Narrative understanding supposes the viewer's mental activity of constructing causal links, an activity biased by emotions and other mental or psychological circumstances, making the causal links we construct while watching the film sometimes quite different from those the viewers obtain as a consequence of a thorough logical analysis of a narrative. This article argues that this is not the difference between “misunderstanding” and “adequate understanding,” but rather the fact that the viewers cannot discount emotional bias when talking about narrative causality. Because most films are made to be seen and understood after one viewing, they are meant to be understood through emotionally biased causal inference rather than by the pure analytical mind. In order to understand how emotionally biased causal thinking works, it is necessary to conduct empirical research with real audiences. Theories of narrative understanding can only be corroborated by such empirical research.
András Bálint Kovács
Stefan Böschen, Jochen Gläser, Martin Meister and Cornelius Schubert
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in materiality in social research. Some might say that materiality is now back on the agenda of social research. The challenges of bringing materiality back have spurred lively debates about material agency, most of which, however, are leveled at the largely dematerialized theories of the social in the social sciences, for example, in material culture studies (Appadurai 1986; Miller 1998) as well as science and technology studies (Latour 1988; Law/Mol 1995). Since the turn of the century, a marked shift towards the material has emerged (cf. Hicks 2010), ranging from questions concerning nature (Grundmann/Stehr 2000) and everyday objects (Molotch 2003; Costall/Dreier 2006; Miller 2010) to issues of cultural theory (Reckwitz 2002), post-phenomenology (Verbeek 2005), ethnography (Henare et al. 2007), distributed cognition (Hutchins 1995), and materiality in general (Dant 2005; Miller 2005; Knappett/Malafouris 2008). A perspective on materiality is now being developed in diverse fields such as archaeology (Meskell 2005), economic sociology (Pinch/Swedberg 2008), political science (Bennett 2010; Coole/Frost 2010), and organization studies (Carlile et al. 2013). Yet the status of the material remains debated in the evolving fields of various “new” materialisms (cf. Lemke 2015).
Evolving Soviet Atheist Critiques of Religion and Why They Matter for Anthropology
This article offers a critique of the common notion in contemporary anthropology that a positive attitude toward the people under study is a necessary precondition for a sophisticated understanding of their social world. The empirical sociology of religion that evolved during the last decades of the Soviet Union's existence started from the premise that religion was a harmful phenomenon slated for disappearance. Nonetheless, atheist sociologists produced increasingly complex accounts of religious life in modern socialist societies. Their ideological framework simultaneously constrained Soviet scholars and forced them to pay closer attention to religious phenomena that contradicted political expectations. Drawing on this extreme example of militant atheist scholarship, I argue that studying 'repugnant cultural others' always requires some form of affective motivation. Antagonism can be as powerful, and as problematic, a motivating force as empathetic suspension of judgment.
Taking Stock and Looking Ahead - Selen A. Ercan with André Bächtiger
Selen A. Ercan and André Bächtiger
Deliberative democracy is a growing branch of democratic theory. It suggests understanding and assessing democracy in terms of the quality of communication among citizens, politicians, as well as between citizens and politicians. In this interview, drawing on his extensive research on deliberative practice within and beyond parliaments, André Bächtiger reflects on the development of the field over the last two decades, the relationship between normative theory and empirical research, and the prospects for practicing deliberation in populist times.
Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino
Just as there are many repertoires of contention, there are also many repertoires of scholarship. Much of our writing on contentious politics utilizes one specific repertoire: the empirical research article. And yet, there is a plurality of forms through which we can advance scholarly knowledge on the subject of protest. This issue was devised, in a broad sense, as a celebration of that plurality. The articles in this issue offer a smorgasbord of scholarly work, highlighting the breadth of scholarly tactics that are available to academics and practitioners in the field of contentious politics.
Reading 'The Social Quality of Europe' is a challenge, partly because several authors' discussions go beyond the well-structured concepts of social policy, social security and the welfare state, and even more because the protagonists of social quality acknowledge that 'if no application is possible... it will only be used in unproblematic situations and function as a tautology.' It 'will remain an abstract and affirmative concept, of little use in theory and research of social problems in the widest sense' (Baars et al., 1997). That is why, in this article, we would like to make a contribution to the conceptual discussion, with particular reference to the issues of eventual empirical research. Due to the complexity of the concept it will not be possible to examine operationalisation in depth.
A Synthesis and Evaluation of the Research
This article both synthesizes and critically evaluates a now large, multi-disciplinary body of published research that examines the neoliberalization of environmental regulation, management, and governance. Since the late 1970s, neoliberal ideas and ideals have gradually made their way into the domain of environmental policy as part of a wider change in the global political economy. While the volume of empirical research is now such that we can draw some conclusions about this policy shift, the fact that the research has evolved piecemeal across so many different disciplines has made identifying points of similarity and difference in the findings more difficult. After clarifying what neoliberalism is and explaining why the term 'neoliberalization' is preferable, the article analyzes the principal components and enumerates the social and environmental effects of this multifaceted process. By offering a comprehensive and probing survey of the salient literature, I hope not only to codify the existing research but also to guide future critical inquiries into neoliberal environmental policy.
Between Religion, Regulation, and Globalization
The Hebrew term ‘kosher’ means ‘fit’ or ‘proper’ and signifies foods conforming to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). Kosher biotechnical production is subject to elaborate rules that have warranted regulation over the last two decades. This article shows how kosher regulation works in biotech production. I argue that while existing studies of kosher production and regulation have emerged mostly from within business studies and the food sciences, the broader institutional picture and the personal relationships between certifiers and businesses that frame these procedures are not yet well understood. Based on empirical research and interaction with biotech companies, I provide an ethnography of how transnational governmentality warrants a product as ‘kosher’ and thereby helps to format and standardize the market. This article builds mainly on fieldwork conducted at the world’s largest producer of enzymes, Novozymes, based in Denmark, which is certified by the leading global kosher certifier, the Orthodox Union.
The Dynamics of Political Alienation
Gerry Stoker and Mark Evans
Contemporary political scientists have observed a democratic paradox that has crystallized around the disconnection between how citizens imagine their democracy and how politics is practiced. Citizens continue to believe in the values of liberal democracy but are increasingly disillusioned with how their political systems work and the politics that are practiced in the name of democracy. This article revisits the root causes of political alienation to better understand this democratic paradox. It provides both a conceptual understanding of political alienation and its domain of action and insights into how the concept can be operationalized and measured in empirical research. It argues that while democracy itself may not be in crisis, the politics on which its operation rests is in peril.
Despite the world-wide triumph of democracy, the quest for an optimal politike has not yet reached the “end of history.” It turns out that representative democracies do not necessarily satisfy citizenries. These malaises are regarded as causes for concern and political actors increasingly pin their hopes on participatory innovations as re-legitimizing responses. But do they work? Germany is an especially interesting case for empirical research. Analysis of the variety of participatory innovations utilized at the local level in Germany—often varying considerably among the different Bundesländer—provides preliminary insights. The German case shows overall that participatory innovations have the potential to cure some of the current malaises of representative democracy. Participatory innovations, however, are certainly no fast-track cure. The useful implementation of participatory innovations requires comprehensive consideration, caution, and, (up to now limited) knowledge about possibilities and pitfalls.