This one-day event intends to raise awareness of the Foundations of British Sociology archive maintained by Keele University. This remarkable resource collects a diverse array of materials from the 1880s to the 1950s, gifted to the university when the Institute of Sociology was dissolved in 1955.

‘Members of the societies founded The Sociological Review, contributed to early University teaching of Sociology, published many books and papers and collected survey material from the UK and Europe. The archive comprises personal papers, business records, newspaper cuttings, lectures, reports, plans, surveys, lantern slides and an extensive collection of books from the LePlay House Library. It includes material relating to key activists and opinion-shapers such as Victor Branford, Francis Galton, Patrick Geddes, H. G. Wells, Lewis Mumford and Alexander Farquharson on themes such as the responsibilities of the state and the citizen, planning urban development, the position of women, the role of technical education, local government reform, regionalism, the co-operative movement, rural society and the family. Researchers will find valuable materials on the origins of modern British sociology, and related social sciences such as social psychology, cultural geography, town planning and demography’ (Source, Keele University).

We look forward to welcoming delegates to Keele University where they will have a chance to explore this rich resource and discuss the enduring cultural, historical and evidentiary value of this archive for British Sociology.

Confirmed Speakers:

David Amigoni (Keele University), Helen Burton (Keele University), Gordon Fyfe (Keele University), Rachel Hurdley (Cardiff University), Rebecca Leach (Keele University), Chantelle Lewis (Goldsmiths).

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Application to Attend

TSRF have 20 places available to attend this workshop. As places are limited they will be allocated through a competitive application process. Applications will close 17th August, 17.00 BST. Decisions will be communicated early September 2018.

The application form can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1r8RhiHsBI-vR4s-XHgxpJA28pD08Sos1MHsejdUT724/edit

Applications will be peer reviewed by Sociological Review editorial board members. Consideration will be given to research interests as related to the event, as well as distribution of career trajectory and institutions.

This event is free and lunch and refreshments will be provided. Places are limited and allocated via the application process. There are also a number of bursaries available for unfunded PGRs and ECRs.

*Please note, TSRF will not accept late applications under any circumstances.

Room Location and Accessibility Information

The event will take place in the Campus Library Training Room located on the top floor of Keele University library, Keele, Staffordshire ST5 5BG

Visitors can report to the Library counter on arrival and staff will direct you to the room. The main entrance to the Library is on the second floor, up an external staircase. The accessible entrance is on ground level. Non Keele card holders should press the intercom and a Library porter will give assistance. The library has an accessible lift to all three floors of the Library and the training room is wheelchair accessible.

All toilets, including the wheelchair accessible toilet, are on the ground floor.

For more details on accessibility to the library, please see here https://www.disabledgo.com/access-guide/keele-university/library-and-information-services-building

There are a number of disabled parking bays in front of the Library. If these aren’t available, any other space outside or near the Library can be used as long as a valid badge is displayed. A campus map and guide can be found here: https://www.keele.ac.uk/connect/howtofindus/maps/keele-campus-guide-colour.pdf

Bursaries

We have a limited number of bursaries for this workshop – including childcare bursaries. You can apply for a bursary if you meet TSRF criteria for funding. I.e. (1) unfunded postgraduate research students, (2) Early Career Researchers (ECR) within 3 years of completion of PhD and not in receipt of a full-time wage, and (3) others on the grounds of need (e.g. those in casual employment and not in receipt of a full-time wage).

Travel bursaries are limited at £100.00, childcare bursaries are limited to £50.00 per day of the event and day before if needing to travel and stay overnight. Accommodation will be organised by TSRF.

Please note, that if you have been awarded a place at The Sociological Review’s ECR writing retreat this year (2018) or a full bursary (travel and accommodation) at the Undisciplining conference or the ECR day, then you are not eligible to apply for event bursaries until next year (2019).

Contact Details

For academic enquiries related to this workshop, please contact Mark Carrigan: mark@markcarrigan.net

For enquiries related to applications, please contact Jenny Thatcher

Within contemporary British Sociology, it can seem like a strange question to ask if the discipline has a moral vision. There are moral commitments which animate much of the activity which takes place within it, manifested in a range of motives including revealing vested interests through critique of ideology, describing inequalities in order to facilitate their ameliorationgiving voice to those who are denied it, deploying expertise to support oppressed groups in exercising their agency and promoting democratic citizenship through the transmission of sociological understanding. However, we rarely talk about having a moral vision, possibly because the legacy of ‘value-neutrality’ still permeates throughout our self-understanding, conceptual frameworks and established practices. Morality is everywhere, constantly invoked and assumed, while rarely being a sustained object of reflective deliberation.

In a strange, flawed but thought-provoking book from a couple of years ago, Christian Smith argues that American Sociology has a sacred project. It is “an unstable amalgam of variously accumulated historical and contemporary ideas and movements” which he describes on pg 8 of the eponymous book:

American sociology as a collective enterprise is at heart committed to the visionary project of realising the emancipation, equality, and moral affirmation of all human beings as autonomous, self-directing, individual agents (who should be) out to live their lives as they personally so desire, by constructing their own favoured identities, entering and exiting relationships as they choose, and equally enjoying the gratification of experiential, material, and bodily pleasures.

His point concerns what Phil Gorski described as the ‘moral unconscious’ of the discipline: the influences that lurk beneath the surface, moving it along without ever being clearly articulated. The project of the book is to recover that moral unconscious, connecting sociologists with the moral sources they draw upon in motivating their work. I’m sceptical that the book is successful in this endeavour but it’s a project which caught my imagination. It stands uneasily with the tendency inherent in pursuing a professional career in sociology, reflected upon by Michael Burawoy in his famous address on public sociology:

The original passion for social justice, economic equality, human rights, sustainable environment, political freedom or simply a better world, that drew so many of us to sociology, is channeled into the pursuit of academic credentials. Progress becomes a battery of disciplinary techniques—standardized courses, validated reading lists, bureaucratic ranking intensive examinations, literature reviews, tailored dissertations, refereed publications, the all-mighty CV, the job search, the tenure file, and then policing one’s colleagues and successors to make sure we all march in step. Still, despite the normalizing pressures of careers, the originating moral impetus is rarely vanquished, the sociological spirit cannot be extinguished so easily.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been reading about classical British sociology after visiting the Foundations of British Sociology archive at Keele. One of the striking things about this era was how readily people spoke of a sociological movement, driven by a vision of the transformative implications of sociological science and the urgent need to institutionalise it within the universities (even though ironically this helped eviscerate this vision over time). This is how John Scott and Ray Bromley summarise it on loc 924 of their Envisioning Sociology:

The collaborative circle around Patrick Geddes and Victor Branford shared a vision, nurtured in the emerging strands of nineteenth-century thought and the Edwardian New Age, of a society reconstructed according to principles derived from social science. Pursuit of this vision solidified it in the developing social science disciplines and the educational and professional organizations and practices through which these disciplines were being established. In this chapter we will trace the intellectual origins of their vision and disciplinary concerns, and we will sketch the particular disciplinary practices and forms through which they attempted to organize that vision.

Could we imagine sociology having a moral vision today? Could the multitude of overlapping moral projects I mentioned at the start of this post ever coalesce into a unified ambition? Could there be a sociological movement today? What would it seek to achieve? In a number of recent disputes with people, I’ve been confronted with the argument that ‘political correctness’ is taking over sociology today. Could it be that there’s a grain of truth to what these critics say but they’re misconstruing as ‘political correctness’ what is actually the coalescence of a 21st-century sociological movement?

What can sociology learn from its archive? In asking this question, I mean archive in the broadest sense, far beyond the formal outputs of the discipline. I spent much of yesterday in the Foundations of British Sociology archive at Keele University, gifted to the university by the Institute of Sociology when it dissolved in 1955. This was the precursor organisation to The Sociological Review, founded at LePlay House in 1930, when the original editor of the journal Victor Branford and his partner Sybella Gurney gifted their estate to the earlier Sociological Society. There’s a vast array of material in the archive and I’ve only reached the vaguest understanding of this institutional history. It contains papers from the following organisations and people:

  • Sociological Society
  • Regional Association
  • Civic Education League
  • LePlay House
  • Institute of Sociology
  • The Sociological Trust
  • LePlay House Press
  • The Sociological Review
  • LePlay Society
  • Victor Branford
  • Sybella Branford
  • Alexander and Dorothea Farquharson

The archive is filled with historical curiosities which shed light on the history of the discipline, revealing the many changes but also the startling continuities. While the co-operation with the Eugenics Society seems startling from a contemporary point of view, it’s even more jarring to encounter concerned discussions about the style of the journal (insufficiently empirical and with literary pretensions that detract from sociological science) which could be encountered almost verbatim a century later.

However what really fascinates me is the question of how Sociology can be inspired by its own archive: what practical initiatives have been undertaken in the past which we can learn from in the present? To give one example, the Memorandum on Tours summarises the public interest in the many regional surveys which were undertaken. These strange hybrid explorations of geography, anthropology and sociology apparently proved popular with a certain subset of the broader public:

These Tours have aroused considerable interest amongst people to whom the ordinary Tourist Agencies offer no particular attraction. Quite a number of travellers have repeatedly joined the different parties setting forth from LePlay House during the past four years. Each Tour is accompanied by one or more persons distinguished for their knowledge of the history, ethnography, etc. of the particular country to be visited; also an unusual and pleasing feature of these Tours has been the cordial manner in which the University Authorities and other eminent men and women in the different Continental Cities have received the visitors and afforded them facilities for studying social life, customs and places of interest usually closed to the ordinary

It struck me when reading this how the sociological walks organised for The Sociological Review’s conference next year could be seen as a tentative recovery of this tradition. What else can we find in there? What can we learn from it now? What practical projects might it inspire? These questions have been circling in my mind since visiting the archive yesterday and it has left me pondering something between cultural entrepreneurship and action research inspired by this archive. The undisciplining of Sociology, at least in the UK, proves eerily familiar when we read about the context within which the Sociological Society and the Institute of Sociology operated. The same is true of the sense of social and political urgency which motivated their work:

But in the present disturbed state of the public mind there would seem to be open to the Society, two wider opportunities of public service. One is to promote an impartial and detached habit of mind in regard to current movements. The other is bring to bear on the manifold problems of Reconstruction, Civic, National and International such established truths as the present state of the psychological and social sciences affords. Hence an endeavour is being made to extend the Review to a wider circle of readers.

I am convinced that Sociology can find inspiration in its archive. Get in touch if you’re interested in looking for it with me.

Some tweets about this blog post worry me because it appears as if people think this is my analysis. It’s not. These are my notes on the excellent paper below which I’d strongly recommend reading in full. 

This thought-provoking article by Malcolm Williams, Luke Sloan and Charlotte Brookfield offers a new spin on the familiar problem of the quantitative deficit within U.K. sociology. Many accounts of this sort are concerned with the explanatory implications of this deficit (the phenomena that defy explanation without quantitative terms) while digital sociology is concerned with its implications for computational skills. However, the authors look to a deeper level: the tradition within British sociology which defines itself against quantitative methods. They explore this possibly by drawing a contrast between analytical sociology and critical sociology:

Analytic sociology is the term often used to describe a quite specific version of scientific sociology that combines theories and empirical data to produce sociological explanations (Bunge, 1997; Coleman, 1986; Hedström, 2005; Hedström and Swedberg, 1998). It mostly employs mechanistic explanation and variants on middle range theory. Our use of the term ‘analytic’ encompasses this specific use, but is also broader and meant solely to indicate a sociology that aims to produce descriptions and explanations of social phenomena. It does not exclude ‘understanding’ as methodological virtue, nor does it deny the role of ‘critique’ as an element in the methodological toolkit. It certainly does not exclude qualitative methods and indeed the research described here has qualitative elements

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1360780417734146

Their distinction tracks familiar oppositions between explanation/ understanding and positivism/hermeneutics. Their interest is in how the latter term in each pair was advantaged by the dynamics of expansion in U.K. universities, where (non-quantitative) sociology was a cheap route to expanded student numbers with little to no necessary capital investment. It was during this period of expansion during the 1960s that ‘scientific method’ began to be tied to militarism by the burgeoning anti-war movement. They argue that successive intellectual movements (postmodernism, the linguistic turn, the cultural turn) accentuated this antipathy, such that progressive thought came to be instinctively cautious about quantitative methods. This trend played out within the discipline, its students and teacher, rather than simply being located ‘out there’.

They see this hostility as being dampened by the methodological pluralism encouraged by critical realism and mixed methods pragmatism. But for reasons I don’t understand, which seem to misread the motivations and methods of the critical realist project, incorporate them to analytical sociology:

While there are important differences in the analytic approach (say between realism, post-positivism, and positivism), there is a common core as treating social phenomena as real (or a proxy for real) (Kincaid, 1996) that can be caused, or can cause other social phenomena. The analytic approach shares the common foundations of science: description, explanation, and theory testing and, more specifically, that through the use of appropriate sampling we can generalise from sample to population or from one time or place to another.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1360780417734146

These are precisely the features which what they call critical sociology rejects as “either methodologically impossible to achieve, in the social world, or ethically undesirable”. More positively, it is concerned with situated meaning and the possibility of emancipation. Their characterisation here is much vaguer but they admit there is an element of strawman to each. Their concern is with how these sociological stereotypes enter into the understanding of students, as extreme versions of actually existing tendencies take hold in the imagination of those who are the next generation of sociologists and the cohorts which the discipline sets loose upon the world.

This is an important possibility because evidence suggests that sociology students are not driven by a fear of number in choosing their degree. Or at least that other mechanisms are at work in bringing about the quantitative deficit within U.K. sociology. The evidence they present suggests a humanistic understanding of sociology is dominant within the student body:

Table 2 clearly shows that the majority of students scored the discipline as closer to the arts/humanities than science/maths. It has been speculated that students taking a prior A-levels in art might be inclined to see sociology as closer to the arts and those taking a mathematics A-Level as closer to science. In fact, though there was some variation at the different measurement points, more students in both groups still thought sociology nearer to the arts/humanities than the sciences.

All but one of subsequent focus groups revealed a “proclivity towards the qualitative involving the theoretical and critique with scepticism about statistics and a clear preference from the students for doing discursive work”. The BSA survey, asking more nuanced questions than the aforementioned survey, produced a more cautious endorsement of sociology’s status:

Table 4 shows that the majority of participants viewed the subject content (64.3%) and status (66.9%) of sociological research as closer to the arts and humanities. In terms of methodology, analytical tools, and public utility, sociology was seen as mid-way between the arts and humanities and the natural sciences

Their overarching argument, supported by intriguing comparative data concerning sociology in Netherlands and New Zealand, concerns how a cultural antipathy to quantitative methods gets reproduced across successive professional cohorts (compounded by the marginalisation of quantitative methods teaching within the broader curriculum):

Many, if not most, sociologists in UK universities have themselves come from a culture of sociology that emphasises critique over analysis, theoretical positions, and qualitative over quantitative methods of enquiry that reflect the historical influences on the discipline, as described above. This culture exists at all levels of teaching, from pre-university A-level teaching through to postgraduate training. Their attitudes and practices incline them ideologically and practically to favour a humanistic and critical attitude towards the discipline, the selection of research questions that require interpretive methods, and often either an expertise in these methods or a preference for theoretical reasoning alone

The result is an absence of methodological pluralism within U.K. sociology, held it seems as a point of principle. They suggest this might also be coupled with a vague sense of persecution, as critical sociology perceives itself as being under threat in a discipline it in fact dominates.

The ensuing ‘split personality’ might be a source of strength for the discipline in troubled times:

In the UK, quite apart from sociology ceding many of its former areas of interest to other disciplines, what sociology is depends on who you ask. The appearance is one of fragmentation. Nevertheless, a counterfactual argument may go something like this: a fragmented discipline might also be described as a diverse one, whose survivability does not depend on the adherence to any particular paradigm. Psychology, for example, which has long been largely associated with experimental method, faces something of a crisis as the statistical reasoning that underpin the experiment have been increasingly challenged in the last two decades (see, for example, Krueger, 2001). Sociology, in the UK, may actually be more agile as a result of its analytic/critique split personality

But crucially there is a risk of the quantitative practitioners exporting themselves from the discipline, even as its capacity to generate them increases:

One might further speculate that those graduate sociologists, from universities with Q-Step centres or other more quantitatively inclined courses, will not necessarily work in sociology or identify as sociologists because they too see it as a primarily humanistic discipline based upon critique, but rather go to other disciplines or become generic ‘social researchers’ with a consequent continuation of the present situation where analytic sociology continues to be a minority pursuit within the UK discipline.

There’s a wonderful essay by the playwright Alan Bennet in the London Review of Books, written 35+ years ago, reflecting on his fascination with Erving Goffman’s micro-sociology. His preoccupation was with the minutiae of everyday conduct, identified and described so astutely in Goffman’s work. Sociological observations in this register highlight our commonality, helping us see that individual experiences we assumed to be idiosyncratic are in fact shared by others.

But while sociology itself remains arcane, this power is mere latency, standing as “a secret between me and the author” with the incidents in question “our private joke”. As Bennett puts it, “Individuals knew they behaved in this way, but Goffman knew everybody behaved like this and so did I”. There is a pleasure to be taken in such private jokes, so easily guarded through insular vocabularies within peripheral publications. Even if, as Bennett observes, “the books I once thought so private are piled promiscuously on any campus counter at the start of every term”, the power of these observations remains limited to a small subset of those within the walls of the university campus.

If the work of any sociologist could breach these boundaries, it surely was Goffman’s. Much as Sociology is a scavenger discipline, Goffman himself was a scavenger intellectual, producing texts strewn with ephemera collected from beyond the rarefied boundaries of the ivory tower:

Sociology begins in the dustbin and sociologists have always been licensed rag-and-bone men trundling their carts round the backyards of the posher academic establishments. The Benjamin Franklin Professor has done the rounds of more backyards than most, scavenging in anthropology, psychology and social administration, besides picking up a lot of useful jumble ‘on the knocker’: his books are larded with strips of personal experience, enlivened with items from newspapers, the annals of crime and the dustbins of showbiz. It’s this (and the look of so many quotations on the page) that makes his work initially inviting and accessible to a general reader like me. He writes with grace and wit and raises the odd eyebrow at those in his profession who don’t, though he can’t be too censorious of jargon, having invented a lot himself.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v03/n19/alan-bennett/cold-sweat

He writes in a “vivid, impressionistic way” which often remains “tentative and exploratory”. It is this mode of expression which ensures that he “so regularly startles one into self-recognition”, as his predominately descriptive analysis proves able to make the familiar strange. Bennett cites Goffman’s own statement of ambitions in Frame analysis:

I can only suggest that he who would combat false consciousness and awaken people to their true interests has much to do because the sleep is very deep. And I do not intend here to provide a lullaby but merely to sneak in and watch the way people snore.

I’ve often wondered about the impulse beyond reality television. I recognise this is a complex topic that has produced a vast and multifaceted literature. But I sometimes suspect there’s a sociological impulse at work in its popularity, alongside many other factors shaping ‘supply’ and ‘demand’. Do many of us share a fascination with watching how people snore?  This curiosity about others, what we share with them and how they differ, provides a foundation for interest in sociological observation which is predominately met from outside the academy. Goffman’s was an unusually descriptive sociological imagination, prone to making the familiar strange and the strange familiar, but it was a superlative example of this pole of the sensibility that invited others with a more explanatory disposition to build upon his work. As Bennett goes on to write:

I go to sociology, not for analysis or explication, but for access to experience I do not have and often do not want (prison, mental illness, birthmarks). Goffman treats these closed areas as lying alongside normal experience (or the experience of ‘normals’) in a way that makes them familiar and accessible. The approach is robust, humane and, despite his disclaimer, moral. ‘The normal and the stigmatised are not persons but perspectives,’ he writes in Stigma, ‘and it should come as no surprise that in many cases he who is stigmatised in one regard nicely exhibits all the normal prejudices held towards those who are stigmatised in another regard.’

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v03/n19/alan-bennett/cold-sweat

He goes on to explain how Goffman’s concepts come to form part of individual experience, as the possibility of categorising changes our relationship to that which we categorise:

One of the pleasures of reading Goffman is in taxonomy: items that one has had lying around in one’s mind for ages can be filed neatly away. Like a caption I saw years ago and am delighted now to dignify as a leaky utterance: a newspaper picture of a drama group headed ‘Blackburn Amateurs examine each other’s parts.’ And another (which ought to be in Goffman’s book if only because the reasoning behind the remedial work is so complex and ultimately futile). Dorothy Killgallan, an American columnist, began a radio talk: ‘Tonight I am going to consider the films of Alfred Hitchcack … cock! … CACK!’ I wouldn’t like to see Mr Schegloff et al. let loose on that one.

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v03/n19/alan-bennett/cold-sweat

Reading Bennett’s account renews my confidence that there’s a public interest in Sociology of the sort I’ve always been drawn to, far beyond any instrumental concern for application. It can illuminate the human condition, enriching individual experience, if it is written and presented in a way which facilitates the exercise of this power. Unfortunately, the academy militates against this but social media offers opportunities to circumvent these constraints.

An interesting extract from Conflict In The Academy, by Marcus Morgan and Patrick Baert. From loc 556-569:

As Wyn Grant has noted in reference to the history of the discipline of Political Science in the United Kingdom, ‘intellectual openness and tolerance of eclecticism has its merits, but if it is allowed to become too uncontrolled it can lead to a lack of rigour in the deployment of methodologies and techniques, which undermines the systematic comparison that the subject has to offer if it is to be distinguished from polemic or idle speculation’ (2010: 24). Similarly, English Studies appears to have been attempting to maintain this precarious balance between pluralism and innovation on the one hand, and coherence and continuity on the other. In reference to John Beer’s suggestion in the Senate House (SHD: 355) that five separate strands of scholarship had emerged in the Cambridge English Faculty (traditional, international, close reading, analysis of literature in social and cultural contexts and an alignment of the study of literature with more popular media), Bergonzi writes that In one sense such pluralism is admirable, a fine instance of the multiplicity of interests and the free play of minds which one expects in a great university. Yet not all approaches can easily coexist; choices may have to be made, and voices imply exclusions … What looks like desirable diversity from inside a subject can seem mere fragmentation and incoherence to those outside it, or not very securely within it. (1990: 16) Institutionalising and sustaining the coherence of disciplines within the humanities, which are by their very nature ‘fissiparous disciplines’ – inherently prone towards internal division, may involve far more selfconscious ‘disciplining’, in Leavis’s sense, than is necessary in the more commonly mono-paradigmatic sciences. Secondly, even though many of the theoretical

Does this adequately describe contemporary sociology? I think it does, at least in the UK. But the question that really interests me is how a changing infrastructure of scholarly communication, in which interventions happen across a variety of platforms with all the temporal multiplicity that entails, might change this picture. How does self-conscious disciplining happen? What are new ways for it to be enacted? What determines the efficacy of such attempts? These are all changing in ways which raise complex empirical and conceptual issues.

I just spotted New Philosopher for the first time, in an airport newsagents. I’ve occasionally bought or subscribed to Philosopher’s Magazine and Philosophy Now in the past. That makes three popular magazines about philosophy aimed at a general audience. Why such an abundance of philosophy magazines and yet no comparable sociology publications? Is it because the public appetite couldn’t support a sociology magazine? Or is it because sociologists haven’t tried since New Society folded? Is it time for Discover Society to launch a print edition? Or something else entirely?

I think this is come out really well. Get in touch if you’d like to contribute something further:

 

Re-orienting Sociological Thought?                               

Glamorgan Council Chamber, Glamorgan Building,

Cardiff University, School of Social Sciences

Cardiff University
2pm to 4pm, Wednesday, May 11th 2016

In recent years, we’ve seen the proliferation of calls to reorientate sociological thought around new concerns, methodologies and approaches that can ground the discipline in changing times. This symposium brings together advocates of prominent approaches with the hope of a dialogue concerning these calls. What do they have in common? How do they differ? Are their proliferation a sign of the discipline’s weakness or of its vitality? Do we need to throw our energies into one, embrace the multitude or somehow synthesise them into a broader project of disciplinary renewal? 

Mark Carrigan – Why Public Sociology is Becoming Digital Sociology (and vice versa)

Des Fitzgerald – Lively sociology and the sociology of life

William Housley – Disruptive Technologies and Socio-Digital Transformation

Emilie Whitaker – Between Thanatos and Natality: considering sociological reorientations through trans/post humanist understandings of death

Pre-booking is required by May 4th. Reserve a place via http://www.eventbrite.com/e/re orienting-sociological-thought-tickets-24594058491

Violent Abandonment: researching the Calais refugee camp

Dr Thom Davies (Sociology, University of Warwick), Dr Arshad Isakjee and Dr Surindar Dhesi (Geography, University of Birmingham)

Abstract: Surviving in informal refugee camps is fast becoming the lived reality for thousands of refugees and migrants who are entering Europe. Abandoned and neglected, these spaces have become the de facto solution to European political inertia. The Calais camp in northern France has become a significant point of transit for refugees and migrants during the ongoing ‘refugee crisis’, many of whom intend to travel onwards to the UK.  In April 2015, 1500 migrants living throughout Calais were forced to re-locate to a new single site known as ‘The New Jungle’. Set on the periphery of the town, on a polluted area previously used as an informal dumping ground, this Zone is now home to over 6000 men, women, and children. Unlike formalised refugee camps, the ad hoc nature of the ‘New Jungle’ and the limited role of the state present significant public health challenges and a unique case study in Europe. This presentation draws upon findings from two recent ESRC funded research visits to the New Jungle, the first during the birth of the camp in April 2015 and the second in July 2015 during the height of the “#CalaisCrisis”. We present novel inter-disciplinary, mixed-methods research documenting living conditions in the Calais refugee camp. Having conducted a comprehensive environmental health survey of the site including collecting air, water, and food samples, observations and interviews with refugees (Dhesi et al 2015), as well as innovative visual methods – we uncover the substantial threats to the wellbeing of residents living in informal settlements as a consequence of state policies of de facto abandonment. We conclude that the impact of European and national policy in Northern France amounts to nothing less than a public health crisis. We frame this in terms of a violent abandonment, drawing upon the work of Galtung (1969) and Nixon (2014) and their conceptualisations of violence.

You can see details of forthcoming speakers and download a poster here http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/sociology/news/seminarsandevents/seminarseries

BSA Sociology and Feminism Event
Wednesday 16 December 2015 4pm – 6pm
Kings Place, 90 York Way London, N1 9AG (near Kings Cross)

Gender Struggles? Feminism? Sociology?

This event provides a brief introduction and update on how analysing gender inequality in sociology contributes to challenging everyday sexism and gender troubles. It also provides an opportunity for you to raise your own experience and views.

This is a chance to participate in a two hour engagement with feminism and Sociology introduced by leading feminist researchers within sociology and chaired by Lynn Jamieson the President of the British Sociological Association. The event is for all – with or without prior knowledge – from school-pupil to retired academic. All you need is some stake in, interest in or desire to know more about feminism or sociology or to do something about gender inequality. Come and hear some brief contributions offering informed views on sociologists´ and feminists´ analysis of gender inequality and take the opportunity to question, challenge or tell your own stories.

Stevi Jackson, University of York, is a sociologist who has written extensively about sexuality, gender and personal life.

Finn MacKay, University of the West of England, researches feminism as a social movement and works to combine feminism, activist and doing sociology in her own life.

Admission:
BSA members and students in full time education – FREE
Others – £5
To book, please visit our website:
http://portal.britsoc.co.uk/public/event/eventBooking.aspx?id=
EVT10477
Venue:
Kings Place, 90 York Way London, N1 9AG Please direct
any enquires to: E: events@britsoc.org.uk

The Board of The Sociological Review are pleased to announce that the journal is sponsoring a single-themed Research Seminar Series (which may consist of three or more research seminars) as well as three One Day Symposia events.  The Board hopes to make this funding available on an annual basis.

Guidelines for Applicants

The proposed Research Seminar Series and each of the three Symposia should have clear goals, bring together established and new researchers in any area of sociology and focus upon producing imaginative cutting-edge work of sociological and social significance.  We seek proposals that involve collaborations across institutions and disciplines and welcome those that connect sociology to wider communities and the arts.

An important aim of the series and symposia, is to produce papers that will result in innovative publications of interest to the readership of SR (the journal and/or the Monograph series) as well as an on-line Special Issue, the journal would have first refusal on all papers.  Papers would need to go through the usual reviewing procedures and there is no guarantee of publication.

As part of The SR’s mission to serve and enhance the future sociological community, seminars and symposia should be open to members of sociological teaching  groups in colleges and schools.  For example, a number of places could either be made available to local colleges/6th forms. or sessions could be video recorded and offered to these audiences. 

Format:

Either:

a)    a single-themed Research Seminar Series (eg three seminars each with four – six speakers presenting papers).

One grant of up to £6000 is available.

Or:

b)   a single Symposia event lasting one day.

Three separate grants of up to £2000 each are available. 

It is expected that funding will provide for room and equipment hire, consumables, hospitality, travel and accommodation expenses for speakers. It is expected that delegates will not be charged a fee for attending.

NB The funding from The Sociological Review could be match funded with other sources. For instance funding from elsewhere might facilitate and enable connections  and scholarly exchange with artists and sociologists  working with and for communities  and/or  to  support the presentation  and development of new /ongoing research projects. 

How to apply

Further details and an application form are available from The Sociological Review. Contact Mark Carrigan at mark@markcarrigan.net

Deadline for applications: 

2015-6   Open 1st November, 2015 – Close 20th December, 2015

NOTES

(i)        Organizers would consist of the nominated grant-holder (Principal Organizer) plus two additional named participants (co-applicants).  The principal organizer will liaise with a named colleague from The Sociological Review.  The Principal Organizer will organize, promote and manage all aspects of the programme (organizing seminars, dealing with expense forms, submitting claims to the office of The Sociological Review, etc).

(ii)       Topics may include any area within the field of sociology, or topics that engage with key social/sociological issues either through other disciplines or through inter-disciplinary work.

(iii)      Reasonable travel and subsistence expenses for speakers are permitted but not for delegates. Secretarial costs, consumables, hire of room and presentation facilities may also be included.

Fees will not be paid to speakers.

Delegates will not be paid expenses, but there will be no charge for attendance.

NB – Value for money will be one of the criteria used to evaluate proposals.

(iv)      The events will be promoted by the grant-holder/core members through their research networks and through their own departments and institutions. All communications with participants and publicity of events will acknowledge sponsorship by The Sociological Review (eg The University of X in association with The Sociological Review) and the seminars will be promoted as The Sociological Review Seminar Series with the Programme and Abstracts circulated in advance. The help of Wiley-Blackwell will be sought in matters of ‘branding’. Events should be advertised on the websites of participating institutions. The Programme would also be advertised by The Sociological Review and Wiley Blackwell.

(v) Applications will be assessed by a Committee drawn from the Board of The Sociological Review.  The criteria for assessment will include:

1. Sociological innovation.

2. Relevance to The Sociological Review journal

3. Relevance as appropriate topics for Monographs

4. General contribution to sociological analysis.

The potential value and dangers of sociological blogging arise because of an environment in which the demands of audit culture incentivise the production of ‘unread’ and ‘unloved’ publications which are too often written to be counted rather than to be read. The risk is that sociological blogging gets drawn into the pernicious logic of these metrics perhaps with ‘impact’ being measured through the daily visitors a blog receives or the number of times an online article is shared on social media. The temptation arises in part because of the manner in which such analytics are designed into blogging platforms themselves, with all providing numerous ways to view statistics about a blog’s popularity and many third party utilities available which can extend these modes of measurement. Given a broader trend first towards ‘content factories’ and then ‘viral publishers’, as well as the domination of ‘click-bait’, we need to think seriously about the potential for the the logic of the ‘social web’ to act back upon digital scholarship in a way that leads to a slide towards banality. My own experience has been that these considerations can creep in almost surreptitiously, as a seamless extension of rather innocuous practical considerations. If one is investing time in a project that aims to provide a platform for sociological writing then a reliance upon the built in metrics for measuring the circulation of that writing is inevitable. The problems begin when a incipient awareness of the varying popularity of different kinds of writing begins to effect how they are valued.

For example, articles bemoaning the contemporary state of higher education are inevitably very popular (presumably because they both have a broader disciplinary remit then things which are explicitly sociological and appeal to something in the day-to-day professional lives of those reading them) but should this popularity mean that writing of this form becomes particularly valued for the blog itself? It probably should not but it is easy for this slide to happen, with a concern for the blog’s popularity and reach too easily giving rise to a concern for ‘content’ that contributes to these ends. We can see a similar issue with the titles which are chosen on blogs. With even the most casual assessment of the relative ‘performance’ (my unthinking use of this term and overwhelming need to place it in scare quotes reflects the underlying ambivalence I am attempting to convey) of blog posts, it soon becomes clear that the title chosen contributes to how widely ready they are, largely through the mediating factor of how pervasively they are shared on social media. To a certain extent this can be a positive thing, encouraging the choice of informative and evocative titles, as opposed to narrowly descriptive ones. However a recognition of the sheer difference that a title can make, particularly if this is grounded in an engagement with the available data about how widely posts are shared on social media, can surely have a distorting effect. To use a recent example, I found that a post initially entitled “Gender, Reflexivity and Friendship” attracted little attention on social media but was shared extensively when given a new title “The Sociology of Friendship”. Soon after, I found myself rejecting the potential title “Performance, Awkwardness and Sociability” for a similar post (a couple of thousands of words of social theory, too unstructured for an academic article but nonetheless trying to make a serious, albeit meandering, sociological point) in favour of “The Sociology of Awkwardness”. Predictably enough this proved extremely popular and acted as encouragement to pursue similar naming conventions in future. The risk here is that a tendency within online publishing more broadly, in which often quite obnoxious headlines are generated quasi-algorithmically because of their demonstrable impact on the ‘virality’ of a post, creep into online scholarship as a proclivity for data analysis and an investment in the success of a project outweigh the high minded dismissal of these trends.

Perhaps this points towards the emerging need for online editorship to be taken seriously as a form of academic service. It is only in the last two years, partly as a result of editing the LSE’s British Politics and Policy blog as a full time job, that I’ve begun to feel comfortable describing myself as such. Previously, I felt there was a degree of affectation about it, as if describing oneself as an ‘editor’ in relation to a blog was a pretence at seriousness about an inherently unserious activity, something which was occasionally reflected in judgements I received from other people (though inevitably my own insecurity led me to give more weight to their judgement that they probably intended). But given the likely continued expansion of sociological activity online then the role of the blog editor is likely to grow in importance over time, as a gatekeeper to opportunities for professional visibility but also as a mediating factor shaping the emergence of online norms.

While some normative standards are beginning to emerge concerning matters such as attribution, style and format, these are inevitably fragmented and partial. The more seriously we take the role of blog editor then the more reflexively such questions are likely to be approached by those performing this function. This is important given that such individuals are amongst the few actually able to enforce standards online, albeit in a truncated domain, with the solidification of such norms otherwise being largely a matter of mimesis, as individuals observe others in their networks (or beyond them) in order to inform their own emerging practice. If we take editorship in this sense seriously as a form of academic service then we help mitigate against the tendency for such questions to be responded to pragmatically, instead creating the possibility of a ‘third space’ between academic research and journalism occupied by those who are concerned to translate academic knowledge. Either in the sense of being writers themselves who work to popularise academic knowledge by writing about it in a form amenable to a wider readership or by working with academics, whether directly on particular pieces of writing or indirectly through creating structures that incentivise certain forms of communication. My contention is that such a function is not straightforwardly academic but nor is it journalistic. Given the much remarked upon overproduction of PhD graduates, with too few academic jobs available for those awarded doctorates to pursue academic careers, it is intriguing to speculate about the likely implications of a potential funded expansion of group blogging for academic career trajectories.

I am personally within the first cohort for whom this is a viable occupational opportunity, albeit still in a very limited way, with blogging having contributed in an important way to sustaining myself financially through six years of a part-PhD (through working full time as an editor for some time but also through more ad hoc work such as running workshops and managing social media accounts). There is obviously a sense in which I have a vested interest in the expansion of this sphere, given I enjoy this work and, if possible, want to pursue a career path which mixes my own research and social media to the greatest extent possible. It is precisely the existence of such vested interests, as well as the significance of broader institutional trends for academic blogging and vice versa, which makes it imperative that we expand discussions of online writing, as well as other forms of social media engagement, beyond the scope of the merely technical. The communicative opportunities afforded by blogging invite us to consider the purposes of such communication. My suggestion has been that they pose tacit questions of great importance which it is valuable for the discipline as a whole to recover: what is sociology for? How do sociologists communicate? How could they communicate? How should they communicate? Many of the risks which have been discussed reflect a failure to address such questions adequately, with immediacy and novelty potentially squeezing out disciplinary craft rather than acting as an invitation to rethink that craft in light of these changing opportunities.