Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RS14_09: Global Knowledge and Inequality
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Justyna Kijonka, University of Silesia in Katowice
Location: BS.3.25
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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Ethnic Boundaries Revisited

Ilkka Arminen, Otto Segersven

University of Helsinki, Finland

Already in 1969 Frederik Barth stated that “ethnic distinctions do not depend on an absence of social interaction and acceptance, but are quite to the contrary often the very foundations on which embracing social systems are built”. However, the practices and discourses concerning ethnic group relations still today rely largely on the integration paradigm according to which the increased amount of contact and interaction between ethnic groups leads towards some form of an integration. Following Barth’s provocative suggestion we are interested in boundary making through which distinctions between ethnic groups are constructed, and note, as Barth suggests “often”, not “always”.

Our data is comprised of ethnic group Imitation Games, in which participants try to imitate membership in one another’s social group and identify imitating non-group members from genuine ethnic group members. It is shown that the membership-identifications depend on two issues: the out-group members’ ability to cross boundaries and the insiders’ ability to make boundaries. Notably, the former shows how ethnic distinctions can be overcome, and the latter how they persist. Using both quantitative and qualitative measures we analyze and detail the factors contributing towards the making and crossing of ethnic boundaries. We show that between different ethnonational groups (Christians, Finnish Swedes, Finnish Somalis, Estonian Russians) different forms of knowledge (linguistic, epistemic, axiological and experiential) step into operation with varying weight. Ultimately, we aim to illuminate the cultural foundations and groupness of the social categories involved in various configurations between different groups.

Global Boundary Making – A Sociology of Knowledge Perspective on Global Categories

Hannah Bennani, Marion Müller

Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany

“People with disabilities”, “indigenous peoples”, “LGBTI people” – those are only some of the social categories that are institutionalizing within the realm of international politics and law. International human rights documents take into account their past and ongoing grievances and translate them into rights and claims. Those specialized sets of human rights rely on the stabilization of categorical boundaries that lump certain people (for example a white “gay” man and an indigenous person who identifies as “two spirit”) by focusing on their common characteristics and experiences and rather ignoring their differences. At the same time, the contrast to the complementary categories – like “heteronormativity” – is highlighted. As global categories they include persons from all over the world into a common realm of observation, comparison and (legal) expectations that transcend regional, economic and cultural differences.

While there is a growing corpus of research that addresses categorizations of persons from the perspective of a sociology of knowledge, it is mainly focused on local or national levels. Global processes of categorical boundary making are not systematically taken into account. However, we will argue that the analyses of “global categories” is crucial for the understanding of contemporary processes of globalization. Our paper offers an analytical heuristic for the analyses of global categories that relies on and is illustrated by selected cases like “people with disabilities”, “indigenous peoples”, and “LGBTI-people”.

Transgendering Knowledge. The Case of Ukrainian Minority in Poland

Aleksandra Herman

University of Warsaw, Poland

Field research that I had conducted since 2014 among the Ukrainian minority in Poland allowed to conclude that private family knowledge of minority culture and its memory are relatively feminized, though simultaneously during the institutionalization into public cultural and historical knowledge undergo forced masculinization. The minority culture itself underwent feminization as a result of modernization when the traditional areas of masculine expertise and work have become irrelevant, in contrast to most of the feminine domain. However, the official documentation of the cultural presence and social activity of Ukrainian women had been marginalized, both in the publications by the minority itself and in the sociological scientific research on the minority.

In my paper I will discuss mechanisms and processes of masculinization and feminization of cultural minority knowledge and their social effects. I will also point to some further applications possible to be extrapolated to many modern societies.

Un/Certainty in Borderland-Discourses and Practices

Kamil Bembnista

Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany

The main argumentation of this contribution will be that borderlands can be seen as areas of un/certainty if we consider: first, the border(land) as an area of physical and social transformation. Second, the border(land) as a socio-spatial construct, which is un/certain from local actors perspective according to social boundaries, different identity-formations, language barriers etc.

Here, the following research questions arise: Which socio-spatial transformation processes are being discussed in time (2007-today)? Are there stronger or weaker feelings of the common spatial units (Germany, Poland) in this border region in time, or can we even observe mixed zones, like interstices? Following the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse, I consider local public discourses in media in the Polish-German border region as public forums in which ascriptions of meanings with regard to the border (region) are developed, stabilised, but also renegotiated and changed.

In our DFG-NCN-funded research-project „Socio-spatial transformations in German-Polish ‚interstices’. Practices of debordering and rebordering“ we are focusing on local discourses, on space-related knowledge and on practices of both residents and local actors. In this contribution I will put the focus on first results of the discourse analysis on high-circulation newspapers of Germany and Poland which shall illustrate the public discourse on rebordering and debordering tendencies. Additionally, not only verbal data (e.g. newspaper articles, book chapters) will be collected, but also visual depictions of ‘borders’ or border characteristics.

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