Current Summer School 2020


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Gabriel Abend
How not to use the word ‘theory’
Monday, 7 September, 4.30-5.30 pm

Jana Bacevic
Doing (with) theory – between theory and practice
Tuesday, 8 September, 9.00-10.00 am

Monika Krause
On reflexivity
Thursday, 10 September, 9.00-10.00 am


Workshop 1: Sina Farzin: Theorizing through fiction
The history of boundary work to exclude fiction from the realm of “real sociology” and the resulting scientification and institutionalization of the discipline is well documented (see, for example, Wolf Lepenies’ Between Literature and Science). But sociology and fiction are still entangled in a number of ways, particularly in the field of social theory, where artistic imagination is used to initiate and enable theoretical creativity and undercut the binary logic of “theory” vs. “empirical data.” Also, the original connection between sociology and literature developed into a broader field of entanglements between social science and other narrative artistic genres like film or tv-series. Social theorists such as Axel Honneth, Eva Illouz or Zygmunt Baumann regularly draw on novels to inquire recent relations between individual subjects and society. Others, like Bruno Latour, make use of the world-building techniques of speculative movies like Avatar to theorize phenomena like the Anthropocene. In our session we discuss different uses of fiction in contemporary social theory and places them within the broader debate about methods of theorizing that Richard Swedberg, Andrew Abbott and others have initiated in recent years. If you use (or plan to use) narrative artistic artefacts in your own research, we can discuss possible strategies and hopeful outcomes but also pitfalls and epistemic challenges you must consider. If you would like to discuss a concrete example from your own research please contact me by August 1st via Email.

Workshop 2: Rainer Diaz-Bone: Methodological practices as integration of theory, research interest and method
Empirical social research is realizing theory by methodological practices. The workshop will introduce in neopragmatist and neostructuralist ways of working with theory, and will discuss methodology as the core field for linking theory and methods, and an important competence for “translating” theory into “results”. This translation is a complex procedure, which cannot be reduced to the wrong idea of “applying techniques” only. Methodology conceived this way is the competence and practice to govern and reflect one’s own research. The workshop will address methodological practices as developing the research interest/question, realizing empirical phenomena, embedding methods in a methodological culture, mobilization of evidence and explanations, justifying the quality of research, bringing in and reflecting epistemological values and – last but not least – writing culture. The workshop will rely on basic principles of neopragmatism and neostructuralism and will also refer to more recent recombinations of neopragmatism and neostructuralism as sociology of conventions, actor-network theory, Foucaultian discourse analysis, situational analysis and relational sociology.

Workshop 3: Ariane Berthoin Antal: Revealing implicit theories
The purpose of this workshop is to enable participants to become aware of the power of implicit theories. We tend to position theories as outcomes of solid academic work that we need to learn in order to frame our research and interpret our data. As a result, we overlook the theories we are unaware of holding already. The implicit theories we have range from broad themes (“how the world works”) to more specific topics like leadership and creativity. They matter because they influence the factors we consider relevant (and thereby mask other factors) as well as the conceivable approaches to address the issues (or not). There are two reasons for revealing implicit theories when designing our research: they can be problematic sources of bias when unexamined; however, they can also be a resource for discovering notions that established theories have not attended to. This workshop will explore implicit theories the participants hold about selected topics as well as those relating specifically to their research projects.

Workshop 4: Markus Lörz: Rational-Choice-Approach in higher education: Theory, operationalisation and empirical results
Rational choice theory (RCT) is often applied in quantitative empirical research. Although RCT certainly has its limits, it has already produced many important findings in research on higher education and social inequality. This session focuses on several research fields in higher education where RCT may be applied as well as which benefits and limits RCT has. In the workshop, the theoretical basics of RCT are discussed and applied to your own research question. In a first part of the session we look at different studies using RCT in transition to higher education, drop out and transition to labour market. We discuss the empirical strategies, limits and findings of these studies. In a second part of the session we apply RCT to your own research question. From an RCT perspective, the participants develop a theoretical framework of their research question and derive several testable hypotheses. In this step we try to figure out to what extend may RCT help to answer your research question. In a third part of the session we discuss the empirical indicators to test your theoretical considerations. The participants are asked to submit a short abstract (1 page): research question, theoretical framework, hypotheses and empirical operationalisation.

Workshop 5: Monika Krause: Theorizing as conceptual innovation
This workshop will use participants' research projects to test the proposition that coining new concepts is a valuable aspect of theorizing, and one that we perhaps should value more than we already do. I suggest that an important aspect of theorizing as a practice is the practice of developing new concepts in dialogue with existing concepts and empirical observation. I suggest that this aspect of theorizing has been under-emphasised because of two factors: First, when theory is understood as the exegesis of (or rivalry among) major authors, it can seem that the main task of theorizing is to understand and then apply their concepts. Second, when we focus on theory as a set of hypotheses, we treat the development of concepts as a preliminary step for the real business of measurement and testing. This focus is associated with the emphasis of a very specific kind of explanation, which Abbott calls linear-causal, as the goal for all of social science. In the workshop we will do a number of exercises to come up with new concepts based on participants' research; we will then think about how these concepts can be used towards a range of goals, such as different kinds of explanation, understanding and critique.

Workshop 6: Richard Watermeyer: Future imaginaries of the public university
In this session participants will attempt alternative and ostensibly more progressive theorizations of the university and of academics in the milieu of profound global societal transformation and the fallibility of both in the mediation of such. Participants will be encouraged to play with creative and critical future imaginaries of the university as a public institution, so as to escape the impasse of its standard neoliberal critique and enable transition from the torpor of its existential crisis towards more agentic ontologies. A commitment to being theoretically disruptive and even transgressive will be root to such 'unmaking' and ‘remaking’ and in challenging the cultural hegemony of economic determinism and technocratic rationality as organizing principles of academic life. Workshop participants will thus be challenged to act as bricoleurs ‘trying-on’ through dialogue a variety of what may be sometimes complementary and sometimes competing theoretical positions - drawn from their own readings and others to be introduced - in attending to a radical if imperfect yet no less necessarily evolving (re)imagining of the university and academic life.

Theory Garages

The “theory garages” will be a creative space for workshop participants to further develop theoretical ideas and concepts discussed in the workshops the day before (selected projects).

Open Network Meeting for early career researchers in HERSS

Young scholars in Higher education research and science studies are few and far in between, and collaboration and exchange, as well as coordination and organization do not happen automatically in these small fields of research. The network meeting will provide an open-space for early career researchers in Higher Education Research and Science Studies to discuss networking and collaboration in this interdisciplinary field. After a short insight in the structures and activities of the networks INSIST [Interdisciplinary Network for Studies Investigating Science and Technology] and HoFoNa [Hochschulforschungsnachwuchs - Network for early career researchers in Higher Education Studies], we would like to discuss the needs of early career researchers and doctoral candidates in HERSS and the opportunities that such networks offer in addressing and promoting these interests.


Julian Hamann, Anna Kosmützky, Christian Imdorf

Leibniz Center for Science and Society (LCSS), Leibniz University Hannover