Reinventing Elias :
International Pre-Conference PhD Workshop

4 – 5 December 2018
Brussels, Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles 

Stephen Mennell

Robert van Krieken

BEN_3870This workshop examines the particular contribution made by Norbert Elias and scholars using his work in sociological research. Students will become familiar with the key concepts in Elias’s work work, including processes of civilization, decivilization, figurations, the theorization of court society, process sociology and relational theorizing. The seminar will also examine the critical engagements with Elias’s work, and reflect on the various ways in which Elias’s sociology of civilization and decivilization can be applied to current issues in social science. Topics will include court society and modernity, civilization and the making of the modern self, genocide, cultural genocide and decivilization, recent developments in international relations, and ‘celebrity society’ as court society in an age of mass communication.

The workshop runs over one-and-a-half days from 4 December to 5 December, between 9:30 and 16:30. It will be assumed that you have done the reading for each topic and given some thought to the discussion questions, as well as formulating some questions of your own about the reading, all of which will form the basis for the class discussion.

The final session will consist of presentations by yourselves, linking your research projects to the concepts, ideas, arguments and lines of analysis discussed in the workshop. Stephen and Robert will also be available for one-to-one consultations at times to be arranged during the conference.

There is no charge for the workshop, apart from a small charge for light refreshments, although participants will be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs.

Enrolment in the workshop will be limited to 20 participants, and the closing date for applications is 30 September 2018. Those who would like to take part should send an email to Robert van Krieken briefly stating their interests and what they are currently working on.

Please feel free to forward this announcement to any individuals or organisations to whom it may be of interest.


Tuesday 4 December

9:30-10:30 1.1 Lecture
10:30-11:30 1.1 Discussion
11:30-12:30 1.2 Lecture
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:30 1.2 Discussion
14:30-15:30 1.3 Lecture
15:30-16:30 1.3 Discussion

Wednesday 5 December

9:30-10:30 2.1 Lecture
10:30-11:30 2.1 Discussion
11:30-12:30 2.2 Presentations
12:30-13:30 Lunch



Tuesday 4 December

1.1 – Basic concepts in process sociology.                                                        

Set Reading

  • Elias, N. 2009. ‘Figuration’ and ‘Social processes’, in Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities. Dublin: UCD Press [Collected Works, vol. 16], pp. 1–3, 4–9.
  • Elias, N. 2008. ‘Civilisation’, in Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity. Dublin: UCD Press [Collected Works, vol. 15], pp 3–7.
  • Linklater, A. and Mennell, S. 2010. ‘Retrospective: Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations—an overview and assessment’, History and Theory49: 3, pp. 384–411.

1.2 – Forget about agency-structure! How to bridge the micro-macro-divide.

Set Reading

1.3 – Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes.                                                         

Set Reading

  • de Swaan, A. 1997. ‘Widening Circles of Disidentification’. Theory, Culture & Society14: 105–22.
  • Mennell, S. 1990. ‘Decivilizing processes: theoretical significance and some lines of research’. International Sociology5: 205–23.
  • van Krieken, R. 1999. ‘The Barbarism of Civilization: Cultural Genocide and the ‘Stolen Generations’’. British Journal of Sociology50: 297–315.

Wednesday 5 December

2.1 – International relations and global civilization.                           

Set Reading

  • Linklater, A. 2004. ‘Norbert Elias, the ‘civilizing process’ and the sociology of international relations’. International Politics41: 3–35.
  • Mennell, S. 2015. ‘Explaining American hypocrisy’, Human Figurations, 4: 2.

See also Bart van Heerikhuizen’s video lectures on Elias.