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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Control's Other Sides - Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

4th Annual Seminar of the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS), 8-10 February 2012

We encounter forms of control in all realms of social life: internalised moral attitudes on the individual level; national or pre-national rules of law; governmental and non-governmental regulatory agencies attempting to contain potentially harmful developments. An observation of the process of how control is set up and maintained allows us to get a better understanding of the institutionalisation of social order. At the same time, the analysis of control may help to learn something about the sociocultural justifications, which enable such an order. Important changes in the mechanisms of control in modernity can be traced back to these discursive developments.

Despite general compliance with controlling structures, there appears to be a frame of action for "critical reflection" towards the established institutions of control. Control can never be seized as a totality and no attempt at control is without contradictions and ambivalences. Even if dominant claims over control are not entirely balanced by resistance, oppositional and everyday practices disturb the sequences of control regimes by deliberately or unintentionally introducing functional mistakes, inconsequentiality, open or concealed critique. An analysis of control therefore forces us to study its limits: Where are measures of control thought to be unsuccessful? Where do attempts to obtain control fail because no internalisation of norms or legitimization of existing norms has taken place? How are new forms of control possible despite the danger that they themselves will be doubted or rejected? Where does the seemingly constant need for control come from? Which conflicts and tensions constitute different forms of relationships between controlling structures and the objects of the control? And finally: Where and how is control modified by its resisting powers?

The interdisciplinary Annual Seminar 2012 focused on the forces that limit, irritate, or modify control. The empirical or conceptual contributions tackled the paradoxes, contradictions and ambivalences regarding control and discuss the social significance of control and its other side.


The Annual Seminar 2012 group

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