September 21, 2015

Call for Abstracts | Third ISA Forum of Sociology

Call for abstracts for the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology (“The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World”), which will take place from July 10th to 14th, 2016, at the University of Vienna (Austria), is now open. Abstracts have to be submitted via RC33 Conference homepage ( by January 21st, 2016. RC 33 will organize sessions on the following topics:

  1. Social Theory and Its Methods
  2. The Futures We Expect: Time and Future Concepts As a Methodological Challenge in Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research
  3. Sociological Hermeneutics – Methods and Methodology
  4. The Complex Discursivity of Global Futures in the Making: Analyzing Transnational Orders of Discourse
  5. Comparison in Ethnographic Research
  6. Contextualizing Cases and Types through Qualitative Multi-Level-Analysis
  7.  Contextualizing Inter- and Multinational Survey Research. Discussing Regional Perspectives on Effects and Outcomes of Global Trends
  8. Linear and Non-Linear (Multi-Level-)Modelling with Aggregate or Regional Data for Policy Analysis and Evidence Based Counselling
  9.  Generalizing Results from Experimental Research
  10. The New Data “Revolution” in Sociology: Methodological and Epistemological Issues
  11. Datalinkage. Beyond Asking for Consent

Please see the detailed session abstracts below and see the conference website ( for further details. Please also note that all abstracts and papers have to be submitted and held in English language.
Abstract submission >>

Here are some important dates:

  • Deadline: 30 September 2015
  • Notification letters to submitters: 15 December 2015
  • Deadline for abstracts: 21 January 2016
  • Registration deadline for presenters: 5 April 2016

Best wishes,
Martin Weichbold and Nina Baur
(ISA Forum Programme Coordinators)


Social Theory and Its Methods

Session Organizers: María DE LOS ÁNGELES POZAS and Marco ESTRADA SAAVEDRA (Mexico)

Session Abstract:
In Latin America there is a growing interest in social theory and methodology.
This has produced a set of researchers seeking critical reconstruction of the most significant theoretical approaches in sociology and their underlying methodological principles. Traditional tensions, never resolved completely within sociology, among agency and structure, macro-micro, qualitative-quantitative, led to theories and methodologies difficult to reconcile, such as those articulated around social structure and those departing from face to face symbolic interaction. Attempts at integration between the two poles of these perspectives are carried out since the eighties.

There were arguments to look for macro-basis of social interaction, or how the macro consists of an aggregate of micro-episodes, and even philosophical attacks on what was considered a spurious bifurcation of micro- and macro-levels.

Recently the debate is formulated from a different perspective that discusses the “substantial” or “relational” nature of subjects and objects that make up “social”. In general terms, it is possible to observe a trend to move from sociologies that privilege “structure” and the immersive nature of “society” as a determinant of social relationships, to a “relational” sociology that forces to rethink the major theoretical approaches in the light of the new perspective.

The aim of the panel proposal is to reflect on the epistemological principles implied in the main theoretical approaches. We think that this forum constitutes an excellent opportunity to re-open the debate in Latin America in dialogue with similar efforts in other parts of the academic world.

Papers for this session should, therefore, address one or more of the following themes:

  • A critical reconstruction of theoretical approaches in sociology and their underlying methodological principles.
  • Epistemological principles implied in the main theoretical approaches and their relation to methods.
  • Mixed-method design and its relation to contemporary Social Theory.
  • Latin American appropriation of Anglo and European theoretical approaches and methods.

The Futures We Expect: Time and Future Concepts As a Methodological Challenge in Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research

Session Organizers: Elisabeth SCHILLING, Sina-Mareen KÖHLER, Sebastian SCHINKEL and Regina SOREMSKI (Germany)

Session Abstract:
Time and future concepts are implicitly present in different fields of sociology. It is central in the study of biography – while reconstructing the biographical events and processes we always relate to our notion of time and to our future biographical prospects. In the sociological study of childhood, youth and education the perception of time, time and future design is an issue as it can critically influence the chances and the development perspectives of the adolescent. The adaptation to different time cultures is an important issue in the migration research. The discourses about differences, alienation or integration often use time-related terminology (e.g. biographical prospects, forecasts) in order to legitimate own activities. In the organizational studies time (and different time concepts) is a pivot point. This list of topics is suggestive rather than exhaustive. Contributors may choose to draw on material from a wide range of empirical spheres and theoretical perspectives.

The session is linked not only to methodological discussions but also to the interdisciplinary network for the study of time and future concepts and thus we are interested in processes, which form individual time and future concepts in different (e.g. different educational settings, migration, biographical challenges).

Therefore, we highly welcome papers working on methodological aspects of the study of time and future concepts. The papers can present methodological conceptual work or results from the own field work. We are interested in qualitative and mixed-methods approaches.

Sociological Hermeneutics – Methods and Methodology

Session Organizers: Regine HERBRIK and Silvana FIGUEROA-DREHER (Germany)

Session Abstract:
According to one of the founding fathers of sociology, Max Weber, the aim of sociological research is to interpretively understand social action and thereby explain its course and effects. Although understanding is accomplished anytime by actors in everyday life, scientific methods have to be employed, if understanding is to be achieved by social scientists in a traceable manner and in compliance with the rules of good scientific practice. In past decades, a multitude of qualitative methods have been implemented into the social sciences in order to fulfil this task.

Among them, Social Hermeneutics has recently become increasingly important for the analysis of several types of data, e.g. interaction sequences, texts, gestures, pictures, video sequences, music or objects.It developed in the context of the sociology of knowledge and is, therefore, closely connected to the theoretical and methodological findings and thoughts of this scholarly tradition. As a result, employing Social Hermeneutics does not only involve the interpretive understanding of any kind of data, but also reflects on the characteristics of scientific understanding, the process of understanding in everyday life itself, as well as on the relation between both of them.
Although, the prominence of Social Hermeneutics exceeded the borders of German speaking sociology years ago, the international scientific discourse on this methodological complex has just begun.

This session aims therefore at locating and bringing together sociologists and social scientists of all nationalities employing Social Hermeneutics in empirical studies, or dealing with theoretical considerations on methodical or methodological questions in this field. Thereby, the specific methodological challenges of Social Hermeneutics shall be explored, and the benefits and drawbacks of its specific methods shall be discussed.

Papers debating general methodological questions, as well as those discussing specific problems using Social Hermeneutics in a particular research project are both equally welcome.

The Complex Discursivity of Global Futures in the Making: Analyzing Transnational Orders of Discourse

Session Organizer: Reiner KELLER (Germany)

Session Abstract:
Global and transnational civil society, the proliferation of arenas and organizations involved in the definition of ‘world problems’, the burgeoning economic power of the BRIC-states as well as general recognition of a ‘post-colonial constellation’ together constitute a new and challenging reconfiguration of transnational or global orders of discourse. The joint session addresses sociological tools for analyzing the complex discursivity of such sites of discourse, communication, and knowledge production. This complexity is a result of the hybrid constellations of the actors and knowledge claims involved, interconnections of heterogeneous arenas of dialogue and negotiation, diverse cultural rationalities of factuality, evidence, and legitimation, and also of translation between epistemic cultures and languages from around the world. In order to address these challenges, the session focuses on the reach of sociological tools for analyzing transnational and global discourses as knowledge-making activities which will profoundly shape the future. It intends to strengthen genuinely sociological methodologies of discourse research – a task which, according to sociologist Adele Clarke, is at the center of our discipline today. The session welcomes contributions which refer to theories, methodologies, and methods of discourse research designed especially for sociological research as well as presentations of empirical research that are related to these questions.

Comparison in Ethnographic Research

Session Organizers: Barbara STEFAN, Deniz SEEBACHER and Daniela JAUK (Austria)

Session Abstract:
In order to identify commonalities between distant cases, understand the wider relevance of specific phenomena, or to criticize and assess certain social trends or qualities by means of contrasting along comparative criteria the method of comparison started to be of growing importance in ethnographic research. As the assessment of very particular cases attract much less attention of the research community, and with the purpose of meeting market-driven demands of publishers and reviewers, the need for using examples and particularities not in its own right, but show how they stand for larger phenomena distributed over time and/or space became indispensable. Binary comparison, regional comparison, temporal comparison, distant comparison or shifting comparison across time and space are possible modes for this type of method (Gingrich 2002, also see: Scheffer/Niewöhner 2010, Gingrich/Fox 2002, Herzfeld 2001).

This regular session seeks to bring together researchers using the method of comparison for their ethnographic research projects with a specific focus on the methodological tools (e.g. development of indicators, similar interview questionnaires, codes) used to recognize relations, linkages or contrasts between distant cases. It motivates researchers to think if analyses reaching beyond particular cases are not already scientific requirements and if their ethnographies maybe include comparative methods without its explicit reference.

Papers address questions such as:

  • How can comparison be realized in ethnographic research, so as to address larger phenomena?
  • What are insights, experiences, best and worst practices with comparative methodology?
  • What methodological tools can be used?
  • How did comparison help to generate theory?

Contextualising Cases and Types through Qualitative Multi-Level-Analysis

Session Organizers: Anja WEISS and Arnd-Michael NOHL (Germany)

Session Abstract:
“Struggles for a better world” have been analysed on all social levels: in the form of revolutions by comparative sociologists, in the form of organizational change and collective mobilization or as individual mobility and identity formation. For all of these topics multi-level analyses are desirable: Taking change in schools as an example, reforms agreed upon on state level need to be put into practice in individual school organizations, taking into account the social milieus of pupils and organizational milieus of teachers.

In methodological terms, multi-level analyses are a complex matter. In the quantitative paradigm nested data with a high degree of colinearity and small numbers on the lowest level can be a problem. Qualitative research methods, on the other hand, rarely conceptualize analyses as multi-level. Nevertheless, extensive debates about the selection of comparative cases, the framing and contextualization of cases and the construction of a variety of types point in exactly that direction.

  • The session is inviting methodological papers and empirical studies which reflect on qualitative multi-level design:
  • How can different levels of inquiry be theoretically conceptualised and theoretically related to each other?
  • How can cases and types be contextualized by other levels of research?
  • What kind(s) of internal heterogeneities are acceptable; when is multi-level analysis a necessity?
  • How to avoid methodological nationalism in sampling and analysis?
  • Can lower-level cases be placed in more than one higher-level context?
  • How does multi-level analysis foster validity and generalizability?

Contextualising Inter- and Multinational Survey Research. Discussing Regional Perspectives on Effects and Outcomes of Global Trends

Session Organizers: Jaroslaw GÓRNIAK (Poland), Dimitri PRANDNER (Austria) and Daniela WETZELHÜTTER (Austria)

Session Abstract:
Technological advances and societal changes experienced in the last decade led to a number of new possibilities and challenges for survey research on a global scale. It becomes seemingly easier than ever before to organize and administer an international or at least multi-national research project. But how are regional concepts and traditions affecting the design, implementation and outcome of global studies and how are global studies affecting these steps within the survey process used in regional studies? Using this as a starting point the panel invites all researchers that are interested to participate in the discussion about the challenges survey research faces in such a setting. We want to specifically address the following points:

  • How and at which points do the global trends in survey research and usage intersect with and/or influence established and often long standing regional traditions and concepts?
  • Which theoretical and methodical challenges emerge for regional survey research, as there is an evident shift towards more globalized perspective? How are those challenges met?
  • How can the results from both global and regional survey research be put into context with each other? Which pitfalls and opportunities have to be addressed?

Contributions can both address theoretical ideas and concepts in regards to survey research as well as practical experiences of realized research projects.

However, the proposed papers should indeed address how the global or regional scopes found in a project are reflected on in the methodological background and if necessary even put into relation with each other.

Linear and Non-Linear (Multi-Level-)Modelling with Aggregate or Regional Data for Policy Analysis and Evidence Based Counselling Session

Organizers: Peter GRAEFF (Germany), Stefanie EIFLER (Germany) and Heinz LEITGÖB (Austria)

Session Abstract:
In order to “struggle for a “better world”, policy implications and evidence based counselling should refer to scientific results based on state of the art theorizing and analysis. If-as is often the case for this specific kind of research-aggregated/regional data serve as the empirical basis, several methodological and statistical challenges occur.

The most common problems pertain e.g. the identification and assessment of causal effects derived from aggregated/regional data, violations of conventional model assumptions, sample inherent problems or challenges of adequately modelling specific phenomena such as inequality.

Consequently, this session welcomes papers presenting problem identifications and solutions to such complexities arising from the nature of aggregate data in the context of policy analysis and evidence based counselling. Each paper should refer to specific methodological or statistical aspects and may answer questions like the following:

  • How can causal effects at different levels of analysis (including the individual level) be simultaneously identified when aggregate data are applied?
  • How can multi-level designed studies contribute to comparative analysis aiming at the formulation of policy recommendations?
  • How do we deal with sample inherent problems of aggregate/regional data, e.g. (extremely) small sample sizes or different contextual conditions?
  • How can we measure complex social phenomena by indices and apply index-based results in ways that improvements in policy analysis can be achieved?
  • How can we accurately account for specific characteristics of global social key phenomena such as inequality, corruption or democracy.

Generalizing Results from Experimental Research

Session Organizers: Stefanie EIFLER (Germany), Marc KEUSCHNIGG (Germany), Susanne VOGL (Austria) and Tobias WOLBRING (Germany)

Session Abstract:
Experimental methods are increasingly applied in the social sciences. We believe that, as with other social sciences, experiments will grow strongly in relevance for sociology in upcoming years. A crucial concern is that small-scale experiments (e.g. on individuals’ norm adherence), both in the lab and in the field, are not generalizable to other social conditions and thus do not contribute to answering large-scale research questions (e.g. the stability of social order).Solutions to this methodological problem are essential for the spreading of experimental methods in the social sciences. This particularly holds for sociology which is mainly concerned with aggregate states, dynamics, and outcomes.

We invite contributions dealing with this methodological problem of experimental research. This might include papers stressing the role of theory in experimental design, the search for mechanisms to obtain generalizable results from context-sensitive designs, and studies comparing differences across experimental designs. More specifically, we seek theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions to the following questions:

  • How can intervention studies overcome problems such as lack of theory?
  • Can theory contribute to the resolution of context dependency in experimental research?
  • What can social theory gain from small-scale experiments?
  • What are their potentials and pitfalls of large-scale online experiments?
  • Do field experiments live up to their promise of bringing context back in?
  • What can we learn from  factorial surveys and split-ballot experiments?
  • What do we know about the problems and prospects of different types of experiments?
  • How do reactivity, effect heterogeneity, and other distortions to causal inference affect applicability of experimental methods?

The New Data “Revolution” in Sociology: Methodological and Epistemological Issues

Session Organizers: Biagio ARAGONA and Enrica AMATURO (Italy)

Session Abstract:
The availability of new data (big data, big corpora, open data, linked data,
etc.) offers to sociology both oppurtunities and challenges. If it constitutes a chance to enhance knowledge on some key areas (i.e. development, social inequalities, health, communication research, etc.) it also presents many usual social research challenges in new forms. The implications of using new data in the social science domain have been widely studied from the analytics point of view, but others methodological issues have to be closely assessed (i.e. population and sample selection, validity, data structuring, metadata collection, timeliness and real-time data collection, etc.). Moreover, the epistemological consequences of the use of new data need to be considered.

First of all, the re-emergence of data driven approaches opposed to theory laden approaches. Furthermore, the great relevance of textual data, which means a big difference with the past, where quantitative social research mainly worked with numerical data. Finally, new data pose data access issues, both as access allowance (i.e. open data) and access constraint (i.e. social network data).

Datalinkage. Beyond Asking for Consent

Session Organizer: Emanuela SALA (Italy)

Session Abstract:
Many surveys worldwide have started to link respondents’ survey data to their administrative records (e. g., data from National Health Services). There is an established body of research that looked at the drivers of respondents’ consent to datalinkage. However, research that looked at other aspects of datalinkage is still rare. This session aims at fostering discussion on the research potential of linked data. Papers on both substantive and methodological issues are welcome.