Updates from May, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 9:44 pm on May 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    The Sociological Craft Project (#2) 

    I wrote last week about my interest in sociological craft and increasing preoccupation with the idea of creating a forum (probably as part of sociologicalimagination.org) within which accomplished sociologists could reflect on the processes underlying their work in ways which would be helpful to PhDs/ECRs as well as addressing broader disciplinary questions about the purpose and nature of sociological work. I’m not sure how effectively I conveyed the idea I had in mind given that the post in question was slightly rambling and ponderous. So, on the off chance anyone read it and subsequently wondered what the hell I was talking about, this is an example of what I have in mind. It’s a website (which I love) structured around interviews with songwriters about their songwriting process:

    Songwriters on Process is dedicated to the creative process of songwriters. It’s the stories behind the songs, from beginning to end.  The site features in-depth interviews with songwriters in which they dissect their process.  What is their creative process when they literally sit down to write a song? What do they do when they get writer’s block? What quirks or superstitions do they have? How disciplined are they? Who are their literary inspirations?  How do they get inspired? Do they compose on computer or pen and paper? These are just some of the topics we discuss.


    And this is the sort of questions it addresses, taken from an interview with Brian Fallon:

    Do you make daily writing a part of your routine?

    No, that’s where I split the balance between being whimsical and being disciplined.  I can’t do it every day.  I like to write in bulk.  I’ll write five or ten songs in a month, then take a month off.  At the end of that month, I start to feel like I need something to come out.  I feel like it’s going to happen, so I do things to inspire myself. I used to just pick up the guitar and that would be it.  And if I picked up the guitar and nothing came and I couldn’t think of any words, I was out of luck. But now I’ve started to work with things like Garage Band, and I’m doing things like finding all these soul loops and cutting them out.

    I learned how to play the piano and the organ and was like, “Wait a second, I can inspire myself through drum beats, or really anything.” I used to have random scattered papers with ideas all over the place.  Now I also have these little mp3 files  that are 30 seconds long and full of craziness.  I can go back to them at anytime when I feel something happening, so I peel through them and flesh out the ones I like.

    That’s probably also a good way to prevent writer’s block.

    That’s why I started doing it.  I had a really bad case of writer’s block a year ago.  It was really hard because I never had nothing to write about.  I decided that was never going to happen again, so anything I thought about, any idea, I’d write it down, take a picture of it. Mess with a little drum loop to make it interesting.  Even if it was a little interesting and could never be used in any of my outlets, I would do it anyway.

    Do you keep a notebook handy to write down things you see and hear?  

    Not really.  That’s never been the case for me.  I know a lot of people do that, but it’s hard for me to do. Sometimes I’ll be on the subway and listen to people talk.  And I’m always like, “How is anybody getting anything out of this?  This is nothing.  It’s all about coffee and business meetings!”  I read a biography of Tom Waits once, and he writes about anything.  I mean, how do you sit there and listen to someone talk and write it down?  What are you fleshing out?  There’s nothing there! But apparently there is.

  • Mark 4:38 pm on May 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CSWG Graduate Seminar Series – Negotiating Modern Masculinities – 5th June 

    The second seminar in the CSWG Graduate Seminar Series this term is entitled ‘Negotiating Modern Masculinities‘. The seminar will be held on Wednesday the 5th of June, 5pm-7pm in the Ramphal Builing, room R0.14.

    Presentations include:

    Joseph Oldham, University of Warwick – ‘The ‘Blair Masculinity’ in British Spy Fiction’

    Emma Hutchinson, University of Warwick – ‘Heteronormativity 2.0: Gender and Identity Performance in an Online Game’

    There is a Facebook event you can join for this seminar here: https://www.facebook.com/events/125944187611538/

    For more information on the seminars running this term, please see the attached poster or visit the graduate seminar website for more information: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/rsw/research_centres/gender/graduateseminars/gsprogramme/
    All welcome!

    • Teresa Lopez 4:59 pm on May 28, 2013 Permalink

      Good evening, mr olham, can this seminar be informed on line?

      thanks. teresa rep. Dominican. Date: Tue, 28 May 2013 16:38:26 +0000 To: capricorniotere@hotmail.com

  • Mark 5:16 pm on May 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Getting started with social media – some thoughts for a talk I’m doing next week 

    I think social media is becoming increasingly integral to academic life & will only continue to be so –  reasons include the increasing centrality of the digital in wider society, the impact agenda, precarious academic labour and the individualization of professional  identity, normalization… I think a minimal online presence is pretty much essential at this stage and with the partial exception of the google ranking conferred by a university domain I don’t think there’s much point in using institutionally embedded services – this isn’t a criticism of them per se, it’s just that the model is becoming less and less relevant.

    But this doesn’t have to be particularly onerous – it’s just a case of ensuring visibility and retaining access to online networks through which increasing amounts of professionally relevant information flows i.e. use social media enough to allow relevant people to find you and for you to be able to find relevant people and information. This can be done pretty succesfully with an academia.edu profile & occasionally updating a twitter feed.

    Sign up to twitter, go to the LSE Impact Blog and find the academic twitter lists, follow everyone you think looks interesting. Follow any friends/colleagues you know on twitter – there’s over 10 million users in UK now so there will be people you know. Then just share… say what you’re working on and what you’re interested in. Share ideas. Share papers and books you’ve found interesting. Share information about events. Get the app and use it on mobile devices. Using twitter really doesn’t involve anything like the time commitment which you might expect at the outset.


  • Mark 5:05 pm on May 27, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dewey, Individuality,   

    Dewey on Individuality 

    Individuality is at first spontaneous and unshaped; it is a potentiality, a capacity for development. Even so it is a unique manner of acting in and with a world of objects and persons. It is not something complete in itself, like a closet in a house or a secret drawer in a desk, filled with treasures that are waiting to be bestowed on the world. Since individuality is a distinctive way of feeling the impacts of the world and of showing a preferential bais in response to these impacts, it develops into shape and form only through interaction with actual conditions.

    Dewey (1931b: 156) quoted in Approaches to the Individual: The Relationship Between Internal and External Conversation

    I’d never encountered this phase of Dewey’s thought before. As the author of the above book makes clear, he ‘radically changed’ his views on the self, ultimately coming to see selfhood as a cultural construction. Whereas I think the above quote is lovely and it captures something which I find difficult to express in anything other than the most abstruse language.

  • Mark 7:16 pm on May 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Digital scholarship and the tendency of academics to “slip so readily into unintelligibility” 

    For sociology to be to be effective, especially beyond the academy, it must have literary ambitions. Mills’ assessment of the quality of the sociological writings of his time is damning. He argues that there is a ‘serious crisis in literacy’ in which sociologists are ‘very much involved’ (1959:239). Mills’ position here is an extension of his earlier attack on Parsons and Lazarsfeld, and is just as fierce in tone. He observes that ‘a turgid and polysyllabic prose does seem to prevail in the social sciences’ (Mills, 1959:239), and adds that this style of writing has nothing to do with the complexity of the subject matter. Mills explains the prevalence of this style, instead, in terms of a quest for status. He declares: ‘Desire for status is one reason why academic men slip so readily into unintelligibility. And that, in turn, is one reason why they do not have the status they desire’ (Mills, 1959:240). This thirst for status is said to be driven by an underlying desire for the sociologist to achieve recognition as a ‘scientist’; something, he argues, that led to sociology written in clear and accessible prose (including, presumably, his own work) to be dismissed by many as mere journalism.

    C. Wright Mills 50 Years On: The Promise and Craft of Sociology Revisited

    What implications does social media have for this ‘serious crisis in literacy’? I’m thinking about this question for a book chapter I’m working on about para-academics and social media. I’m trying to argue that calls for digital scholarship to be ‘recognised’ should be treated cautiously because of the risk that the incorporation of digital outputs into the evaluative frameworks of contemporary higher education would risk distorting many of the aspects of digital scholarship which are most refreshing. I think academic bloggers enjoy a degree of freedom from the sorts of pressures which concerned Mills and, with sufficient ‘mainstreaming’, perhaps this could be threatened.

    However I don’t want to overstate the case here, not least of all because I’m aware that unless I’m consciously ‘writing an article’ I tend to be rather lazy when I blog. So I’m not for a second suggesting that online communication represents an absolute avoidance of this tendency to ‘slip so readily into unintelligibility’. However when this does happen, I’d argue it is for entirely different reasons e.g. time pressure, seeing the medium as informal, seeing blog posts as provisional. Furthermore I think it confers an important freedom to experiment intellectually, reinforced by the concomitant liberation from any prior formatting constraints i.e. the freedom to write 20 words or 2000 as the situation demands helps with the iterative development of ideas.

    This has made me think about how I approach my own writing though. I tend to see stylistic editing as a form of polishing, sometimes necessary but not something I particularly value or enjoy. However I’m increasingly uncomfortable with what I now see as an instrumental understanding of the value of improving my writing because, now I’ve thought about it, it seems obvious that  blogging could constitute an extremely rewarding forum in which to deliberately and reflectively work on your own writing. This is one of many things I think Mills would have approved of about blogging.

  • Mark 7:49 pm on May 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    The Sociological Craft Project 

    In the appendix to Sociological Imagination, entitled On Intellectual Craftsmanship, C. Wright Mills advocates keeping a file or journal within which to record your ideas. He argues that doing so:

    encourages you to capture ‘fringe-thoughts’: various ideas which may be by-products of everyday life, snatches of conversation overheard on the street, or, for that matter, dreams. Once noted, these may lead to more systematic thinking, as well as lend intellectual relevance to more directed experience […] by keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events or ideas you must try not to let them pass from your mind, but instead to formulate them for your files and in so doing draw out their implications, show yourself either how foolish these feelings or ideas are, or how they might be articulated into productive shape.

    Much of my initial fascination with this came from the extent to which it provided me with a theory of blogging. Or at the very least helped me articulate the way(s) in which blogging (which I’ve done for going on a decade now) was starting to intersect with my academic work (which only began in a meaningfully engaged way 5 years ago at the start of my part time PhD). In providing the conceptual resources to help me understand the emergent way in which I was using my blog to develop ideas, it also improved the way I was doing this by transforming it from a cluster of behaviours into a deliberate and self-aware practice. But it occurred recently that thinking about how I was using the tools also inculcated a sensitivity to what I was using the tools for which I’d previously lacked.

    This lack might have just been my own idiosyncratic circumstances to a certain extent – I’ve had a meandering path through higher education and, while there are many things I’ve gained from the slightly eclectic range of influences I’ve been exposed to, I also sometimes worry that there’s a process of academic socialisation which other people have enjoyed which I’ve missed out on. Though this is probably something that most accidental sociologists feel at some point. But I think that’s perhaps an example of particular conditions leaving certain groups more sensitive to a broader trend. In this case the lack of attention to sociological craft within postgraduate education. Les Back and Nick Gane recently wrote a lovely paper exploring the notion of sociological craft and its relevance to the broader predicament facing sociology at the present juncture:

    In the appendix of The Sociological Imagination, Mills develops this notion of the craft and its concern for questions of perspective and scale. In this part of the text, the craft refers to the imaginative labours that are needed in order for the promise the discipline – its capacity to connect biography to history – to be fulfilled. The craft is a way of thinking that brings into view relations between the individual and the social that have previously gone unnoticed, and does so by exercising an imagination that ‘is often successfully invited by putting together hitherto isolated items, by finding unsuspected connexions’ (1959:221). The craft is about imaginative methodological and theoretical work that puts the promise of sociology to work, and in so doing enables us to think about things, including our own lives, differently.

    But there is, however, a further quality to Mills’ idea of the craft: ‘literary craftsmanship’. For sociology to be to be effective, especially beyond the academy, it must have literary ambitions. Mills’ assessment of the quality of the sociological writings of his time is damning. He argues that there is a ‘serious crisis in literacy’ in which sociologists are ‘very much involved’ (1959:239).

    However I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the more quotidian sense of craft and particularly how it relates to postgraduate education. In a way this ties in rather nicely with the above paper: if postgraduate teaching is how sociology reproduces itself as a discipline then any role that a renewed focus on craft can play in actualising the promise of sociology must have pedagogical implications in relation to postgraduates (if not undergraduates as well). The other line of thought that’s been preoccupying me recently is routine and creativity. I’m fascinated by websites which chart the mundane daily routines of famous writers, artists and intellectuals: see for example here, here and here. My longstanding tendency towards obsessive introspection and self-analysis notwithstanding, this interest comes from some of the theoretical issues I’m interested in (particularly the relationship between habit and reflexivity) but it’s something which I’ve largely thought about in terms of how people organise and approach everyday life.

    Increasingly though I’m seeing how useful a framework it is to think about craft – what do sociologists do in the deeply practical sense in which Mills discusses the question in the SI appendix? How do different sociologists approach similar tasks? How can an awareness of the different repertoires exhibited by sociologists factor into the development by PhD students and ECRs of their own distinctive style of sociological craft? Blogging gives a wonderful insight into the backstage of sociological craft and, not least of all because of the name of the site, I’d love to explore this on Sociological Imagination in some way. Thus far the best I can come up with is e-mail interviews though and that seems a bit crap really – any suggestions/thoughts/ideas are much appreciated.

    Edit to add: I realised that I didn’t recognise the fact that some people are already producing  the sort of material I’m talking about here, with Patter being the most obvious example. I think the popularity of blogs like Patter and the Thesis Whisperer point to precisely the lack in postgraduate education which I point to above. I guess I’m suggesting two things in practice (a) somehow soliciting reflections on sociological craft so that a wide range of voices are represented (b) doing so with a specifically sociological focus – not for reasons of wilful insularity but because, for reasons which might make a good follow up post, I think a disciplinary focus is integral to ensuring that discussions of professional craft don’t become somewhat less interesting proffering of generic career advice

    • freerangeresearch 8:49 pm on May 22, 2013 Permalink

      I agree with many of the points you made here. I often use my blog as a way of working through my thoughts and challenges. This includes the bumps, and deeper questions I encounter during the research process, and meditations on the borders between fields and potential for cross pollination- the latter comes from being an accidental sociologist, and doing the work from a different kind of training.

      Blogs provide a way for us to engage as researches at a level of informality that wasn’t widely available before, but also at a degree of depth that other platforms don’t offer.

      We are the more accessible public face of research.
      I was thinking of blogging about this myself, and may still do.

    • Mark 9:14 pm on May 25, 2013 Permalink

      Please do! I’d love to repost it on digitalsociology.org.uk and sociologicalimagination.org if you go ahead with this.

  • Mark 11:36 am on May 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Academics: bring your own identity 

    I couldn’t agree more with this – I’m also fascinated by what this shift entails for the provision of services within institutions. The best answer I can offer is ‘networked facilitators’ though I’m not entirely sure what that means in practice beyond academic technologists proactively engaging with research communities on a range of levels and, perhaps, increasingly supplementing the strategic delivery of services with tactical collaboration on a more ad hoc basis, learning from direct engagement in practical settings and feeding that back into broader strategic questions.

    Amber at Warwick: academic technology

    You’re probably familiar with Linked-in: it is a profile service for many sorts of people and I’ve noticed that outside the UK it is used for academic networking too, more so than inside the UK, at least in the circles I move in. It has 225 million members. You might not know about Academia.edu (nearly 3 million) and researchgate (2.8 million). They are examples of social networks for academics. Google scholar allows academics to manage their publications profile. Flavours.me is one of several personal profile tools that allows you to pull together identity over many platforms. 

    Now comes ORCID, a researcher identifier scheme increasingly being adopted by big publishers and third party web services alike. In it’s own words:

    “ORCID provides a persistent digital identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and, through integration in key research workflows such as manuscript and grant submission, supports automated…

    View original post 302 more words

  • Mark 6:00 am on May 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    LS Lowry and the Sociological Imagination 

    This isn’t the blog post I have intended to write for ages about LS Lowry’s profoundly sociological sensibility. But it is a percursor to it because this article so succinctly describes exactly the point I’m trying to make about Lowry’s work:

    What is amazing, and what confounds all efforts to cram Lowry into boxes marked “pessimism” or “nostalgia”, is that all these masses of people, delineated so simply and sparely, are electric with individual life. No two are alike. They are no more realistic, conventionally speaking, than the caricatures in a strip cartoon, yet each of them is alive. Try this as an experiment: look at the figures in these paintings with concentration for some minutes, then turn to look at actual people walking in the street. Suddenly they all look like Lowry people, each instinct with desire, goal, daydream or preoccupation.

    Lowry was fascinated by scale in a peculiarly sociological sense of the term, with even the teeming crowds that populate his most famous scenes exhibiting an undeniable individuality but one framed and formed by the relational and institutional contexts which he also took such care to represent.

    I’ve collected some of my favourites here.

  • Mark 6:18 am on May 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    What is Digital Sociology? 

    Tuesday 16th July 2013
    BSA Meeting Room, Suite 2, 2 Station Court
    Imperial Wharf, Fulham, London SW6 2PY

    This inaugural event for the BSA’s Digital Sociology Group brings together a diverse range
    of speakers who, in a variety of ways, work within the nascent field of digital sociology.
    Rather than proceed from a substantive account of what digital sociology is or could be,
    this event seeks to address the question ‘what is digital sociology?’ through an open and
    informal exploration of a broad range of exciting work being undertaken by sociologists
    in the UK which could, in the broadest sense of the term, be characterised as ‘digital’. In
    casting a spotlight on these projects in such a way the event aims to initiate an ongoing
    dialogue about the continuities and discontinuities between these emergent strands of
    digital activity, as well as the broader methodological and disciplinary questions which
    they pose.

    Kim Allen, Manchester Metropolitan University
    Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London
    Ben Baumberg, University of Kent
    Laura Harvey, Brunel University
    Noortje Marres, Goldsmiths, University of London
    Heather Mendick, Brunel University
    Mark Murphy, University of Glasgow
    Evelyn Ruppert, Goldsmiths, University of London
    Helene Snee, University of Manchester

    Delegate rates:
    BSA Concessionary Member (student/unwaged/retired) £10
    BSA Member £15
    Non-member (student/unwaged/retired) £20
    Non-member £25

    Register at: http://portal.britsoc.co.uk/public/event/eventBooking.aspx?id=EVT10285
    For administrative assistance contact: BSA Events Teamevents@britsoc.org.uk
    Telephone: +44 (0) 191 383 0839
    Academic enquiries: Dr Emma Head e.l.head@keele.ac.uk

  • Mark 6:10 am on May 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    BSA Teaching Group Conference on June 15th 

    Saturday 15th June 2013
    Nottingham Trent University
    Sponsored by the Higher Education Academy 

    The BSA’s Teaching Group is pleased to announce a regional conference hosted by the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University. This event is aimed specifically at sociology teachers and will bring together a variety of guest speakers in an interesting and informative programme.


    Alongside this programme time will be allocated for networking opportunities over lunch and during an optional evening social event. There will also be an opportunity for feeding back to representatives of the BSA about the ways in which the organisation could help and support the teaching of sociology in schools and colleges more fully. 

    Confirmed speakers:

    Prof. John Holmwood (Nottingham University), Roger Hopkins-Burke (Author, An Introduction to Criminological Theory, principle lecturer, NTU), Dr. Jason Pandaya-Wood (Head of Sociology, NTU), Dr Emma Head (School of Sociology and Criminology, Keele University), Mark Carrigan (Department of Sociology, Warwick University), Helen Jones (Higher Education Academy), Dr Alex Channon (School of Education, University of Greenwich), Dr Julie Scott Jones & Dr John Goldring (Department of Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Christopher R. Matthews (School of Social Sciences, NTU).

    Lunch will be provided, along with tea & coffee throughout the day.

    Delegate fees:

    BSA Member £40

    BSA Teaching Group Member £50

    Non-member £60

    For further information and registration, please go to: http://portal.britsoc.co.uk/public/event/eventBooking.aspx?id=EVT10272

    Email: bsatg@britsoc.co.uk or Tel: (0191) 383 0839 

    For academic enquiries please contact: Dr Christopher R. Matthews, Nottingham Trent University

    Email: christopher.matthews@ntu.ac.uk

  • Mark 3:00 pm on May 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    It worries me how excited I am about this software launching… 

  • Mark 1:45 pm on May 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: facet methodology,   

    RFR Masterclass – Facet methodology – principles and practices workshop 

    Facet methodology – principles and practices workshop
    Wednesday 12 June 2013
    2pm – 4pm
    Professor Jennifer Mason, Co-director, Centre for the Study of Relationships
    and Personal Life
    Registration fee @ £50.00


    ‘Facet methodology’ – is an inventive orientation to researching the
    multidimensionality of everyday lives and relationships, which puts
    researcher creativity and imagination at the heart of methodological

    This masterclass will introduce the ethos of the approach and explore how it
    can be practiced and what its uses might be.

    Masterclass participants will be invited to engage in practical ways with
    the approach, and to consider what it might offer for their own research
    projects and plans.

    A health warning! – facet methodology is an orientation, requiring
    imagination and inventiveness. Please don’t expect to be given a set of
    techniques or methodological rules that can be learned and applied!

    About facet methodology
    Facet methodology was developed collaboratively through the work of the
    Realities programme at the National Centre for Research Methods, at the
    Morgan Centre, University of Manchester.

    We wanted an inventive approach that enlivened and animated our enquiries
    into everyday life and relationships, and that promised methodological

    The approach was developed through our collaborative practice, in the doing
    of research and analysis, rather than as a piece of armchair theorising or

    We wanted a metaphor to articulate our research strategy, to ourselves and
    others, and we lighted upon the visual metaphor of a cut gemstone. Our
    approach envisions research fields as constructed through combinations and
    constellations of facets as we might see in a gemstone, where facets refract
    and intensify light, taking up the background, and creating flashes of depth
    and colour as well as patches of shadow.

    We found this a useful metaphor to think with, and to interpret the kinds of
    practices we had been developing. In facet methodology, the gemstone is the
    overall research question or problematic, and facets are conceived as
    different methodological-substantive planes and surfaces, which are designed
    to be capable of casting and refracting light in a variety of ways that help
    to define the overall object of concern by creating flashes of insight.

    Facets involve different lines of enquiry, and different ways of seeing. The
    approach aims to create a strategically illuminating set of facets in
    relation to specific research concerns and questions. The rigour of the
    approach comes ultimately from researcher skill, inventiveness, creativity,
    insight and imagination – in deciding how best to carve the facets so that
    they catch the light in the best possible way.

    You can read about facet methodology at:

    To reserve your place at this exciting workshop, please fill in the
    registration form via the weblink below

  • Mark 12:54 pm on May 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Interdisciplinarity and the poverty of post structuralist intellectual strategies 

    Post-structuralism exchanges the undesirable situation of lack of communication between the social sciences for the equally undesirable one where the internal logic of each subdiscipline is completely ignored. To be specific, there is little satisfaction with the present status quo where the boundaries between economics, political science, sociology and anthropology have become solid blinkers preventing interdisciplinary studies of social phenomena. But such compartmentalization will not be transcended by the facile and mindless abolition of the existing division of labour between disciplines.

    [Instead we need] a painstaking process of theoretical labour that aims at building bridges between the various specializations. Such a strategy does not abolish social science boundaries: it simply aims at transforming them from impregnable bulwarks to transmission belts facilitating interdisciplinary research … what is badly needed today are more systematic efforts towards the creation of a theoretical discourse that would be able to translate the language of one discipline into that of another. Such an interdisciplinary language would not only facilitate communication among the social science disciplines, it would also make it possible to incorporate effectively into the social sciences insights achieved in philosophy, psychoanalysis or semiotics.

    Post-structuralism, by completely side-stepping this difficult but necessary theoretical task, simply proposes the free and indiscriminate mixture of concepts and ideas derived from philosophy, literature, sociology, psychoanalysis, semiotics and elsewhere. This rejection of boundaries, in combination with the neglect of micro, meso and macro levels of analysis, of social hierarchies, and of the agency-structure distinction, quite predictably leads to a hotch-potch that is neither good philosophy nor good literature, nor yet good sociology, psychoanalysis or semiotics.

    [This leads to] the present incredible situation where anything goes, and where complex macro phenomena are reductively explained in terms of signs, texts, the unconscious or what have you. As far as I am concerned, such crude exercises constitute a relapse to pre-Durkheimian attempts at explaining social phenomena in terms of instincts, race, climate or geography. The only difference is that today’s postmodernists draw their reductive explanations from psychoanalysis and linguistics rather than from biology and geography.

    Sociological Theory: What went Wrong?: Diagnosis and Remedies, By Nicos Mouzelis

    I rather like the ‘conceptual pragmatism’ advocated by Mouzelis. As I understand his arguments, he is proposing that any adequate body of sociological theory (as opposed to social theory) must be capable of facilitating communication and translation between paradigms. Sociological theory which is geared towards ‘building bridges’ can sustain productive conversations across the boundaries of substantive intellectual differences precisely because it provides a rich and multifaceted language within and through which a whole range of divergent substantive claims about the social can be expressed.

    If there are common points of reference then sociological theory can provide the sort of intellectual topology (i.e. mapping continuities and discontinuities between different approaches and theories in a relational way) which is a precondition for progressive debate about theoretical topics. But without such common points of reference – if  conceptual idioms like structure/agency or macro/micro which recurrently emerge in practical settings are either ignored or rejected in favour of ‘transcendence’ – it becomes difficult for sociological theory to perform this function beyond those who are, in some sense, ‘internal’ to the approach.

    Edited to add: I’m fascinated by theorists who can incorporate a diverse range of perspectives within the same over-arching framework. This is why I was drawn to Richard Rorty even though I think, in retrospect, his project was a regressive one. It’s also more latterly why I’m drawn to realist social theory in spite of the (largely though not entirely unfair) perception it suffers under as being more concerned with scholastic critique than practical rapprochement. I’m not convinced theoretical debates can be adequately understood without an understanding of what (as some more or less stable issue which is relatively autonomous from the debate itself) is at stake in the respect positions being staked out. This minimal claim is perfectly compatible with a sociological approach to the history of ideas, as the ‘what’ does not need to be a timeless historical question, only something which has recurrently occurred with sufficient frequency to allow it to be treated in abstraction from the substantive disputes. 


  • Mark 4:21 pm on May 10, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Invitation to contribute to the CelebYouth project website 

    ‘The role of celebrity in young people’s classed and gendered aspirations’ is an ESRC funded research project which examines the relationship between celebrity culture, inequalities of class and gender and young people’s educational experiences, identities and transitions.

    The project has an active website (http://www.celebyouth.org/ ) and twitter account (@CelebYouthUK) and the team regularly post blogs about the project and related issues – past posts have included an analysis of David Cameron’s ‘Aspiration Nation’ speech, a piece on Post-feminism and Olympic Role Models, and several on methodological dilemmas in youth research.

    The research team are now welcoming guest contributions to the website from other people who are interested or working on topics related to the project. This could be work on celebrity and popular culture; young people’s aspirations and educational transitions; inequalities of class and gender; education policy; and/or the links between these.

    We welcome guest contributions on these topics from anyone – from students, doctoral researchers, teachers, and academics – the only condition is that they are original and that what you write needs to fit with the broadly sociological, feminist and critical approach of the website.

    If you would like to write for us please take a look at our website for more details http://www.celebyouth.org/write-for-celebyouth/ and get in touch with Heather Mendick  (heathermendick@yahoo.co.uk ) to discuss your ideas.

    Many thanks in advance

    Kim Allen (Manchester Metropolitan University), Heather Mendick and Laura Harvey (Brunel University)

  • Mark 7:03 am on May 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    What’s the point of sociological theory? 

    By maintaining its specialized logic and orientation it is capable of providing a set of conceptual tools that can operate as a theoretical lingua franca, as a flexible vocabulary with no foundationalist pretensions, which can help sociologists establish bridges between their own and other disciplines, as well as between competing social science paradigms. This is to say that sociological theory should not aim at the establishment of some sort of monolithic paradigmatic unity, but at strengthening the present pluralism by removing the obstacles that are a hindrance to open-ended communication between the differentiated subdisciplines or paradigms.

    Pg 9, Sociological Theory: What went Wrong?: Diagnosis and Remedies, By Nicos Mouzelis

  • Mark 7:01 am on May 9, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Participants needed for art/research project about asexuality 

    Holly Falconer and I are working on a project exploring asexuality through photography. Over the past two years she has done portraits of people across the UK, and is now looking for a few more volunteers to complete the project. She is especially seeking people over the age of 40 and couples.

    You can read more about it here: http://artsexual.tumblr.com

  • Mark 11:41 am on May 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    Call for Papers/Participants – Gendered Knowledges: An interdisciplinary workshop 

    Call for Papers and Participants

    Gendered Knowledges: An interdisciplinary workshop

    The Gendered Knowledges project is holding a Gender and Sexuality(ies) Interdisciplinary Workshop on 12th June 2013 at the University of Warwick. Gendered Knowledges is a newly launched research project that aims to explore radical interdisciplinary pedagogies in relation to Gender and Sexuality. The project, funded by the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL), will ultimately result in creating an interdisciplinary MA module on Gender and Sexuality at the University of Warwick.

    The workshop aims to bring together staff, research students, and post-doctoral researchers from different faculties and departments across the university who are engaged in research on gender and sexuality. It will bring together scholars from all disciplines and all faculties to discuss how gender and sexuality studies are understood and used in and across different disciplines, how we can conceptualize interdisciplinary approach(es) to gender and sexuality, and how can we promote an interdisciplinary community of researchers at Warwick, and beyond.

    We are pleased to have Dr Rahul Rao (Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS) as the keynote speaker, who will discuss the topic: is there a Queer Question? If so, what does it look like? Who is asking it? And what does posing the Queer Question do to the very notion of questioning the place of troublesome groups in relation to a putatively common humanity?

    Call for Papers
    We encourage staff, research students and post-doctoral researchers from all discipline across all faculties, whose research interests are related to issues of gender and/or sexualities, to present their research. This includes work in progress. We are looking for presentations that will stimulate a vibrant discussion around the themes of gender, sexuality and interdisciplinarity.
    Each panel will be composed of a number of short presentations, followed by a facilitated session designed to stimulate roundtable discussion. We are looking for 5-7 minute presentations that relate to the following themes:

    •         Interdisciplinarity
    •         Bodies
    •         Power
    •         Queer

    Please send an abstract of no more than 150 words to gendered.knowledges@warwick.ac.uk<mailto:gendered.knowledges@warwick.ac.uk> by 18th of May 2013.

    Call for Participants

    The aim of the workshop, starting from participants’ own research interests, is to provide an open space for participants to develop a meaningful conversation on the future and possibility of interdisciplinary research in gender and sexuality studies. If you would like to be part of the discussions but would not like to present a paper, please email us at gendered.knowledges@warwick.ac.uk<mailto:gendered.knowledges@warwick.ac.uk> , as places are limited.

  • Mark 9:41 am on May 8, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    “What kinds of creatures do we think we are?”: Human Sciences in the ‘Age of Biology’ 

  • Mark 9:53 pm on May 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Digital Humanities but No Digital Sociology 

    All these changes in scholarship have been taken up with a great deal more enthusiasm by some in the academy than others.  Our colleagues in the humanities have embraced digital technologies much more readily than those of us in sociology or the social sciences more generally.  A casual survey of the blogosphere reveals that those in the humanities (and law schools) are much more likely to maintain academic blogs than social scientists.  In terms of scholarship, humanities scholars have been, for more than ten years, innovating ways to combine traditional scholarship with digital technologies.  To name just a two examples, scholars in English have established a searchable online database of the papers of Emily Dickinson and historians have developed a site that offers a 3D digital model showing the urban development of ancient Rome in A.D. 320. There are significant institutions being built in the digital humanities including the annual Digital Humanities Conference, which began in 1989, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities.

    Sociology lags far behind in the adoption of digital tools for scholarly work.  As Paul DiMaggio and colleagues noted in 2001, “sociologists have been slow to take up the study of the Internet” (“The Social Implications of the Internet,” Annual Review of Sociology, 2001, p.1). While there are notable exceptions, such as Andrew Beveridge’s digitizing of Census maps (http://www.socialexplorer.com), when looking at the field as a whole these sorts of innovations are rare in sociology. In contrast to the decade-long conference in the digital humanities, there is no annual conference on “digital sociology.”  Sociology graduate students Nathan Jurgensen and PJ Rey recently organized a conference on “Theorizing the Web,” that drew luminaries in sociology Saskia Sassen and George Ritzer, but this is the first sociology conference (that we are aware of) to focus exclusively on understanding the digital era from a sociological perspective.  Analogously, there is no large institution, like the NEH seeking to fund digitally informed sociological research. The reasons for this sociological lag when it comes to the Internet are still not clear, but some point to the problems of getting digital publication projects recognized by tenure and promotion review committees.

    Daniels, J., & Feagin, J. (2011). The (coming) social media revolution in the academy. Fast Capitalism8(2).

  • Mark 3:37 pm on May 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply

    CfP: Queer Feminine Affinities 

    Queer Feminine Affinities

    Call for Submissions

    Deadline 31st July 2013

    Website: http://queerfeminineaffinities.wordpress.com
    Email: queerfeminineaffinities@gmail.com

    Queer Feminine Affinities aspires to become the first collaborative book that collects a diverse variety of written and visual materials by, on and for femme, queer, alternative and subversive feminine voices and communities emerging from within the UK.

    Inspired by collections like Joan Nestle’s (1992) The Persistent Desire: A Femme Butch Reader,  Chloë Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri’s (2003) Brazen Femme, Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano’s (2008) Femmes of Power, Jennifer Clare Burke’s (2009) Visible: A Femmethology, and Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman’s (2011) Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, amongst other engagements with femme and queer femininities, Queer Feminine Affinities warmly invites written and visual materials that reflect on femme, queer and alternative femininities as an embodied lived experience, identity and imagined community. The collection is particularly interested in reflections that can contribute to, challenge and expand on the established legacies of these wonderfully rich anthologies.

    Whilst the aforementioned collections originate from and discuss femme and queer feminine identities within a largely American context (aside from Ulrika Dahl and Del LaGrace Volcano’s Femmes of Power, which covers both American and European spaces), Queer Feminine Affinities aims to engage queer feminine voices and communities existing and emerging in the UK. The collection asks to what extent conceptualisations and lived realities of femme, queer, alternative and subversive femininities have travelled and translated along transnational lines of queer inheritances, and where our paths have diverged and our figurations have been reinvented to take fresh forms. Most of all, however, the collection simply aims to provide a printed space in which a diverse variety of feminine identified voices and perspectives can mingle in creative dialogue, discussing topics that are close to our queer fem(me)inine hearts!

    With this in mind, Queer Feminine Affinities welcomes contributions that reflect on any of the following topics and beyond:

    Identities, Embodiment, Orientations, Identifications and Affects
           Queer Feminine Orientations and Disorientations. How do queer feminine identified persons find their way in the world? How did you arrive at your femme, queer or alternative feminine identity or community? Do our orientations, once arrived at, stick or change?
           Affects. What do you love and desire, or hate with a passion? What are the shapes of queer feminine vulnerability, anger and empowerment? Considerations of queer feminine shame and pride.
           Inspirations, Muses, Heroines and Anti-Heroines. Who and what do you adore, identify and feel an affinity with (or disidentify with) and why?
           Legacies, Inheritances and Divergences.
           Femme-inist Theories, Politics and Activism: On the Streets and Between Paper Sheets.
           Styles, Aesthetics, Fashion, Objects and Consumptions.
           Gender Performance, Stylisation, Identities and Embodiment.
           The Art of Queer Feminine Failure.
           Anti-/Normativities  and Anything In-Between.
    Reflexive, Intersecting, Situated and Positioned Perspectives
            ‘Race’, Ethnicity, Whiteness, Racisms and Anti-Racisms. Perspectives By, On and For Queer Feminine Persons of Colour and White Queer Feminine Subjects.
           Dis/Abilities, (Mental) Health and Ableism.
           Class (War), Cuts, Privilege, Precarity and Anti-/Capitalism.
           Trans/Cis/Gender Queer Perspectives.
           Male/Masculine/Butch Femininities.
           Age/Ageing/Ageism.
           Fat/Thin Embodiment and Sizeism.
           Heterosexualities and Femme, Queer or Alternative Femininities.
           Geographically Situated Reflections. What difference does it make where we come from, where we pass through and where we reside? Urban, rural and suburban perspectives and perspectives from different regional, national or transnational contexts.
           Intersections Between Gender/Sexuality/Desire/Attraction.
    Spaces, Subcultures, Communities and Subjectivities
           Femme and Queer Feminine Communities, Subcultures, Spaces, Ethics, Praxis, Collectives and Individuals.
           Belonging, Partial Belonging and Unbelonging.
           Discrimination, Inclusions, Exclusions, Margins, Centre, Access, Privilege and Power.
           Cyberspace and Cyborgs.
           Definitions, Terms and Language.
           Diasporic, Transitioning, Transnational and Nomadic Queer Femininities.
           Differences, Similarities, Dissonances, Overlaps, Resonances and Affinities, Between Femme, Queer, Alternative and Subversive Femininities Identities and Communities, Emerging Within and In Between British and American, Or Any Other Contexts.

    If you are looking for further inspiration you may wish to read the anthologies mentioned above, as well as any other texts or blogs related to femme, queer, alternative and subversive femininities. Alternatively, if you wish to discuss your ideas before submitting a proposal, please feel free to email me:


    All Styles of Written and Visual Contributions Welcome!

    Written contributions
    These may take the form of manifestos, academic essays, reflexive essays, interviews, reviews, dialogues, autobiographical narratives, fictional stories, poems, collaborative or individual reflections on queer feminine collectives you belong to. Written submissions must be less than 5000 words. However, the precise length of any written contribution depends on the form and content of the piece.

    Visual contributions
    These may take the form of photographs, collages, comic strips, art or zine-style combinations of language and the visual. Visual materials must be formatted, presented and submitted to the editor in a way that can easily be incorporated into a printed book. If you are submitting visual materials, I strongly encourage this to include some written reflections on what the visual contribution is about – the story, meaning or intention behind it – to help contextualise this for readers.

    Please send your 300 word proposal and a short biography to Alexa Athelstanqueerfeminineaffinities@gmail.com by 31st July 2013. When submitting your proposal, please specify approximately how many words or pages you think your contribution will involve.

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