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Welcome to doctorhood, Colm Flaherty

Colm Flaherty and his two supervisors.
Colm Flaherty and his supervisors Charalambos Demetriou (left) and Bo Isenberg (right). Photo: Theo Hagman-Rogowski

On Thursday, June 16, Colm Flaherty successfully defended his thesis A Politics of Community: Identity, Stigma, and Meaning in the Extra-Parliamentary Left, and is from here on out a doctor of sociology.

Flaherty spent his doctoral studies exploring changing forms of political participation in Sweden through several extra-parliamentary leftist groups and organisations guided by radical left-libertarian principles. He focused on a form of day-to-day political action where participants create spaces in which they experience a sense of intimacy and belonging and where their political identity and way of life are recognized as they work to change society. Flaherty calls these day-to-day activities "a politics of community". The extra-parliamentary left, Flaherty finds, employs aspects of self-segregation and self-stigmatisation to create these community spaces.
A politics of community can be performed through spectacular actions – strikes and loud counterdemonstrations against neo-Nazi and extreme right groups are favourites of the extra-parliamentary left – but more importantly in daily routines like consumption habits or hobbies.

"We cannot only pay attention to their spectacular actions, such as demonstrations or political campaigns," Flaherty has said about the politics of community. "Through focusing on the everyday life of political actors in Sweden, we can not only understand the changing nature of political participation in Sweden better, but we can even better understand the structures of the Swedish society and the norms of Swedish political culture."

Colm Flaherty in conversation with the external reviewer, Professor Emma Engdahl. Photo: Theo Hagman-Rogowski
Colm Flaherty in conversation with the external reviewer, Professor Emma Engdahl. Photo: Theo Hagman-Rogowski

The focus on the politics of everyday routines came about gradually during his research. “I should have focused more on mundane actions from the beginning and spent more time with people outside of the political environment to expand the observation even more,” Flaherty responded to the external reviewer, Professor Emma Engdahl of Karlstad University when asked what he in retrospect would have done differently.

Professor Engdahl expressed appreciation for the thesis and that she agreed with many of its points. Examining committee member Håkan Thörn, professor of sociology at the University of Gothenburg, was of a similar sentiment. “It is a solid thesis, both theoretically and empirically,” he said.

Colm Flaherty talking to Professor Håkan Thörn.
Professor Håkan Thörn's research is mainly concerned with globalization and social movements. Photo: Theo Hagman-Rogowski

Professor Adrienne Sörbom, Södertörn University, and Professor Ron Eyerman of Yale University were also part of the examining committee, which unanimously passed the thesis.