The vote in context(s).
News and perspectives for electoral sociology
Paris Dauphine-PSL University
This international conference aims to contribute to the renewal of electoral studies and, more broadly, of the sociologies of voting and of politicization. The first objective is to propose a critical assessment of the “contextual” approaches to voting that have developed over the past two decades in the United States, France and in various Western countries. The aim is to identify the place and contributions of French approach to contextual analysis, which is distinguished in particular by its methodological originality (use of ethnographic approaches and in-depth biographical interviews, specific attention paid to class membership and the construction of socio-political identifications). The second objective is to establish a critical, theoretical and methodological dialogue with other streams of social sciences in order to better grasp the effects of “context” and, more broadly, to better structure this notion theoretically. This scientific event therefore aims to be a crossroads for discussion and exchange between political science and other social sciences, such as geography, urban sociology, the sociology of socialization, sociology of the family, sociology of gender and the social sciences of work.
As part of the ANR ALCoV project, the conference is organized by 5 social sciences research laboratories:
- IRISSO Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Sciences Sociales, UMR CNRS INRA 7170-1427 Université Paris-Dauphine;
- Le Centre européen de sociologie et de science politique (CESSP-UMR 8209 –EHESS et Université de Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne);
- Le CHERPA (Croyance, Histoire, Espace, Régulation politique et Administrative – EA 4261– Sciences Po Aix);
- Le Centre de recherches sociologiques et politiques de Paris (CRESPPA – UMR 7217 – Universités Paris 8 et Paris-Ouest Nanterre);
- Le Centre universitaire de recherches sur l’action publique et le politique-Épistémologie et sciences Sociales (CURAPP-ESS, UMR 6054, Université de Picardie).
It will be held at Paris-Dauphine University in June 2021. The provisional program includes:
- 1 opening plenary conference with two international speakers.
- 28 university papers, of about 15/20 minutes each, followed by discussions led by 7 invited speakers, which will take place in the form of 4 round tables organized over 2 days.
All the information will be published on professional lists and will be made available on a dedicated website ((https://alcov.hypotheses.org/).
15th October: Dissemination of the Call for Papers.
15th January 2021: Deadline for submission of proposals.
15th February 2021: Notification of the results of the selection of papers.
15 May 2021: Submission of papers by the speakers.
June 2021 (date to be specified): Conference to be held.
Catherine Achin (Professeure de science politique, Université Paris Dauphine-PSL, IRISSOUMR CNRS INRA 7170-1427)
Eric Agrikoliansky (Professeur de science politique, Université Paris Dauphine-PSL, IRISSOUMR CNRS INRA 7170-1427 )
Philippe Aldrin (Professeur de science politique, Sciences Po Aix, CHERPA – EA 4261)
Lorenzo Barrault-Stella (Chargé de recherche CNRS, CRESPPA-CSU – UMR 7217 )
Kevin Geay (Chercheur contractuel, Université Paris Dauphine-PSL, LEDaUMR CNRS 8007)
Patrick Lehingue (Professeur de science politique, Université de Picardie, CURAPP-ESS, UMR 6054)
Sandrine Lévêque (Professeure de science politique, Sciences Po Lille, CERAPS UMR 8026)
Anne-France Taiclet (Maîtresse de conférences, Université Paris 1, CESSP-UMR 8209)
Christèle Lagier (Maîtresse de conférences, Université d’Avignon, CHERPA – EA 4261)
Call for Papers
Since the late 1970s, electoral analyses based solely on individual questionnaire surveys administered to (quasi-) random samples of isolated respondents have been criticized for their inability to capture the ‘context(s)’ in which voters are immersed. While these surveys make it possible to capture the relationships between an individual’s social characteristics and their political preferences, they do not give a good account of their concrete social roots, and in particular of the social relations and ordinary interactions which can foster politicization, electoral participation or even influence voting. Moreover, these approaches tend to render the localized social spaces – in which affiliations (class, race, gender, generation, etc.) make sense – invisible.
Contextual approaches to political behaviors, particularly those developed in France, consequently propose a twofold shift in perspective. First of all, they aim to engender a methodological renewal: recourse to interviews and observations, and more broadly the primacy of qualitative methods, localized surveys of groups of citizens who are in contact and who (sometimes) exchange views on politics, a sequential and panelized approach aimed at grasping the procedural dimension of politicization. Secondly, it focuses new attention on memberships of primary groups (family, friends, colleagues, membership groups) and interactions, especially conversations, solicitations, calls to order and micro-pressures, which may occur during election periods. Analyzing the context thus means observing the insertion of voters in a localized, politically significant and potentially influential social environment, thus making it possible to complexify the link between social membership and relations to politics.
While the development of contextual approaches in sociology and electoral geography has led to a renewal of this field of research, one of the challenges today is to standardize this “other sociology of voting”. Indeed, the concept of context poses a whole series of problems, particularly with regards to its definition. Contextual approaches are plural and shifting (sometimes even those used by the same authors) and there is a certain amount of uncertainty in the use of ‘context’ in electoral analysis, as is the case in other social sciences for that matter. In a way, all historical and social sciences are “context disciplines”. The first question, then, is what do we mean when we talk about “context”? The expression can thus refer to interactions and conversations that take place during the campaign, to belonging to an environment that is embodied in primary groups (family, friends, colleagues, co-religionists), to the effect of socializing institutions (such as schools, factories, churches) or to a spatialized socio-economic environment and the groups which populate it. It can also refer to the nature of the political offering at a given time and to the structure of the political supervision of voters (by partisan organizations, trade unions, associations or informal networks). These definitional issues have important theoretical and methodological extensions. They are central to the controversies which have motivated analyses of voting and politicization in recent times.
The objective of this conference is twofold. The first aim is to identify the place and contributions of French approaches to contextual analysis, which are distinguished in particular by their methodological originality (use of ethnographic approaches and in-depth biographical interviews). Secondly, it aims to establish a theoretical and methodological dialogue with other social science streams in order to better grasp the effects of “context” and, more broadly, to better theoretically structure this notion and the fields of research it opens up. This scientific event therefore aims to be a crossroads for discussion and exchange between political science, which has long been concerned with these issues, and other social sciences which do not deal specifically with voting (or politicization) but which pay particular attention to the contexts of human actions. It aims both to make the analysis of the vote more sociological in nature, and to interest sociologies and sociologists in the question of politics (including voting).
Indeed, political science tends to lock itself into circular debates specific to “electoral science”. A decompartmentalization of disciplines integrating the achievements of other social sciences seems not only indispensable, but indeed urgent. Specialists on the subject of voting would benefit from exchanging with geographers or sociologists of territories (urban, suburban or rural) on the question of the influence of socio-spatial anchors on political preferences. Similarly, exchanges with specialists in the sociology of the family, education and socialization are necessary to address the issue of ‘interpersonal’ influences or to renew reflections on the mechanisms of learning about political preferences. Just as the contribution of gender sociology is indispensable to understanding the gendered division of political roles. A dialogue with sociologists of work, professional relations and/or certain professions has finally become indispensable in order to better grasp the weight of workplace communities and changes in the workforce in the possible politicization of socio-economic identifications – or their depoliticization? While such debates would benefit specialists on the subject of voting, they would also enrich the reflection of these other disciplinary traditions (geography, urban sociology, family, gender, work, etc.) which rarely address the issue of politicization, let alone that of electoral practices.
The conference will be organized around 4 main axes which will constitute the themes of the 4 round tables.
What is the situation regarding contextual analysis?
This first round table aims to take stock of research which mobilizes the notion of “context” with regard to voting and politicization. The proposals for this round table should aim at a theoretical, reflexive and critical overhaul of the contextual approaches to voting, their evolution and achievements, but also their limits and blind spots. Contributions which place French-speaking research in the international space of research on the subject will be particularly appreciated. This round table will also be introduced by a plenary conference with two keynote speakers who will outline the history of the development of these approaches in political science, sociology and Anglo-Saxon political geography. The discussion will also be an opportunity to sketch out ways to better think about the interactional dimension of politicization.
Contexts and territories of politicization: spaces, socio-economic inequalities and structures of social relations
It is a territorialized conception of context which seems to be the most widespread today in contextual approaches to voting. It is thus found at the heart of the above-mentioned American research by Robert Huckfeldt and John Sprague or in the work on Great Britain by geographers Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie. The idea is neither new (it can be found, for example, in the pioneering works of André Siegfried or Herbert Tingsten), nor is it specific to electoral sociology (it reflects the growing importance of spatial dimensions in the social sciences in general – what has been called a “Spatial Turn”). The aim of this round table is to gather contributions presenting works which articulate the analysis of the socio-spatial characteristics of a territory, that of the structure of relations between social groups (whether based on class membership, ethno-racial, religious or other identifications) in such a space and the diversity of political behaviors. The revival of electoral geography offers particularly exciting prospects, and papers from this discipline will be particularly welcome. But contributions from urban or rural sociology are also welcome. In this sense, the links between various forms of segregation (social, ethno-racial, etc.) and political practices, between gentrification and voting, or between processes of “desertification” and (de)politicization can be addressed.
Education, family socialization and gendered division of political roles
Quantitative approaches typically show that exchanges between very close people (parents and children, spouses, friends) are at the heart of the process of crystallizing political tastes and electoral preferences. However, the concrete mechanisms of this crystallization remain largely to be qualitatively explored and theorized. The contributions of specialists in the sociology of the family, education and political socialization, particularly in school environments, will be particularly welcome in this respect. Furthermore, dialogue with specialists in the sociology of gender would be useful to grasp the underpinnings of the production of a differentiated relationship to politics and of the gendered division of political roles within membership groups. Finally, papers based on original methodological approaches which capture the interactions at play in family, private and even intimate spaces will be particularly appreciated.
Workplace politicizations. Workplace communities, political socialization and changes in the workforce.
The relations between professional activity and political socialization which were central to the “heavy variables” model seem to have been gradually abandoned by political sociology. Historical transformations in the ways in which feelings of belonging are produced have a lot to do with this. In this sense, the sociologies of work and social classes can take a new interest in the question of electoral choices and connections to politics. This round table aims to gather contributions on the role of workplace communities in the constitution, maintenance or removal of political and partisan identifications. Research on the role of trade unions or ordinary social conflicts will be particularly welcome. Similarly, research on workforce transformations and their effects on political identifications is welcome. As is research on environments removed from employment (the unemployed, prisoners, pensioners, etc.) or research addressing the upper classes (executives, independent professionals, the self-employed, company directors, etc.) which would make it possible to address the effects of professional socialization on voting.
Procedure and schedule:
Proposals for papers, in English or French (approximately 500 words), explaining the hypotheses, the thesis presented, the methodology adopted and the sources used, and accompanied by a short biography (5 lines), must be submitted before 15 January 2021 to the following address: email@example.com
Proposals must fall within one of the four axes presented above.
All theoretical and empirical approaches are welcome.
The results of the selection will be announced on 15th February 2021.
The detailed call for papers is also available on the website: (https://alcov.hypotheses.org/).
 Huckfeldt (R.), Politics in context. Assimilation and Conflict in Urban Neighborhoods, New York, Agathon Press, 1986; Huckfeldt (R.), Sprague (J.), Citizens, Politics and Social Communication, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995; Huckfeldt (R.), Johnson (P. E.), Sprague (J.), Political disagreement. The Survival of Diverse Opinions Within Communication Networks, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2004; Zuckerman (A. S.), eds., The Social Logics of Politics. Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2005. For French works, see Céline Braconnier, Jean-Yves Dormagen, La démocratie de l’abstention: aux origines de la démobilisation en milieu populaire, Paris, Gallimard, 2007; Agrikoliansky (É.), Heurtaux (J.), Le Grignou (B.), dir., Paris en campagne, Les élections municipales de mars 2008 dans deux arrondissements parisiens, Paris, Editions du Croquant, “Champs social”, 2011; SPEL, Les sens du vote, Rennes, PUR, 2016.
 Céline Braconnier, Une autre sociologie du vote. Les électeurs et leurs contextes, Cergy Pontoise, Lejep, 2010.
 Starting with one of the main representatives of these approaches, as underlined by Céline Braconnier, Une autre sociologie du vote, op.cit., p. 108.
 We can only agree with the starting point of J. Audemard’s reasoning, “De quoi le contexte est-il le nom? Critique de l’usage de la notion de contexte en sociologie électorale”, Revue française de science politique, 67 (2), 2017, p. 271-289.
 Passeron (J.-C.), Le raisonnement sociologique. Un espace non-poppérien de l’argumentation, Paris, Albin Michel, 2006, p. 20.
 Pattie (Ch.), Johnston (R.), Putting voters in their place. Geography and elections in Great Britain, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.
 See, for example, Cayouette-Remblière, Joanie, Gaspard Lion and Clément Rivière. “Socialisations par l’espace, socialisations à l’espace. Les dimensions spatiales de la (trans)formation des individus”, Sociétés contemporaines, 115 (3), 2019, p. 5-31.
Much research has highlighted the importance of discussions between spouses and within families: McClurg (S. D.), “The Electoral Relevance of Political Talk: Examining Disagreement and Expertise Effects in Social Networks on Political Participation”, American Journal of Political Science, 50 (3), 2006; Muxel (A.), “La politisation par l’intime. Parler politique avec ses proches”, Revue française de science politique, 65 (4), 2015.