Theme Call. Comparing, Categorizing, Valuating

Theme Call for Abstracts 

Title: Comparing, Categorizing, Valuating: Entangled Modes of Ordering

Editors: Editors: Thomas Müller (Bielefeld University), Leopold Ringel (Bielefeld University), Elisa Ronzheimer (Elisa Ronzheimer), Jørgen Sneis (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich).

In our personal and professional lives, we are constantly categorizing, comparing, and valuating: we identify people’s gender; we grade term papers; we hold some artworks in esteem when visiting an exhibition while perhaps showing disregard for others. These are merely a few examples for countless acts of comparing, categorizing, and valuating people, performances, artefacts, organizations, governments, etc. Though analytically distinct, such practices are in fact often deeply interwoven in dense webs of subtle, yet powerful modes of social, cultural, and political ordering. This theme call invites papers that explore the different modes of ordering that emerge from or rely on combinations and entanglements of practices of categorizing, comparing, and valuating.

Comparing (e.g., Epple et al., 2020; Deville et al. 2016; Heintz, 2016; Steinmetz, 2019), categorizing (e.g., Bowker & Star, 1999; Navis & Glynn, 2010; Zuckermann, 1999), and valuating (e.g., Karpik, 2010; Kornberger et al., 2015; Lamont, 2012) have each attracted considerable scholarly attention over the past decades. Despite sharing many interests – whether it con-cerns research questions, empirical themes, epistemologies, or social theories – they have largely remained “separate research fields” (Heintz, 2021, p. 6), with a proclivity to privilege one of the concepts while relegating the others to being subprocesses. The theme issue in-tends to overcome these divisions by fostering dialogue across established boundaries. In-stead of privileging one concept, we invite submissions that study categorizing, comparing, and valuating as linked modes of ordering.

The three research fields share several themes. Notably, all three emphasize that practices of categorizing, comparing, and valuating are shaped by and, in turn, shape the social, cultural, and political contexts in which they are performed. They (re)produce but also challenge hier-archies, orders of worth, and the distribution of various forms of capital. In short, they gener-ate different modes of ordering. We propose to organize the dialogue around three themes in particular: (1) the actors or communities that combine practices of categorizing, comparing, and valuating (groups, communities, professions, or other actors) (2) the factors that enable, shape, facilitate, constrain, or prohibit combinations between these practices; (3) the effects that combinations of these practices have on social, cultural, and political modes of ordering.

We welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions. Given our aim to facilitate dialogue between separate research fields, we are particularly interested in papers that do not focus on just one of the three practices but rather explore linkages between categorizing, compar-ing, and valuating, thereby approaching them as entangled modes of ordering. The three themes translate into a range of questions that contributions could address. These questions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How do practices of categorizing, comparing and valuating relate to each other?
  • When and for what purposes do actors combine practices of categorizing, comparing, and valuating?
  • In which contexts – organizations, networks, fields, discourses, legal frameworks, mar-kets, institutional domains etc. – are these actors embedded and how do these contexts shape the combinations and entanglements of practices of comparing, categorizing, and valuating?
  • What social structures, orders of worth, or status orders do these practices affirm, con-test, or change?
  • How, and with what effects, have the entanglements between practices of categorizing, comparing, and valuating changed over time?

Expressions of interest shall be submitted in the form of an extended abstract (about 1.000 words) by email to the editors by March 31, 2024. Selected authors will then be invited to submit full papers for peer review by October 1, 2024.

Please address queries and expressions of interest to Thomas Müller, Leopold Ringel; Elisa Ronzheimer; Jørgen Sneis

Valuation Studies sets out to offer an academic platform for research and debate on the problem of valuation. Valuation indeed stands as a crucial problem for the social sciences and the humanities today, in more than one way. Understanding the tensions, determinants, contexts and effects of valuation practices appears indeed as a decisive requirement for the understanding of how our world is constructed, transformed or fractured. An interdisciplinary approach is required in order to investigate the technical cultures, the political imaginaries, the historical processes, the methodological problems and the institutional settings that shape the ways in which things are valued, and to identify relevant shifts, controversies and struggles. Sociological, anthropological, cultural, political, semiotic, historiographic, legal, institutional, critical, organisational approaches to the study of valuation phenomena are needed in order to establish tractable, actionable interdisciplinary knowledge on valuation as a problem. Submissions to Valuation Studies respond to broad calls for contributions curated by the journal’s editorial board. This is to ensure focus and debate, while offering the space to address each call’s purpose from many possible angles and in reference to various forms of evidence and demonstration. The journal assesses incoming manuscripts using double-blind peer review involving at least two reviewers. Accepted manuscripts are published as PDFs with full open access and authors retain the copyright to their work.

Important dates

  • March 31, 2024:                                                                           Extended abstracts due
  • April 15, 2024:                                                                              Notification of authors
  • October 1, 2024:                                                                          Full papers due (for peer review)



Bowker, G. C. & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting Things Out: Classification and its Consequences. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Deville, J., Guggenheim, M. & Hrdličková, Z. (Eds.) (2016). Practising Comparison: Logics, Relations, Collaborations. Manchester: Mattering Press.

Epple, A., Erhardt, W. & Grave, J. (Eds.) (2020). Practices of Comparing: Towards a New Understanding of a Fundamental Human Practice. Bielefeld: Bielefeld University Press.

Heintz, B. (2016). „Wir leben im Zeitalter der Vergleichung.“ Perspektiven einer Soziologie des Ver-gleichs. Zeitschrift für Soziologie 39, 162–181.

Heintz, B. (2021). Kategorisieren, Vergleichen, Bewerten und Quantifizieren im Spiegel sozialer Be-obachtungsformate. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 73(S1), 5–47.

Karpik L. (2010). Valuing the Unique: The Economics of Singularities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Kornberger, M., Justesen, L., Koed Madsen, A. & Mouritsen, J. (Eds.) (2015). Making Things Valuable. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lamont, M. (2012). Toward a Comparative Sociology of Valuation and Evaluation. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 201–221.

Navis, C. & Glynn, M.A. (2010). How New Market Categories Emerge. Temporal Dynamics of Legiti-macy, Identity and Entrepreneurship in Satellite Radio, 1990–2005. Administrative Science Quar-terly 55, 439–471.

Steinmetz, W. (Ed.) (2019). The Force of Comparison. A New Perspective on Modern European History and the Contemporary World. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Zuckerman, E. (1999). The Categorical Imperative: Securities Analysts and the Illegitimacy Discount. American Journal of Sociology 104(5), 1398–1438.