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Thinking Through Sociality: An Anthropological Interrogation of Key Concepts

Edited by Vered Amit
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Thinking Through Sociality
    Book Description:

    As issues and circumstances investigated by anthropologists are becoming ever more diverse, the need to address social affiliation in contemporary situations of mobility, urbanity, transnational connections, individuation, media, and capital flows, has never been greater.Thinking Through Socialitycombines a review of classical theories with recent theoretical innovations across a wide range of issues, locales, situations and domains. In this book, an international group of contributors train attention on the concepts of disjuncture, field, social space, sociability, organizations and network, mid-range concepts that are "good to think with." Neither too narrowly defined nor too sweeping, these concepts can be used to think through a myriad of ethnographic situations.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-586-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
    Vered Amit
  4. Introduction Thinking through Sociality: The Importance of Mid-level Concepts
    (pp. 1-20)
    Vered Amit, Sally Anderson, Virginia Caputo, John Postill, Deborah Reed-Danahay and Gabriela Vargas-Cetina

    The history of scholarly efforts to conceptualize the social has been replete with successive enthusiasms for certain meta or master concepts. Some of these concepts – for example, culture, society, community – have been part of the lexicon of social theory from the outset for disciplines such as anthropology and sociology. Others – for instance, practice, network or identity – have been more recent introductions. Some were wide-ranging from their earliest use; others began their scholarly career with fairly modest applications, and became sweeping as they grew more popular. Sooner or later, however, the success of concepts such as these has also been the...

  5. 1 Disjuncture: The Creativity of, and Breaks in, Everyday Associations and Routines
    (pp. 21-46)
    Vered Amit

    The analysis in this chapter takes as its starting point the premise that sociality is as much a matter of disjuncture as of engagement and association. Indeed, our various social involvements and interactions are regularly punctuated and enabled by the intervals between them. Over the course of our lives, as we move across time and space, we are repeatedly engaging and disengaging. To move towards one activity, we usually need to break from another; different activities may well involve interactions with different interlocutors; at various points in our life course, we may assume distinct roles and statuses; to assume one...

  6. 2 Fields: Dynamic Configurations of Practices, Games and Socialities
    (pp. 47-68)
    John Postill

    A social field is an organized domain of practice or action in which unequally positioned social agents compete and cooperate over the same public rewards (see Turner 1974; Martin 2003). One notable advantage of ‘field’ as a conceptual tool is that it is a neutral term, lacking the normative idealism of other sociality concepts such as public sphere, community and network (Postill 2008). For example, the concept of public sphere is often used by scholars both as a ‘rhetorical token’ (Benson 2007: 3) and as a cherished ideal that guides research away from what is and towards what ought to...

  7. 3 Social Space: Distance, Proximity and Thresholds of Affinity
    (pp. 69-96)
    Deborah Reed-Danahay

    The phrase social space appears frequently in recent scholarship, signalling in part the influence of the so-called ‘spatial turn’ in the social sciences and humanities.¹ It is not always so obvious, however, what is meant by this term when it is used. Moreover, the historical legacy of ideas about social space in the anthropological and sociological literature is not always recognized in contemporary deployments of this phrase. Social space can be characterized as something localized and fairly specific – to refer, for instance, to an urban market (Ilcan 1999) or a physical education class (Hunter 2004). It has also been used...

  8. 4 Sociability: The Art of Form
    (pp. 97-127)
    Sally Anderson

    Across disciplines, generations and eras, the etiquette, courtesies and formalities of human sociality have met with critique. While some bewail the loss of decorum, others rail against the vacuous rigidity and shallow veneer of social conventions that thwart more informal and genuine modes of sociality. Formalized conventions, indexing taste and refinement and couching assessments of social merit and worth, have been critically examined as instruments of class distinction, social reproduction and dominance (Bourdieu 1984). In another vein, scholars claiming that organized sociable activities are the mainstay of democratic society have agonized over the decline of civil society (Putnam 1995).


  9. 5 Organizations: From Corporations to Ephemeral Associations
    (pp. 128-155)
    Gabriela Vargas-Cetina

    Organizations seem to be present everywhere, representing a great diversity of interests and using an endless variety of methods to accomplish the tasks for which they were created. Although we could retrospectively conceptualize as organizations many types of structured groups, such as European guilds, the concept of organization was developed in the nineteenth century. The great transformations brought about by the process of consolidation of the nation-state, the emergence of the incorporated business company, the cooperative movement, the political parties and trade unions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the multiplication of clubs and charities, resulted in...

  10. 6 Network: The Possibilities and Mobilizations of Connections
    (pp. 156-180)
    Vered Amit and Virginia Caputo

    ‘Network research is “hot” today’, declares a recent review article in the journalScience(Borgatti et al. 2009: 892). According to Borgatti et al., there has been ‘an explosion of interest’ in the concept of network across the physical and social sciences (ibid.). This very popularity however conveys its own problems. Thus, just a year earlier, john Postill (2008: 417) was complaining that the paradigmatic dominance of community and network as theoretical concepts had blinkered rather than opened up the study of local internet technologies.

    The concept of network has a long history across a variety of social sciences, but...

  11. Epilogue Sociality and Uncertainty: Between Avowing and Disavowing Concepts in Anthropology
    (pp. 181-200)
    Nigel Rapport

    This slim volume has the ambition to interrogate some of the fundamental aspects of anthropological practice, even to challenge them. How should sociality be studied by anthropologists and what concepts should be deployed in its elucidation?

    In the Introduction, Vered Amit explains that the intent is not to reinvent the wheel, gratuitously negating what has gone before in the discipline. Indeed, she decries a ‘theoretical faddishness’ that sees concepts come and go in a merry-go-round of unreasonable intellectual expectations and inevitable dis-satisfactions. The sober practice is to recognize how all our concepts are enmeshed in a history of debates and...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 201-204)
  13. Index
    (pp. 205-210)