Conference: Call for Papers



UEParticipation conference copy WhiThis conference forms part of Understanding Everyday Participation – Articulating Cultural Values, a five-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Creative Scotland. The UEP project is exploring the dynamics of, and stakes attached to, informal and ‘unofficial’ participation practices, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between participation and place, and on mixed methods approaches to representing and understanding cultural participation.

Conference Rationale

Whilst the symbols and practices of cultural consumption occupy a central position in core debates within the humanities and social sciences, much cultural participation research tends to consider methods as mere tools for data analysis. Yet as the recent emphasis on the ‘social life’ of methods in fields such as Science and Technology Studies and the anthropology of expertise makes clear, methods should be seen loaded devices, which are both rendered by and shaping of the social world. In research on cultural participation, the domination of the sample survey, using traditional categories of cultural engagement and employing standard statistical analysis to examine the relationships between them, has reflected and reinforced a particular way of understanding participation; one that tends to hide as much as it reveals. This is not to say that survey research no longer has anything to contribute but that other methods need to be brought into play, partly to help unpack the findings of standard approaches, but also to provide entirely different ways of ‘seeing’ participation. Crucially, this includes routes into understanding the forms, dynamics and consequences of participation that are placed outside or lie beyond the reach of traditional methods.

The call for ‘mixed methods’ approaches has become a customary trope within the social sciences behind which there are differing views as to what this might mean in practice for doing participation research. Pierre Bourdieu was one of the first in the field to recognise the importance of mixed methods strategies. His methodological toolkit ranges from the use of interviews and photographs from the anthropological tradition to statistical methods from geometric data analysis. But at the same time, Bourdieu and his followers also make strong claims against certain analytical alternatives. To expand the reach of cultural participation research, several new models have been proposed. For example, Michelle Lamont’s concept of national repertoires deals with theoretical and methodological challenges for cross-national comparative research on boundaries and Nick Crossley’s relational sociology highlights the limitations of Bourdieusian approach for the understating of networks of relationships embedded on social worlds. These frameworks, directly or indirectly, call for the refreshing of methodological paradigms. From an empirical perspective, thanks to the increasing availability of survey data and the use of sophisticated methods, research has been able to provide more refined answers to more specific hypotheses. While multilevel regression models and GIS approaches allow an understanding of the impact of place on participation, social networks analysis illustrates how complex relationships among individuals can be, and classification techniques, such as cluster and latent class analysis, provide evidence about the shapes patterns of participation take. Alongside a vast number of techniques from different traditions, increasing online participation demands that we expand research to encompass virtual social networks, making big data and associated methods important analytical tools of for understanding participation.

Conference Aims

The purpose of this conference is therefore to re-visit the central issue of method in cultural participation research. We plan to address this from the two, overlapping, perspectives of conceptually- and empirically-driven work calling, on the one hand, for papers which showcase research focused on understanding participation from different methodological perspectives (methods in practice), and on the other hand, contributions highlighting the importance of the study of methods for understanding participation (methodological rationales).

We invite contributions from a broad array of non-exclusive themes and questions within research on participation and methods, including:

1.     How to conceive of participation methodologically? 

2.     What to measure about participation and why? 

3.     How to approach ‘non-participation’?

4.     Capturing the times and timing of participation – time use, biography, history.

5.     Understanding the scales and mobilities of participation – the role of space and place, from nations to localities and across boundaries

6.     Tackling (not so) new dimensions of participation: social networks, technologies, big data and social media.

7.     How and why to mix methods for participation research?

Such topics should be of interest to academics working in disciplines such as Sociology, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Consumption, Social and Cultural History, the Arts, Leisure, and Sports. We also welcome contributions from practitioners, policymakers and other professionals in the fields of cultural participation and social research methods. We particularly encourage applications from those conducting interdisciplinary studies.

Invited keynote speakers include:

·     Philippe Coulangeon (Sciences Po, France).

·     Nick Crossley (University of Manchester, UK).

·     Tally Katz-Gerro (University of Haifa, Israel).

·     Terhi-Anna Wilska (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).

In addition to keynote speakers, guest speakers and session leaders include: Predrag Cveticanin (TIMS, Serbia), Laurie Hanquinet (University of York, UK), Semi Purhonen (University of Tampere, Finland) and Understanding Everyday Participation team members.

Please submit a 300-word abstract of your proposed presentation as a Word document (.doc, .docx) by e-mail to: by January 31, 2016.

Proposals should include the title of your talk and indicate which of the seven conference themes it addresses. Please include in your Email your full affiliation and contact details, together with those of any co-authors.

Key dates:

Deadline for abstract submission: January 31, 2016.

Notification of acceptance of abstracts: February 22, 2016.

Deadline for delegates’ registration: May 13, 2016.


Location: Friends’ Meeting House6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS

Registration fees:

Early bird fees (starting at February 22, 2016):
£75 Students and PhD researchers, £100 Full (limited places)
Standard fees (starting at March 31, 2016)
£100 Students and PhD researchers, £125 Full

Further information for delegates, registration process and travel information will be published due in course.

Conference Committee

dan wood walesAdrian Leguina (University of Manchester)

Andrew Miles (University of Manchester)

Claire Huyton (University of Manchester)

Susan Oman (University of Manchester)

We look forward to seeing you in Manchester!

Image courtesy of Dan Wood


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