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International Conference: Biography and Violence: Violent Dynamics and Agency in Collective Processes and Individual Life Histories

09.02.2018 – 10.02.2018

Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Göttingen

In European societies, current media reports on (civil) wars, armed conflicts, terror attacks, illegalized migration, or attacks on migrants show that physical violence and violent phenomena attract great attention, albeit often in a very charged and selective manner. The high number of studies devoted to violent phenomena and their causes, dynamics and consequences means that today there can be no question of a general neglect of violence in the social sciences any more, at least with regard to empirical research. Much recent research in this field has focused on violence in the narrow sense of the word, meaning the social dynamics organized around physical injury to, and the vulnerability of, social actors. This conference tries to go beyond a normative perspective limited to the study of isolated “causes”, and strives to understand the interactive dynamics of violence that creates and destroys social order. In addition, increased attention is paid to the history and experiences of the actors involved, and their social networks. Sociologists interested in biographical research, or in other forms of research into everyday life, have explicitly studied contexts structured by violence, such as wars and violent conflicts, migration courses, or domestic violence, and have focused, for example, on the biographical, familial and transgenerational consequences of violent experiences. Moreover, an interpretative research approach that focuses on the biographical experiences, perspectives and relevances of the actors in their social fields of action, and, if possible, their historical genesis, frequently leads to the discovery of violent phenomena, which have significantly contributed to structuring the biographical courses of these actors, even without an explicit focus on violence. In other words, researchers commonly find traces of experiences of violence and violent behavior in various biographical fields. This interdisciplinary and international conference is interested in the following questions: How can biographical research contribute to the systematic inclusion of violence in the development of sociological theories, as called for in recent years by scholars involved in research on violence and violent conflicts? And what perspectives can research on violence contribute to biographical research in the social sciences and sociology


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