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“Post-Western Sociologies in France and in China” International Associated Laboratory Symposium (CNRS-ENS Lyon/Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) : « Doing Post-Western Sociology »

24 juin 2015 - 26 juin 2015 / June 2015, on the 24th, 25th, 26th, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon


  • Host : Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon
  • Organizer : Triangle « Action, Discourses, Economic and Political Thought »
  • Partners : Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing)
    and Department of Sociology, Beijing University

Complete presentation (updated version)

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The social sciences and humanities have developed considerably in the last thirty years in different Asian countries where both theoretical approaches and methodologies have been constantly changing. As a result of the circulation and globalisation of knowledge, new centres and new peripheral areas have been formed and new hierarchies have quietly emerged, giving rise in turn to new competitive environments in which innovative knowledge is being produced. The centres in which knowledge in the social sciences and humanities is produced have moved towards Asia and in particular to China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India. In international sociology, Asian sociologists are developing their own thinking within real diversity, while at the same time reinterpreting Western theories and are already establishing epistemological networks in order to produce theories at some remove from hegemonic Western paradigms.

With the creation of the LIA Post-Western Sociologies in France and in China, the Chinese Opening Conference in November on the 9 and 10th 2013 at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (Beijing) and the French Opening Conference Traditions, controversies and trajectories of sociologies in France and in China (1) at Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon in January on the 23 and 24 2014 on Traditions, controversies and trajectories of sociologies in France and in China (2), we already have begun to identify and select loci of controversy in the production of sociological knowledge in France and in China linked to theoretical methodology and will use controversy as an instrument to analyse the boundaries between conceptual spaces and methods deployed. Then in the Conference organized in Beijing University in Oktober on the 17 and 18 2014 on The fabric sociological knowledge drawing on French and Chinese experiences, we analyzed how a post-Western space has come into being in which sociological knowledge is emerging that is both specific and shared and in which theoretical methodologies are gathered together on the basis of very different histories and traditions. We will examine how research practices and sociological knowledge are constructed by analysing the different forms of field experience in sociology.

In this new Conference we are proposing to produce a new common conceptual and methodological space within which dialogue and intellectual innovation can take place. Doing Post-Western Sociology means examining those forms of knowledge that appear to be specific, those that seem to be the product of reappropriation, reinterpretation, borrowing and hybridisation and those that seem to be have been produced in areas of non-translatability, that is in spaces in which research practices and sociological knowledge in Europe and Asia do not correspond with each other. Instead of going into the plurality of provinces of knowledge, the most pressing task is to investigate the ways in which continuities and discontinuities, connections and disjunctions are formed between seats of knowledge located in different parts of the world and which are potentially capable of bringing to light a transnational intermediate space that is both local and global, free of all forms of orientalism and occidentalism.

In this new Conference we will deal with common concepts and singular concepts between major theoretical issues in French, Chinese and Korean sociologies. This approach while not exhaustive is eloquent regarding what remains of common knowledge. We have identified the following topics as illustrations of shared theoretical spaces about :

  • domination, agency and subjectivation
  • individuation, modernities and experiences
  • institutions, norms and resistance

Session 1 : Domination, agency and subjectivation

The issue of domination processes in contemporary societies remains a fundamental issue in sociology around the world. Whilst in French sociology the issue of domination refers to inequalities, in Chinese sociology it tends to refer to power. In French sociology, although domination was mainly dealt with by the Bourdieusian movement, it is today presented in various theoretical approaches but can take on various statuses according to trends. It is thought of as singular in structuro-functionalist paradigms and in the plural in interactionist paradigms. In a context in which inequalities and wage and moral insecurities increasingly combine, domination is increasingly thought of as plural. The concept of agency allow us to consider the simultaneousness of processes of domination and resistances. Moreover, it necessitates considering creativity and interpretive capacities ; most of French sociologists increasingly considered that the organisation of social worlds is anchored in the activities of competent actors, situated in time and space, and makes use of rules and resources in a diversity of contexts of constraint and action.
In China sociologists are introducing the issue of domination but have not yet named it. Here we can find an approach in which social domination is anchored in social structures and social relations of production. Sociologists place an emphasis on class domination which appears to be violently produced in a context of augmentation that is always greater than social inequalities. Here political power, economic power, and domination merge. As Shen Yuan showed, regimes of social domination are also regimes of social control. In Chinese sociology researchers also explore political domination which is not thought of as continued and permanent between ordinary situations in civilian life and the State. The works of Scott were heavily promoted for working on daily forms of peasant resistance, these occult discourses or occult practices (hidden transcripts) which express ways of revolting against situations of contempt, humiliation, and disrepute.
In the two contexts sociologists hunt for reflection on dominations and resistances through moral economies, mainly converging in the way of thinking about the status of moral economies in societies inhabited by strong fights for public and social recognition.

Session 2 : Institutions, norms and justice

For Chinese and French sociologists institutions are social and societal constructions. The idea of Society in French sociology has declined with the progressive empowerment of hierarchies and class relations, forms of representation and collective action, and the weakening of institutions by challenging the individual. François Dubet has been focused on the paradox of the decline and the extension of institutional action, Michel Lallement has conceived an approach to institutional dynamics using the notion of “institutional plurality”. In France we are studying regulations and deregulations, innovations and violences but also resistances to violences in different institutions. In China Institution and State are thought together, sociologists are really focused on a plurality and the intersectionality of economic, political social orders, especially on the differentiated social positions. Anyway in China in France, in Korea institutions are organized around different regimes of justice and injustice, it means a plurality of normative orders which produce different categories of actors able to develop sophisticated strategies and tactics in and out, near and far from institutional norm.

Session 3 : Individuation, modernities and experiences

Chang Kyung-Sup has distinguished variations of compressed modernity as internalized reflexive cosmopolitization. Compressed modernity in advanced capitalist societies are “low-order compressed modernity”, in non-Western societies as “high-order compressed modernity” and in “transition societies” like China as “compartmentalized compressed modernity”.In low-order compressed modernity” in Western European countries, as Robert Castel shows we have moved from a modernity organised on the basis of interlocking collective structures to a ‘disorganised’ form of modernity resulting from the destabilisation of the national-welfare state and the erosion of the bodies responsible for collective regulation ; this once again raises the question of economic and social solidarity, along with that of access to social rights. The individual’s social independence is called into question and the systems of collective regulation that produce social citizenship are destabilised by a dynamic of decollectivisation or re-individualisation. In the Chinese and the Korean experience, it means “compartmentalized compressed modernity”, China’s industrialization and urbanization are in accelating period, Li Peilin showed the structural change elasticity is still very high social mobility is still continuing but the Chinese society is producing multiple inequalities and uncertainties about the social destiny and future of vulnerable people, especially migrants and young people. For the past twenty years, particularly in France, sociology has taken on a subjectivist turn which confirms the very socio-centred way European societies examine themselves. In China, competitive relations between individuals to access a position becoming more and more developed. As Li Youmei shows the very rapid transformations of the Chinese society