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UCD School of Sociology Seminar Series 2020-2021

Spring Trimester

Ethnic and Gender Discrimination in the Rental Housing Market: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Ireland

Thursday 4th February 13:00  **N.B. Rescheduled from original date of 21st Jan**

Egle Gusciute (UCC Department of Sociology & Criminology)

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Access to housing is recognised as one of the fundamental human rights by the United Nations international bodies and national legislation in Europe. However, there is consistent evidence of discrimination against ethnic minorities in the housing market. No such study has been carried out in Ireland. This paper presents the results of the first field experiment on ethnic discrimination in the rental housing market in Ireland. In addition, it is one of the few studies, in the European context, to consider ethnic discrimination against European and non-European migrants. The experimental design involved creating six fictitious applicants with different ethnic (Irish, Polish and Nigerian) and gender names. These applicants applied for vacant rental apartments advertised online. The study examines the extent of ethnic discrimination in the Irish context and the likelihood of being invited to view an apartment based on one’s ethnicity and gender.

Short Bio:

Egle Gusciute is currently a Lecturer in Sociology at the University College Cork and a Research Associate at the Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st Century (ISS21).  Previously she held positions at the Economic and Social Research Institute and University College Dublin and received her PhD in Sociology from Trinity College Dublin in 2020. Her research focuses on migration, ethnic minorities, discrimination, public opinion, gender, inequality and environmental sustainability.


Neuroscience, War and Peacebuilding

Thursday 25th February 13:00

Mari Fitzduff, (Founding Director of the international programs in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence, Professor Emerita at Brandeis University)

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Most of us, political scientists included, fail to appreciate the extent to which instincts and emotions, rather than logic, factor into our societal politics and international wars. Many of our physiological and genetic tendencies, of which we are mostly unaware, can all too easily fuel our antipathy towards other groups, make us choose ‘strong’ leaders over more mindful leaders, assist  recruitment for illegal militias, and facilitate even the most gentle of us to inflict violence on others. Fitzduff’s work, based upon the latest research from emerging areas such as behavioural genetics, biopsychology, and social and cognitive neuroscience, addresses the sources of compelling instincts and  emotions which often guide our behaviour, and suggests we have a need to acknowledge and better manage them so as to develop international and societal peace more effectively. 

Short Bio:

Mari Fitzduff is Professor Emerita at Brandeis University where she was the founding Director of the international programs in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence. Previously she was the Director of the main conflict resolution funding agency for peace development in Northern Ireland, and subsequently the Director of INCORE, a United Nations conflict research agency.  She has worked on issues of mediation, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Her books include  The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace, (co-edited with Chris Stout) , and Why Irrational Politics Appeals: Understanding the Allure of Trump. Her latest book: Our Brains at War: The Neuroscience of War and Peacebuilding  will be available in the 2021 New Year from Oxford University Press . She currently lives in Ireland.


The University Revolution: A Processual Analysis of Higher Education

Thursday 1st April 13:00

Eric Lybeck (The Manchester Institute of Education, the University of Manchester)

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Most of our theories and assumptions about the role and purpose of higher education were constructed during the Cold War – such that both liberal and critical interpretations of the role of science, higher learning and academic disciplines are overly-functionalist and ahistorical. An alternative approach developed through engagement with the processual sociology of Norbert Elias, Andrew Abbott, Isaac Reed, Niklas Luhmann and others suggests we need to rewrite our metahistorical account of why modern universities emerged in the early 19th century. The argument here is that the ‘university revolution’ was as significant as the industrial and democratic revolutions in co-constituting the modern world. 

Short Bio:

Eric Lybeck is a Presidential Fellow in the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester. His research draws on processual and civic approaches to social knowledge and practices to make new connections between the disciplines of sociology, history, geography and education. His doctoral research at Cambridge explored the history of the social and legal sciences during the late 19th century transfer of university models from Germany to America. He is currently editor-in-chief of the journal, Civic Sociology, published by University of California Press -


Film screening followed by Discussion 

“Letter to G.,– Rethinking our society with André Gorz”, 72 min 

Thursday 15th April 13:00-14:45 (exctended session)

Host: Andreas Hess 

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The film is devoted to André Gorz, one of the most inspiring intellectuals of the 21st century. Disciple of Sartre, greatly influenced by Ivan Illich, he was philisopher, a committed journalist, an economic critic, specialised in self-governance & autonomy he is one of France’s pioneer’s in political ecology.


Affectual Technique of Power: Political Economy of Violence against Queers (in Russia)

Thursday 22nd April 13:00

Alexander Kondakov (School of Sociology, UCD)

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In my research of violence against LGBT people in Russia, I registered growth of the number of victims in the aftermath of the 2013 law banning ‘propaganda’ of queer sexualities. One of the possible explanations of this increase of violence is related to political manipulation of emotions that politicians do to gain legitimacy through inciting fears in general population. Literature cites multiple examples of how political invocation of threatening emotions acts as political economy when exchange of constituents’ credit for protection from illusionary threats benefits politicians who readily employ scapegoating of LGBT people and other vulnerable groups. Although the mechanism of such political economy is convincingly evidenced, little is written about techniques by which emotions are delivered to susceptible bodies. How are these political threats able to touch people? How can difference in reactions to political invocation of emotions be explained? I draw on memetics to offer a theory of the technique of power by which emotions travel to cover large populations.

Short Bio:

Alexander Sasha Kondakov, PhD, is an assistant professor at the School of Sociology, University College Dublin, Ireland. He is also an editor for the Journal of Social Policy Studies published by the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia. His truly international experience includes holding positions in the University of Helsinki’s major research centre in Russian and Eurasian studies, Aleksanteri Institute, as well as research jobs at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. Alexander studied sociology of law at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in Spain. Kondakov’s work is primarily focused on law and sexuality studies, more specifically on queer sexualities. His latest research on violence against LGBT people in Russia has gotten attention in the international and Russian media. Kondakov’s studies were published in such journals as Sexualities, Social & Legal Studies, Feminist Legal Studies, and European Journal of Criminology.



Autumn Trimester 

Anatomies of Revolution 

8th October

George Lawson (International Relations at the Australian National University and International Relations at LSE)


Recent years have seen renewed interest in the study of revolution. Spurred by ‘people power’ uprisings from Hong Kong to Sudan, the rise of Islamic State, and the emergence of populism, a new age of revolution has generated considerable interest. Yet, even as empirical studies of revolutions are thriving, there has been a stall in theories of revolution. Anatomies of Revolution offers a novel account of how revolutions begin, unfold and end. By combining insights from Sociology, global history, and International Relations, it outlines the benefits of a 'global historical sociology' of revolutionary change, one in which international processes take centre stage

Short bio:

George Lawson is Professor of International Relations at the Australian National University and an Associate Professor in International Relations at LSE. His work is oriented around the relationship between history and theory, with a particular interest in global historical sociology. He applies this interest to the study of revolutions in two books, Anatomies of Revolution (2019) and Negotiated Revolutions: The Czech Republic, South Africa and Chile (2005). Lawson also applies his interest in history-theory to debates around global modernity, most notably in a book (co-authored with Barry Buzan), which charts the ways in which a range of important dynamics in contemporary international relations have their roots in the 19th century ‘global transformation’. Lawson is the Lead Editor of the Cambridge University book series, LSE International Studies, and a former Co-Editor of the Review of International Studies. His work has won the Francesco Guicciardini Prize and the Joseph Fletcher Prize, both from the International Studies Association, and the Hedley Bull Prize from the European Consortium of Political Research.


Studying Armies of Bots and Humans in the Lab; towards a sociology of humans and machines 

22nd October 13:00

Taha Yasseri (UCD School of Sociology)


Despite the enormous importance, conflicts and wars in human societies are less studied within the framework of scientific methods. It is hard to have realistic controlled experiments and even observational systematic studies are very sparse. However, the emergence of online technologies and their integration into different aspects of our individual and societal lives, has brought about a change. In large-scale online collaborative projects such as Wikipedia where millions of people work together to produce a collection of the "whole human knowledge", conflicts and edit wars are inevitable. In this talk we review some of the empirical analyses and theoretical modelling that we have done on Wikipedia edit wars between human and robot editors in different language editions.

Short bio:

Taha Yasseri is an Associate Professor at the School of Sociology of University College Dublin, Ireland. Formerly he was a Senior Research Fellow in Computational Social Science at the Oxford Internet Institute, a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science and AI, and a Research Fellow in Humanities and Social Sciences at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Taha obtained his PhD in Physics of Complex Systems from University of Göttingen, Germany in 2010. He has interests in analysis of large-scale transactional data and digital experiments to understand human dynamics and social contagion, online political behaviour, mass collaboration and collective intelligence, information and opinion dynamics, collective behaviour, and online dating.


Using smartphones to study environmental behaviour in a field-experimental setup. A Pilot Study.

12th November 13:00

Viktoria Spaiser (Sustainability Research and Computational Social Science at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, UK)


Ecological sustainability is the defining challenge of our time. Here a methodological approach is suggested that could help to investigate how environmental behaviour (transport behaviour, energy consumption, food consumption, goods consumption, wasting) dilemmas can be overcome on an individual level in real life by using smartphones to collect daily behavioural data in a field-experimental setup. Results from a pilot study are presented to discuss the feasibility and potential of this approach. The pilot shows that studying social dilemma behaviour via smartphones is feasible and can reveal insights about possible interventions for behavioural change.

Short bio:

Viktoria Spaiser is Associate Professor in Sustainability Research and Computational Social Science at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds, UK. She is also affiliated with the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA) and the Priestley International Centre for Climate in Leeds. Before her times at Leeds, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Stockholm Institute for Futures Studies and at the Department of Mathematics, Uppsala University in Sweden. Viktoria Spaiser is interested in sustainability research and specifically in how societies can make a rapid, fair and empowering transition to zero-emissions / zero-pollution. She has moreover established an expertise in computational social science approaches such as Agent Based Modelling, Natural Language Processing of large-scale textual data e.g. from Twitter, Dynamical Systems Modelling etc.


Changing Subjects, changing worlds. 

26th November 13:00

Jill Bradbury (Psychology, School of Human and Community Development, University of the Witwatersrand)


While the binary between internal and external realities is widely recognised as false, we lack the conceptual tools for speaking differently about psychosocial phenomena and processes. The “subject” is semantically and grammatical ambiguous: 1) The subject or discipline of psychology; 2) The subject as subjected to (subjugated by) social structures; and 3) as the agentic acting subject of social life. I will draw on the resources of narrative theory, African conceptions of psychosocial life and sociohistorical theories of consciousness to sketch some possibilities for praxis in the interconnected political and pedagogical projects of changing subjects and worlds. 

Short bio:

Jill Bradbury is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. She teaches postgraduate courses in narrative psychology, critical theories of childhood and youth, language and thought. Her research focuses on intergenerational narratives, socio-historical theories of personhood, the transformation of higher education, and the (im)possibilities of individual and social change. She is a principal investigator on the NEST (Narrative Enquiry for Social Transformation) research project. Her new book, “Narrative psychology and Vygotsky in Dialogue: Changing Subjects” is published by Routledge, 2020.

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