Brock University

Morals without panics? A session on the continuing relevancy of the moral panic paradigm

Durkheimian boundary setting ceremonies continue to be staged by the mass media. But they have become desperate, incoherent and self-referential. [] This means that moral panic narratives have to defend a more complex and brittle social order, a less deferential culture.-Stanley Cohen, Introduction to the Third Edition of Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Routledge, 2002: p. xxx)What does the moral panic entail in the current cultural and political spectrum? Although the concept may have withstood criticism for its parochial position, contemporary literature suggests it has made a theoretically and methodologically varied comeback. This session intends to explore the issue of morality and moralization beyond the otherwise restrictive annals of moral panic and moral regulation in hopes of developing deep ties with classical and contemporary social theory with the intention to broaden the spectrum of morality studies. We welcome theoretical or empirical work on any of the following or other topics not listed: -moral panic-moral regulation-governmentality-social psychic foundations of morality-social control-moral order-self-formation-moralizing-immorality-obscenity-censorship-biopolitics-liberty-repression-surveillance-media regulations-new technologies

Session Organizer: Robert Nonomura, The University of Western Ontario,


"Sorry for your loss": Tracing the legal appropriation of apologies from interpersonal exchange to tool of "governability": A case study of the Ontario medical disciplinary court context during the advent of Canadian Apology Act legislation

Kerri Scheer, University of Toronto, Department of Sociology,

The Ontario Apology Act allows individuals and organizations to apologize for wrongdoing without the threat of these expressions being used as evidence of liability in civil and administrative proceedings. The Ministry of the Attorney General has stated that, “The goal of the legislation is to encourage sincere apologies, saying 'sorry' for a mistake or wrongdoing is the right thing to do”. The legislation provides an impetus for analyzing the socio-legal role of apologies in conceptualization and practice. The Apology Act, crafted with medical realm disputes in mind, focuses on "protecting" apologies from legal interference. However, a case study analysis of disciplinary records from the Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) reveals that the reality of the treatment of apologies in administrative proceedings involves complex dynamics of judicious decision-making and adherence. While the legislative imagination might posit apologies as inherently "the right thing to do" and beneficial to the general social order and integration, the CPSO imposes its third-party interest of "governability" and prioritizes professional integration (regarding the medical body). The implications might be understood via Goffman's notion of "remedial work"; that is, who is empowered to appraise whether an apology mobilizes an action from unacceptable to acceptable?


Sexual Attraction to Non-human Animals: Reflexively Managed Desires

Lawrence Williams, University of Toronto, Department of Sociology, PhD student,

This study explores human sexual attraction to non-human animals, otherwise known as zoophilia. While this topic is little researched in sociology, I argue that zoophilia provides rich terrain for exploring issues of identity and action. Specifically, zoophilia provides a case study for exploring the interplay of deliberation and habit, or conscious and unconscious processes, in both individuals’ everyday actions as well as in their larger identity projects. Using content analysis of websites and documentaries devoted to zoophilia, I argue that individuals’ struggles with their own attractions to non-human animals exposes the fragility of conscious and unconscious processes as distinct concepts. By possessing desires which are widely viewed as perversions, individuals experiencing sexual attraction to animals often rationalize their sexual preference as a “choice” that they can will away. In this process, zoophiles must confront their most unconscious desires and decide whether the expression of this part of their being is worth the stigma that it brings into their lives. Exploring the tensions these individuals face foregrounds both the continual involvement of their conscious thought processes in the construction of their sexual identities, while simultaneously attending to the fact that these processes are not entirely in their control.


Beyond the Naturalization of Progress and the Culturalization of Nature: Nations and the Story of the Universal

Etienne Godard Flamand, York University, Department of Sociology,

‘Are nationalisms and nations vessels for emancipation?’ is an important, yet truncated question. Answering it presupposes a working definition of the intrinsic relationality of theory and history. Cornering gaps in the problematization of nations and nationalisms through the difference-unity dialectic, the position exposed here attempts to go beyond the ‘liberal’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ insights by re-evaluating and re-establishing the notions of ‘progress’ and ‘emancipation’. It is not enough to reveal the normative moment of theory; the next step is to assume it. I contend that the reviled notion of ‘the universal’ is critical to this endeavor. Focusing mainly on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Walter Benjamin’s The Storyteller I will triangulate ‘nature’, ‘the universal’ and ‘the story’ (as they relate to progress and the nation) to foster an ethic of ‘critical nationalism’. I ultimately argue that ‘progress’ and ‘nationalism’ should be gauged according to their capacity to be anti-racist, anti-sexist and to promote sovereignty as it implies the interdependence and coproduction of communities waved into the story of the universal.


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