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Call for paper

Symbolic interactionism rests in the last analysis on three simple premises. The first premise is that human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings they have for them…. The second premise is that the meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with one’s fellows. The third premise is that these meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he encounters. [Herbert Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method, 1969:2]


Once considered both marginal and a challenge to the dominant approach in mainstream sociology, the core concepts of symbolic interactionism have become rather well established, and they are now embraced by many scholars who do not identify themselves with the perspective. But although the definitions of situations and the meaning-making activities of the groups and individuals we study, who are embedded in specific interactional, social, cultural, and historical contexts, have become somewhat central concerns, the diversity of the interests and empirical arenas to which we contribute from the interactionist perspective has led to the fragmentation of the symbolic interactionist intellectual community. This raises a number of important questions: Are we truly aware (and do we need to be aware) of the roots of the ideas that we adapt? Does adapting and extending the approach create a common ground, or are we simply talking past each other? How can we contribute (and do we need to do so) to the understanding of human knowing and acting beyond our research setting?

The theme of the conference, Studying Everyday Life: Generic Dimensions of Interactionist Inquiry, has been chosen in order to accommodate empirical contributions that apply interactionist research and analysis to practical issues and problems. It also makes it possible to reflect upon where we are going as we continue to study human knowing and acting in everyday life and thereby extend the intellectual horizons of interactionism. Another major objective is to present what we have learned about the more generic or fundamental aspects of human group life and to suggest ways in which we can more adequately conceptualize the matters at hand from a symbolic interactionist standpoint. Not only do such endeavors contribute to our understanding of people’s everyday lives, they can also help form needed social policies and encourage the development of a well-informed citizenry.

We invite submissions from all walks of interactionist, pragmatist, and related everyday-life and ethnographic traditions. While there have been many suggestions for topics—foundational theoretical and methodological issues, micro- and macro-interactionism, policy-relevant research, ethnographic ventures, self and identity studies, contemplative inquiry, normality vs. deviance, experiencing and studying emotions, body and embodiment, the backstage practice of doing qualitative research, symbolic interactionism in the postmodern era, and many others—the conference does not limit participants to any specific subject area. Consequently, the particular sessions featured in the final conference program will be based upon people’s actual activities and interests.

With a view to highlighting the goal of contributing to the social understanding of people’s everyday lives, and in order to stress the importance our analyses have as prospective tools for social workers, therapists, police officers, and policy-makers, among many others, this year’s conference will accommodate a wide range of workshops and exhibitions addressed to practitioners, researchers, scholars, as well as the non-scholarly general public. The aim is to emphasize the practical dimension of our analytical ventures by reflecting upon what we can learn from reconstructing the processes we not only observe and study, but also experience and “work with” in our everyday lives.

In line with the theme of the conference, we anticipate editing a journal issue devoted to the art and craft of symbolic interaction and ethnographic research.

The Conference has invited Research Committee 36 at the ISA, “Alienation Theory and Research,” to organize sessions and presentations at the Conference. Please indicate on your abstract submission form whether it is for an RC 36 session and send a copy to Vessela Misheva, RC 36 President, at Vessela.Misheva@soc.uu.se. Non-committee members are also welcome to present at these sessions.

Abstracts (300 word limit) will be submitted online.
Abstract submission deadline: 31 st May 2017
Abstract decision date: 5th June 2017