The Centre for Advanced Studies in Symbolic Interactionism and Grounded Theory – Department of Political Sciences, University of Pisa, will organize the Couch-Stone 2020 – X EUSSSI Conference.

The 2020 Pisa Conference is the result of the combination of two conferences with a long tradition in the history of Symbolic Interactionism: the Couch-Stone Conference, 2020 Edition, and the X European Conference of the SSSI.

The event, exactly ten years after the first EUSSSI Conference, which took place exactly at the University of Pisa, should not be considered as a mere celebration, but as a fundamental opportunity to meet up with the most well-known scholars of Symbolic Interaction and Grounded Theory from Europe, America, and around the world, a group that can address the challenges of contemporary society and is open to, and can open up, the future. After a decade, the return to Pisa is a concrete sign of Symbolic Interactionisms’ ability to take root in contexts beyond the United States, to dialogue with other theoretical traditions, and to combine with other cultural traditions. Therefore, the Conference will be a three-day meeting, exchange of reflections, and experiences of people – scholars, but not only – in the perspective of Symbolic Interactionism: its past, present and future, by adopting an open perspective of dialogue and negotiation between different fields and references, against any closure.

The topic of openness vs. closure invokes the core issue of the Conference.

The theme “Identities, Boundaries and Social Divisions. Reconciling Competing Frames” reflects contemporary questions about identity, closure, separation, and the developing needs of society.

The demand for recognition and integration of individual and collective identities carrying different characters from established social and cultural models is generating reactions characterized by closure and conflict. Consequences are the increasing of new borders (social barriers), and the resurgence of stigmatization, segregation, and segmentation processes, based on cultural divisions. If the socio-economic crisis provoked these dynamics, phenomena such as Brexit and the rise of populisms are some outcomes to promote national, political and cultural identities. Nevertheless, at the same time, we recognize that there is a need to generate new forms of dialogue and openness, to reconcile cultural visions and social positions that are diverse and in competition. Internationally, we are witnessing the spread of social and political movements from below that promote styles of participation and social integration based on meeting and enhancing diversity, evoking the need for innovative forms of coexistence, based on recognition (of social and civil rights, on the realization of ever higher levels of social justice, on the enhancement of common goods and local welfare and community).

It’s in this framework that the theoretical and methodological suggestions of Symbolic Interactionism can be helpful to analyze these processes, to interpret their scope and effects in people’s lives, and to understand their relevance.

In this sense, the 2020 Pisa Conference is an invitation to dialogue, to confrontation, to affirm the importance of reconciliation between different points of view and between different cultural frames, aspects that are very much needed both in Europe and in the United States, as well as in all other parts of the world.