SOS9234 – New trends in contemporary social theory

Course content

The course focuses on contemporary sociological and social theory. It aims to introduce the participants to a broad range of recent theoretical developments in the field of sociology and social theory. The course will trace key discourses, debates and controversies between and across these developments. It will situate these developments in relation to sociological and social theoretical traditions and concepts, and it will boost the participants' ability to relate these theoretical developments to relevant empirical social, cultural and political contexts.


Course leaders:

Cathrine Holst, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo University

Bjørn Schiermer, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo University



Cathrine Holst, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo University

Bjørn Schiermer, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo University

Christian Borch, Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School.

Anne-Jorunn Berg, Centre for Gender Research, Oslo University

Kristin Asdal, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, Oslo University

Ove Skarpenes, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Agder

Anders Blok, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen

Learning outcome

The participants will learn to use the theories offered on the course on proper empirical work/investigations on the basis of (i) lectures offered by experts on the respective theoretical fields, (ii) mandatory readings of preselected and pre-circulated texts, (iii) presentation and discussion of work in progress in relation to the theory presented on the course, and (iv) the preparation of a 8000 word paper on the basis of the course. They will choose focus according to empirical interests and subject area of thesis - in dialogue with the two instructors.

On completion of the course, the students will possess an overview of key-issues, concepts and controversies across a number of recent developments in sociology and social theory; they will be able to understand the critical impetus of the presented theories in regards to the sociological tradition and to sociological and social theoretical understandings of critique, of justification, of feminism and of the social; but most importantly, they will possess an understanding of the different empirical potentials and possibilities entailed in the presented theories, and thus be capable of critically reflecting on theoretical choices and possibilities in relation to their proper PhD projects (in relation to the presented theories).


The course is open to all PhD-students who want to work with recent sociological theory in their thesis and/or seek an up-to-date introduction to recent important developments in sociology and social theory.

Ph.D.-students at the Department of Sociology and Human Geography register for the course in StudentWeb.

Interested participants outside the Department of Sociology and Human Geography shall fill out this application form.

The deadline for registration is 14th January 2018. After the deadline shall all applicants receive a note about if the application is approved.


Recommended previous knowledge

Some knowledge of the sociological tradition is recommended but not obligatory.



The course comprises five whole days. The first four days will consist of two consecutive two-hour lectures followed by presentations by the participating PhD students. A fifth day is reserved for possible remaining students' presentations.

The student presentation should be prepared on the basis of pre-circulated texts related to the theoretical lectures given the same day. The presenting student will seek to relate one or more of the pre-circulated texts – chosen in dialogue with the course leaders – to his or her proper project and reflect on his or her (potential) use of the material. The invited lecturers of that day, the two course leaders and the other students will give constructive feedback and recommend further reading. The reading list is going to be published at the beginning of January.


Place: Room 301, 3rd floor, Harriet Holters Building.

11. Feb. 2019 Day One: Sociologies of justification

10–10.30: Welcome and course introduction / Cathrine Holst and Bjørn Schiermer

10.30-12.30: Lecture I, Cathrine Holst "Sociology of justice” (Nancy Fraser, Axel Honneth and Iris Marion Young)

12.30-13.30: Lunch

13.30-15.30: Lecture II, Anders Blok "From critical sociology to sociology of critique” (Boltanski & Thévenot)

15.30-15.45: Break

15.45–18.00: Student presentation


12. Feb. 2019 Day Two: Material feminism, science and race and ethnicity

10–12: Lecture III, Kristin Asdal "The material turn"

12-13: Lunch

13–15: Lecture IV, Anne-Jorunn Berg “Material feminisms”

15–15.15: Break

15.15-18: Student presentations


13. Feb. 2019 Day Three: The return of collectivity and imitation

10–12: Lecture V, Bjørn Schiermer: "Neo-Durkheimian theory" (Michel Maffesoli and Randal Collins)

12-13: Lunch

13–15: Lecture VI, Christian Borch: "Imitations, swarms and vira"

15–15.15: Break

15.15-18: Student presentations


14. Feb. 2019 Day Four: Actor-Network Theory and recent theories of action

10–12: Lecture VII, Bjørn Schiermer: "Bruno Latour beyond the actor/structure model” (Bruno Latour and sociological theory)

12-13: Lunch

13–15: Lecture VIII, Ove Skarpenes: "Sociology of scientific knowledge and French pragmatic theory: some commonalities"

15–15.15: Break

15.15-17.45: Student presentations

17.30-18: Cathrine Holst, Bjørn Schiermer, Outro, course evaluation


15. Feb. 2019 Day five: Remaining student presentations


Reading list

You find texts for all days here.


The entire five-day event makes up the Ph.D.-course, with the equivalent of 7 credits. For approval you need to be an active participant throughout the course, be present on all days, read the curriculum, make a short presentation and write an 8000-word paper (ideally a first draft of an article or a thesis chapter). The paper must be based on or dialogue with (some of) the theories and texts discussed at the course. To pass the course, the paper must be approved by the two course leaders and sent them both by the deadline which is 4th March 2019.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Facts about this course






Spring 2019

11-14th February 2019


Spring 2019

Teaching language