Decolonizing Social Science Methodology – Overcoming Positivism and Constructivism

Decolonizing Social Science Methodology – Overcoming Positivism and Constructivism

Nina Baur (TU Berlin), Manuela Boatcă (Universität Freiburg), Fraya Frehse (Universidade de São Paulo) and Johanna Hoerning (TU Berlin)
From - Until
23.09.2021 - 26.09.2021
Connections Redaktion, Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics, Universität Leipzig

Session organized in the context of the 1st International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability (SMUS Conference) / 1st RC33 Regional Conference – Africa: Botswana

Decolonizing Social Science Methodology – Overcoming Positivism and Constructivism

Epistemological approaches in the tradition of e.g. constructivism, relativism, postmodernism or postcolonialism stress that empirical findings are strongly influenced both by the researcher’s social position and positioning in the world system and by the social organization of doing science. Sociology of science has provided strong empirical evidence for this position. This means that, if researchers find (dis)similarities between different social contexts, it is not clear at all, if these (dis)similarities result from actual substantial differences or rather e.g. from diverging theoretical perspectives, research styles, ways of doing methods or different reactions of the field to social science research. At the same time, approaches in the tradition of e.g. positivism or critical radicalism stress that it is important that science upholds the ideals of searching for truth, intersubjectivity and empirical evidence and that relativism itself is also a fallacy because – if you take this serious – what is the difference between “fake news” and “alternative facts” and scientific knowledge? Moreover, many research questions in the social sciences require to be sure about (dis)similarities between contexts, e.g. in social inequality research. So far, suggestions to overcome these contrasting demands on social science methodology have mostly focussed on methods, e.g. by mixing methods or applying cross-cultural survey methods. In contrast, the session aims at addressing the underlying deeper epistemological and methodological issues which remain mainly unresolved: Papers should ask how to overcome the divide between positivism and constructivism and to truly decolonize social science methodology.

Submission of Papers

All sessions have to comply with the conference organization rules (see below). If you want to present a paper, please submit your abstract via the official conference website: until 31.05.2021. You will be informed by 31.07.2021, if your proposed paper has been accepted for presentation at the conference. For further information, please see the conference website or contact the session organizers, Nina Baur, Manuea Boatcă, Fraya Frehse and Johanna Hoerning (;;;

About the Conference

The “Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability” (GCSMUS) together with the Research Committee on “Logic and Methodology in Sociology” (RC33) of the “International Sociology Association” (ISA) and the Research Network “Quantitative Methods” (RN21) of the European Sociology Association” (ESA) will organize a “1st International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Spatial Methods” (“SMUS Conference”) which will at the same time be the “1st RC33 Regional Conference – Africa: Botswana” from Thursday 23.09 – Sunday 26.09.2021, hosted by the University of Botswana in Gaborone, Botswana. Given the current challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will convene entirely online. The conference aims at promoting a global dialogue on methods and should attract methodologists from all over the world and all social and spatial sciences (e.g. area studies, architecture, communication studies, educational sciences, geography, historical sciences, humanities, landscape planning, philosophy, psychology, sociology, urban design, urban planning, traffic planning and environmental planning). Thus, the conference will enable scholars to get in contact with methodologists from various disciplines all over the world and to deepen discussions with researchers from various methodological angles. Scholars of all social and spatial sciences and other scholars who are interested in methodological discussions are invited to submit a paper to any sessions of the conference. All papers have to address a methodological problem.

Please find more information on the above institutions on the following websites:

‒ “Global Center of Spatial Methods for Urban Sustainability” (GCSMUS): and
‒ ISA RC33:
‒ ESA RN21:
‒ University of Botswana in Gaborone:

If you are interested in getting further information on the conference and other GCSMUS activities, please subscribe to the GCSMUS newsletter by registering via the following website:

Rules for Session Organization (According to GCSMUS Objectives and RC 33 Statutes)

1. There will be no conference fees.
2. The conference language is English. All papers therefore need to be presented in English.
3. All sessions have to be international: Each session should have speakers from at least two countries (exceptions will need good reasons).
4. Each paper must contain a methodological problem (any area, qualitative or quantitative).
5. There will be several calls for abstracts via the GCSMUS, RC33 and RN21 Newsletters. To begin with, session organizers can prepare a call for abstracts on their own initiative, then at a different time, there will be a common call for abstracts, and session organizers can ask anybody to submit a paper.
6. GCSMUS, RC33 and RN21 members may distribute these calls via other channels. GCSMUS members and session organizers are expected to actively advertise their session in their respective scientific communities.
7. Speakers can only have one talk per session. This also applies for joint papers. It will not be possible for A and B to present at the same time one paper as B and A during the same session. This would just extend the time allocated to these speakers.
8. Session organizers may present a paper in their own session.
9. Sessions will have a length of 90 minutes with a maximum of 4 papers or a length of 120 minutes with a maximum of 6 papers. Session organizers can invite as many speakers as they like. The number of sessions depends on the number of papers submitted to each session. E.g. if 12 good papers are submitted to a session, there will be two sessions with a length of 90 minutes each with 6 papers in each session.
10. Papers may only be rejected for the conference if they do not present a methodological problem (as stated above), are not in English or are somehow considered by session organizers as not being appropriate or relevant for the conference. Session organizers may ask authors to revise and resubmit their paper so that it fits these requirements. If session organizers do not wish to consider a paper submitted to their session, they should inform the author and forward the paper to the local organizing team who will find a session where the paper fits for presentation.
11. Papers directly addressed to the conference organising committee (and those forwarded from session organizers) will be offered to other session organizers (after proofing for quality). The session organizers will have to decide on whether or not the paper can be included in their session(s). If the session organizers think that the paper does not fit into their session(s), the papers should be sent back to the conference organizing committee as soon as possible so that the committee can offer the papers to another session organizer.

Contact (announcement)

Nina Baur

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