CfP: Our Section at the ECPR Conference in Innsbruck

 Call for panels and papers 

Section 14: Concepts, Practices, Actions: Theories, Methodologies and Techniques of analysing Politics beyond the Nation State 

ECPR General Conference 2020 

26-28 August, Innsbruck, Austria 

Section Chair: Claudia Wiesner (University of Applied Sciences, Fulda) 

Section Co-Chair: Kristin Anabel Eggeling (University of Copenhagen) 

This Section is endorsed by the Standing Group ‘Political Concepts’, and supported by the Standing Group on International Relations and the Standing Group on Political Sociology 

In the last decade, political science and its subdisciplines have experienced a growing interest into theories, methodologies and research techniques that are inspired by sociological or ethnographic approaches, that are backed by ontological and methodological premises of social constructivism, and that emphasise notions of positionality and reflexivity. We discuss these approaches under labels such as the ‘practice turn’. In many ways, these approaches link to research traditions from other fields such as anthropology and sociology, and specific subdisciplines such as rhetorical studies, conceptual and intellectual history, or discourse analysis. Sharing an emphasis on studying actorness, political and linguistic action, or micropolitics, most of them concentrate on the construction of meaning and power relations via different practices and the analyses of these dynamics. The usage of these approaches in the wider community of political science, however, has differed across the cultures of the respective subdisciplines. 

Against this backdrop, the proposed section aims at bringing together work from all political science subdisciplines that concentrate on the study of concepts, practices and actions, in order to help establish a landscape of these approaches and their usage, to highlight upcoming challenges, and to build a future research agenda. In order to reach across existing boundaries in our community, the section is proposed by the Standing Group ‘Political Concepts’ with support from the Standing Groups ‘Political Sociology’ and ‘International Relations’. 

Panels and Papers in the section aim to 

– provide an overview over the newer methodological developments in analysing politics both within and beyond the nation state 

– discuss their strengths and particularities as well as their limitations and need for further development 

– exemplify how to analyse concepts and conceptual controversies, practices and actions 

– line out future methodological and theoretical pathways, ask new research questions in emerging areas of research, and map out challenges facing techniques and designs 

At this time, we invite proposals for additional panels to be sent directly to the section convenors Claudia Wiesner ( and Kristin Anabel Eggeling (; as well as individual papers for the panels outlined below. If you want to propose a paper for one of the existing panels, please contact the respective panel chairs directly. 

1. Micropolitics, practices, language and action: methodologies and approaches 

Claudia Wiesner ( 

The panel aims at opening the section´s debate regarding the main theme. We want to present and discuss different methodologies and approaches and examples of studying studying micropolitics, practices, language and action, relating to diversve theoretical and methodological traditions. Papers in the section accordingly should aim to provide an overview on the newer methodological developments in analysing Politics, discuss their strengths and particularities as well as their limitations and need for further development, exemplify how to analyse concepts and conceptual controversies, practices and actions, and line out future methodological and theoretical pathways, ask new research questions in emerging areas of research, and respond to challenges facing techniques and designs. In particular, papers should discuss approaches and questions such as practice analysis, rhetorical analysis, the role of concepts and conceptual change, or the analysis of micropolitics. The focus should be on political processes, actors, and actions in various respects and in a broad sense. Presentations are also welcome to analyse power struggles, political controversies, and interpretative conflicts. Both methodological or conceptual and empirical contributions are welcome, and contributions can focus on any worls region, country or site. 

2. Theorizing International Politics: Building generalization, abstractions and theories from empirical data’ 

Kristin Anabel Eggeling ( and Claudia Wiesner ( 

There is a growing interest in field work and ethnography in international relations and political science. This interest is often driven by the idea to ‘ground’ ones theoretical analysis in ‘practice’, and to enrich armchair arguments with lived experience from the field. The majority of discussions so far are concerned with methods, that is how political scientists do field work, and how to overcome a range of practical problems such as negotiating ‘access’. What receives less attention is how theory and method are linked to each other. This concerns at least two questions: Firstly, what kind of theory and how much of it do we require to take into the field? Different voices exist in the literature. Two extremes would be the argument that we should get rid of pre-understandings and collect ‘raw’ data through ‘pure’ induction. The other extreme would be to argue that we require a fixed general theoretical framework to recognize, navigate and use in the field. The middle ground would suggest that some pre-understandings and theoretical assumptions are useful, and others are not. Secondly, what kind of theory do we make while being in the field? Does theory work come after field work? Is it enough to observe, record, and describe what is ‘found’ in the field; or should we be concerned about making generalizations out of what we describe? For this panel, we invite researchers to reflect on their current research in the light of these questions, to discuss whether and how it is possible to argue up from the particular to the general in the study of (international) politics. 

3. ‘Beyond acknowledging reflexivity? Understanding political research as political practice 

Kristin Anabel Eggeling ( 

In 1987, the anthropologist Graham Watson contemplated the existence of a ‘muddled discussion’ surrounding the concept of ‘reflexivity’, which he summarised in the claim that many of his colleagues wanted to be ‘reflexive’ in their working and writing, just ‘not yet’. Over the last three 

decades, the debate on reflexivity, understood broadly as the need for self-reflection while doing research, has persisted and gradually moved from the humanities into the social sciences, including political science and International Relations. Here, it is both employed by scholars reflecting on the production of knowledge about (international) politics as a sociological practice, and those working with empirical research methods that require the scholar to ‘go there’ and become directly exposed to the world she studies. In the beginning, debates revolved around the need to ‘acknowledge’ reflexivity, and to become aware of the fact that all knowledge production is situated, and hence, potentially political. In recent years, scholars working under the labels of critical, feminist or post-studies have called for a renewed and deeper engagement with the idea of reflexivity, often linking it to questions of research ethics and responsibility. This panel invites contributions that unpack and push discussions on the place and role of reflexivity in political research both through reflections on their own work, and the broader implications of doing and researching (international) politics. 

4. Political Agency in the EU and Beyond 

Niilo Kauppi ( 

This panel invites empirical and theoretical papers that seek to combine sociological aspects of political thought and culture with a conceptual and historical approach to theory and rhetoric. The paper should explore how political agents engage in action at the grassroot level, shedding light on the creative political mind in action. Instead of grounding analysis in established and ossified political science theories like neofunctionalism or intergovernmentalism this point of view seeks to capture the dynamic contingency, reflexivity and uncertainty of political action. 

5. A practice turn in the European public sphere: actors, narratives and political processes 

Louis Bouza ( 

Much of the research on the European public sphere has focused on it functions and contribution to legitimacy and potential impact on processes of policymaking. However, this very same literature coincides in that all possible models of Europeanisation of public debates have different practical problems despite their theoretical potential. To name just a few, those are the weakness of civil society transnational linkages, the narrative diversity about the EU in different national political spaces and the lack of incentives for political and media actors to have a sustained involvement in European public sphere. 

This panel invites contributions analysing this practice problems from sociological, communication or organisational perspectives focusing on practical examples of actors and / or processes linking politics and policies across different national or practice spheres. 

6. Hybrid Traditions: The Transatlantic Transfers of Political and Administrative Ideas 

Fritz Sager ( & Taru Haapala, 

The panel aims to discuss and develop the “transfer of ideas” approach in the study of the intellectual history of Europe and the USA, with a special focus on political and administrative 

ideas. Comparative political science and public administration scholarship often refer to the notion of national political cultures and administrative traditions to understand differences between states. Likewise, historical institutionalism provides a strong argument for the existence of national paths that ultimately build webs of beliefs that are tied to a given social and historical context and display a certain stability over time. Empirical textual research shows, however, that ‘tradition’ is a historically hybrid concept, open for outside inspiration and influence through mutual learning. Consequently, there tends to be transformation over time to a degree that makes the notion of national tradition questionable altogether. The panel will discuss the utility of transfer of ideas approach for political science, and it welcomes both methodological papers and empirical analyses related to 


Anna Kronlund ( & Kari Palonen ( 

The digitalization of parliamentary debates in a long-term perspective under recent years has opened up unforeseen possibilities for political science. In opposition to the fashionable “digital humanities” and “big data” studies we insist on the new chances by using simple search options in conceptual and rhetorical analysis of parliamentary debates. In this panel we shall discuss the very presence of political science itself in parliament. “Political science” is not always regarded as an academic discipline but as a wider current of scholarship. Also the discipline have been a variety of names – say: Politikwissenschaft, Politische Wissenschaft und Politologie in German. Or, as in Scandinavia the official chair names are still hiding the politics-term, by replacing it for instance with a state-referring title. So, the search presupposes knowledge of the history of the discipline and the variety in its academic politics of naming. 

The very status of political science has been contested. In some newly independent countries (including Finland) special hopes were directed at founding the discipline, whereas at other occasions the entire discipline fell in disrepute as being no proper science but a host of radicalism or revolution. Struggles on the legitimacy and funding of the discipline were to some degree also conducted in parliaments. References to political science discussions and results as to the names of individual scholars, whether contemporaries or classics of the field, can also be found in parliamentary debates. There it is interesting to know, which are the debates, how is the scholarship mentioned and interpreted or misinterpreted in them. Who are the “political scientists” who are most frequently quoted in a parliament and how does their parliamentary reputation persist or change? In early days of parliament political science professors could be found among the members. Today this is rare, but it would be important how they are using their academic competence and profile as MPs and how they do understand themselves as politicians? 

8. Conceptualising hegemony 

Emilia Palonen ( 

This panel explores the concept of hegemony and its usefulness for analysing contemporary politics and societies. We encourage the submission of papers on examples of hegemonic transformation and strife, but also those that consider previous theories of hegemony and particularly those that explore and conceptualise them for current analysis. 

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