UB to Host 2022 Positioning Theory Conference – UBNow: News and Views for UB Faculty and Staff

Scholars, researchers and students from around the world interested in Positioning Theory – a concept in social psychology that characterizes the interactions between individuals – are invited to attend the Positioning Theory 2022 Conference to be held next month at ‘UB.

Organized by the Graduate School of Education’s Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction, the international conference will allow researchers and practitioners at all career stages to share in-depth research and discuss the use of positioning theory in social science disciplines.

The three-day conference is scheduled for July 24-27. Guests can attend in person at Clemens Hall on North Campus or virtually. In-person participation includes access to on-site and virtual sessions. The conference is open to everyone, but pre-registration is required by June 22. To register, visit the conference website.

“Even if someone else’s discipline is unrelated to yours, you still have something to say because you share that interest in positioning theory,” says Mary McVee, professor of learning and teacher and director of the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction. “That’s what makes small conferences like this so special: you can have these interesting conversations.”

Positioning theory addresses individual rights, duties and obligations and explores the mechanisms by which roles are assigned or denied, to oneself or to others. Theory describes the scenarios and agency that determine the boundaries of future actions and the meaning of what people say and do.

Research on the theory suggests that positioning can have direct moral implications. A person’s or group’s position can lead to identification as trustworthy or distrustful, or “with us” or “against us”. Additionally, multiple positions can be identified in a way that helps move beyond binary approaches to problems.

“I used positioning to see how predominantly white teachers talk about race and how they position themselves and the multiple positions they occupy,” says McVee. “If we think of the positions as multiple, it allows us, in any field and with many different research problems and disciplines, to explore the multifaceted parts that exist.”

Speakers will represent 13 countries and a wide range of disciplines, including education, political science, linguistics, business, communication studies and international relations. Keynote speakers include:

  • Luk Van Langenhove, teacher-researcher and academic curator at the Free University of Brussels. Langenhove is one of the founding theorists who helped establish what is now known as positioning theory.
  • Michael Bamberg, professor of psychology at Clark University. Bamberg is known for his work on storytelling and identity, and how short stories are used as general strategies for creating meaning and building identity.
  • Bo Allesøe Christensen, associate professor of communication and psychology at Aalborg University in Denmark. Christensen’s academic interests include media studies, cultural psychology, and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
  • Pasi Hirvonen, visiting researcher at the United Nations University Institute for Comparative Studies on Regional Integration in Belgium. Hirvonen is an expert in the use of positioning theory and conversational analysis in the study of small groups and organizational change.
  • Mary McVee, professor of learning and instruction at UB and director of the Center for Literacy and Reading Instruction. McVee’s work focuses on racial positioning in teachers’ discussions and multimodal positioning in children’s engineering literacies.

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