Around a year and a half ago, I got very upset with the British Sociological Association when I couldn’t afford to attend a conference for which I’d given a great deal of free labour. I was a month away from handing in my then still very much unfinished PhD thesis, I’d started two new jobs (one of which I wasn’t being paid for, due to bureaucratic problems) and the stress was getting to me. I quickly regretted the tone of the letter, though I still stand by the contents. Part of me soon wanted to remove it from the internet, because it felt like a very public meltdown, but I didn’t want to quietly delete something so contentious.

I just discovered that the letter comes third in google, seemingly for a diverse range of people, when searching for “British Sociological Association”. This seems so needlessly rude to me that I’ve decided to delete the letter – is algorithmic rudeness a thing? This post is a note which anyone searching for the BSA (or equivalent) on my blog will hopefully be able to find, explaining where the letter has gone and why. I also wanted to be clear that my views on (certain) professional associations have not changed, if anything they’ve hardened, though any feelings of animus have pretty much dissipated. As I said at the time, I wanted to find other ways to contribute to my discipline outside the BSA. I’m doing that, I’m very happy about it and I can’t see the situation changing.

BSA Theory Study Group: Early Career Theorists’ Symposium

2nd April, 2013, London

Call for Abstracts

The Early Career Theorists’ Symposium is a special one-day symposium for up-and-coming theorists, organized by the Theory Study Group of the British Sociological Association. This symposium aims to bring together sociologists at a relatively early stage in their careers who work on theory or are engaged in original theoretical work as part of their ongoing research. We invite early-career sociologists, across all research areas, to submit abstracts. Submissions from advanced PhD students are also welcome.

Professors Mike Savage, Celia Lury, and John Holmwood will comment on the presentations.

Complete information for submitting the abstract will consist of:

(1) name and contact information of the author;

(2) title of your presentation;

(3) a 500-word abstract of the presentation;

(4) three or more keywords descriptive of the presentation.

To encourage a wide range of submissions, we have not pre-specified a theme for the conference. Instead, papers will be grouped into sessions based on emergent themes.

Please send submissions to the organizers: Dr Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Warwick (G.K.Bhambra@warwick.ac.uk) and Dr Monika Krause, Goldsmiths College, (m.krause@gold.ac.uk).

The deadline for submission is 1st November 2012.

Invitations to present will be extended by 15th November. Please plan to share a full paper by 10th March, 2013. Registration for the event will be free for BSA members or for anyone already registered for the BSA annual conference; there will be a charge of £20 for all other attendees.

This event is timed to coincide with the BSA annual conference and is a supplement to it in terms of providing a dedicated space for early career theorists to meet and discuss their research. For more information about the BSA annual conference and to also submit an abstract to the main conference, see here: http://www.britsoc.co.uk/events/bsa-annual-conference.aspx

Michael Burawoy is president of the International Sociological Association and John Holmwood was recently elected president of the British Sociological Association from June 2012 onwards. In this dialogue recorded at the BSA conference in April 2012, they explore the challenges faced by public sociology in an age of austerity.

Part 1: Neoliberalism

Part 2: Higher Education

Part 3: Future of Sociology


Image courtesy of Kalina Yordanova

In a recent article  argued that economics has failed us but sociology has been unable to offer any alternatives. In this podcast I talk to Melanie Simms of Warwick Business School, who signed this group letter to the Guardian, about work sociology and its relevance to the big questions which Chakrabortty accuses the discipline of having no answers to. Explore some of these issues further in a special edition of Work, Employment and Society which is freely available until the end of May.

Public Perceptions of the Social Sciences in a Contemporary Era of Unrest
BSA Postgraduate Day Conference
16th April 2012
Department of Sociology, University of York

Keynote Speakers
Professor John Holmwood, University of Nottingham & President Elect of the British Sociological Association
Professor Les Back, Goldsmiths College
Professor Mike Savage, University of York
Professor Roger Burrows, Goldsmiths College

Event Poster and Booking Details

An absolutely superb letter in the Guardian from the British Sociological Association about the contribution sociology can make to understanding the UK Riots:

One of the first things that disappears when considering disturbances such as these is perspective. One loses sight of the fact that nine out of 10 local residents aren’t rioting, that nine out of 10 who are rioting aren’t local to the area, and that nine out of 10 of these non-locals aren’t doing it to commit crime. That is to say, it is a tiny minority who are participating and, of those that are, it’s a tiny minority who are doing so solely to commit crime. Crime is a motive, but crowd behaviour is a more complex process, and it is sociology as a discipline that best understands crowd behaviour.

Crowds are irrational. Crowds don’t have motives – that’s far too calculating and rational. Crowd behaviour is dynamic in unpredictable ways, and reason and motive disappear when crowds move unpredictably. But has anyone made a connection with the two media events that dominated media coverage on the same day – the irrationality of crowds on the streets and of traders on the stock market? Both sorts of behaviour are moved by emotion not reason, passions not predictability, and reason disappears. Economists are lauded for their accounts of the irrationality of the market traders, but sociologists get criticised for suggesting that allegations of criminality are a poor account of the irrationality of crowds (Was this the mayor’s Katrina moment?, 10 August).

Sociologists seek to explain – not explain away – these events. An understanding of the impact of social inequalities and deprivation, youth unemployment, racism and ethnic conflict, and crime and policing forms a large part of the concerns of UK sociology. Since most politicians and the police seem to have been taken unawares by the events of the past few days, it seems we need more understanding and explanation, not less, if we are to be able to draw lessons from the current events and prevent their recurrence. The British Sociological Association would be happy to put London’s mayor and his staff in touch with sociologists who could add real understanding to the all-too-easy condemnations of these disturbing events.

Professor John Brewer President, BSA

Howard Wollman Vice-chair, BSA