11. 5. 2009 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: K čemu je vlastně dobrý symetrický přístup? Metodologické poznámky ze sociologického výzkumu náboženských zjevení a démonických posedlostí [What is symmetrical approach good for? Notes from a sociological study of apparitions and demonic possessions] (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Invited lecture for the methodological section of the Slovak sociological association, Bratislava (Slovakia), Philosophical institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 2pm
2. 4. 2009 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: "This is for the first time when it is for the second time": Reflections on uniqueness in sociological descriptions and explanations (Praha)
Presentation at the joint CTS (Praha) and IGPP (Freiburg) workshop on "The challenge of uniqueness", Center for theoretical study, April 2-4 2009 (Husova 4, Praha 1, CTS seminar room)
The problem of uniqueness in sociology is often seen as a problem of methodology. It refers to research configurations in which we deal only with a few cases or even with a single case so that it becomes impossible using standardized statistical tools and generalizing our findings to cover some wider population. In such situations, we mobilize “qualitative methods”. I will briefly comment on their practical relevance and on the nature of knowledge they bring about. Uniqueness, however, can also be taken as a substantive sociological issue. There are sociologists (including myself) who consider uniqueness as an omnipresent and irreducible feature of social reality – a feature that should be taken seriously. This implies a radical redefinition of the sociological perspective and of basic sociological questions. The redefinition is often misunderstood though. While we must understand and deeply respect that everything happens only once, and at one place, it is equally serious that we take account of things made durable, repeatable, and standardized or generalized on a mass scale and daily basis. It is not a paradox: the former should be taken as a theoretical-methodological precondition of the latter.
9. 3. 2009 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: Přirozený svět a naturalizace skutečnosti: K debatám o "přirozeném" světě z pohledu sociologa [Life-world and naturalization of reality: Toward the ideas of life-world from a sociologist's view] (Praha)
Presentation within the series of transdisciplinary seminars on life/lived/natural world
20. 1. 2009 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Princip symetrie z hlediska respondentů: Posedlost, zjevení a duševní nemoc ve výzkumných rozhovorech s duchovními
[The principle of symmetry from the respondents‘ perspective: Possession, apparition and mental illness in research interviews with clerics] (Olomouc)
Presentation at the conference Qualitative approaches for practice (VIIIth Czech-Slovak conference on qualitative research and methods in the human sciences), January 19-20 2009, Olomouc
We study how experiences such as hearing the voice of the Lord or having a vision of Virgin Mary are dealt with in psychiatry and catholic pastoral practice. How the status of these phenomena is negotiated by the participants? Under what conditions they become an instance of legitimate religious experience or, alternatively, symptoms of mental illness? We approach the study of these issues “symmetrically” - we do not prefer a priori medical or spiritual explanations. Some time ago, we demonstrated and explained such an approach (which is common, e.g., in contemporary sociology of science), and its relevance for our research, in an analytic paper on the movie “The exorcism of Emily Rose” (2005). The paper discusses a highly ambiguous relationship, pictured in the film, between medical and spiritual interpretation of the story of a young girl who was considered possessed by demons and who died after unsuccessful exorcism (Konopásek & Paleček 2006). Now, the question is: can such a symmetrical approach be of any relevance also for people we are studying? In an attempt to give an answer, we have interviewed four catholic priests on this issue. The priests had been asked to watch the movie on Emily Rose and read our paper on it in preparation for the interview. Based on these discussions, we would like to shed some light on whether and in what ways our specific epistemic perspective coheres with the views and positions of our respondents; and also, how this reflexive research experiment contributed to our own understanding of the role of the symmetry principle in our current research project.
4. 12. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Zjevení a posedlost jako hraniční objekty v psychiatrii a pastoraci [Apparitions and possessions as border objects in psychiatry and pastoral practice] (Praha)
Lecture within the series of CTS Thursday seminars (10-12am, seminar room, 3rd floor)
27. 11. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Apparitions and possessions as border objects: An exploration into epistemic cultures of mental health care and pastoral care (Praha)
Apparitions and possessions are a strange kind of phenomena. Being rather marginal and extraordinary experiences or happenings, often hardly accountable and controversial, they can be defined, treated, understood and accepted (i.e., performed, enacted) from within at least two different perspectives or epistemic cultures: mental health care and pastoral care. Simply put, they can be taken as symptoms of psychopathology or as genuine spiritual events. In this paper we would like to focus upon occasions when the two seemingly conflicting “interpretations” rather peacefully co-exist. Given the omnipresent tensions between “the rational” and “the spiritual” or between scientific and religious approaches to the world, such occasions - surprisingly - appear. And even more: as we will try to show in our empirical analysis, they are important for maintaining the respective epistemic cultures and their concepts strong, distinct, and yet interconnected.Apparitions and possessions are a strange kind of phenomena. Being rather marginal and extraordinary experiences or happenings, often hardly accountable and controversial, they can be defined, treated, understood and accepted (i.e., performed, enacted) from within at least two different perspectives or epistemic cultures: mental health care and pastoral care. Simply put, they can be taken as symptoms of psychopathology or as genuine spiritual events. In this paper we would like to focus upon occasions when the two seemingly conflicting “interpretations” rather peacefully co-exist. Given the omnipresent tensions between “the rational” and “the spiritual” or between scientific and religious approaches to the world, such occasions - surprisingly - appear. And even more: as we will try to show in our empirical analysis, they are important for maintaining the respective epistemic cultures and their concepts strong, distinct, and yet interconnected.
6. 11. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: Věříme vědě moc, anebo málo? [Do we believe science too much or too little?] (Praha)
Speech at the Thursday CTS seminar at the occasion of the Science and Technology Week of the Academy of Sciences, CTS (Seminar room, 10-12h, Thematic block "What is happening on the Earth" - together with David Storch & Cyril Říha)
13. 10. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: K debatám o kognitivismu v sociologii [Towards sociological debates on cognitivism] (Praha)
Speech at the special seminar at the occasion of Ivan M. Havel birthday celebration, CTS (Seminar room, 9-17h)
21. 8. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Debating possession/mental illness with mental health professionals and clerics: Acting with a symmetrical approach in adverse fields
We study how catholic quasi/religious experiences are dealt with in psychiatric care. We ask how it happens that, in particular therapeutic or pastoral settings, phenomena such as hearing the voice of God or having an apparition of Virgin Mary are enacted by participants as, on one hand, a legitimate religious experience or, on the other hand, a symptom of mental illness. To understand this border-work carried out, from time to time, in psychiatric (and also pastoral) practice, we used a symmetrical approach, in which no preference is a priori given to spiritual or medical explanations. That is also why we interviewed, among others, not only psychiatric professionals, but also catholic priests. Our interviewees frequently manifested their genuine interest in our research. Facing their curiosity (but also initial hesitations) we started thinking about the value of symmetrical approach somewhat differently. We appreciated that the “politics of symmetry” has implications far beyond what and how is known and started thinking more of what the symmetrical perspective means for “acting with our scientific knowledge” in the medical and pastoral fields. We decided to set up an experiment. In our early paper on the topic, we discussed a horror/court drama “Exorcism of Emily Rose” (Scott Derrickson, 2005), which tells about a catholic priest accused of negligent homicide of a young woman, Emily Rose, who had been considered by her family and the priest as possessed and did not survive attempted exorcism. Two competing versions of the case were confronted during the trial: while the prosecutor argued that Emily had been sick and exorcism directly led to her death, the defendant – with the help of an anthropologist – tried to take seriously the reality of possession. In this early paper, we show how the movie on Emily Rose carefully develops a balanced view of the phenomena and we also use this analysis to explain the principle of symmetry in our own research design. In the experiment, we have asked some mental health professionals and clerics, to watch the movie and read our early paper to prepare themselves for subsequent focused discussions with us. In the paper proposed for the 4S/EASST conference, we thus want to offer a close analysis of these discussions and shed some light on how the (explained and applied) principle of symmetry might be understood or misunderstood, accepted or rejected as relevant by the concerned professional audiences. We therefore want to contribute to the STS literature on symmetry by a small empirical exercise focused not so much on the “cognitive” relevance of this methodological standpoint, but rather on how symmetrical accounts can be accepted, understood and used by actors in the field(s) under study.
3. 6. 2008 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Social sciences meet exorcism: On the reality of illness and demons in the Scott Derrickson’s movie Exorcism of Emily Rose
Presentation at the 5th biannual European conference of Society for Literature, Science & Arts "Figurations of knowledge", Berlin, Germany, July 2-7, 2008 (Stream 1: Inspiration & intuition)
In our research we focus on the thresholds, passages and incommensurabilities between psychiatry and spirituality. More specifically, we ask: How it happens, in terms of observable and accountable practices, that phenomena such as hearing the voice of God, having an apparition of Virgin Mary or suffering from demonic oppression are sometimes understood as symptoms of mental illnesses or, other times, as elements of true spiritual or religious experience? Assuming that it simply is psychiatry, which produces the former, and pastoral practice, which pushes such cases to the latter end, is misleading. The field of practices we study is much more complicated. A useful methodological tool for observing subtleties of our phenomena is taking a symmetrical stand toward them, i.e., taking the spiritual and the psychiatric equally seriously. In our paper we would like to discuss the movie “Exorcism of Emily Rose” (Scott Derrickson, 2005), a combination of horror and court drama, in which a priest is sued for causing death of a young woman by performing exorcism on her. We analyze various means by which the film maintains undecidability for us, as audience, as for the key point of the story: was the young woman, Emily Rose, sick, or possessed? The aim of our analysis is to show what such a symmetrical approach might mean and what implications it could have for research practice, which also can be seen, after all, as a kind of trial.
15. 11. 2007 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: Nad/vláda ryze odborných hledisek: možnosti nemožného (případ Natury 2000) [The rule of strictly scientific criteria: Possibilities of the impossible (The case of Natura 2000]
7. 11. 2007 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek: Catalogues, maps, and lists of Natura 2000: Ways of knowing and evaluating nature
Presentation for the international workshop on The potential and limitations of lists, Praha, Center for theoretical study, November 6-8, 2007.
13. 10. 2007 ::::
Jan Paleček & Zdeněk Konopásek: Treating spirituality: Border work in psychiatric and pastoral practice
12. 10. 2007 ::::
Zdeněk Konopásek & Jan Paleček: Catalogues, maps, and lists: Ways of knowing and evaluating nature
We study processes by which the European nature-reserve project NATURA 2000 is being implemented in the Czech Republic. These processes involve production and mobilisation of expertise as well as political negotiations and decision-making. Expert knowledge and scientific criteria were to play a decisive role in this project, any other criteria being only secondary. An extensive and systematic review of the state of nature was initiated. In the beginning, exhaustive catalogues of biotopes were created so that any piece of landscape could be classified during the subsequent fieldwork. Hundreds of collaborators of varying professional and scientific background were then hired to undertake an unprecedented mapping of the Czech nature. On the basis of such a mapping, lists of protected areas were created, negotiated and proposed for approval. We discuss these processes and procedures in order to highlight diversity of interests, strategies, practical purposes and applications that all together contribute to the creation of above-mentioned catalogues, maps, and lists (as “boundary objects” of a kind). Above all, we are interested in how the business of expert knowledge production and evaluation was from the very beginning intertwined with everyday administrative work of responsible regional bodies or with the political agenda of environmentalist NGOs. In conclusion, we confront such “messy” practical local arrangements with the primacy of purely expert criteria emphasised by the official NATURA 2000 documents and by participants in particular controversies over the proposed areas of protection.
12. 7. 2007 ::::
Jan Paleček & Zdeněk Konopásek: Border work on spiritual and pathological phenomena in mental health care and Catholic pastoral practice
Presentation at the 2nd International conference on Interdisciplinary social sciences, University of Granada, Spain, July 10-13, 2007