian sociology. It would be great to see applications from candidates who’d like to take forward work in the tradition.

Please contact if you have any queries.

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Conference in honour of Richard Kilminster – Enrol now!

Richard Kilminster has for over four decades been one of the major advocates for the sociology of Norbert Elias, and an equally major contributor to the ‘figurational’ or ‘process-sociological’ research tradition that flows from it.

To mark Richard’s 75th birthday, a special two-day conference on The Sociology of Sociology in Long-term Perspective will be held in his honour at the University of Leeds on 5–6 April 2018. You are now warmly invited to sign up to attend this conference.

Richard gained his BA from the University of Essex, and then his MA at the University of Leicester, where there occurred his decisive encounter with Norbert Elias. After a year teaching English in Mexico, he moved to the University of Leeds, where he has worked since the 1970s. For much of that time he operated in a kind of creative tension with the late Zygmunt Bauman. To Bauman’s philosophically flavoured critical Marxism and later postmodernism, Richard constantly counterposed what he was later to call Elias’s post-philosophical sociology.

Richard has made a profound and unique contribution to the field of sociology, culminating in his two books The Sociological Revolution (1998) and Norbert Elias: Post-philosophical Sociology (2007). From his earliest contact with Elias in person, his oeuvre has focused on the sociology of knowledge and the sciences (Elias’s own contribution to which many of us regard as equal in important with the better-known theory of civilising processes).

Few scholars remain globally who are pursuing similar important lines of inquiry or who have the breadth and depth of theoretical knowledge to do so. He has been a key friendly influence in the ‘figurational research network’ of scholars, especially in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, both on his contemporaries and as an inspiration to a younger generation of sociologists.

As well as acknowledging and celebrating Richard’s unique contribution, secondary aims of the conference include: ensuring Richard’s legacy, especially reaffirming the centrality of the sociology of knowledge to the future of the discipline; and continuing dissemination of Elias’s ideas on the relationship between knowledge, social process and power.

Date, time and place

When: 5–6 April 2018 (commencing at 12 noon on 5 April and ending at 4pm on 6 April).

Where: Great Woodhouse Room, University House, University of Leeds, UK.

Confirmed speakers include: Richard Kilminster, Marc Joly, Andrew Linklater, Steven Loyal, Stephen Mennell and Alan Scott.

How to sign up

Attendance at the conference is free – there is no conference fee – but places are limited, so please book your place by clicking here to the Eventbrite link.

The conference is being organised by Ryan Powell, John Lever, Stephen Vertigans and Stephen Mennell – three former PhD students of Richard’s, and one of his oldest friends.

Conference administration

Sarah Biggins, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN



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Anyone working on Elias and time?

Stine Karen Nissen is working on Elias’s theory of time (An Essay on Time, Collected Works, vol. 9) in connection with her PhD thesis. She would very much like to make contact with anyone else who is working on, or interested in, the same topic. She can be contacted at:

Stine Karen Nissen

PhD studerende på Aarhus Universitet, Pædagogisk Antropologi & lektor på Professionshøjskolen Metropol

PhD student at Department of Educational Anthropology, Aarhus University, DK & assistant Professor at Metropolitan University College

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Civilisation as Deferred Gratification

Stephen Mennell will give a lecture on ‘Childhood and Society: Civilisation as Deferred Gratification’

at 18:00 on Tuesday 23 January

in the Interdisziplinäres Zentrum: Kindheiten, Gesellschaften, of the Fakultät Human- und Sozialwissenschaften at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal (Gaußstraße 20, 42097 Wuppertal).

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Elias conference Brussels, 5-8 December 2018

Global Interdependencies: What’s new in the human society of individuals?

The political and academic relevance of Norbert Elias’s work today

 Brussels, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles

5–8 December 2018

The Research Centre in Political Science (CReSPo) and the Institute for European Studies (IEE) of Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles (USL-B) are organising the next Elias conference in Brussels, Belgium, on 5–8 December 2018. 

After a short presentation of the conference below, you will find the Call for Papers. Please note that it is not too late to propose additional sessions or workshops, but you should submit suggestions to the organisers not later than 31 January 2018. 

Abstracts for papers of no more than 400 words should be submitted not later than 15 May 2018. Every effort will be made to accommodate contributions by all scholars who are making serious use of the ideas of Norbert Elias in their research. 

Submissions should be sent to the conference email address: 


Short presentation of the Conference 

‘Some of my readers may perhaps wish me to tell only about aspects of humankind’s development that are pleasant and hopeful. But such a selection is the true meaning of the trahison des clercs. We may or may not welcome the increasing integration of humankind. What is quite certain is that, to begin with, it increases the impotence of the individual in relation to what is happening at the top level of humanity’ (Norbert Elias, Changes in the We-I Balance [1987], The Society of Individuals, Collected Works 10, UCD Press, 2010: 149).

Thirty years later it seems that nothing has happened to contradict the assessment of the increasing integration of humankind as being a major trend, or more exactly that ‘integration–disintegration tensions’ are part and parcel of the contemporary world. However, we have more difficulties in imagining how it would be possible to see only the ‘pleasant and hopeful aspects’ of human development or even what they finally are. Global warming, refugee crises, the rise of populisms and finally the explosion of old and new forms of war and terrorism: Elias was right to wonder whether humankind would survive the violence of his time and ours.

The next Elias Conference in Brussels will be the opportunity to explore the political topicality of process sociology and to learn from Norbert Elias’s analysis and intuitions to think about (de-)democratisation, (dis-)Europeanisation and Brexit, (de-)civilizing processes in America in the Trump era, or facing the tragedy of migrants in Mediterranean, among other signs of civilizing breakdowns, or at least potential breakdowns or counter-processes. This conference also aims to open new fields of discussion and to consolidate and enlarge the already existing research networks among Elias’s fellows and readers of all countries, disciplines and generations. In the light of today’s crises, following Ghandi’s famous comment – ‘What do you think about Western civilization? I think it would be a good idea’ – the perspectives from the Global South on Western civilization could prove to be particularly valuable.

The conference will also include a Special Session on ‘Process Sociology and Processual Sociology’, centred on the work of Andrew Abbot and his book Processual Sociology (University of Chicago Press, 2016), exploring the ways in which his thinking and that of the Elias research tradition are complementary (or otherwise). Professor Abbott has agreed in principle to take part in the conference, although it is too early to confirm that that will prove possible. With or without his actual presence, this will be an unprecedented opportunity for dialogue between different horizons of research. 

The conference will be preceded by a PhD workshop on 4–5 December 2018 organised by Professors Robert van Krieken and Stephen Mennell for PhD students interested in integrating civilizing processes and historical sociology perspectives into their research. Further information about this will be widely circulated in spring 2018. 

Call for sessions and papers

The conference in Brussels will aim to question current global, regional or local political issues through examining the processes involved in historical and developmental sociological perspective: that is to say, it will aim to consider short-, mid- and long-term social processes without disconnecting the analysis of the political (polity, politics or policies) from the other aspects of the public and private human social life and their multilevel interactions.

  1. Here are some of the main topics or questions that it is hoped to raise:

Functional Democratisation and Functional De-democratisation

The question of whether Elias was too confident and sweeping in seeing ‘functional democratisation’ as a dominant trend in the modern world has been much discussed recently by, among others, Cas Wouters, Stephen Mennell, Nico Wilterdink and Behrouz Alikhani. Does this trend co-exist with a counterpoint of ‘functional de-democratisation’? This ‘theoretical’ question also has very practical, empirical dimensions, as can be seen in the following suggested thematic sessions:

De-democratisation, Habitus (and Brexit) in the European Union and beyond

Elias pointed out that increasing integration cannot be confused with ‘progress’, but he did not really answer the question of what could be the significations of ‘progress’. Today, one can have the impression of many regressions, even considering a rather neutral conception of ‘integration of human kind’. In this session, papers are expected to explore rise of new and old forms of nationalisms and the question of the crisis of democracy, especially in the European Union and regarding its representative forms.

Uncertainty and the Rise of Populisms

In the following, the conference will ask the question of the populisms today, which are not to be confined to the traditional extremes – if they have ever been. How can we understand and explain new growing success of extreme right, extreme left and more broadly of radical populist political parties in old and new European democracies and in Latin America? To what extent and through which ways should the mainstream quantitative and behavioural standards of political sociology be renewed? Which deep-set global trends are to be considered? How can we explore dynamics behind the success of populist parties and leaders at a micro level? And what could possibly the consequences of such successes be across different countries? It is within this context too, that reconsidering of Elias’s ‘drag effect of national loyalties’ concept would seem particularly stimulating and appropriate.

Terrorism, Violence, Anger and Fear

Violence is a main topic for sociology of civilizing and decivilizing processes. Papers are invited to concentrate on the multiple forms and on the origins of what is properly or wrongly called terrorism today. In particular, the recent attacks in Nice (2016), London or Barcelona (2017) revealed the importance of new modus operandi that seems to signify a step back from more organised and centralised forms of attacks. How can we interpret them? How do people react to them? And how can we significantly relate these phenomena of long-trend and more recent evolutions at work in the Middle-East, Asia and Africa – and Europe? This session is particularly opened to any kind of interdisciplinary dialogue, from international relations to psychology.

* Borders, Migrations, Security and ‘Refugee Crises’

Irreducible to the monopolisation of violence, the state is another core concept of historical sociology. For some it has however be overcome in its bordered and national forms by globalisation and quite recent forms of regional integration, for instance at the European level. For the two last decades border studies and critical security studies have at the same time demonstrated that far from disappearing the importance of borders and of new security issues have been revealed by the achievement of globalisation. How the concept of state as fostered by process sociology is thus affected by this apparent contradiction? How can we rethink citizenship and tensions over the value of the nation-state in such paradoxical context? In this session, papers are also invited to address the role of rights and law in process sociology, and to investigate these questions sociologically ‘from below’ and/or at the level of the ruling elites.

* The Role of Utopias

The conference will be interested in re-exploring the roles of utopia, in politics and social sciences and in fostering the dialogue between apparently very distant approaches in philosophy and sociology. In particular, could the global utopias – from the ‘perpetual peace’, to the Human Rights – be a medium connecting more descriptive, comprehensive and reconstructive perspectives, on the one hand, and those that would be more prescriptive, value and action-oriented on the other hand?

* Open Fields

Beside the more specific ‘political’ topics, the next Elias Conference in Brussels will draw special attention to the interdisciplinary dialogue and the use of mixed methods, plural temporalities and different approaches (political/macro/global ones and more micro-sociological) in usual or less usual fields in process sociology. Whatever the topic, the papers are thus also invited to reformulate in a more reflexive way a series of sociological issues traditionally considered by process and historical sociology, in matter of urban development, sport, violence, or gender studies, but also on the subjects of intimacy, celebrity, religiosity, health and care, fashion or art.

* Working with Elias Yesterday, Teaching (with) Elias Today: Narratives and Testimonial

 Finally, a round table will be dedicated to sharing experiences and testimonies of working with Elias and learning directly from him. Elias conferences are always rich indeed in related experiences that are often ‘distilled’ among Figurati around a dinner table or in a pub. Why not share more broadly such precious and often highly significant anecdotes in order to promote the sharing of knowledge and to foster a broader and more open research culture? In the same spirit, another round table aims at bringing together professors and teachers-researchers working on Elias with their students today or using some of his concepts and methods in their courses.

* Special Session around Andrew Abbot’s work and book Processual Sociology – see above


  1. Other propositions for sessions

* Elias and Social Dynamics of his Time (a session proposed by Adrian Jitschin)

The theory of Elias developed in a specific social environment. Elias was socialised during the final stages of the German Empire and over the course of the Weimar Republic. This was a period of turmoil and competition between ideas: liberal, socialistic and nationalistic positions strove for followers. The political environment was fluctuating. Several of Elias’s teachers and acquaintances were engaged in these disputes. The session is intended to illuminate some of these persons, ideas and positions. The activities of that period should be explained by papers who examine a specific aspect and its relevance for Elias: for example a concept (Freischwebende Intelligenz, Freemasonry, Zionism) or a person (Alfred Weber, Richard Hönigswald, Siegfried Marck). Together, the papers should give an impression of Elias’s embeddedness as a European intellectual.

Re-Figuration of Space (suggested session organizers: Nina Baur, Linda Hering, Theresa Vollmer and Gunter Weidenhaus)

Norbert Elias is usually seen as a pioneer in process sociology. Meanwhile, it is often forgotten that he also pioneered spatial sociology both on the macro-level (e.g. concerning the process of nation-building in On the Process of Civilisation) and on the micro-level (e.g. on the relevance of architecture for reflecting and pre-structuring social interaction in The Court Society). Today, owing to processes such as digitalization and mediatization, globalization and the rise of local contexts as well as migration, spatial relations that formed during modernization and have been established since then seem to be dissolving and replaced by new forms of spatial relations. In this session, papers are expected that explore these new forms of spatial relations, that explain current process of spatial re-figuration or that examine how spatial re-figuration changes society.

Furthering Process-Oriented Methodology: Towards Process-Oriented Micro-Macro-Analysis (suggested session organizers: Nina Baur, Lilli Braunisch, Jannis Hergesell and Maria Norkus)

Many of the current sociological methodological and theoretical approaches are best suited to analysing individual behaviour. However, as methodological discussion in the last decade has shown, research in the tradition of figurational sociology needs a process-orientated micro-macro-analysis which is comparative and typically mixes historical methods, quantitative methods (e.g. surveys) and qualitative methods (e.g. ethnography). While current social science methodology provides valuable tools for such an analysis, many methodological questions for research in the Eliasian framework remain open, and papers in this session should address one of these issues, amongst them: how to assess causality; how to define the defining the population/field of analysis (i.e. figuration); how to conduct a temporal sampling for process-orientated methodology; and how to find an equivalent for ethnography in historical research.


  1. Other propositions are expected, for instance, around these broad themes:

* Processes and the City

* Established and Outsiders and Social Inequalities Today

* How to Use the Classics in the Present Day

Sociology, History, Philosophy, Law, Political Science and Psychology: Is Interdisciplinary Dialogue just a Myth? 


Propositions for sessions or workshops should be submitted by 31 January 2018 to the conference organisers at

 Abstract of no more than 400 words should be submitted not later than 15 May 2018 to the conference organisers at


Organisation of the conference

This conference results from collaboration between Florence Delmotte (Research Associate at Belgian Fund for Scientific Research – FNRS and Professor of Political Science at USL-B), Stephen Mennell (Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University College Dublin), Jason Hughes (Professor and Head of School of Media, Communications and Sociology, University of Leicester) and Barbara Górnicka (School of Sociology at University College Dublin) with the support of Université Saint – Bruxelles, the Fund for Scientific Research-FNRS, Belgium, and the Norbert Elias Foundation in Amsterdam.

Members of the Organising Committee in Belgium are Prof. Denis Duez (President of the European Studies Institute, USL-B, Brussels) and Virginie Van Ingelgom (Research Associate at FNRS and Professor of Political Science, Université catholique de Louvain).

International members of the Scientific Committee are: Behrouz Alikhani (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster), Nina Baur (Technische Universität Berlin), Reinhard Blomert (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung), Manuela Boatca (Universität Freiburg), Karina Caplan (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina), Paddy Dolan (Dublin Institute of Technology), Ademir Gebara (Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados), Cynthia Greive Veiga (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brasil), Johan Heilbron (Research Director at CNRS, France), Erik Jentges (ETH Zürich), Adrian Jitschin (Norbert Elias Foundation), Marc Joly (Researcher at CNRS, Laboratoire Printemps/UVSQ, France), Andrew Linklater (Aberystwyth University), Katie Liston (University of Ulster), Angela Perulli (Professor of Sociology at Università degli Studi Firenze), Robert Van Krieken (University of Sydney), Vera Weiler (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) and Gina Zabludovsky (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).

Members of the Scientific Committee from Belgium are: Prof. Christine Schaut (Professor of Sociology, Université libre de Bruxelles and USL-B), Ludivine Damay (Professeur of Sociology and Political Science, Université libre de Bruxelles), Jean-Michel Chaumont (FRS–FNRS Research Associate, Université catholique de Louvain), Nicolas Marquis (Professor of Sociology, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles), Pierre Desmarez (Professoer of Sociology, Université libre de Bruxelles) and Marc Zune (Professor of Sociology, Université Catholique de Louvain).

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Kilminster conference: The Sociology of Sociology in Long-term Perspective

Invitation to: The Sociology of Sociology in Long-term Perspective: A conference in honour of Richard Kilminster

Dear Colleague,

You are warmly invited to attend a special two-day conference: The Sociology of Sociology in Long-term Perspective: A conference in honour of Richard Kilminster, to be held at the University of Leeds, where Richard has worked since the 1970s.

Richard  has made a profound and unique contribution to the field of sociology on a number of levels, but particularly through his extensive research and writings on the sociology of knowledge. There are few scholars remaining globally who are pursuing similar important lines of inquiry or who have the breadth and depth of theoretical knowledge to do so. This makes his distinctive contribution all the more important in ensuring a bridge from classical to contemporary sociology for a younger generation of sociologists. Yet Richard’s body of work has not received the recognition it warrants. As well as an acknowledgement and celebration of Richard’s unique contribution, secondary aims of the conference include: ensuring Richard’s legacy in terms of reaffirming the centrality of the sociology of knowledge to the future of the discipline; and the continued dissemination of Elias’s ideas on the relationship between knowledge, social process and power.

The conference will take place over over two days in April 2018:

When: April 5-6, 2018 (commencing at 12 noon on 5 April and ending at 4 pm on 6 April.

Where: Great Woodhouse Room, University House, University of Leeds, UK.

Confirmed speakers include: Richard Kilminster, Marc Joly, Andrew Linklater, Steven Loyal, Stephen Mennell and Alan Scott.

The conference is free to attend but places are limited, so please book your place by clicking on the Eventbrite link below:

We sincerely hope that you will be able to join us to mark Richard’s unique contribution to sociology.

Many thanks,

Ryan Powell

Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 

University of Sheffield,

Western Bank,


S10 2TN

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Australian Association of Group Psychotherapists – 18 November

At rather short notice, news has reached me (from Paul Coombe) that members of the Australian Association of Group Psychotherapists have been paying careful attention to the ideas of Norbert Elias and to civilising and decivilising processes. They are holding a seminar (see details below) on 18 November:

Saturday, 18 November 2017
The VAPP Building, 18 Erin Street, Richmond VIC

“Civilizing and De–Civilizing Influences, Refugees and the Disincentives Towards
Relating Humanely to Our Global Relations”
Navigating the personal, social, political and cultural upheavals of our modern era.

Stephen Mennell

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Comparative-historical sociology and ‘crackpot realism’

A special issue of the online journal Human Figurations has been published on the theme of ‘Comparative-historical sociology as antidote to the “crackpot realism” of the twenty-first century’. The engaging term ‘crackpot realism’ was coined by C. Wright Mills in The Sociological Imagination (1959).

Eight of the nine papers in the special issue, edited by Alexander Law and Stephen Mennell, originated as contributions to the International Sociological Association’s Forum 2016, at the University of Vienna, in a session organised for Research Committee 56, Historical Sociology, entitled ‘In what ways can comparative–historical sociology help to improve the workings of the modern world?’

See Human Figurations 6: 2 (2017), at:*?rgn=full+text


Guest Editors’ Introduction: Comparative–historical sociology as antidote to the ‘crackpot realism’ of the twenty-first century


Alexander Law and Stephen Mennell
History is not bunk: why comparative historical sociology is indispensable when looking to the future


Stephen Mennell
The decivilising effects of the financial system Fernando Ampudia de Haro


Difficulties of the EU as a common object for identification Behrouz Alikhani


The social bases of democracy revisited; or, why democracy cannot be dropped in bombs from B52s at 30,000 feet


Stephen Mennell
The narcissism of national solipsism: Civic nationalism and sub-state formation processes in Scotland


Alexander Law
Comparative-historical sociology as professional practice Eric Royal Lybeck


Learning from the past: how local economic conventions influence responses to global crises


Nina Baur and Linda Hering
‘Problems of involvement and detachment’: Norbert Elias and the investigation of contemporary social processes


John Lever and Ryan Powell



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Abstracts due, ISA World Congress, Toronto 15-21 July 2018

XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology
Power, Violence and Justice: Reflections, Responses and Responsibilities
Toronto, Canada
July 15-21, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

There are only ten days left to submit your abstract on-line before the
deadline of September 30, 2017, 24:00 GMT. 
To avoid last minute problems, don’t wait till the last day!


For more details, please see Abstract submission guidelines


Kind regards,
International Sociological Association

PS: The two ISA Research Committees that cater most directly for Eliasians are RC 20 Comparative Sociology and RC56 Historical Sociology, but of course there are many other sessions under many other RCs to which you may wish to offer a paper. Consult the ISA website. But do not delay! – SJM

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Fashion, beauty and Elias

The journal Critical Studies in Fashion & Beauty is looking for contributions to the study of fashion, body, beauty, identity and appearance. This flagship fashion journal of Intellect Books launched 8 years ago, spearheaded a successful series of visual culture journals of that publisher. It developed a unique voice of critical analysis in the widening landscape of fashion research.

The notion of “fashion” adopted by the journal is a broad church which covers anything from material culture, cultural practices such as etiquette and body comportment, to visual identities and gender presentation and of course, fashion, in its consumption, production or representational aspects. It published articles about fashion representation in art, about food fashions, and about the ritual of US presidential dances, to give some examples of topics one might not immediately associate with the field. It is keen on promoting social science approaches, as they are not often welcomed in art/fashion venues.

The founding editor, Professor Efrat Tseëlon is particularly looking for figurational sociology, and Eliasian perspectives.
Please send your contributions to

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