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UCD School of Sociology Seminar Series 2019-2020

Trimester Two


December 11, 2019

Elisabeth Becker (University of Virginia)

Title: Unsettled Islam, Unsettling Europe: Perspectives from the Mosque


As Europe faces deepening sociopolitical divides, the so-called “question of Islam” continues to be invoked in discussions over plurality and inclusion. In this presentation, I will draw from over two years of ethnographic research in two of Europe’s largest mosque communities (the Sehitlik Mosque in Berlin and the East London Mosque) to flip the lens and focus on the “question of Europe.” Specifically, I will introduce the idea of the mosque as a threshold space, both literal and metaphorical point of entry into European society, in order to shift the critical gaze from Muslims to assumptions about European modernity, civility and progress.  I will center on what Islamic institutions and their constituents can teach us about Europe’s current unsettledness by bringing these two mosque communities, responding to their everyday social realities, into conversation with crucial sociopolitical developments, including Brexit, large-scale refugee migration and institutionalized far-right political parties.


Elisabeth Becker is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and the Religion and Its Publics Project at the University of Virginia, where she is completing her first book manuscript (Cities of Europe, Citizens of God: Mosques in the 21st Century Metropolis), under contract with University of Chicago Press. She graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Yale University in 2018. Her research focuses on culture, migration, citizenship and religious diversity in urban settings, centering specifically on Muslims and the intersections of Muslim and Jewish life. She will be joining University College Dublin as an Ad Astra Fellow (Lecturer/Assistant Professor) in Sociology in September 2020.


January 23, 2020

Ludger Mees (University of the Basque Country)

Title: The Innovation of Tradition: The 19th Century Wine Revolution in the Spanish Rioja


The Spanish Rioja is the most important quality-wine producing region in Spain. In 2016, 24% of the wine sold by all Spanish regions labelled as Protected Designations of Origin came from the Rioja. Rioja is also the leader in the ranking of sales on the international market, constituting 37 % of all Spanish protected wine regions. The talk aims to analyze the historical origin of this success story that began in the mid-19th century in the Basque province of Álava. It is a fascinating and mostly unknown story about an acute socioeconomic crisis and an attempt to find a way out of it by scientific innovation. The story’s protagonists are a number of prestigious and influent Basque liberal politicians, a group of open-minded aristocrats and wine growers, and some of the first technical experts of modern wine making. It is not only a story about success through scientific innovation, but also about 19th century’s Basque self-government, Spanish socioeconomic backwardness and transnational transfers of know-how. As in other cases of Europe, it was the prestigious Médoc region where the leaders of the Rioja wine experiment, through a sort of industrial espionage, received the necessary scientific input based on the findings provided by scientists such as Jean-Antoine Chaptal or Louis Pasteur. Owing to this transfer of knowledge, the Rioja wine ceased to be, within very few years, a strong and dark beverage unable to survive, without being damaged, neither the heat of the summer nor the transport to distant markets. Instead, over time, it mutated into an elegant, light and flavoured natural consumer item for the affluent sectors of society first, and the growing new middle classes later. The story of this success, which would not be fully implemented until the 20th century, is a good example to show that scientific transfer is only likely to produce progress if science merges with the particular characteristics of the regional and local context. This particular relation between modernity and tradition also provides a lesson to be learned for our 21st century’s globalized world.


Ludger Mees completed his PhD in History at the University of Bielefeld (Germany) and was Assistant Professor at the same institution before taking up a lectureship at the University of the Basque Country (Bilbao, Spain) in 1991. Since 2004, he has been full Professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country and between 2004 and 2009 he was also Vice-Chancellor. He is author, co-author or editor of 19 books and about 120 articles and book chapters in the fields of nationalism, wine history, social movements, and historiography. His most recent book publications are El Medoc Alavés. La revolución del vino de Rioja (Madrid: La Fábrica, Cía. De Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, 2018); with H.J. Puhle and K.J. Nagel: Una historia social del vino. Rioja, Navarra, Cataluña 1860-1940 (Madrid: Tecnos, 2019), and The Basque Contention. Ethnicity, Politics, Violence, (London / New York: Routledge 2019).


January 30, 2020

Dr Ruben Flores, UCD

Title: A Case for Conscious Normativity: Why Sociology Programs Should Teach Ethics  

Mainstream sociology’s reluctance to engage with normative questions has recently come under heavy criticism. Taking stock of these concerns, this paper calls upon sociologists to develop a thoughtful approach to ethical values and principles. We label this approach “conscious normativity” and describe its benefits. These include a deeper appreciation for the centrality of normative evaluations in social life, and a renewed connection with sociology’s history of normative commitment. In helping students to engage in the discipline’s full practical, social, and humanistic breadth, conscious normativity has the potential to make research more compelling, teaching more relevant, and graduates more prepared. But in order to fulfill sociology’s normative promise, the discipline’s teachers will need to find new ways to integrate ethics into their classroom practices. We reflect on a number of possible ways to accomplish this goal, and conclude with a reflection on the meaning of our argument for sociology’s relationship to ethics.


Rubén Flores has held posts as Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow) and more recently at UCD, where he has also been a visiting lecturer. His research has focused on the study of care and compassion, and on the interplay between sociology and ethics.


February 27, 2020 

13:00 Room D422, Newman Building

Dr Mastoureh Fathi, UCC

Title: Photos of home: Young migrant men’s representation of domestic spaces in Ireland


The notion of home for migrants has been associated with paradoxical interpretations of mobility and sedentariness. What is discussed, mainly in transnationalism literature, is the dynamic meanings of home are tightly related to identity and the sense of belonging. An important aspect of home-making (homing) in migration processes is linked to domestic spaces and what they mean/represent to migrants and non-migrants. This paper discusses how young migrant men who live in Cork make sense of domestic spaces in Cork, Ireland, using photo voice method and Yuval-Davis’s (2006) theoretical framework on the notion of belonging. The argument critically evaluates an under-developed intersection of masculinity and domesticity within the field of intersectionality studies.


Dr Mastoureh Fathi is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at Institute of Social Science Research in 21st Century, at University College Cork. Her research revolves around everyday experiences of migration with a focus on intersectionality, gender and class in migration processes, identity, home-making and belonging in diaspora and the importance of objects in displacement. Her monograph, Intersectionality, Class and Migration: Narratives of Iranian Women Migrants in the U.K. was published in 2017. In June-July 2019, she curated an exhibition of art works produced by women refugees in London and Izmir in Royal Albert Hall in London[1] based on two funded projects: Pedagogy, Home and Belonging funded by The British Academy; and HOME: Homing through Objects of Memory funded by Global Challenge Research Fund. She is on the management committee of COST Action ‘Dynamics of place-making and digitization in Europe’s Cities’.

Project summary

Youth-Home project explores home-making practices in domestic and urban spaces among young male migrants who live in Cork, Ireland. Using innovative methodology, the project specifically analyses refugees and international students’ experiences together to offer a novel comparative reading into the less explored home among migrant men. The project entails policy analysis, walking interviews, visual methods that would enable the participants to create a map of Cork city. The participants would eventually produce an app to facilitate transfer of knowledge in urban settings from migrants’ perspective.


March 5, 2020 

13:00 Room D422, Newman Building

Dr Rachel Ibreck, Goldsmith University

Title: Law and activism in conflict: lessons from South Sudan?


Rachel Ibreck will discuss the findings of her book South Sudan's Injustice System: Law and Activism on the Frontline. The book argues that legality matters intensely in South Sudan, the world’s newest ‘fragile’ state in a war torn state. Plural and competing laws and authorities have governed throughout the atrocious civil war since 2013. South Sudanese people have been subjugated by statutory laws and legal practices, with colonial authoritarian roots. Despite the dysfunctions of law and the constant threat of violence, people turn to accessible ‘customary’ courts, and South Sudanese legal activists strive to make a more humane legal order from below, using social networks and cultural resources to respond to injustices. These struggles in laws, courts, and prisons are pivotal and revealing. The talk will also reflect on the lessons for our understanding of the origins of conflict, the power of law and the possibilities for transforming violent conflict. 


Rachel Ibreck is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include human rights activism, political violence, humanitarian and transitional justice interventions, and the politics of memory and justice in Eastern Africa, especially in Rwanda and South Sudan. She has a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Bristol. She is a research associate at the Conflict Research Programme, LSE. She has published in academic journals including African Affairs, the Journal of Intervention and StatebuildingStability: International Journal of Security and Development and the Journal of Contemporary African Studies and is author of South Sudan’s Injustice System: Law and Activism on the Frontline (Zed Books, 2019)