FROM CONTEXTS TO PRACTICES
This special issue of Sociological Problems is based on the international conference Non-hegemonistic Sociologies: From Contexts to Practices, but goes beyond its framework. This is because the conference proved broader in its themes than the organizers initially intended, and expanded the discussion regarding the complex nature of sociological practice, which proceeds constantly under a variety of dependencies, including institutional, financial, professional, discipline-related, paradigmatic, linguistic, theoretical, etc. The participants in the conference were at first uncertain as to the adequacy of defining the conceptual couple „hegemonistic vs. non-hegemonistic sociologies“: the discomfort involved in this terminology and the vagueness of its interpretation were definitely a problem; yet the participants raised questions that have rarely been examined in the mainstream (always a hegemonistic one) of the social sciences. As authors of articles in this issue, they further elaborate the questions that were raised at the conference and discuss the ways in which sociology is practiced in situations where the researcher is not the dominant figure, does not hold a dominant position. Though qualified as „non-hegemonistic“, these situations and practices are not the opposite of hegemonistic, are not marked by absence of dominance, of superior power, or of hierarchy. Instead, the situations in question involve dynamically changing relations of subordination and dependency, in which we find ourselves working every day. These conditions are not the result of destiny or a matter of status. The non-hegemonistic situation may come about as a result of a changing configuration of actors, relationships and institutional mechanisms which create conditions of action that are defined elsewhere or by others; or in which we lack the means and capacity of influencing the conditions. In other words, changeable, polymorphous, multi-faceted relations of dependence characterize a given situation, which is invariably in course of construction, unfolding and change.
The authors, who come from various geo-political, national, institutional, professional areas, invite use to think about the fundamental question of our profession: how are we doing sociology under the pressure of the predominating socio-historical, theoretical, disciplinary and methodological realities? Are we able to emancipate ourselves from dominations and dependencies when we fulfill our obligations as teachers, researchers, professional sociologists; and at what cost, with what consequences, as regards the development of knowledge and self-knowledge of societies and as regards our personal professional careers?
The articles are organized in five thematic blocks focused respectively on the following problems:
Zones of contact, the overlapping and mutual enrichment of theoretical, methodological and multidisciplinary knowledge (Laurence Rouleau-Berger), ways of conceptualizing post-colonialism and post-communism (Petya Kabakchieva), the traps set in post-colonial thought (Imed Melliti), and the places of reading the world in the perspective of the „small society“ (Joseph Yvon Thériault); here the authors present arguments in support of the view on non-hegemony as a specific approach to the world, as a specific (dis)position towards social reality;
The changeability of hegemonic and non-hegemonic, which is evident in the need to make more precise the conceptual apparatus of classical sociology as well as of the new sociology oriented to the singular and unforeseeable, to uncertainty and risk, in order to be able to capture the image of the changing Arab societies in their complexity and diversity (Rahma Bourqia); in the questioning of established approaches and typologies that obfuscate the multiple realities of the construction of modern nations (Jean-François Laniel); in sociology’s departure from the sensual, the intersubjective, and the forms of shared culture, for the sake of maintaining a „scientific approach“ (Jean-François Laé, Annick Madec, Numa Murard); in the research topics and themes of the kind of national sociology that is completely under the sway of the neoliberal paradigm (Mileva Gjurovska); in the non-hegemonic aspect of a critical standpoint that is often maintained in hegemonic ways by its own proponents (Jan Spurk);
The professional and social responsibility of sociologists analysing (non)hegemonic practices. The authors have worked on a large variety of topics, including the instrumentalization of gender equality in the debate on the „charter of Quebec values“ (Marie-Blanche Tahon), everyday practices in the Maghreb (Ratiba Hadj-Moussa), low-prestige sports activities of girls from the lower social strata in Switzerland (Christophe Jaccoud, Dominique Malatesta, Dominique Golay), conditions for establishing the logic of the market in Rumanian universities (Mihai Dinu Gheor-ghiu), the role of Bulgarian think tanks in constructing the social sciences of the „transition“ (Liliana Deyanova) – and in their approach to these themes they demonstrate to what extent scientific analyses, and especially the specific focus of research, can introduce, enhance, or undermine the dominant viewpoints in a social practice that has been supported by or exposed to some effective hegemony;
Boundaries within the disciplines and the production of knowledge beyond those boundaries. This concerns the legitimacy of produced knowledge. Transcending the national contexts and disciplinary boundaries, sociological knowledge takes part in building public sociology (Didier Vrancken), affirms interdisciplinarity not as a facilitating factor but as an acceptance of complexity (Gilles Rouet), argues the need for a meta-language that will enrich the methodological transfers between social and humane sciences (Petia Todorova). Investigating new or unfamiliar areas, the authors succeed in shaking the hierarchies of the thematic canon (Serge Dufoulon) or the hierarchies and modes of information selection (Dominique Cardon).
Production of knowledge on the social in non-hegemonistic places, contexts and fields. Positioned at the crossroads of different fields of specialized training and institutionalized work, the authors demonstrate the contribution made by sociological knowledge for overcoming the weak points of training of managers (Jean Ruffier) and of communication specialists in enterprises and organizations (Yanita Andonova, Vincent Brulois).
As Tony Nikolov, one of the best Bulgarian journalists, has aptly pointed out, „our own experience is most often a question, other people’s experience is an attempt to answer that question“. Each article in this issue is both a question and an answer. As pointed out by Marc-Henry Soulet at the conference round-table discussion, each article strives to study „the connections that are created, built, and broken down, between produced knowledge and the hegemonistic situations and positions of the production of that knowledge“. Using hegemony as a „form of professional rhetoric“, Marc-Henry Soulet adds, each author reveals, and shows to others, the „hierarchies of topics and themes, methods and legitimacies, procedures and structures“ whereby we think, reason, study, communicate, ask question, answer. In doing this, the authors have transformed this questionable noun into a „concept whose epistemic, scientific and political qualities, merits, advantages enter into rivalry with the quality of the concepts of domination and monopoly“, and which permits us to see, capture and overcome our own traps, delusions, filters, blinkers. Is this not a non-hegemonistic way of freeing ourselves from all sorts of hegemonistic dependencies?