Justifying State Violence

The Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

This paper belongs to Open Session 1 of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

David Gibson, University of Notre Dame (Sociology)

Abstract 

One thing people do in meetings, particularly important meetings, is justify decisions — including those lying in the past, when things have gone sour, and those lying in the future (and perhaps imminent). Particularly weighty are decisions made by political leaders, and arguably most weighty of all are decisions to use violence against foreign or domestic adversaries, if only because it is harder to undo violence than, say, to undo a tariff or a cut in entitlements.

This is a paper about how heads of state and their advisors justify violence to one another, drawing on data from several cases: Lyndon Johnson’s phone calls leading up to his decision to retaliate against North Vietnam for the (partly imagined) Gulf of Tonkin incident in August of 1964; Saddam Hussein’s discussions with his top advisers a few days before he ordered the invasion of Iran in September of 1980, setting off the eight-year Iran-Iraq War; the meeting of the Polish Politburo in December of 1981 from which emerged the authorization to impose martial law (a kind of gateweay to violence) in response to the challenge posed by Solidarity; and the deliberations of the Standing Committee of the Chinese Politburo during the student protests in the spring of 1989, which resulted in the imposition of martial law and, soon afterward, the bloody clearing of Tiananmen Square. (…) Read more

The Meeting Ethnography Project: Seeking method, purpose, and meaning

The Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

This paper belongs to of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Jen Sandler, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Anthropology)
Renita Thedvall, Stockholm University (Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research – Score)

Abstract 
In this presentation, Renita Thedvall and I share our exploration of the study of meetings that has taken place with about two dozen colleagues working in diverse meeting contexts across the globe. This “Meeting Ethnography” project has unfolded over the past four years through a partnership resulting in three international workshops and an edited volume.

The presentation describes the diverse contributions of “meeting ethnographers” working in social movements, organizations, schools, corporations, networks, social reform coalitions, international development sites, state bureaucracies, and networks of global capital and transnational governance, to a process of taking meetings seriously. (…) Read more

Meeting in brackets

The Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

This paper belongs to of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Sophie Thunus, University of Liège (Sociology of organisations and institutional systems)

Abstract 
Meetings are brackets in ongoing social processes and traditional contexts of action as organisations and institutions. Meetings oblige people to stop performing activities they feel to be the core of their work and leaving the organisations they work in, to move elsewhere and engage in interactions with different kinds of people. Meetings thus induce movements, displacements and some kind of separations between what happen into the meeting frame (into brackets) and the outside environment.
Does it mean that meeting actions and interactions are independent from the meeting’s environment? (…) Read more

Exploring long-term trends in meeting behavior

The Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

This paper belongs to of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Wilbert van Vree, University of Amsterdam (Interdisciplinary Studies)

Abstract 
This paper is an example of the idea that in order to understand present-day meeting behavior scientists have to investigate its genesis.

Development of meeting behavior
The modern meeting concept is future-oriented. It refers first and foremost to prearranged gatherings of people talking mutually and making plans and agreements concerning their common future. Meetings are about questions such as: what are we going to do, how are we going to do it and what impact has it on me, on you, on her, on them? (…) Read more

Politics as a practice of meeting

The Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

This paper belongs to of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Richard Freeman, University of Edinburgh (School of Social and Political Science)

Abstract 
When we do politics, what are we doing? The purpose of this paper is to produce an account of politics based in practice, that is in human action and interaction. It places the meeting at the centre of those actions and interactions.

I begin with Arendt’s idea that politics begins in plurality, that is in the human encounter; from interactionist sociology, I take the sense that the encounter is performed. I outline what recent work in practice theory and an associated array of ethnographic studies of politics might add to this understanding. (…) Read more