The ESA Research Network Sociology of the Arts hereby announces the midterm conference 9–12 March 2021 at the University of the Arts Helsinki. The conference is held online.
Today many sociologists are busy tackling this issue, because governments and other art funders wish to know if their investments produce social or other external returns. Many types of impact and value assessment schemes have been developed for measurement, monitoring and ranking purposes. The intrinsic value of art is losing significance even in the field of cultural policy. At the same time, social and participatory practices have become popular within art itself, providing an attractive topic for sociological research. These practices are manifold, reaching from applied uses of art in the social and health sector to radical, mobilising activism. Further, many social scientists are working in cross-disciplinary projects that aim to tackle societal problems using art as one of their means. At this point, it is vital for social arts researchers to reconsider their role: are they neutral investigators whose work may benefit all stakeholders, are they bent toward advocacy of art, or are they assisting in the instrumentalization of art, knowingly or not? How much of the evidence that we provide for the social effects of art for the governments is tenable? Which approaches would we apply if we could freely choose how to study the societal significance of art?