Beyond Positivism:

Theory, Methods, and Values

in Social Science Conference


Date: August 8 – 10, 2017

Time: 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. EDT

Conference Location: Palais des congrès de Montréal (201 Viger West, 5th floor)

Conference Reception: Thursday, August 10 at 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EDT

Reception Location: Z Tapas Lounge (1165 St. Laurent Blvd., Montreal, QC)

There is a specter that haunts the sociological imagination: the ghost of positivism. Positivism is dead, at least in sociology. Few sociologists embrace the label and yet positivism still shapes our thinking about theory, method, and values. We are told that the best theory is “middle-range” theory and that “grand theory” is a waste of time, while metatheory barely appears on the radar; that natural science provides the proper model for social science and that the more our methods resembles experiments the better they are; and that there is an unbridgeable chasm between facts and values that we must never attempt to cross.

It is time to well and truly move beyond positivism. We embark on this conference in light of the considerable progress already made in this direction. Post-positivists theories such as pragmatism and critical realism are receiving more attention, methodological pluralism is the name of the game, and research into morals, values, and social solidarity are becoming increasingly more popular. This conference will bring together social scientists interested in engaging critically and envisioning what a post-positivist social science looks like.

Plenary Speakers

Day 1 - Plenary Speakers

Philip S. Gorski is the Director of the Critical Realism Network and a professor of sociology and religious studies at Yale University. Gorski is comparative-historical sociologist who focuses on topics such as state-formation, nationalism, revolution, economic development and secularization with particular attention to the interaction of religion and politics. Other current interests include the philosophy and methodology of the social sciences and the nature and role of rationality in social life.

George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and the Department of Germanic Language and Literatures at the University of Michigan and a Corresponding Member of the Centre de Sociologie européenne in Paris, France.

Daniel Little is chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He serves as professor of philosophy at UM-Dearborn, as well as professor of sociology at UM-Ann Arbor, and as faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research and the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan.

Rani Lill Anjum is a research fellow at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Project Director of the NFR-funded research project ‘Causation, Complexity and Evidence in Health Sciences (CauseHealth)’. Her main research interests are causation, dispositions and conditionals.


Day 2 - Plenary Speakers

John Mohr is a professor of sociology at University of California-Santa Barbara. Mohr’s primary interest is in the empirical study of meaning systems. His work seeks to bring together the theoretical concerns of post-structuralist semiotic theory with network based mathematical approaches to the analysis of relational systems.

Wendy Olsen is a professor of social statistics at the University of Manchester, England. Wendy Olsen’s research focuses on the sociology of economic life. She has interests in methodology cutting across the whole range from quantitatively based to qualitative research and discourse analysis. She specializes in the study of economic institutions from sociological and moral economy vantage points.

Seth Prins is a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia Univeristy. Prins is a psychiatric and social epidemiologist who studies the medicalization of crime, the criminalization of mental illness, and the effects of relational social processes such as class, race, and gender on mood disorders.

Frédéric Vandenberghe is a research professor in sociology at the Institute of Social and Political Studies, State University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Working at the intersection of philosophy and sociology, Vandenberghe’s main research interests are related to German social philosophy, Anglo-Saxon social theory, and French sociological theory.

Dave Elder-Vass is a reader in sociology at Loughborough University, England. He teaches sociology and digital economies and writes on social ontology and more recently on economic sociology, particularly the gift economy and the digital economy. His publications include The Causal Power of Social Structures (2010), The Reality of Social Construction (2012), and Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy (2016), all with Cambridge University Press.

Christopher Winship is the Diker-Tishman Professor of Sociology and Harvard Kennedy School of Government faculty member at Harvard University.

Day 3 - Plenary Speakers

Alford A. Young, Jr. is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Department Chair of Sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Professor Young has pursued research on low-income, urban-based African Americans, employees at an automobile manufacturing plant, African American scholars and intellectuals, and the classroom-based experiences of higher-education faculty as they pertain to diversity and multiculturalism.

Gary Alan Fine received his Ph. D. in Social Psychology from Harvard University and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Margaret Archer is a professor of sociology at Warwick University and a professor at l’Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland. In April 2014, Archer was named by Pope Francis as President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

Erik Olin Wright is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Claire Laurier Decoteau is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she teaches courses in social theory, the sociology of knowledge, and health and medicine. She is also a research associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Timothy Rutzou is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Yale University working with Philip Gorski on the Human Flourishing and Critical Realism in the Social Sciences project. He is a philosopher and social theorist with a focus on ontology, continental philosophy, deconstruction, and realism.

Douglas Porpora is a professor of sociology in the Department of Culture and Communication at Drexel University and a senior advisor for the Critical Realism Network. He has published widely on social theory, political sociology, and religion.

Program Schedule

There are no scheduled events on Monday, August 7. The conference will begin promptly on Tuesday, August 8 at 9:00 a.m. EDT ending on Thursday, August 10 at 5:30 p.m. EDT. Please click here to view a downloadable version of the Beyond Positivism Conference Schedule_ Final

Please click here to download a PDF of the Beyond Positivism Conference_Presenter Booklet_Final

Day 1 - Tuesday, August 8

9:00 – 10:30    Welcome and Opening Remarks                                            Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Philip Gorski and George Steinmetz

Chair: Douglas Porpora

10:30 – 10:45  Break

10:45 – 12:00 Session 1,2,3                                                                            Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C Theory Stream 1 Moderator: Frederic Vandenberghe
10:45 – 11:05 Jean-François Côté Margaret Archer and George Herbert Mead on Reflexivity: Opening the Debate on Dialectical Morphogenesis
11:05 – 11:25 Daniel Morrison The Neglected Legacy and Promising Future of a Pragmatic, Realist, Approach to Interactionism
11:25 – 11:45 Eric Lybeck Humans in Processes: Exploring the Normative Significance of Abbot’s Processual Sociology
11:45 – 12:00  Q&A
513 D Methods Stream 1 Moderator: Esther Chan
10:45 – 11:05 Kyle Caler The use of Q methodology as a Critical Realist tool
11:05 – 11:25 Andrew Keefe Defining Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Comparative Study of Epistemological Approaches
11:25 – 11:45 Matthew Mahler A Prolegomenon to a Cubist Social Science
 11:45 – 12:00  Q&A
513 E Political Stream 1 Moderator: Ben Manski
10:45 – 11:05 Catherine Craven Critical Realism, Assemblages, and Practices beyond the State: A new framework for analyzing global diaspora engagement?
11:05 – 11:25 Jeffrey Broadbent Modes and Fields of Power: Labor Policy Networks in Japan, the US and Germany
11:25 – 11:45

11:45 – 12:00


Hannah Waight



The Field of Inequality Knowledge in the US and UK



12:00 – 1:00    Lunch

1:00 – 2:30      Plenary Session on Theory and Explanation After Positivism           Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: Philip Gorski

1:00 – 1:30          Daniel Little

1:30 – 2:00          Rani Lill Anjum

2:00 – 2:30          Discussion

2:30 – 2:45      Break

2:45 – 4:00      Session 4,5,6                                                                            Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C Historical Stream 1 Moderator: Sahan Karatasli
2:45 – 3:05 Dylan Riley The Social Foundations of Positivism: The Case of Late Nineteenth Century Italy
3:05 – 3:25 Simeon Newman Falsificationism Redux?: In Search of Judgmental Rationalism
3:25 – 3:45 Jane McCamant Problems, Mysteries, and the Purposes of Historical Knowledge in Sociology
 3:45 – 4:00  Q&A
513 D Systems Stream 1 Moderator: Dave Elder-Vass
2:45 – 3:05 Larissa Buchholz Causal Explanation and Global Sociology
3:05 – 3:25 Danny Alvord Emergent Social Structures and Embeddedness in Economic Sociology
3:25 – 3:45 Emma Greeson Post-Positivist Ethnography: Markets, non-markets, and the ontology of social worlds
 3:45 – 4:00 Q&A
513 E Race Stream 1 Moderator: Paige Sweet
2:45 – 3:05 Joseph Klett #laughingwhileblack: a theory of perception
3:05 – 3:25 Christopher Robertson & David Peterson “Overcoming” Racial Bias: Implicit-Association Tests and the Limits of Experimental Science
3:25 – 3:45

3:45 – 4:00

Mary Arneaud & Nicole Alea


The Development of Cultural Models of Ethnic Identity for Ethnically-Equivalent Contexts


4:00 – 4:15      Break

4:15 – 5:30      Session 7,8,9                                                                            Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C Theory Stream 2 Moderator: Timothy Rutzou
4:15 – 4:35 Nick Hardy Knowledge Beyond Positivism: a Critical Realist and Foucaultian Theory Response
4:35 – 4:55 Katelin Albert Theorizing Objects: Ontological Realism and Scifi Exploration
4:55 – 5:15 Luca Delbollo What is beyond reality? A dialogue between Critical Realism and Speculative Realism
 5:15 – 5:30  Q&A
513 D Systems Stream 2 Moderator: Larissa Buchholz
4:15 – 4:35 Philippe Sormani Practicing Art/Science as “Public-Private Partnership”: Rise and Fall of a Transdisciplinary Experiment in Critical Realism
4:35 – 4:55 Dana Kornberg Theorizing Contemporary Economic Life beyond Formal Markets
4:55 – 5:15 Joselito Ranara Jimenez Towards a Social Ontology of International Migration
5:15 – 5:30  Q&A
513 E


Facts, Values, and Religion Stream 1


Panel: Agency and Temporality in the Emergence of the Secular

Moderator: Nicolette Manglos-Weber

4:15 – 4:35 Baris Buyukokutan An Eventful Sociology of Secularization? State Action and Religious Diversity  in Turkish Literary Fields
4:35 – 4:55 Jeffery Guhin Same Fears, Different Religions: The Historical Roots of American Islamophobia
4:55 – 5:15

5:15 – 5:30

Elizabeth Becker


Value Migration and Integration? Multiple Secularities in Conservative European Muslim Communities



Day 2 - Wednesday, August 9

9:00 – 10:30    Plenary Session on Quantitative Post Positivist Social Science         Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: Douglas Porpora

9:00 – 9:20          John Mohr

9:20 – 9:40          Wendy Olsen

9:40 – 10:00        Seth J. Prins

10:00 – 10:30      Discussion

10:30 – 10:45  Break

10:45 – 12:00  Session 1,2,3                                                                                           Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C



Historical Stream 2



Panel: Rethinking Comparison

Moderator: Nicholas Wilson


10:45 – 11:05 Xiaohong Xu What Is Defensible about Skocpolian Structural Comparison?
11:05 – 11:25 Nicholas Hoover Wilson (in absentia Damon Maryl) Heuristic and Recursive Comparison in Historical Sociology
11:25 – 11:45 Josh Pacewicz What can you do with a single case?
 11:45 – 12:00  Q&A
513 D


Methods Stream 2


Panel: Reviving Ethnographic Pluralism in Post-Positivist Social Science

Moderator: Rachel Rinaldo

10:45 – 11:05 Corey Abramson Reviving Ethnographic Pluralism in Post-Positivist Social Science I
11:05 – 11:25 Neil Gong Ethnographic Pluralism in Post-Positivist Social Science II
11:25 – 11:45 Jason Orne Intersectional Consequences of Heritage Commodification in Cultural Enclave Neighborhoods
11:45 – 12:00  Q&A  
513 E Facts, Values, and Religion Stream 2 Moderator: Andrew Lynn
10:45 – 11:15 Kevin Schilbrack Religion as Joint Commitment
11:15 – 11:45 Brandon Vaidyanathan Towards a post-positivist philanthropy
11:45 – 12:00 Q&A  


12:00 – 1:00    Lunch

1:00 – 2:15      Session 4,5,6                                                                                      Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C


Methods Stream 3


Panel: Studying Social Ties: Realism and Relationality in Person-to-Person Research

Moderator: Daniel Morrison

1:00 – 1:20 Rachel Rinaldo Embedded in Indonesia: Being an Observer and a Participant in Sociological Research
1:20 – 1:40 Robert Brenneman Entertaining Villains: The Joys and Risks of Research among Purveyors of Violence
1:40 – 2:00 Nicolette Manglos-Weber Friendships in the ‘Field’: Critical Realism, Interpersonal Trust, and Relationship-Driven Ethnography
 2:00 – 2:15  Q&A
513 D Systems Stream 3 Moderator: Dana Kornberg
1:00 – 1:20 Sahan Karatasli Towards a Post-Positivist Analysis of State-Seeking Nationalist Movements in the Longue Duree
1:20 – 1:40 Sarah Manski The Blockchain World: Explaining a Technological Revolution in Real Time
1:40 – 2:00 Apoorva Ghosh Understanding Transnational Sexuality in India: Globalization and Institutional Schemas
 2:00 – 2:15  Q&A
513 E Race Stream 2
Moderator: Douglas Porpora
1:00 – 1:20 Candice Robinson Will Moving Beyond Positivism Moves Towards Diverse Thought?
1:20 – 1:40 Issa Kohler-Hausmann Detecting Discrimination: What’s Wrong with Counterfactual Causal Thinking About Racial Discrimination
1:40 – 2:00

2:00 – 2:15

Daniel Sherwood


The Reality of Structural Racism: Knowledge, Critique, Emancipation


2:15 – 2:30      Break

2:30 – 3:45      Session 7,8,9                                                                            Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C Theory Stream 3 Moderator: Katelin Albert
2:30 – 2:50 Alison Assiter Kant, Bhaskar, and Realism
2:50 – 3:10 Paige Sweet Realism and Feminist Standpoint Theory: Interrogating Boundaries and Bodies
3:10 – 3:30


Paul Erb


Bhaskar and his critics: what are the alternatives to critical realism?


 3:30 – 3:45  Q&A
513 D Methods Stream 4 Moderator: Elizabeth Becker
2:30 – 2:50 Clayton Fordhal Of Armchairs and Cockfights: What Interpretive Sociology Can do for Post-Positivist Social Science
2:50 – 3:10 Tatiana Rodriguez Headaches, Victories, Puzzles and Dilemmas: an interview approach for understanding what matters to people at work
3:10 – 3:30

3:30 – 3:45

Lucas Wehrwein


The Myth of the Stradivarius Violins: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies and Causal Explanation in Historical Sociology


513 E Political Stream 2 Moderator: Atef Said
2:30 – 2:50 Onur Ozgode The State and its Problems: Toward an Assemblage Theory of the State
2:50 – 3:10 Sefika Kumral Dynamics of Anti-Kurdish Riots in Turkey: A Post-Positivist Critique of Event-Structure Analysis
3:10 – 3:30

3:30 – 3:45


Eric Malczewski



Conservation Ethics and the Order of Nature: The Role of the Sacred in Differentiation Theory



3:45 – 4:00      Break

4:00 – 5:30      Plenary Session on Ethics and Values After Positivism             Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: Claire Decoteau

4:00 – 4:20          Frederic Vandenberghe

4:20 – 4:40          Christopher Winship

4:40 – 5:00          Dave Elder-Vass

5:00 – 5:30          Discussion  

Day 3 - Thursday, August 10

9:00 – 10:30    Plenary Session on Qualitative Post-Positivist Social Science           Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: George Steinmetz

9:00 – 9:20          Alford Young

9:20 – 9:40          Gary Alan Fine

9:40 – 10:30        Discussion

10:30 – 10:45 Break

10:45 – 12:00 Session 1,2,3                                                                            Room 513 C, D, & E

513 C Historical Stream 3 Moderator: Nicholas Hoover Wilson
10:45 – 11:05 Samuel Stabler Between Religious and Political Fields: Reformulating Parish Space in Puritan New England (1637-1741)
11:05 – 11:25 Jonah Stuart Brundage For a (Realist) Historicism in Sociology
11:25 – 11:45 Xiaohong Xu Diaological Struggle in the Becoming of the Cultural Revolution: Between Elite Conflict and Mass Mobilization
11:45 – 12:00  Q&A
513 D Facts, Values, and Religion Stream 3 Moderator: Brandon Vaidyanathan
10:45 – 11:05 Andrew Lynn Ditching the Dichotomy: Economic Sociology’s Engagement with the Fact-Value Distinction
11:05 – 11:25 Mary Shi Against Instrumental Rationality, the Ethical Unity of Post-Positivists
11:25 – 11:45 Mary Elliot How Thinking Becomes a Moral Consideration: Hannah Arendt and the Relationship Between Philosophical Inquiry, Social Knowledge, and the Researcher
11:45 – 12:00  Q&A
513 E


Race Stream 3


Panel: Re-Theorizing REN: Post-Positivist Perspectives on Studying Intangible Social Categories

Moderator: Joseph Klett

10:45 – 11:05 G Reginald Daniel From Race to Multiraciality: Postpositivism and the Monoracial Imperative
11:05 – 11:25 Joseph Loe-Sterphone Outline for the Post-Positivist Study of Nation and Nationalism
11:25 – 11:45


11:45 – 12:00

Jasmine Kelekay



Examining and Theorizing Race in Colorblind Scandinavia: The Case for a Critical Post-Positivist Race Methodology



12:00 – 1:00    Lunch

1:00 – 2:15      Session 4,5,6

513 C Theory Stream 4 Moderator: John Mohr
1:00 – 1:20 Daniel Jaster Beyond Critical Sociology: Bourdieu’s Positivism and the Sociology of Critique I
1:20 – 1:40 Bruno Frere Beyond Critical Sociology: Bourdieu’s Positivism and the Sociology of Critique II
1:40 – 2:00 Georg Rilinger Methodological Blind Spots: Immanent Critique and Alienation
2:00 – 2:15  Q&A
513 D Methods Stream 5 Moderator: Nicolette Manglos-Weber
1:00 – 1:30 Mike Bare The Paradox of Parsons’ Analytical Realism
1:30 – 2:00 Carl Auerbach Towards an Idiographic, Qualitative Scientific Psychology: A Critical Realist Approach
2:00 – 2:15 Q&A
513 E


Political Stream 3


Panel: Is a post-positivist social movement theory possible? The critical search for relevance in social movement studies

Moderator: Emma Greeson

1:00 – 1:20 Ben Manski On the Making of History: Restoring the Agency of Activists to Social Movement Studies
1:20 – 1:40 Maria Martinez Beyond   causality   and   linearity?   Identity   process   in   the   contemporary feminist movement in Spain
1:40 – 2:00


2:00 – 2:15

Atef Said



Towards a Realist Multitemporal Perspective in the Study of Revolutions



2:15 – 2:30      Break

2:30 – 4:00      Plenary Session: Utopian Social Science After Positivism           Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: Philip Gorski

2:30 – 3:00          Erik Olin Wright

3:00 – 3:30          Margaret Archer

3:30 – 4:00          Discussion

4:00 – 4:15      Break

4:15 – 5:30      Closing Plenary Session: Beyond Positivism                              Room 513 AB (Theatre)

Chair: Philip Gorski

4:15 – 4:35          Doug Porpora

4:35 – 4:55          Claire Decoteau

4:55 – 5:15          Timothy Rutzou

Closing Remarks – Philip Gorski

Conference Location & Registration Information

Palais des congrès de Montréal (1001 Jean Paul Riopelle Pl, Montreal, QC H2Z 1H5, Canada). The best entrance to access the Beyond Positivism Conference is 201 Viger West, Montreal, QC H2Z 1H2.

For further information on access point and directions to the Palais des congrès de Montréal, click here.

Registration will open at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 8. Please visit the Registration Table outside Room 513 A to sign in and receive your name tag, conference folder with program booklet and schedule, and a free book.



There is no designated hotel for the Beyond Positivism Conference. Participants and attendees are responsible for securing their own accommodation. However, a limited number of rooms are available at Hotel Zero 1 (1 Boulevard René-Lévesque E, Montréal, QC H2X, Canada) which is located 8 mins from Palais des congrès de Montréal for the nights of August 7, 8, 9, and 10. Check-In time on Monday, August 7 is 3:00 pm EDT. Check-Out time is on Friday, August 11 at 12:00 pm EDT. The single queen room rate is $185 CAD plus taxes (continental breakfast is included). To receive the group rate, please call 514-871-9696 and mention the affiliation with Yale Sociology Conference. To download a map from Hotel Zero 1 to Palais des congrès de Montréal, click here: Hotel Zero to Palais des Congres in Montreal

Conference Reception

The Critical Realism Network will be hosting a reception following the Beyond Positivism Conference for all presenters and registrants at Z Tapas Lounge. Please register below to attend the conference and the reception following.

Reception Location: Z Tapas Lounge (1165 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, QC H2X 2S6, Canada)

Date and Time: Thursday, August 10 at 7:00 p.m. EDT

Heavy appetizers and beverages will be provided.


Traveling to the Conference

Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. Please print a copy of the Canada Border Services Agency Letter of Recognition for Beyond Positivism Conference to present to customs on entry to Canada.

If you are staying in Montréal, Québec, Canada after the Beyond Positivism Conference to attend the American Sociological Association 2017 Annual Meeting, it is recommended for all attendees to print a copy of the Canada Border Services Agency Letter of Recognition to present to customs upon entry to Canada. If you are presenting at the Beyond Positivism Conference and require an invitation letter, contact the Project Manager, Laura Donnelly ( no later than June 30, 2017.

Ground Transportation

Taxi service between Montréal–Trudeau Airport and downtown hotels is a fixed rate of $40 (CAD). Please see a dispatcher outside your arrival area. The American Sociological Association website recommends 25 minutes for travel between the airport and the downtown area during normal traffic conditions and up to 45 minutes during rush hour. Information on other transportation options is available on the Montréal–Trudeau access webpage.