Common Session – Autumn 2016 – Ghent

The autumn Common Session of 2016 will be organised between November 30 and December 2, 2016 in Ghent. There will be a welcome drink on November 29 in the evening and a goodbye dinner and party on December 2.

For preliminary programme, see this link: cs_ghent_fall2016_programme

The conference is organised by the Institute for Social Drug Research. The sessions will take place at the Law Faculty, campus Aula (Universiteitstraat – Volderstraat).

This Common Session’s topic is Regulating Pleasure. There is room for discussion of ‘pleasure’ regulation in the broadest sense: listening to music, dancing, ‘fun activities’ with friends, the use of legally available or illegal psycho-actives substances, sex and sex work, gambling and gaming, sexually ‘transgressive’ behaviour, or any kind of thrill seeking described as ‘dangerous’, ‘deviant’, ‘pathological’ or ‘criminal’.

The period of Enlightenment instigated profound debates about ‘pleasure’. Thinkers as diverse as Freud, Nietzsche, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Bauman, Crossley, Preciado, Sassatelli, Featherstone, Katz and others have engaged in these philosophical and sociological discussions. Translated to criminology, ‘pleasure’ is a much neglected aspect in positivist criminology. Whereas theoretically, critical criminological schools (most notably, cultural criminology) have addressed the notions of pleasure, thrill, excitement, dissolution and alike, this does not sufficiently echo in policy making. I.e. in debates on e.g. harm reduction, regulation of sex (and sex work), etc. ‘pleasure’ remains only marginally articulated.

The aim of this common session is to critically reflect on the question whether and how pleasure can and should be regulated. In this, ‘regulation’ can refer to criminalisation, policing, welfare provision and social services, media representations, moral entrepreneurship, self-control, self-regulation, etc.

This theme invites a wide array of debates:

  • Historical grounding of regulating pleasure
  • Sociological debate on how to define pleasure
  • Epistemological debate on how to approach pleasure
  • Normative debates with regard to policy making: should pleasure be regulated and should it as such be central in policy making (if so, is pleasure a fixed something, cf. the relative indeterminacy of the notion). Are current regulatory regimes for pleasure-seeking behaviors still adequate in today’s society?
  • Where to draw the line between pleasure merely framed as deviant and pleasure that is harmful to oneself, to other humans or species/ecosystem?
  • Nuances in regulating pleasure in the public and private sphere
  • Classed, gendered and racialized aspects of control of pleasure
  • Practical debates: how can pleasure be regulated/policed? Bottom up practices and self-regulatory practices related to pleasure-seeking behaviors. And can new arrangements that empower communities become effective or do they run the risk of being taken over by sectarian interests or commercial pressures?


Papers on these topics are warmly invited, but also papers on other subjects approached through a critical criminological lens are welcomed.

For practical information on how to get to Ghent, where to stay, the venue -> see attachment