Publications, recordings and other outputs
An overview of what I have written and published (as sociologist) or recorded and released (as musician). Simply, all public "outputs" of my work. When technically feasible and legally possible, I will add full texts and, in respective parts of the musical section of this web, musical samples in mp3.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2008): Expertíza a politika životního prostředí: Případ projektu Natura 2000 [Expertise and the politics of environmentalism: The case of Natura 2000]. CTS Research Reports, CTS-08-02. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz::::
As sociologists interested in the relationships between expert knowledge and policy making we have studied in detail the processes of implementation of European directives on natural habitats, wild fauna and flora (92/43/EEC) nad on conservation of wild birds (79/409/EEC) in the Czech republic - i.e., the preparation and implemenation of so called Natura 2000. We have focused on diverse practices of expert mapping of the Czech nature, on how national lists of Sites of Community Importance were produced and on how the preparation of these lists was consulted with the public. We also observed how Natura 2000 was shaped by various actors in various ways, so that it could be connected to various plans, projects and trajectories (beyond the plan of Natura 2000 itself). As a result, a number of compromises were incorporated into the project - compromises which were often regarded as problematic, but which, at the same time, made Natura 2000 an object that could be reasonably shared (and supported) by environmentalists, naturalists, policy makers, activists and scientists from various fields. In comparison to, e.g., France, the implementation of Natura 2000 in the Czech Republic passed through smoothly, without major political controversies and as originally intended, i.e., as an exclusively expert driven project. To explain this we offer some insights into different political cultures in the Czech Republic and Western Europe, including specific contexts of the Czech accession process to the EU and its impact on political culture. Our close study of how the Czech nature was mapped and how so called national lists were established reveals that these processes were not completely apolitical and purely expert-driven. We have described a number of particular interests, political calculations, EU-related concerns, organisational contexts etc. intervening into the seemingly purely scientific methods and viewpoints. However, we have also shown that these non-scientific elements often did not work against the scientific quality of the project, but rather reinforced it. For instance, some administrative interventions strengthened the quality of scientific data - as their unintended by-product. Thus, we now better and more realistically understand what it means when we say that a project is purely expert-driven. It means usually something slightly different than to proceed strictly apolitically, but on the other hand it does not mean that expert perspectives are made secondary or even irrelevant.
WATERTON, C. (2007): Od terénu k představám: Klasifikace přírody a vytváření Evropy [From field to fantasy: Classifying nature, constructing Europe]. Biograf, (43-44): 3-32 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek::::
This paper sets out some observations on the making, and use, of contemporary classifications of nature in the context of a simultaneous and on-going "making" of Europe. It looks in particular at two classifications, one of British vegetation communities and the other of European "biotopes" (a concept that closely relates to natural or semi-natural "habitats") – respectively, the UK National Vegetation Classification (NVC) and the EU CORINE Biotopes Classification. It investigates aspects of the relationship between these two classifications which has come about through their use in a European conservation policy. The CORINE Biotopes classification, in particular, represents a new ordering of nature in a very active sense: it is a good example of a "working archive", and is intimately tied into policy decisions at many levels in Europe. The paper addresses questions as to how contemporary classifications are being made and used, and whether certain tacit understandings and conceptual frameworks "built in" to them reflect back upon the world at a later stage. It argues that these classifications do not always simply reflect the assumptions and understandings built into them: once in the policy domain, they are not as "reversible" as that. Their categories quickly become unstable, mutating and interacting in sometimes unpredictable ways. The two classifications, through their relationship with policy, have a jointly evolving history. The continual renewal of meaning attached to classes within these classifications appears to reflect outwards rather than inwards – in chorus with the broader social and political context, rather than reflecting the condition of their making. In their evolving forms, they illustrate very well the complex nature of the dynamic between unity and diversity, centre and periphery, that lies at the heart of the European Union.
Translated from WATERTON, C. (2002): From field to fantasy: Classifying nature, constructing Europe. Social Studies of Science, 32 (2): 177-204
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2007): The language metaphor in sociology - two different trajectories. In: A. Wittwer, E. Kut, V. Pliska & G. Folkers, eds.: Approaching scientific knowledge: Metaphors and models. Zurich: Collegium Helveticum. Pp. 35-42::::
The metaphor of language is an influential sociological metaphor. It is, as Brown would put it, a root metaphor, since it functions as a widespread, often implicit general frame for imagining, observing and understanding social structures and processes. Further, for many sociologists, "social phenomena" are not like language, but they are language. Seeing reality as language, however, can mean very different things for sociologists and can even have conflicting theoretical and methodological consequences. For some, the language metaphor necessarily leads to a significant and fatal reduction: only small parts of the world, (directly related to) texts and linguistic exchanges, are taken as sociologically relevant, while the rest is omitted and put aside. For others, however, the same metaphor, taken seriously and consistently, implies a different move: our understanding of how language operates and what kind of entity it is, extended beyond the realm of the spoken or written world and applied to virtually any phenomena of the empirically observable world. Here, the reality is not reduced to texts, but recognized as textual. By outlining and explaining these two conflicting approaches I would like to emphasize interpretative flexibility of key metaphors in scientific thought.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2007): Divné řeči okolo nemravnosti [Strange statements about an immorality]. Lidové noviny, 29. 6. 2007. Temporarily available at Lidovky.cz::::
In this article I discuss the plagiary case of Ivo Budil, vice-rector of Western Bohemian University in Plzen. I emphasise that the most disturbing thing is not what Budil reportedly did in the past (using repeatedly entire paragraphs of texts from other books without acknowledgement or proper referencing), but how his academic institution reacts to the present accusation. I also explain why it is nonsensical to reject the accusation on the basis of the claim that the initial suspicion was raised by people who had unfinished personal business with Budil.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2007): Making thinking visible with Atlas.ti: Computer assisted qualitative analysis as textual practices. Historical Social Research, Supplement: Grounded Theory Reader (edited by Günter Mey and Katja Mruck), 19: 276-298::::
How a new quality of reading, which we call "sociological understanding", is created during the proces of qualitative analysis? A methodological (conventional) answer to this question usually speaks of mental processes and conceptual work. This paper suggests a different view - sociological rather than methodological; or more precisely a view inspired by contemporary sociology of science. It describes qualitative analysis as a set of material practices. Taking grounded theory methodology and the work with the computer programme Atlas.ti as an example, it is argued that thinking is inseparable from doing even in this domain. It is argued that by adopting the suggested perspective we might be better able to speak of otherwise hardly graspable processes of qualitative analysis in more accountable and instructable ways. Further, software packages would be better understood not only as "mere tools" for coding and retrieving, but also as complex virtual environments for embodied and practice-based knowledge making. Finally, grounded theory methodology might appear in a somewhat different light: when described not in terms of methodological or theoretical concepts but rather in terms of what we practically do with the analysed data, it becomes perfectly compatible with the radical constructivist, textualist, or even post-structuralist paradigms of interpretation (from which it has allegedly departed far away).
SHOVE, E. / SOUTHERTON, D. (2006): Mrazák dobře rozmrazený: Od novosti k pohodlí (příběh normalizace) [Defrosting the freezer - from novelty to convenience: A narrative of normalization]. Biograf, (39): 3-21 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek::::
This article examines the "normalization" of the British freezer. It defines three phases in this process: an initial period oriented around the utility of preserving home produce; a second stage marked by the development of a frozen food infrastructure and the establishment of the freezer as a part of the efficient domestic economy; and a third subtle but significant redefinition of the primary benefits of freezing in terms of convenience. Cast in their new role as "time machines", freezers are sold as a means of managing contemporary pressures associated with the scheduling and co-ordination of domestic life. At one level, this is a story of the gradual acceptance of a relatively standardized object. Yet this narrative suggests that the freezer´s promised benefits and functions change along the way. Developing this point, we argue that the normalization of the chameleon-like freezer can only be understood in the context of similarly changing systems of food provisioning, patterns of domestic practice and allied technological devices.
Translated from SHOVE, E. / SOUTHERTON, D. (2000): Defrosting the freezer - from novelty to convenience: A narrative of normalization. Journal of Material Culture, 5 (3): 301-319
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / KUSÁ, Z. (2006): Political screenings as trials of strength: Making the communist power/lessness real. Human Studies, 29 (3): 341-362::::
In this paper we discuss the problem of communist power in so called totalitarian regimes. Inspired by strategies of explanation in contemporary science studies and by the ethnomethodological conception of social order, we suggest that the power of communists is not to be taken as an unproblematic source of explanation; rather, we take this power as something that is itself in need of being explained. We study personal narratives on political screenings that took place in Czechoslovakia in 1970 and analyze how the power of communists obtained its strength from ordinary and “unremarkable” interactions between participants. The screenings are interpreted, in the terms of Bruno Latour, as “trials of strength.” We show that it was crucial for all the participants that associations, translations or mobilizations involved in making the regime real, remained partial and multiple, and not exclusive and “total” as is often assumed within dominant discourses on totalitarianism.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2006): Why experts are seen as neutral arbiters in the Czech Republic? Understanding the post-communist politics of de-politicization CTS Research Reports, CTS-06-06. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz::::
The situation in contemporary Czech Republic provides numerous examples showing that experts and scientists keep enjoying an unchallenged and privileged status of neutral arbiters, situated out of the political arena. Although comparisons between the post-communist East and (capitalist) West are always at risk of being schematic and inadequate, it seems that such de-politicized perception of science is much stronger in the Eastern Europe than in most Western European countries. Underdevelopment of STS (Science and technology studies) in the post-communist East is part of this diagnosis. Different political cultures of expertise in the “new” and “old” EU member states might even turn into sources of tension and misunderstanding on the level of particular problems and controversies. In my paper I would like to make the difference and its roots more understandable. I will discuss the political status of science under the communist regime and its implications for the development after 1989. That time, in the Czech Republic, science and expertise were to be “finally liberated” from the burden of the political, with the hope that this de-politicization would bring us closer to Western democracies. This was a huge misapprehension, however, since Western democracies were at the very same time shifting towards a kind of “re-politicization” of the realm of science and technology. Propensity toward de-politicization was further increased, again quite paradoxically, by the process of accession of the Czech Republic to the EU. This process, simply put, had the form of purely technical implementation of unquestionable measures and principles. Although my presentation will take empirical evidence and case examples mostly from the Czech Republic, it may open a more general discussion about science and expertise in other post-communist countries as well.
Paper prepared for the international workshop on Science and Democracy. A New Frontier between Eastern and Western Europe? The Nobel Museum and Södertörn University College, Stockholm, September 4-6 2006
KVARTET DR. KONOPNÉHO (2006): Skrývám se, ale nikdo mě nehledá (2CD) [I am hiding, but nobody is looking for me]. Guerilla Records [GR 038-2] ::::
"Kvartet Dr. Konopného [Dr. Konopny Quartet] is considered as a legend of the Czech alternative scene. Surrealist-dadaist visions of Radomil Uhlir (voice, lyrics) are presented in an original, wild way, accompanied by weird musica improvisations. Some say it is the craziest Czech band ever. And that is also why Guerilla records releases this album! The double CD "Skrývám se, ale nikdo mě nehledá" [I am hiding but nobody is looking for me] contains two silver discs - an archival one "Kosmický pesimismus" [Cosmic pesimism] (74:46 min.) and the present lineup of the band on "Stíny bojovníků" [Shadows of warriors] (76:15 min.). The album offers a lot of music, so your joy may last long..." (freely translated from: http://www.guerilla.cz). [audio samples here]
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / PALEčEK, J. (2006): V moci ďábla: Exorcismus věřícnýma očima [Exorcism of Emily Rose: The reality of possession as a subject for social sciences]. Biograf (40-41): 138-171::::
A critical analysis of the film Exorcism of Emily Rose (Scott Derrickson 2005). We emphasize ambivalent medical/religious interpretations, presented in the moview, of a tragic case of exorcism of a young girl by her priest. Such a focus allows us to explain some important aspects of our own research approach applied to a study of spiritual and religious experiences in psychiatry.