The two-day seminar on "Iranian sociologists and the public sphere” was held by NRISP Science and Society Research Group in cooperation with the “Sociology of Knowledge” Group of the Iranian Sociological Association on Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 and 12 Dec. 2018.
At the opening ceremony of the seminar, Dr. Akram Ghadimi, NRISP Deputy of Research and Technology honoring the late Dr. Ghaneirad said; the Sociological Association has a history of cooperation with NRISP and the NRISP is ready to hold meetings on the development of science in the public sphere in cooperation with the Association. In the following, Dr. Hossein Sarajzadeh, Dr. Taghi Azad Ermaki, Dr. Hamidreza Jalayipour and Dr. Hassan Mohaddesi delivered lectures in two separate panels; a summary of these remarks is below:
Dr. Seyyed Hossein Sarajzadeh, Head of the Iranian Sociological Association, pointing to the history of the concept of publics sociology said; improving the community conditions has always been a concern for sociologists. Referring to Michael Burawoy’s theory of sociology division into four types: academic, critical, politics and publics he said; in Burawoy’s opinion, these four types of sociology complement each other, and therefore the attention to the sociology of the publics in Iran should not lead to the negation of other types of sociology.
In the following, Dr Taghi Azad Ermaki said; the two main ways of expanding and developing academic sociology are thinking of the foundations (ideology and theory), and addressing various fields of society (religion, culture, industry, organization, etc.), and the sociology of publics is a field of sociology, not a species of sociological knowledge.
In the second panel, Dr. Hamid Reza Jalaypour commented on "telegram and public sphere" and said; the Iranian community now faces many problems, it is necessary for the social and humanities scholars to play an effective role in the Telegram as a specialized authority and to influence on the correction of negative and destructive Telegram trends.
Then Dr. Hassan Mohaddesi stated in a speech entitled "sociology for the public" sociology in Iran has been either for the university or for the government, but experiences have shown that in both fields the efforts of sociologists have been very inefficient. Because the university has its own audience and because it faces a wide range of problems, the academic work of the professors has little effect on them.
On the second day of the seminar, while celebrating the memory of the deceased Dr. Mohammad Ali Moradi, who was an activist in the public sphere, Dr. Mohammad Fazeli, Dr. Hadi Khaniki, Dr. Seyyed Mahmoud Nejati Hosseini, Dr. Nematollah Fazeli, Hassan Ghazimoradi, Matin Ghafarian, Mohsen Azmoudeh and Mahsa Asadollahnezhad examined other aspects of the conference in two panels.
Mohammad Fazeli said: rewards received from the public sphere are a kind of inner satisfaction and a sense of effectiveness in society. However, sociologists are often at the crossroads between the society and the academy. The entry of sociologists into the public sphere and addressing the problems of the people, in spite of its difficulties, triggers a kind of dialog between the theory and the action, extends the theoretical view of the individual and gives them new theories for theorizing. This helps to internalize sociology and address this knowledge to specific issues of our own society.
Dr. Hadi Khaniki stated; activism has characteristics in three fields of intellectual, academic and policy making, and the presence and displacement of individuals among these fields can increase their communication ability. He added, "we have to go through the dual real-virtual public sphere, since virtual media can operate under the conditions of the real-world realm".
Hassan Ghazi Moradi emphasized on the need for the exchange of experience and the relationship between the actors of the public sphere and academics, with the aim of bringing together the state-centered academy's perspectives with a society-centered view of the public sphere. He identified two major barriers to achieving this cooperation: bureaucratization of education and research at the university and commodification of knowledge.
Matin Ghaffarian said; reformist analysis of the emergence of state populism was more of a political analysis that did not pay attention to the social roots of this phenomenon. While the Iranian society is under the influence of the destructive policies of the liberal state, which is not even able to fulfill the promises set forth in the constitution; as a result, conditions are still prone to re-emergence of populism, and in such circumstances we must defend the society.
Mohsen Azmodeh, referring to the fact that some sociologists are not interested in working with the press, and some contribute conditionally, said: an active and two-way communication between sociologists and the media is necessary.
Mahsa Asadollahnezhad, pointing out that there is a kind of entanglement between the government and the public sphere, stated; there is a public sphere in Iran, but in an unofficial formulation and different from the Western formation. As a result, the public sphere becomes more likely to emerge in the event of a weak state.
Dr Seyed Mahmoud Nejati Hosseini, pointing out that the public sphere, in Habermas' view, is where public opinion and communicative action are shaped and discussed about the fate of the public, said; sociologists face a number of obstacles to entering the public sphere: epistemological barriers (ideas such as the need to distance sociologists from society, judgment free of value, the separation of science from ideology, and the notion that entry in the public sphere is equal to falling into the ideology), academic barriers (university policies), sovereignty barriers (bureaucratic discourse that does not want to interfere with sociologists in the public sphere) and social barriers (daily and personal obligations).
Dr. Nematullah Fazeli, the last lecturer at the seminar, spoke about his experience in the study of ethnology in Iran and the United Kingdom, as well as activities in the fields of public and virtual spheres and said; the social sciences in Iran, both scientifically and institutionally, are not in a desirable situation, but they are better off in terms of discourse.
In the end, it's worth noting that sympathetic and critical conversations between the speakers and audiences enhanced the conference.