Sociological publications

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KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2007): Divné řeči okolo nemravnosti [Strange statements about an immorality]. Lidové noviny, 29. 6. 2007. Temporarily available at Lidovky.cz

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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 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.

DAVID, G. (2005): Žertování o cenách v arabských koloniálech: Jak mohou citlivá témata proměňovat mezi-skupinové vztahy [Price humor in Arab-owned convenience stores: Using potentially sensitive topics to transform intergroup relations]. Biograf, (36): 25-54 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek

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Tensions between small immigrant-owned stores and their African-American customers are frequently cited as a major problem in large urban cities in the United States. Whereas most research has focused on the problematic nature of this relationship, the research reported in this paper attempts to focus on the positive. Rather than being plagued by tensions and problematic encounters, this paper asserts that interactions in small "convenience stores" are largely unproblematic. This paper examines the occurrence of unproblematic cross-cultural encounters as a collaborative effort between customer and worker. Specifically, this paper demonstrates how humor plays an important role in the formation of positive relationships through the analysis of "price humor". While high prices have been cited as a source of tension, this paper shows how sensitive topics, such as price, can be used by interactants to build rapport across the counter.

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2005): Aby myšlení bylo dobře vidět: Nad novou verzí programu Atlas.ti [Making our thinking visible: A review of the new version of Atlas.ti]. Biograf, (37): 89-109

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With references to my review of the software package from 1997, I discuss the newly released version of Atlas.ti, an advanced CAQDAS (computer assisted qualitative data analysis software) representative. Who is this software tool good for and why? What are the main principles of analytic work with the programme? What is new in this version? Also, I mention features still missing in the programme and whether or not to upgrade from previous version. 

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2005): Exploring ordinary resources of an extraordinary power: Toward ethnomethodological study of the communist regime CTS Research Reports, CTS-05-07. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz

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Paper prepared as an invited plenary speech for the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Conference, Bentley College, Waltham, MA, USA, August 6-9, 2005

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2005): Co znamená interpretovat text? [What it means to interpret a text of qualitative data?] In: M. Miovský, I. Čermák & V. Chrz, eds.: Kvalitativní přístup a metody ve vědách o člověku - IV: Vybrané aspekty teorie a praxe. Olomouc: FF UP. Pp. 85-95

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What it means to interpret the text of collected qualitative data? Interpretation is usually understood as an intellectual procedure by which our empirical experience is conceptually processed; by which it is grasped and seen in some novel way. This is how methodologists and philosophers think. My contribution takes a different view. I show interpretation not so much as mental processes (of reading), but rather as observable and accountable material practices (of writing). I demonstrate, for instance, that what we commonly take as „new reading of a text“ actually can be viewed as „reading of new and new texts“, i.e., of texts that are progressively and constantly produced by and through our own analytical work with the data. From such a point of view, the art of interpretation becomes perhaps less exclusive and mysterious, but the more it becomes accessible, accountable and instructable.

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2005): Nesnáze s etnometodologií [The troubles with ethnomethodology]. Biograf, (38): 85-109

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PREDA, A. (2004): Finanční vědění, dokumenty a struktury finančních činností [Financial knowledge, documents, and the structures of financial activities]. Biograf, (33): 3-29 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek and Jiřina Zachová

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Starting from participant observation and interviews conducted in several European banks, the article examines how financial knowledge is constituted in the process of producing documents like research reports, analyses, and newsletters. The core argument is that documents act as organizational devices, with the help of which relationships are created, maintained, and managed across various contexts. In this perspective, the production of financial reports, analyses, and newsletters creates (1) knowledge-based networks of social relationships in which financial action is embedded and (2) stable temporal structures, thus ensuring the continuity of financial activities. On these grounds, the author argues here that knowledge-generating processes should be taken into account as an essential dimension of the structural embeddedness of financial action. 

Translated from PREDA, A. (2002): Financial knowledge, documents, and the structures of financial activities. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 31 (4): 207-239

GUILLEMIN, M. / GILLAM, L. (2004): Etika, reflexivita a "eticky důležité okamžiky" ve výzkumu [Ethics, reflexivity, and "ethically important moments" in research]. Biograf, (35): 11-31 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek and Jiřina Zachová

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Ethical tensions are part of the everyday practice of doing research—all kinds of research. How do researchers deal with ethical problems that arise in the practice of their research, and are there conceptual frameworks that they can draw on to assist them? This article examines the relationship between reflexivity and research ethics. It focuses on what constitutes ethical research practice in qualitative research and how researchers achieve ethical research practice. As a framework for thinking through these issues, the authors distinguish two different dimensions of ethics in research, which they term procedural ethics and "ethics in practice". The relationship between them and the impact that each has on the actual doing of research are examined. The article then draws on the notion of reflexivity as a helpful way of understanding both the nature of ethics in qualitative research and how ethical practice in research can be achieved. 

Translated from: GUILLEMIN, M. / GILLAM, L. (2004): Ethics, reflexivity, and "ethically important moments" in research. Qualitative Inquiry, 10 (2): 261-280

BERG, M. / BOWKER, G.C. (2004): Rozmanitá těla zdravotní dokumentace: K sociologii jednoho nástroje [The multiple bodies of the medical record: Toward a sociology of an artifact]. Biograf, (34): 3-34 - translated by Zdeněk Konopásek

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This article argues that the medical record is an important focus for sociological research. In medical work, the modern patient´s body that Foucault has so aptly described is produced through embodied, materially heterogeneous work, and the medical record plays a crucial role in this production. It does not simply represent this body´s history and geography; it is a central element in the material rewriting of these. Simultaneously, the record fulfills a core role in the production of a body politic. As the record is involved in the performance of the patient´s body, it is also involved in the performance of the clinic in which that body comes to life. Finally, we argue that different records and different practices of reading and writing are intertwined with the production of different patient´s bodies, bodies politic, and bodies of knowledge. As organizational infrastructure, the medical record affords the interplay and coordination of divergent worlds. Seen as a site where multiple stories about patients and organizations are at stake, including the interoperability between these stories, the medical record becomes highly relevant both analytically and politically. 

Translated from BERG, Marc / BOWKER, Geoffrey C. (1997): The multiple bodies of the medical record: Toward a sociology of an artifact. Sociological Quarterly, 38 (3): 513-537

KONOPÁSEK, Z. / STÖCKELOVÁ, T. / ZAMYKALOVÁ, L. (2004): Making pure science / pure politics in the public controversy over the highway bypass of Plzeň CTS. Research Reports, CTS-04-12. Praha: CTS. Available at http://www.cts.cuni.cz/

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Paper prepared for the Joint 4S & EASST Conference 2004 Public proofs – science, technology and democracy, Paris, Ecole des Mines, August 25-28 2004

This paper is based on a detailed empirical case study of a long-term public controversy over the construction of a highway bypass around the city of Plzen (in South-Western Bohemia, Czech Republic). The controversy involved a wide range of actors: local activists, an environmentalist NGO, politicians of all levels, experts, developers, state and regional administration, and media people. Two variants of the bypass were at stake: one of them gradually appearing better and better, attractive for experts, but existing as if only on paper, while the other was becoming more and more real, pushed through mainly by local politicians, and actually constructed. Although the story could be narrated in terms of an unequal struggle between environmentalists and small villages on one side and politicians, economic lobbies and municipality of a big city on the other, we will try to follow a more subtle and complex story-line, which focuses upon different strategic usages of science and politics. Besides explaining how it happened that one of the variants “attracted” the winning properties (and “won”), we will also describe a “vicious” circle of a double purification of science and politics and show how it contributes to the fragility of both democracy and expertise.

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