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Sociology

SOCIOLOGY, SUFFERING AND HUMANITARIANISM

British Sociological Association Presidential Event: Sociology, Suffering and Humanitarianism

Friday 3rd February 2012, 10:00 – 16:00

The British Library Conference Centre, London

 

Confirmed speakers:

Craig Calhoun (London School of Economics)

Iain Wilkinson (University of Kent)

Larry Ray (University of Kent)

Kate Nash (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Gillian Bendelow (University of Sussex).

 

The magnitude and force of critical events of human suffering mark out modern times as an unparalleled ‘age of extremes’.  The scale of military conflict, the vast numbers of people trapped in systems of totalitarian oppression, the accumulation of conditions of mass humanitarian disaster and the entrenched poverty of the new ‘mega-slums’ leave many of us shocked and appalled by the harms we inflict on one another.

It is also now widely understood that we have created social conditions in which the maintenance of an affluent lifestyle and pursuit of consumer aspiration at one end of the globe are structurally implicated in the intensification of forces of violent oppression at the other. In this respect, the problem of suffering has changed not only in relation to the catastrophes that break apart societies, but also in accordance with the extent to which these are understood to be generated by social practices that at their point of origin may seem quite harmless and benign.

The brute fact of human suffering is frequently taken as a prompt for us to question the social, political and cultural circumstances in which we are made to live. It makes sociologists of us all. In almost every instance, the most significant developments in sociology have been inspired under the attempt to better understand the conditions that give rise to human misery; and further, how these can be re-fashioned for the project of building humane forms of society.

This BSA Presidential event is dedicated to the ongoing attempt to devise a sociological account of causes and consequences of human suffering. It also aims to cultivate a broad-ranging debate over the role of humanitarianism within our culture and the vocation of sociology itself.

Please visit the event website www.britsoc.co.uk/events/presidential to register and for further event details.

For more details about joining the BSA please visit www.britsoc.co.uk/join

Please direct any enquiries to the BSA office at events@britsoc.org.uk

 

**END**

 

‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic (recording) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h7tUq0HjIk (live)

 

‘Maximum levels of boredom

Disguised as maximum fun’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic (recording) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLjxeHvvhJQ (live, at the Belle View pub, Bangor, north Wales)  

 

‘Cheerful Sin’ – a new song by Victor Rikowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIbX5aKUjO8

 

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

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Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Volumizer: http://glennrikowski.blogspot.com

Online Publications at: http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=pub&sub=Online%20Publications%20Glenn%20Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/glenn.rikowski

The Lighthouse

CULTURES OF SURVEILLANCE

Call for Papers:

“Cultures of Surveillance”: An Interdisciplinary Conference,

Sponsored by The Film Studies Space: The Centre for the Cultural History of the Moving Image,

UCL (University College London), 29 September – 1 October 2011

We are being watched. The amazing part is that we are no longer even surprised by this. The culture of surveillance increasingly surrounds us in Europe where omnipresent CCTV cameras remind us that nothing escapes the invisible gaze of those behind the lens. At UCL, we have long been surveyed by our founder, Jeremy Bentham, who sits in a wooden case in the lobby and peers from glass eyes and a wax head: his own ‘icon’ body signals that he not only knew what surveillance meant but named it through his invention of the Panopticon. That imaginary device, which Bentham proposed would “help reform morals, preserve health, invigorate industry, diffuse instruction, and lighten public burdens,” continues to be a resonant touchstone for questions about the way governments and private agencies keep watch over our interests – and theirs. This conference, held where Bentham goes on watching both literally and metaphorically, proposes to explore, broadly, the interdisciplinary frameworks for understanding modern surveillance and, particularly, how surveillance practices intersect with visual technologies and histories of culture.

Our conference project emerges from an eagerness to think in new ways about surveillance practices as they intersect with culture, visual culture, and moving image studies. We start from the vantage point that there are many frameworks through which surveillance might be imagined today, ranging from the kinds of surveillance that entail keeping a friendly watch over each other to those represented by policing practices, government monitoring, and undercover investigations.

Our call for papers likewise assumes that questions about surveillance have become central to today’s world, as states and cultures grapple with the complex dynamics of security and liberty and as corporations demand ever more precise data about the world’s populations. As a modern panoptical city, Londonstands at the centre of the shift away from a Cold War culture of surveillance toward the post-9/11 order of things. It has long been one of the centres for the development and deployment of surveillance practices ranging from census taking to identification methods (such as fingerprinting, photography, passports, and DNA typing). It has also served over the past two centuries as a crucial nexus for practices of culture that perpetuate – and often question – the work of both social surveillance and self-surveillance: for example, the novel, detective fiction, museums, and the BBC. Visual recording and representations have historically played a central role in surveillance practices throughout the industrialising world: printmaking, photography, the cinema, and televisual moving images have accompanied the rise of the modern police force and the development of security systems in public as well as private spaces. “Cultures of Surveillance” hopes to address these intertwined histories of surveillance, practices of governance, visual technologies, and cultural forms.

This conference is sponsored by UCL’s Film Studies Space, an interdisciplinary centre for the study of the cultural history of moving images. It derives from two ongoing research projects, The Work of Film, investigating the ways moving images have been utilised by states and corporations to guide the conduct of populations; and The Autopsies Project, examining the afterlife of material objects in relation to the history of consumer culture and cinematic memory. We hope that conference presenters will discuss a range of issues in the long history of surveillance practices, from photography to digital media.

We anticipate contributions that analyse the myriad ways that visual culture has been enmeshed with political rationalities. We are keen to expand our frameworks far beyond the sphere of Londonand to look outside the Panopticon. We especially hope that contributions will find new ways of asking what it means to watch and to be watched, and to police and to be policed. We look forward to discussing ways that scholars of the humanities can interrogate the networks of surveillance that both protect and transform our world.

Following an opening lecture by Professor Tom Gunning, The University of Chicago, on Thursday, 29 Sept. 2011, the Conference will take place on Friday and Saturday, 30 Sept. and 1 Oct. 2011.

Topics might include but are not limited to:

* Histories of surveillance technologies and their applications

* The geo-politics of surveillance (in the 19th century? in Cold War culture? After 9/11?)

* Architectures of surveillance – visibility and urban space

* Film and television representations of surveillance / Film and the construction of public space

* Photography and the police

* Constructions of identity and surveillance methods (fingerprinting, passports, census taking)

* The hidden objects of surveillance (cameras, tape recorders, transmitters, interceptors, tracking systems)

* Histories and representations of objects associated with the collection, storage, and retrieval of personal data: from filing cabinets, paper shredders, computers …. (etc.)

* The Obsolete Objects of Surveillance (i.e., objects of surveillance that have fallen out of use)

* How do objects make visible personal data that is otherwise invisible?

* Self-policing: how do we watch them watch us?

* Technologies of the self and new media / Technologies of the self and dead media

* Systems of meaning and truth under surveillance/ imaginary and real inventions for policing and detecting such as lie detectors, truth serums, mind reading

* War-time surveillance: rationing and ration books, black market trading (representations and history)

* Governmental efforts to educate citizens (e.g. road safety campaigns, anti-littering campaigns, anti-smoking campaigns, etc.), both in filmic representation or through tv and press media.

* The gadgets of surveillance in spy films

* The art of CCTV cameras / Cultural plays with CCTV

* Watching cultures and Reality TV

* The relationship of bodies to surveillance technologies.

* The arts of documentary photography

* Prison plans and texts

* Watching you watching me: photography OF the police

* Under-cover policing in Film Noir / Policing practices in TV crime series

* Police procedurals (novelistic, cinematic, televisual)

* Forensic science and the invention of modern vision

* Panopticism and cinematic surveillance: theories, practices, and representations

* The relationship between voyeurism and surveillance

* New visibilities of surveillance / Changing temporalities and spaces of surveillance

* Documentary (as) surveillance

* Self-registration (tattoos, dog-tags) and rights

* Neighbourhood watch, curtain twitchers, vigilante work: putting the everyday under surveillance

* ‘Take back the night’ and women’s relationship to surveillance

* The political economy of visual technology and surveillance

* Advanced capitalism and (visual) cultures of surveillance

* Surveillance regimes in comparative historical, national, and political contexts

* Watching out for the future: surveillance technologies in science fiction

* ‘They have me under surveillance’: Paranoia and modernity

* Design technologies and panopticism / anti-panopticism

* The aesthetics of surveillance

* What can humanities scholars bring to current debates about surveillance?

* How can film studies contribute to debates about surveillance culture?

Individual papers are invited from scholars and researchers in any discipline of the humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences. Scholars from postgraduate to permanent senior academics are welcome to submit papers. Presentations would equally be welcomed from artists and filmmakers.

One-page abstracts for 20-minute presentations and a brief c.v. should be sent by Wed., 15 June to:

The Culture of Surveillance Conference Organisers

(Lee Grieveson, Rebecca Harrison, Jann Matlock, and Simon Rothon) at deadobjects@gmail.com

Participants will be notified by 30 June 2011

A conference publication is projected.

For more information on our projects, see http://www.autopsiesgroup.com and http://twitter.com/autopsiesgroup

—END—

‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: http://www.myspace.com/coldhandsmusic (recording) and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h7tUq0HjIk (live)

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com

Rikowski Point: http://rikowskipoint.blogspot.com

Culture

CULTURE & ORGANIZATION

Call for Papers

There will be a Special Issue of the journal Culture & Organization on: Commodities & Markets

Edited by Stevphen Shukaitis (Autonomedia / University of Essex) & Ming Lim (University of Leicester)

What would commodities say if they could speak? Marx’s wistful question can seem playful in some registers. Paul Jennings, for instance, proposed in his “Report of Existentialism” (1963) that everyday objects are constantly at war with their users: “things are against us,” he gleefully pronounces. And yet, objects voice themselves not only through our playful – or rueful – gaze.  If Marx had listened long enough, these talking commodities would have announced the traumas of their exploitative and violent birthing to him. Eventually, one imagines, they would have described the nature of the various forms of labour necessary for their production in the capitalist mode. As Fred Moten (2003) points out, history is marked by the revolt of the screaming commodity: the body of the slave fighting against its imposed status of thing-liness.

The rise of consumer culture, the proliferation and intensification of the commodity, can be understood as the expansion of the violence of accumulation all across the social field. The ferocious forces which separate the producer from the product of the labour process have not waned; on the contrary, they have become monstrously multiplied and rendered all the more invisible by their ubiquity in the society of the spectacle (Debord 1983). The critique and denunciation of these forces, have, in fact, become yet another commodity in the spectacle; something we witness today in the backlash against banks, bankers and speculators and all the glorified preening of capitalist consumption they stand for. Is this trend, then, the ‘new spirit of capitalism’?    

And yet, an alternative exists to the vicious dynamics described above.  One thinks, for instance, of the practices of Russian constructivists during the 1920s. The Constructivists, employing their artistic practices and knowledges to reconfigure industrial design and production, argued that rather than denouncing the seductive lure of the capitalist commodity it would be possible to utilize these energies to reshape the socialist world. This would move the objects produced for use and consumption from being capitalist commodity to be active participants in the building of this world: it would make them into comrades (Kiaer 2005).  Yet, how attractive is this vision to the postmodern consumer? Is it more or less dangerous than its alternative?

Today, therefore, we need to reconsider the “state of things,” or, put another way, the “state” of things.  Both bloody commodities and comradely objects exist, as a double edge, all around us:  the stubborn existence of sweatshop production and labour exploitation exist side-by-side with the proliferation of ‘helpful’ technologies and all sorts of interactive gadgets and participatory media networks. Fair trade products have moved from the status of marginal subcultural practices to multinational corporate cash schemes. Are we seeing the inauguration of a new era of ethical production through the commodity form (Arvidsson 2006) or the latest and most comprehensive example of alienation, one that is now self-managed through the fetish of ethical consumption?  What would objects now say to us?

This issue aims to find out. Possible areas for inquiry could include but are not limited to:

• Commodity fetishism, surfaces and glosses

• Revolting objects and rebellious products

• The current ‘ethical’ fetishes in production and consumption

• Autoreduction and reappropriation of commodities

• The labour of making labour ‘disappear’ from commodities

• Spectacular society and its other

• The commons in and through the ‘market’ and ‘markets’

• The madness of crowds and the taming influence of objects

References

Arvidsson, Adam (2006) Brands: Meaning and Value in Media Culture. London: Routledge.

Debord, Guy (1983) Society of the Spectacle. Detroit, MI: Red & Black.

Jennings, Paul (1963) “Report of Resistentialism,” Town & Country. Available at www.resistentialists.com

Kiaer, Christina (2005) Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism. Cambridge: MIT University Press.

Moten, Fred (2003) In The Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

We welcome original, high-quality articles between 6,000 to 7,000 words (including references) which are not currently under consideration by other journals and also shorter review articles, commentaries and book reviews.  Potential contributors are welcome to contact the Editors informally, and especially in the case of shorter pieces they may want to submit:  stevphen@autonomedia.org or m.lim@leicester.ac.uk

SUBMISSION PROCESS

Full submission instructions are available on the Culture and Organization publishers’ homepage:   http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/14759551.asp. Please read these in full before submitting your manuscript.

Important Dates

• Paper submission deadline: 3rd June, 2011

• Camera ready papers:  30th April, 2012

Publication scheduled for September 2012.

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

The Flow of Ideas: http://www.flowideas.co.uk

MySpace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/glennrikowski

The Ockress: http://www.theockress.com