RN31 - Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

RN Coordinator:

Ben Gidley, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK



The 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association will be held in Prague 24-26 August 2015. The ESA Research Network 31 on Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism invites submissions of papers. We will hold sessions that focus on theoretical, methodological and empirical aspects of research on racism and antisemitism, especially in a comparative framework. The network’s perspective is to bridge the divide between the understanding of antisemitism and of racism, and to explore the correspondences, contiguities and contrasts across this divide. Our over-arching question is to understand what are the social, political and intellectual conditions that shape variations in antisemitism, racism and other forms of intolerance across time and across different European and global contexts. In 2015, we particularly want to focus on the relationship between antisemitism and racism as ideology and as social practice, including how they are deployed in legal contexts, everyday speech acts and political discourses. 

  1. General session

The general theme of the ESA conference as a whole is Differences, Inequalities and the Sociological Imagination in a context of globalisation, and we particularly invite papers that address this theme. We propose general sessions which will address the theme in the following way.

  • Inequalities: Globalisation has driven rising inequalities, within and between societies; lines of “race” and the walls erected between citizens and non-citizens have been central to entrenching old inequalities and generating new ones – for instance helping to structure access to ecological resources, health, human security and the right to the city. How can we address this empirically and theoretically? How do - against the background of a system of competing nation states - social changes and deepening inequalities relate to the mobilisation of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, including those expressed in radical, far right and populist social movements? Although it is contested as to whether inequality helps drive racism, it is clear that racism drives new forms of inequality, but these need to be understood intersectionally, in interaction with factors such as socioeconomic, educational, geographical, age and generation inequality.
  • Differences: Racism and ethnic relations structure difference, and intersect with other forms of difference. How can we understand racism and ethnic relations intersectionally? How do new and old forms of difference relate to each other and to new and old forms of intolerance? How are figures such as the Jew, the stranger, the Muslim, the Gypsy and the migrant positioned in the economy of differences of Europe today?
  • The sociological imagination: Classic theories of racism and antisemitism remain a vital resource for understanding differences and inequalities today, but the mutation of racism requires a renewal of the sociological imagination. What epistemological and methodological challenges are posed by transforming racism, and how can we meet these challenges? What can sociology contribute to and learn from other disciplines, and especially critical theory and history, in the analysis of racism and antisemitism? How can we shape a more cosmopolitan sociological imagination? How has social science itself contributed to or failed to reckon with racisms and antisemitism?

In the context of this larger conference we welcome a wide variety of papers concerning ethnic relations, racism and antisemitism. We particularly encourage:

  • papers that respond to contemporary issues faced in civil society in Europe and particularly in the Czech Republic and central Europe;
  • papers that concern the hallmark of the sociological imagination: the translation between private troubles and public issues – specifically, papers that contribute to anti-racist strategies or to resources for confronting racism and antisemitism in the public sphere, in social movements and in academia itself;
  • papers that contribute to a European sociology of racisms: that is, to an understanding that exceeds methodological and conceptual nationalism, enables a comparative focus across European contexts, and captures the specificity of European forms and traditions of racism;
  • papers that contribute to the development of more robust methodological tools for measuring and analysing antisemitism and racism in this comparative context.


  1. Specific session: Black Europe: Other Cosmopolitanisms

The cosmopolitanism of ‘cosmopolitan Europe’ has tended to derive from the Western European tradition where (national) differences are acknowledged within a common (European) cultural framework. At the same time, a particular understanding of (European) ‘universality’ is posited against those (non-European) ‘others’ who are more often associated with a diversity that constitutes ‘multiculturalism’. However, this is only possible to the extent that it rests on a particular understanding of European history, one that evades acknowledging European domination over much of the world as significant to that history and one that also understands ‘being European’ and ‘being white’ as synonymous. In the process, longer histories of connection and entanglement that have created multicultural societies are disavowed. How, precisely, differences are understood and recognized as cosmopolitan differences or multicultural differences is not clear, except insofar as they map onto some notion of visible, that is, racialized – or, then, more recently, religious – difference. This session recognises the long-standing historical presence of Black Europeans and Black Europe and seeks to draw attention to these absent histories within dominant social science conceptions of ‘cosmopolitan Europe’. In the process, it also seeks to broaden and reconceptualise existing understandings of European cosmopolitanism and the sociological imagination that is informed by these understandings.


  1. Specific session: Changing dynamics of difference

This session will reflect on shifting meanings, boundaries and consequences of difference. Papers will explore how the interplay between the production of racialised difference and the management of difference via policy and practice has changed over time and how this relates to the changing patterning of social and economic inequalities.  In particular, we welcome papers that situate discussion in local, national and regional political, economic and social contexts and form connections between the historical and the contemporary. Papers might speak from the perspective of policy production or the lived experience of racialised difference, or focus on anti-racist responses and challenges to the former.


  1. Joint session with RN28 Sociology of Sport. Joint session title: Racial/ethnic relations and Sport

Sport is often described as a field of equality and social inclusion. But the analysis of social relationships in the context of sport (including professional, student and leisure sports) reveals processes of racial/ethnic stigmatization, distinction, discrimination, segregation and labelling. Sport has also been a platform for the expression of racial/ethnic identities and for the mobilisation of both racist and anti-racist politics. Therefore, this session’s aim is to explore such processes and to adopt a perspective situated at the intersection of the sociology of sport and the sociology of racial/ethnic relations. 

In order to contribute to the analysis of these processes and to open new horizons for further investigation, we invite papers aimed both at understanding the relationships between sport and race/ethnicity, and at using sport as a tool for the analysis of social relationships, social identities and social trajectories. 

The session is open to researchers using all methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative. A focus on racial or ethnic difference would also be welcome in intersection with other dimensions such as gender or social class.


  1. Joint session with RN28 Sociology of Sport and RN 32 Political Sociology. Joint session title: Sport, ethnicity and political conflict


There has been a growing interest in the role of sport both in underpinning ethnic belongings and exacerbating interethnic tensions, on the one hand, and in promoting positive interaction and conflict resolution, on the other. The proposed session will explore these phenomena along a range of dimensions including:

  • The historical sociology of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport
  • The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict, nationalism and sport
  • The historical sociology of ethnic/national conflict resolution
  • The comparative analysis of ethnic conflict/national conflict resolution

We welcome contributions that develop these ideas theoretically and/or empirically. New styles of analysis would be desirable, including visual approaches and new forms of textual analysis.

Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                                15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.