KONOPÁSEK, Z. / PALEČEK (2011): The principle of symmetry from the respondents’ perspective: Possessions, apparitions and mental illnesses in research interviews with clerics. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, , 12 (1): Art. 12, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101129::::
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 (and also on our current research in general), 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.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2010): Co znamená "sociální konstrukce"? [What is the meaning of "social construction"?]. Zdenek Konopasek's blog, 3. 11. 2010. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=151&i=1490&b=151::::
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2010): V čem spočívá pravda náboženské skutečnosti? Sociologický pohled na mariánská zjevení a démonické posedlosti [Where does the religious truth comes from? A sociological view on Marian apparitions and demonic possessions]. Biograf (52-53): 89-101::::
In this paper I summarize the background and results of our three-year research project "Religious realities in the making: Apparitions and possessions as practical and collective accomplishments" (GAČR 403/08/1758). All our analyses emphasise the polymorphic nature and diversity of what we call religious faith. Inspired by theoretical-methodological approaches from contemporary science studies we try to pursue a kind of non-reductionist sociology of religion. As subjects of study we have chosen weird, rather rare and in many respects controversial situations (apparitions and possessions) that allow as to grasp "in action" and cleavage even the long and perfectly sediment reality of religion.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2010): Věda, každodenní skutečnost a "přirozený svět" [Science, everyday life and the concept of life-world]. In: B. Velický, K. Trlifajová & P. Kouba, eds.: Spor o přirozený svět [A controversy over the life-world]. Praha: Filosofia. Pp. 173-196::::
In this paper I discuss the concept of life-world from two specific sociological perspectives: from the perspective of contemporary science and technology studies (STS) and from the viewpoint of classical social constructivism. It is explained, first, why STS have only a weak links to and do not develop the Husserlian critique of science (from the perspective of life-world). Second, I try to elucidate why the phenomenologically inspired idea of social construction of reality is, in fact, transcending and abandoning the original notion of the life-world. It is argued that the concept of life-world does not refer to a livable reality, but rather to a highly abstract idea that is not of much help when answering the basic questions of the two sociological fields, i.e., what is the specific nature of scientific work and how scientific facts are produced; and how everyday reality is constructed.
KONOPÁSEK, Z. (2009): Co by nás prý na vědě nemělo šokovat...? [What should not shock us about science?]. Zdenek Konopasek's blog, 21. 11. 2009. Available at http://zdenek.konopasek.net/index.php?m=151&i=1215&b=151::::
KONOPÁSEK, Z. / STÖCKELOVÁ, T. / ZAMYKALOVÁ, L. (2008): Making pure science and pure politics: On the expertise of bypass and the bypass of expertise. Science, Technology & Human Values, 33 (4): 529-553::::
This paper is based on a case study of a long-term public controversy over the construction of a highway bypass (around Plzen, Czech Republic). Two principal variants of the bypass were proposed. One of them began gradually to appear preferable, increasingly attractive for experts, but remaining only on paper. In the meantime, however, the other variant became more realistic, pushed through mainly by local politicians and actually constructed. We show how purification of science from politics (and vice versa) played a key role in the development and ending of the case. Initial expertisation of the case switched to its sharp politicization, when people got frustrated from protraction and indecisive evidence of accumulated expertise. This turned to be fatal for those who consistently staked everything on "pure facts". We conclude by outlining some general consequences of such a development for both democratic decision making and the political relevance of expertise.
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
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. (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