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Towards a Micro-Sociality of Austerity: Community and Possibilities for Localism

Starts: 14 April 2014


One-day conference: 14th April 2014, 10am – 5.30pm
Committee Rooms, Glamorgan Building, Cardiff, CF10 3WT

It is generally recognised that the present conjuncture is one of austerity, and that, in the face of massive cuts in public spending, governments are calling on citizens to take over activities normally undertaken by government. In this context, ‘community’ has become a bit of a buzz word, but one which is often lambasted within academic sociology.

However, recent research at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences - ‘Performing Abergavenny- creating a connected community beyond divisions of class, locality and history’ and ‘Community as micro-sociality’ (AHRC, 2012) both by David Studdert and Valerie Walkerdine have developed these ideas.  Their work proposes that we can rethink community in terms of a notion of micro-sociality and to use this concept to dialogue across academics, policy makers and practitioners to see what purchase this concept might have in real terms.

This conference will bring together social scientists who work on community in ways consonant with a micro-social approach, policy makers and local councils, sixth form sociology students and early career researchers (including PhD students) to debate the issues involved in a lively and fresh way.

The conference will:

  • Introduce the idea of micro-sociality and its implications for community as practice.
  • Bring together academics from different backgrounds and disciplines with community activists and local and national government representatives and policy makers.
  • Re-open the social science debate about community: a debate which for far too long has been gridlocked and superficial.
  • Publicise and open recent research findings to academic scrutiny and debate, to circulate the ideas among practitioners and local councils and to develop papers for circulation, leading to a Sociological Review monograph.

The conference programme will include three panel sessions interspersed with small group discussions.

Speakers/Panel members

Dr Rachel Taylor-Swann, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
Dr Robin Durie, Exeter University
Professor Joe Painter, Department of Geography, Durham University
Professor Charlotte Aull Davies, Swansea University
Professor Michel Maffesoli, Paris-Sorbonne University
Professor Nick Crossley, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester
Ian McDonough, Community Mediation Centre, Edinburgh

How to apply to attend

The conference is free to attend, but registration is essential. Academic researchers from a range of different disciplines are encouraged to attend, as well as policy-makers and community workers. We also have special places for PhD students from Wales and the South West to attend the conference.  

Please complete the online form to apply to attend.  You will receive confirmation of your registration via email.

If you have any questions, please email:

This conference is funded by The Sociological Review as part of their Research Symposium/Seminar Series which aims to bring together established and new researchers to focus on producing imaginative cutting-edge work of sociological and social significance.

What is Micro-Sociality?

The concept of micro-sociality builds upon the philosophical foundations suggested by Hannah Arendt in ‘The Human Condition’ (1958). Her anti-humanist work has been developed by Studdert and Walkerdine to incorporate affect and notions of communal being-ness as the outcome of meanings-in-common.

Their work attempts to construct an open analytics which can provide the basis for the investigation for the terms in which meaning-in-common are constructed through common action. It defines micro sociality as all or any interaction between people; something as small as smiling at people you recognise from frequent sightings but do not know, to groups working for common goals like a community centre, to the various behaviours of the state through formal and informal interaction.

Micro-sociality is a concept that allows us to think about community as the combination of small everyday actions, where community is not a noun but a verb, communing. It allows us to see communal being-ness as the outcome of constantly created actions of recognition. It is a perspective that allows the community members to partake in communal enhancement, to make an active difference through their own actions. The act of communing itself produces meanings in common and feelings of togetherness or separation. If we begin to look at community in this way, ‘community’ is not a thing confined to one historical moment, but is contained in series of timeless and on-going activities and as such exists, to some degree or another, everywhere, continually.

Thus this philosophical basis allows us to actually engage with abstractions like ‘community cohesion’ as they exist in practice rather than pre-emptively define our investigation through binary oppositions such as ‘cohesive’ or ‘broken’. It starts from what is there and its building is a joint exercise of both empowerment and practice located at both the micro and the macro level.

We hope you can join us in what will be an exciting and stimulating debate.


Other information

Open To: Postgraduate Students
Staff and Students