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Friday 8 April 2011 at 11:00 - 12:30


SOCIAL DIVISIONS / SOCIAL IDENTITIES Packer, B.


H102 École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)


Redefining Social Capital: let the process be your guide Since Bourdieu first introduced the term 'social capital' in contemporary sociological discourse, the concept has exploded onto the academic scene. In recent years, it has become the subject of rampant criticism, with some sociologists questioning whether the concept presents any analytical merit. This paper reinstates the relevancy of social capital as a valuable analytic tool within the sociological study of inequalities. By framing the processes in which social capital is produced, I suggest an integrated approach to understanding why this is an essential and often neglected aspect of social capital studies. I discuss the evolution of the concept, revealing in recent applications a preoccupation for quantitative methodology, a lack of consensus as to what constitutes social capital and to what units of organizational scale it may be applied. I expose several limitations of social capital conceived in these terms and address criticisms that the concept lacks heuristic value due to tautological reasoning in which its sources are equivalent to its consequences. In the final section, I argue that conceptualizing social capital in terms of the micro- interactional processes through which it is produced can rectify these problematic features. Rather than trying to make each 'case' fit in the predefined conceptual category of social capital, let us allow the category of social capital to be explained by the 'case'. The qualitative analysis of how social capital is constructed and defined in situ, provides an empirically informed case- flexible theoretical framework for meaningful research.


Bullock, J. University of Southern California


Simultaneous Identities: Implications of Sociological Race Theories on Defining the Multiracial Population in the United States and Britain Examining multiracial identity formation in the United States and Britain has a significant and critical place in the larger trajectory of social scientific scholarship on race, gender, class, and other intersecting identities. This paper examines the impacts of historical and contemporary sociological race theories, socio-political movements, and grassroots mobilization efforts of community-based organizations in transforming the politics to define multiracial identity and the "two or more races" population. Using an interdisciplinary and mixed methods research approach, I investigate the shifting and contested ways the multiracial population is defined in public and private discourses, paying particular attention to the complexities this community raises within and among research regarding monoracial identified communities. This body of research counters the argument that multiple identity formation is inconsequential to theory. This study urges scholars to (re)examine how race and ethnicity continues to be framed, analyzed, interrogated, and understood in ways that are restricted by historically racialized moments that still linger today. These moments, I argue, are sharpened and more pronounced when centering the politics of what it means to claim a multiracial identity in the U.S. and abroad in the twenty-first century. The theoretical model for this study was Grounded Theory. Principle data collection methods were the "insider-outsider" and case study research approaches using extensive face-to-face interviews; participant and field observations of key local, state, and national events; and content analysis of primary and secondary documents. Data was collected between 2004 and 2009 in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, and Sacramento.


Karafillidis, A. RWTH Aachen University, Institute of Sociology


Social Divisions and Identities out of Boundary Events: Gaming, Organizing, and Conflicting This contribution contends that any theorizing of social divisions and identities must be grounded in a theory of social boundaries. Boundaries are a central feature of the social world. Georg Simmel even asserted that boundaries and their ongoing setting and transgressing are the very basis of life itself. However, without boundaries neither delimited social spheres could be observed nor identites formed. Hence a sociological theory of boundaries is needed. Otherwise simply no propositions could be made about any relations between divisions, identites and other social domains. The presentation will draw on ideas of Charles Tilly, Andrew Abbott, and Niklas Luhmann amongst others to show that boundaries are (a) ephemeral, (b) incessantly changing, and (c) that they exhibit a particular structural arrangement. This leads to the crucial question how boundaries get institutionalized, that is, how they become taken for granted social divisions and how they facilitate ostensibly fixed identities. In this respect gaming, organizing, and conflicting are identified and discussed as forms of communication that underlie the institutionalization of divisions and the formation of identities. Finally this assertion will be exemplified by a glance at historic and ethnological accounts that deal with the emergence of ethnic divisions and a national identity in Greek Macedonia during the first half of the twentieth century.


Schaeffer, M. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung


Which Groups are Mostly Responsible for Problems in your Neighborhood? The varying effects of economic decline and ethnic diversity on making ethnic distinctions While there is a long tradition of social theory stressing the role of categories and distinctions people apply to perceive the world, as well as qualitative studies on the creation and reproduction of the same, quantitative work on the use of categories as dependent variable is rare. Recent findings on the negative impact of ethnic diversity on social cohesion demonstrate the relevance of these categorization processes. Yet why and under which conditions do people start to employ ethnic rather than age, class or gender categories for example to conceptually organize their social environment? This paper analyses an open- ended question of a recently conducted large-scale survey in Germany (n=7500). In particular, this paper deals with the categories people apply to describe groups that are “mostly responsible for problems in your neighbourhood”. Thereby, this study first tries to give novel insight on how frequently people in Germany conceptually organize responsibility for problems in their community along ethnic lines as compared to others and second aims to identify explanatory factors. Relying on implications of Group Threat Theory and the Desintegration Approach, I compare how conditions of economic decline and out- group size are associated with a higher likelihood to use ethnic and immigrant categories to characterize problem-groups in the neighbourhood. One punch line from my findings is that for regions with initially high levels of unemployment, a change in unemployment has an even stronger effect on the likelihood to see as a problem group ethnic minorities or immigrants in general. In contrast to the effects of out-group size that are diminishing in returns, the effects of economic decline are ac- cumulating negative in their impact.


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