Sociology and the New Materialisms
A BSA New Materialisms Study Group One-day Conference
Monday, 25 March 2024 (11:00-16:30)
Goldsmiths University of London, New Cross, London
About the Event
Plenary Speaker: Professor Jessica Ringrose
Since the establishment of the BSA New Materialisms Study Group in 2018, membership of the group has grown year on year, as has the number of research outputs using these approaches.
To celebrate this burgeoning interest, this one-day event will give group members and others an opportunity to present work relevant to new materialist and posthuman social science, and network with others using new materialist theories and concepts in their research.
We are delighted that our plenary speaker will be the renowned feminist materialist scholar Professor Jessica Ringrose (UCL). Come to the conference to hear Prof Ringrose and share your current work.
Call for papers
We invite abstracts (150-200 words) for 20-minute papers (+ 10 minutes Q&A) reporting your research. Please submit abstracts by 15 January 2024 to Debbie Watson.
Registration fees (to include buffet lunch and refreshments).
- BSA members: £20
- Non-BSA members: £30
- BSA concessionary members (student and other): £5
- Non-BSA member students: £15
Registration (via BSA Events page) not yet open.
2023 Seminar series: Materiality, Society and the More-than-Human
We are pleased to announce our third series of online seminars, featuring UK and international speakers.
14 December 2023 (14:00-15:00 GMT)
Seminar 3 - How we fuck and unfuck the world: Intimacy as method in trans sex research - Dr H Howitt (University of Brighton)
What does research look like when consent, creativity, and connection is valued over truth, rigor, and impact? What happens to academic knowledge production when we refuse the erotophobic sterility that lingers like a bad hangover from modernity’s myth of scientific superiority, and instead return to what we have always been: beings hard-wired to connect meaningfully with other humans, non-humans, and more-than-humans? In this DIY stop-motion video essay, I reflect on what a peculiar and terrifying time it is to be a trans disabled scholar, and show how coalition building is the only way to unfuck ourselves.
Drawing on my PhD project ‘how we fuck’, I show how love, hope, vulnerability and solidarity coalesce to produce what I term ‘intimacy as method’. Intimacy as method intervenes to help liberate both trans sex from its dominant narratives of suffering, and trans sex research from its customs of squeamishness and histories of Eurocentric philosophy.
H Howitt is a creator, activist and sex educator who researches the sexual practices of trans people at the University of Brighton. Informed by their experience as a disabled, queer and trans sex worker and somatics teacher, their values of access intimacy, vulnerability, creative communication, and consent underpin their research practice.
All seminars via Zoom; free to attend.
13 November 2023 (13:00-14:00 GMT)
Seminar 2 - Becoming with Care in drug treatment services: the Recovery Assemblage - Dr Lena Theodoropoulou (University of Liverpool, UK)
Watch the event video below.
12 October 2023 (14:00-15:00 BST)
Seminar 1 - Space emerging, life ‘taking place’: contributions of non-representational theory to new materialisms/posthumanism - Professor Gavin J Andrews (McMaster University, Canada)
Watch video recording below.
Thurs 8th September 2022
The politics of individual health, well-being and behaviour: how may the material turn theorise individuals in neoliberal contexts?
Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK, and on Zoom
Increasingly popular in sociology and across the social sciences are approaches drawing on post-humanism and new materialism. How do such approaches theorise relations between the personal and political? These authors are each drawing on new materialist approaches to their various topics of activism, precarity and class/health/citizenship.
Paper 1: Amanda Light (Ulster University)
'Reconsidering precarity through affect theory'.
This paper develops a new materialist and critical posthumanist approach to the socio-material conditions of precarity such as individualism, competition and ‘flexibility’. It establishes the theoretical framework for my doctoral thesis.
Massumi’s (2015: ix) Spinozist formulation of affect as ‘the power to affect and be affected’ provides ways to consider precarity as materially embodied encounters. The capacity to affect and be affected belongs to a relational ontology that is part of ‘a recipe for collectively managed processes of social transformation’ (Braidotti, 2019: 54). Affect theory circumnavigates the limitations of an oppositional critique of precarity that reinstates traditional power structures by focussing on ideological causality.
Starting in the middle of being affected and affective, I explore bodies’ entanglements with neoliberal capitalism within a ‘precarity assemblage’. What precarious bodies can do is addressed through Massumi’s (2002) relational conceptualisation of affect. This reveals that processes of transformation may be formed through the material assemblages that are embedded in the very systems we are trying to challenge or change.
The main opportunity highlighted through an affective perspective is the potential to move beyond the ideologically-encouraged personalisation of precarity’s effects, towards a reconfiguration of precarity as relational, affective encounters. It is used here as a precursor to further study of the material effects of precarity, that will challenge dominant individualistic ‘wellbeing’ interventions to counter ‘disorders’ linked to precarious employment.
Paper 2: Angharad Beckett and Tom Campbell (university of Leeds)
'To resist is to invent: rethinking theories of social movements'.
Over the past twenty to thirty years, ‘ideas’ and ideational processes have been a major focus of work in the political science and political sociology. Our focus in this paper is the turn to ideas within Social Movement Studies (SMS) - in particular, concern with the ‘ideational dimension of collective action’ (Hosseini, 2010: 339). We take as our point of departure Hosseini’s (2010: 29) argument that ‘mainstream conceptualizations’ of what he terms ‘dissident knowledge’ opens the approach to two rival hazards. The first risks dissolving the ideational aspect of a movement into the agential and pragmatic notions of action. The second risks dissolving it into the structural determinant relations of the broader context of action. There is growing dissatisfaction with the reductionism associated with both sets of approaches. To date, few have considered how Foucauldian and new materialist perspectives might offer ways to move beyond approaches which prioritise the material over the discursive, or vice versa.
We make the case for an analytical framework that takes as its starting point Foucault’s understanding of the mutual conditioning of the discursive and the material, and Deleuze’s argument that forces and agencies (discursive, corporeal, technological, social) are entangled at various points as ‘assemblages’. We perceive their positions to be compatible. This paper is part of a wider project that we are undertaking to develop an ‘analytic of resistance’ (Proust, 2000).
Paper 3: Nick J Fox (University of Huddersfield)
'Politics of a pandemic: a more-than-human analysis'.
Public health, clinical and behavioural approaches have dominated explanations of spread of the coronavirus Sars-Cov-2 during the Covid-19 pandemic, and of the divergences and inequalities in infection and death rates. This paper instead applies a relational, post-anthropocentric and materialist approach, to address the social and political contexts of the pandemic, making direct links between capitalist social relations and the global spread of the virus.
This also establishes a materialist framework for exploring socioeconomic disparities in Covid-19 incidence and death rates, via a more-than-human and monist analysis of capitalist production and markets. Disparities derive from the ‘thousand tiny dis/advantages’ produced by people’s daily interactions with human and non-human matter, making sense of the unequal occupational patterning of coronavirus incidence. This more-than-human approach supplies a critical alternative to the mainstream public health and scientific perspectives on the pandemic, with important implications for current and future policy to counter future microbiological outbreaks.
International Seminar Series 2022
Seminar 1 (Zoom): 24 May 2022 (15:00-16:00 BST)
Dr Sarah Elton (Toronto Metropolitan University, Canada) - WATCH VIDEO BELOW
‘Nonhuman matters - Nonhumans matter: plants, food systems and the production of health’.
Evidently, plants are good for health – they provide food and oxygen, as well as materials for our clothing and shelters. But in which ways are plants health actors? How are these nonhumans imbricated in the sociopolitical processes that produce human health? This presentation considers the agency of plants in the production of health at two sites: the vegetable garden and the human gut. These are two scales related to food systems at which humans are intimate with plants. Drawing on fieldwork in urban gardens and an analysis of the biomedical literature on the human gut microbiome, this talk explores the notion of relational health and the role of plants in its production.
Sarah Elton is assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the newly re-named Toronto Metropolitan University, and founding director of the Food Health Ecosystems Lab. She researches the human-ecosystems-health nexus in the city through the study of produce supply chains, urban gardens, and one of our most intimate sites of the social production of health: the human gut microbiome.
Seminar 2 (Zoom): 20 June 2022 (14:00-15:00 BST)
Professor Deevia Bhana (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
'Teenage girls and the entanglements wtih online porn: a new feminist materialist perspective'.
What can porn mean to teenage girls if we are encouraged to shift the optic to see it as an assemblage, full of intensities, rather than an external force with negatives effects breaking down childhood sexual innocence? In this discussion I take on the challenge by refusing to place young sexualities ‘under erasure’- a common denominator in popular debate and policy initiatives grounded in protecting the young from the corruptive force of sexuality. Instead, by drawing on new feminist materialist perspectives and through conversations with South African teenage girls, I address what girls can do by examining their experiences with online porn and sexually explicit materials as they navigate an assemblage that seeks to silence their sexual becomings. I argue that girls’ sexual network connectivity and exploration of online porn through human and more-than-human elements, rather than based on sexual muteness speaks to the entanglement of their desire for knowing and learning ‘sexually’ while resisting gender oppressive structures.
Deevia Bhana is the DSI/NRF South African Research Chair in Gender and Childhood Sexuality. She is known internationally for her research with children and young people in which she seeks to understand the early formation of gendered ideologies, the experience of sexuality across the young life course, relationship dynamics, sexual and reproductive health and violence.
Sorry, no recording of this seminar is available.
Seminar 3 (Zoom): 26 September 2022 (1400 – 1500 BST)
Dr Kim Ringmar Sylwander (Malmö University, Sweden)
‘Whores, hijabs and heart emojis”: intersectional explorations of youth’s sexualized and racialized online assemblages’.
Technologies such as smartphones and the internet have become seamless parts of our everyday lives. Young people’s social lives largely play out on, with and through these technologies. Drawing on a netnographic study of young social media users’ online interactions, this talk will explore how young people’s lives are conditioned in intersectional ways within their everyday social technological environments. In particular the presentation will map the youths’ affective orientations and bodily capacities within the sexualized and racialized assemblages of these online spaces.
Kim R. Sylwander is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Sexology and Sexuality Studies at Malmö University in Sweden. Her research centers on how children and youth navigate technologically mediated environments. Her previous research has focused on sexualized and racialized hate among youth online as well as young people’s consumption of pornography. Her current work explores how youth negotiate sexual consent in online contexts.
International Seminar Series 2021
Between STS and the New Materialisms: Affinities and Alliances in Troubling Times - a seminar series from the BSA Science and Technology Studies and New Materialisms Study Groups***
1 June 2021 (15:00-16:00 GMT)
Microphysiologies of Desire and an Ethics of Matter with
Professor Deboleena Roy -
WATCH VIDEO BELOW
4 May 2021 (14:00-15:00 GMT)
Disentangling Food Ethics: Activism as Theory: Dr Eva Giraud
WATCH VIDEO BELOW
Between STS and the New Materialisms: Affinities and Alliances in Troubling Times - a seminar series from the BSA Science and Technology Studies and New Materialisms Study Groups
BSA New Materialisms study group Inaugural Day Conference
Monday 10 June 2019
12 noon to 5 p.m.
BSA London Meeting Room, Imperial Wharf, Fulham.
The establishment of the BSA new materialisms study group in 2018 reflects the growing interest among sociologists in this approach, both theoretically and as an ontological perspective to inform empirical research. This one-day symposium is a showcase of members' research, and will also discuss the future development of the study group's work within the BSA.
Please click here to download the full programme for the event.
New Materialism and the Sociology of Inequality. Class, Capital and Capacities
Western Sydney University Parramatta Campus South EA.2.13 (LT02)
Monday 25 February 2019 from 2pm to 4 pm
Paper 1: Class Matters: A New Materialist Approach.
Peta Hinton (Heinrich-Heine University, Germany).
Paper 2: Re-materialising Social Class.
Nick J Fox (University of Huddersfield/Sheffield, UK).
In this seminar the speakers re-assess how sociology has explored social inequality. They argue for a new materialist perspective that addresses the part non-human matter plays in social divisions.
You can now watch the video of this entire event, at: