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Reconstructing Sociology: The Critical Realist Approach

Critical realism is a philosophy of science that positions itself against the major alternative philosophies underlying contemporary sociology. This book offers a general critique of sociology, particularly sociology in the United States, from a critical realist perspective. It also acts as an introduction to critical realism for students and scholars of sociology.

Written in a lively, accessible style, Douglas V. Porpora argues that sociology currently operates with deficient accounts of truth, culture, structure, agency, and causality that are all better served by a critical realist perspective. This approach argues against the alternative sociological perspectives, in particular the dominant positivism which privileges statistical techniques and experimental design over ethnographic and historical approaches.

However, the book also compares critical realism favourably with a range of other approaches, including poststructuralism, pragmatism, interpretivism, practice theory, and relational sociology. Numerous sociological examples are included, and each chapter addresses well-known and current work in sociology.

Reconstructing Sociology will be published by Cambridge University Press in September 2015. See here for more details or to pre-order.


Generative Mechanisms Transforming the Social Order

The latest volume in the Social Morphogenesis series examines how generative mechanisms emerge in the social order and their consequences. It does so in the light of finding answers to the general question posed in this book series: Will Late Modernity be replaced by a social formation that could be called Morphogenic Society?

This volume clarifies what a ‘generative mechanism’ is, to achieve a better understanding of their social origins, and to delineate in what way such mechanisms exert effects within a current social formation, either stabilizing it or leading to changes potentially replacing it . The book explores questions about conjuncture, convergence and countervailing effects of morphogenetic mechanisms in order to assess their impact. Simultaneously, it looks at how products of positive feedback intertwine with the results of (morphostatic) negative feedback. This process also requires clarification, especially about the conditions under which morphostasis prevails over morphogenesis and vice versa. It raises the issue as to whether their co-existence can be other than short-lived.

The volume addresses whether or not there also is a process of ‘morpho-necrosis’, i.e. the ultimate demise of certain morphostatic mechanisms, such that they cannot ‘recover’. The book concludes that not only are generative mechanisms required to explain associations between variables involved in the replacement of Late Modernity by Morphogenic Society, but they are also robust enough to account for cases and times when such variables show no significant correlations.

See here to order a copy or review a table of

Social Networks and Belonging, June 10th at Keele

Social Networks and Belonging

Sociology Workshop

Wednesday, 10th June 2015

2.00pm – 5.30pm

Chancellor’s Building: CBA1.078/9

Refugee Week is a UK-wide programme of arts, cultural and education events and activities that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and promotes better understanding of why people seek sanctuary’ (Refugee Week nd). It involves thousands of people, institutions, organizations, and individuals throughout the country. Last year Keele joined Refugee Week for the first time by hosting a weeklong photographic exhibition, an opening event with a musical performance and a poetry open mic night. Placing our university on the map alongside numerous institutions and cultural hubs across the country and building on previous success, this year Keele Refugee Week will be hosting an even richer programme of events.

As part of the national and Keele Refugee Week celebrations, this year Sociology will be hosting a half-day workshop to highlight research on the theme of social networks and belonging among refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. Presentations will examine the politics and performances of asylum within different domestic contexts, and attempt to unpack some of the complex relationships that form between ‘host’ and ‘guest’ and within migrant networks.

This free event aims to bring together academics, students, refugees and asylum seekers and those working with refugees and asylum seekers, and to encourage lively debate about the challenges and opportunities facing refugees in the UK.


2.00: Welcome and introduction

Dr Siobhan Holohan, Keele University

2.15: Presentations

Dr Jonathan Darling, Manchester University

Dispersal and Disruption:

The Challenges of Isolation within the Asylum Accommodation Model

Natalie Soleiman, PhD Candidate, Keele University

Seeking Refuge in the UK:

An Iranian Story of Asylum and Living in the ‘In-betweens’

3.30: Break for refreshments

3.45: Presentations

Dr Simon Goodman, Coventry University

The Role of Social Networks for Asylum Seekers in the Midlands

Dr Ala Sirriyeh, Keele University

‘This is in a way my birthplace’:

Young Refugee Women, Social Relationships and Networks

5.00: Exhibition

Discussion and art exhibition by women from the ‘Women Together’ project based in Huddersfield

(Refreshments will be available)

Admission is free; however, please confirm your attendance with Siobhan Holohan ( or Ala Sirriyeh ( by Monday, 1st June for catering purposes.

Find us on the first floor of Chancellor’s Building ‘A’ block: download campus map.

For more information about National Refugee Week go to:

For information about Keele Refugee Week activities go to:

BSA MedSoc Annual Conference 2015 – Funded Places Available

British Sociological Association



Thanks to successful conferences in recent years, the BSA Medical Sociology Group committee has been able to increase its support for a number of groups who may find it difficult to obtain funding for attendance at its annual conference.  For the 2015 Annual Conference, which will take place on 9-11 September at the University of York, a number of free places will be available (including registration, meals, accommodation and conference dinner):

  • 20 free places for postgraduate students
  • 12 free places for individuals who are unwaged, low-waged or working outside academia (e.g. sociologists in non-academic posts, in civil society organisations or service user groups, etc.)

These places will be distributed to eligible individuals who apply to the BSA before 19 June 2015.  If there are more applicants than available places, then places will be allotted to eligible applicants through a process of random allocation.

To apply for a place, please visit  for detailed eligibility and to download the application form.

Please note those who have previously received a funded place will not be eligible to apply.

Completed forms should be sent to before the deadline above.

You will be notified regarding you application shortly after the deadline.  If you are unsuccessful, you will be placed on a reserve list.  If you are successful and later find that you are unable to attend the conference, please notify the BSA office as soon as possible, so that the place might be offered to someone on the reserve list.

Please note that free places cover registration, accommodation and subsistence for the conference.  Unfortunately it is not possible to subsidise travel to and from the conference.

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When corporations try too hard on social media

OMG Mega Lolz, FML, I can haz KitKat? I’ve just been writing about this KitKat post in my social media book. It’s a great example of a corporate brand trying too hard when engaging on social media. But as Kate Loose points out in this wonderful New Inquiry article, it’s much creepier when they get it right. The KitKat post is just slightly awkward but I find the broader trend completely unnerving:

But slowly, and by 2014, very quickly, the insouciant, lower-case voice became the mainstream, corporate voice. Now, a Denny’s tweet can sound more casual and on meme than any individual’s Twitter account. And it isn’t just Denny’s: Brands from Chipotle to Hamburger Helper have gained massive followings this way. If in the past five years we all had to grow up somewhat — Carles doesn’t even tweet anymore — how is it that corporations grew down, becoming the new meme-aware “teens” of social media?

It is a fact of marketing that brands can’t ask for business too directly. People tend to recoil from requests that feel too direct, and this is why social-media accounts explicitly selling anything seem like spam, triggering disinterest. Brands have to make us want them by giving us something: in branding terms, providing #value. This is how humor, or the gift of laughs, becomes the universal gift that any Twitter account can provide to its followers, as  #weirdtwitter proved in its universe of thousands of anonymous accounts tweeting nonsensical humor at each other.


Demonstration Against Casualisation and TeachHigher

Demonstration Against Casualisation and TeachHigher
Friday 19 June, 12 noon, Library Road
No to casualisation of academic staff!”
Make your voice heard at Warwick University Open Day!
TeachHigher threatens job security and quality education at ALL UK universities
We need to act now, and act together, to put an end to TeachHigher once and for all!
For updates keep an eye on our blog:

Workshop on gender and climate change – 29th May

Gender and Climate Change workshop

Friday May 29th from 2.00 til 4.30 

Wolfson Research Exchange at the University of Warwick

Sherilyn MacGregor (Keele)

Vulnerable victims or resilient subjects? Dismantling the gendered discursive traps of climate change politics


Feminist activists and policy professionals have provided ample evidence that the impacts of climate change have gender dimensions, thereby putting gender on the international climate agenda.  Feminist academics have been much slower to take up the issue, resulting in a shortage of theoretical scholarship on gender and climate change.  What can feminist political theorizing contribute to the project of developing gender-sensitive responses to this serious global challenge?   I argue that one task should be to complement field-based research on women’s experiences of climate change with feminist constructivist analyses of how discursive framings of ‘the problem’ and policy solutions often serve to reinforce neoliberal, patriarchal power relations.   Understanding the complex workings of ideology, language, and power can help us to beware the discursive traps that inevitably threaten all those who work for counter-hegemonic social change.  To illustrate this approach, I use feminist critical discourse analysis to interrogate the emergence of a vulnerability-resilience dualism that now dominates climate policy at all levels.   I show that within the adaptation literature, the construction of the ‘resilient subject’ in opposition to the ‘vulnerable victim’ fits squarely within the dominant post-political agenda: it is founded on scientistic and masculinist values; it naturalizes neoliberal rationalities of governance; and it deflates the political capacities and identities of people as citizens.  The vulnerable climate victim is weak, usually feminized, and in need of ‘knowledge transfer’ in order to become robust and self-reliant enough to survive and thrive in harsh new conditions beyond control.  Not only does this simplistic binary ignore complexities on the ground, including the dubious construction of masculine resilience, but it also removes expectations of citizen resistance to the root causes of ecological crisis, thereby casting it as non-political fait accompli. I argue that feminist theoretical analyses should expose and devise strategies for avoiding this and other discursive traps that exist within the sphere of climate change politics and policy.

Biographical note

Dr Sherilyn MacGregor (PhD York University-Toronto) is senior lecturer in Environmental Politics and director of the Environmental Studies programme at Keele University in the UK. Her research expertise lies in the fields of gender politics and environmental politics, with a special focus on the theoretical and policy connections between sustainability, citizenship and social reproduction. She is joint editor of Environmental Politics journal and director of PublicSpace, a not-for-profit company specializing in research communication in the public interest.

Lopa Saxena (Coventry)

Gender, Climate Change and Food Sovereignty in South Asia: an exploration from a feminist political ecology perspective
In South Asia as in many other agrarian economies in the developing South, the gendered impacts of Climate Change have led to women being disproportionately affected posing a substantial threat to food security. On the other hand, Food Sovereignty is attracting much attention as a form of resistance to dominant neo-liberal influences on food, agriculture and rural development. I am exploring the relation between the two from a Feminist Political Ecology perspective looking at some of the issues in relation to production, gender and climate change adaptation.

Biographical note
Dr Lopa Saxena has recently become a Research Associate in the Centre for Agro-ecology, Water and Resilience in Coventry University. Previously she was working as an independent researcher on consultancies and has worked on University-led team projects. Her research interests include Food Security, Climate Change and Gender, Vulnerability and Resilience, Gender and Disasters, Sustainable Land and Water use Practices, and Women Entrepreneurship. She holds a PhD in Environmental Economics and Environmental Management from the University of York (UK).

Rebekah Martin is an MA student on the Gender and International Development programme in the Department of Sociology at Warwick. She will introduce the film ‘Missing: the forgotten women in India’s climate plans’.

The Journal of Applied Social Theory

The Journal of Applied Social Theory is an exciting new journal launched by the team behind Social Theory Applied:

The Journal of Applied Social Theory aims to provide an intellectual space where critical applications of social theory (in all its varied forms) can flourish.

The objective in setting up this new open-access journal is to fill a gap in current academic debates regarding the treatment of well-established and sometimes revered theories, theories that can all too often inhibit discussion while shying away from more applied forms of theoretical work.

By providing this platform for debate around social theory and its applications, we aim to make a strong contribution to critical understandings of how theory can be applied to various forms of practice – professional research, policy, practitioner, etc. All too often we find discussions of theory divorced from method and/or separated from practice. We hope that in the long run the Journal of Applied Social Theory can offer an online space where such troublesome boundaries and dichotomies can be traversed.

We also envisage the journal providing a space for future innovation across a range of areas, not just in contributions to intellectual knowledge, but also issues of style, delivery, engagement and impact. Combined with our sister website Social Theory Applied we see this new journal as having a role in delivering on the promise of the digital public sphere. We have a clear and unambiguous commitment to democratising knowledge while staying true to the ‘traditional’ emphasis on academic standards and peer review. In this important regard, the journal is itself a boundary spanner looking to making the best of both worlds while seeking ways via which we can shape future alternatives around questions of access, academic knowledge and impact.

Given the scope of the journal, we have a number of audiences in our sights. These include the ever growing number of academics working across a wide range of disciplines who are engaged in the application of social theory in their research. Moreover, we would like to engage with communities outside the academy. These include people working in different forms of professional practice (e.g. teachers, public administrators, health sector workers, industry, etc.), policy makers at various levels of governance (regional, national and international), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and interested members of the wider public. Over time, what we would really like to achieve is a digital space where the interests, values, and ideas of these audiences can come together and create alternative forms of knowledge. After all, no one sector has a monopoly on useful knowledge.

To achieve this, the journal consists of two main sections:

  1. Social Theory and Research
  2. Social Theory and Society

These sections inevitably overlap to some extent but they have the purpose of serving different forms of practice – the first serving researchers who wish to report and discuss the challenges of combining theory and method, whilst the second section provides a home for academics and/or practitioners and/or policy makers who want to reflect more generally on social issues via a socio-theoretical lens. The second category is wider but deliberately so; we aim to be as inclusive as possible and engage with as wide a readership as we can.


How you can become a Twitter ninja in 7 days or less

Apologies for the title. It’s intended as an example of what this post discusses: what titles work well on Twitter? The Buffer team share examples of titles that have proved particularly effective on their blog. Their average tweets receive 100-150 clicks whereas all of these reliably receive over 200:

  1. Twitter Tips for Beginners: Everything I Wish I Knew When I Started
  2. How I Got 4x Faster Writing Blogposts
  3. The Origin of the 8-Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It
  4. 59 Free Twitter Tools and Apps That Do Pretty Much Everything
  5. Shave 20 Hours Off Your Work Week With This Email Template
  6. How to Get Your First 1,000 Followers on Twitter — A step-by-step guide!
  7. 30 Little-Known Features of the #SocialMedia Sites You Use Every Day
  8. How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day on the Internet
  9. 7 Ways I Accidentally Got More Twitter Followers (and How You Can on Purpose!)
  10. 53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts

They describe how these titles use a range of reliable strategies which anyone can use when blogging:


My own experience suggests their claims are accurate. But I’m still hesitant when it comes to academic blogging. Ideally I’d like to find a middle ground between these social media friendly titles and the ‘narrative titles’ that the LSE blogs use. My fear is that following the metrics too closely inevitably leads us into Upworthy territory: “You’ll never believe what this start-up company is telling us about what academics have to do in order to succeed at social media”. That would be bad, right?

Queering ESOL: towards a cultural politics of LGBT politics in the ESOL classroom

‘Queering ESOL: towards a cultural politics of LGBT politics in the ESOL classroom’
UCL Institute of Education
19 – 20 June 2015

For info about previous seminars go to:

Plenary speakers
Luiz Paulo da Moita Lopes (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
Queering language teaching in Brazilian schools

Holly Cashman (University of New Hampshire)
Making queer latinidad visible in the U.S. Southwest: xenophobia, identity politics, and resistance

Tommaso Milano (University of Witwatersrand)
Queer entanglements: representations, practices and the complex politics of sexuality in South Africa

Susan Stryker (University of Arizona)
Crossing Genders, Crossing Borders: Transgender in Transnational Contexts

Confirmed invited speakers
Helen Saunston (York St John University)
Queering TESOL in international learning contexts

Mark McCormack (Durham University)
Moving beyond homophobic language: the intent-context-effect matrix

Nick Mai (London Metropolitan University and Aix-Marseille)
Assembling ‘Samira’ and ‘Travel’: understanding sexual humanitarianism through experimental ethnofictional filmmaking

Rusi Jaspal (De Montfort University)
ESOL An Opportunity for Challenging Homophobia

Jason Ho (City University of Hong Kong)
“Blue pill or red pill” (or both?): Critical and dramatic inquiry approaches in a CLIL curriculum on sexism, heterosexism, and transphobia

There will also be contributions from Francesca Stella (University of Glasgow), Laila El-Metoui (LGBTiq inclusion in Further Education), Joanna Pawelczyk and Łukasz Pakuła (Adam Mickiewicz University), Thorsten Merse(Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität), Mike Baynham (University of Leeds), Yiu Tung Suen(City University Hong Kong), Melanie Cook (King’s College London) and John Gray (UCL Institute of Education).

The conference will also include the screening of the film Samira, which will be introduced by the director Nick Mai.

To reserve a place contact Tracy Modha (

Note that this event is free and that funding for travel of up to £75 per attendee is available for research students and ESOL practitioners.

The Study of the Learner Identity in Neoliberal Times

by Garth Stahl

Class, gender, and ethnicity, while contested areas, all play a role in the constitution of identity as the self is not fixed. Identities are not distinct from discourses but instead produced by and through them. As collections of meaning imbued with symbolic connotations, discourses define objects set parameters on what we can think, feel, and be (MacLure 2003), where we may ‘make ourselves but not in conditions of our own choosing’ (Archer et al., 2010). Neoliberalism, as an extension of human capital theory which suggests that individuals and society derive economic benefits from investments in people (Sweetland, 1996, p. 341), was a step toward eliminating ‘class as a central economic concept’ (Bowles & Gintis, 1975, p. 74). Current iterations of neoliberalism function as a political, economic, and ideological system that gives considerable credence to the market as the best, most efficient platform for distributing public resources. This macro-level structural framework attributes greater consideration of individual duty than government responsibility (Gillborn & Youdell, 2000; Reay, David, & Ball, 2005; Zipin, Sellar, Brennan, & Gale, 2013).

Archer and Francis (2007) write that in the neoliberal reading ‘there are no foundational aspects of selfhood such as “race” or gender that preclude an individual from taking up the opportunities available to them – failure to do so simply reflects an individual lack of enterprise’ (p. 19). Within a neoliberal discourse it is argued that the self is malleable, constantly made and re-made as people must become ‘entrepreneurs of the self.’ Neoliberal ideology privileges the reflexive modernisation thesis where historic conventions of femininity and masculinity can arguably be reinscribed in new ways (cf. Adkins 2000; Kenway and Kelly, 2000) and where historic and gender-based inequalities exist simultaneously with evidence of changed expectations (Adkins, 2000). In our neoliberal times, Davies and Bansel (2007) have claim:

The so-called ‘passive’ citizen of the welfare state becomes the autonomous ‘active‘ citizen with rights, duties, obligations, and expectations—the citizen as active entrepreneur of the self; the citizen as morally superior. This is not simply a reactivation of liberal values of self-reliance, autonomy and independence as the necessary conditions for self-respect, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-advancement but rather an emphasis on enterprise and the capitalization of existence itself through calculated acts and investments combined with the shrugging off of collective responsibility for the vulnerable and marginalized. (p. 252)

The neo-liberal rhetoric, where context is ignored for the sake of the entrepreneurial self, has the ability to create conditions of heightened fixity especially if one lacks certain capitals. Within neoliberalism, risk is always pervasive where today young people often seek to manage the riskiness of transitions from school to work through a range of strategies including cultivating certain identities. Saturated in labels of success/failure and active/stagnant, education today is infused with the neoliberal prerogative which increasingly fixes identities within rhetoric is risk.

The neoliberal education experience

The neoliberal policy which permeates classroom discourses becomes a powerful mediating force in the identity construction of all students (Phoenix, 2004). Neoliberalism, with its promotion of ‘efficiency’, ‘productivity’, ‘targets’, and ‘choice’, enables competition and market-driven results without strategic consideration to the gross economic inequalities it creates, particularly for marginalised communities (Ball, 2009; 2012;). Working-class students both present learner identities and have learner identities imposed upon them within a highly pressurized and stratified educational environment.

As pedagogic processes become influenced by neoliberal logic, there are overt and subtle consequences for gender identities. The presence of a competitive ‘performance-oriented culture generates anxiety, especially among boys whose gender identity needs to be based on achieving power, status, and superiority’ (Arnot, 2004, p. 35). In terms of gender, we must consider the sublimation of certain elements of the self as particularly potent for working-class boys who construct their masculinity around traditional models of ‘breadwinners’ in economies where their employment ‘choices’ are increasingly limited. In contrast, femininity seems to be less impacted by neoliberal logics as young women have been documented as ideal, flexible, neoliberal subjects (McRobbie, 2008; Walkerdine 2003).

In considering the identity work of students, the concept of ‘positioning’ raises the question of possible selves which are contradictory both to other selves and to internal selves (Davies, 1989, p. 229). The production of the self, our subjectivity, involves learning inclusive and exclusive practices and positioning oneself in relation to these practices to establish a sense of belonging (Davies & Harre, 1990). Further, it is argued that human beings ‘are characterized both by continuous personal identity and by discontinuous personal diversity’, where selfhood is the product of discursive practices and these processes lead to a multiplicity of selves (Davies & Harre, 1990, p. 46). As a result, individuals are active agents who position themselves (‘reflexive positioning’) and are positioned by others through social interaction (‘interactive positioning’) as gendered, classed, and ethnic individuals (Davies & Harre, 1990). Therefore, identity work involves grappling with both subjective constraints and the constraints of accepted discursive practices (Renold, 2004), often within powerful neoliberal discourses (Francis, 2000).

When considering an analysis of learner identities with engagement/disaffection, the emotional power of education is in the creation of the self. In schooling, the self is increasingly sublimated through neo-liberal agendas, where ‘it is the duty of the individual to be sufficiently flexible to maximize the opportunities available to her/him, and any failure resides in the individual rather than in the socio-economic structures’ (Francis, 2006, p. 191). When considering identity as negotiated through school contexts, it is essential to consider the ‘web’ of numerous and complex factors that contribute to disaffection toward school (Stevenson & Ellsworth, 1991). Therefore school failure/success is bound up with the process of students doing ‘identity work’, where young people’s engagement with schooling ‘depends in part on the sense they make of themselves, their community, and their future and in part on “the adaptive strategies” they use to accept, modify, or resist the institutional identities made available’ (Smyth, 2006, p. 290). Within or beyond the classroom, identity is positioned through conceptions of the collective and the individual and in a constant form of negotiation as it is constructively articulated, debated, and problematised.

Works Cited:

Adkins, L. (2000). Objects of innovation: Post-occupational reflexivity and re-traditionalisations of gender. In S. Ahmed, J. Kilby, C. Lury, M. McNeil, & B. Skeggs (Eds.), Transformations: Thinking through feminism (p. 331). London: Routledge.
Archer, L., & Francis, B. (2007). Understanding minority ethnic achievement. Oxon: Routledge.
Archer, L., Hollingworth, S., & Mendick, H. (2010). Urban youth and schooling: The experiences and identities of educationally ‘at risk’ young people. Berkshire: Open University Press.
Arnot, M. (2004). Male working-class identities and social justice: A reconsideration of Paul Willis’s Learning to Labor in light of contemporary research. In N. Dolby, G. Dimitriadis, & P. Willis (Eds.), Learning to Labor in new times (p. 231). New York: Routledge.
Ball, S. J. (2009). Academies in context: Politics, business and philanthropy and heterarchical governance. Management in Education, 23(3), 100–103.
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1975). The problem with human capital theory––A Marxist critique. The American Economic Review, 65(2), 74-82.
Davies, B., & Bansel, P. (2007). Neoliberalism and education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20(3), 247-256.
Davies, B., & Harre, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20(1), 44-63.
Francis, B. (2000). Boys, girls and achievement: Addressing the classroom issues. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
Francis, B. (2006). Heroes or zeroes? The discursive positioning of ‘underachieving boys’ in English neo-liberal education policy. Journal of Education Policy, 21(2), 187-200.
Gillborn, D., & Youdell, D. (2000). Rationing education: Policy, practice, reform and equity. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Kenway, J., & Kelly, P. (2000). Local/global labour markets and the restructuring of gender, schooling, and work. In N. Stromquist, & K. Monkham (Eds.), Globalisation and education: Integration and contestation across cultures (pp. 173-195). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
MacLure, M. (2003). Discourse in educational and social research. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Reay, D., David, M. E., & Ball, S. (2005). Degrees of choice: Social class, race and gender in higher education. London: Institute of Education.
Renold, E. (2004). ‘Other’ boys: Negotiating non-hegemonic masculinities in the primary school. Gender & Education, 16(2), 247-265.
Stevenson, R. B., & Ellsworth, J. (1991). Dropping out in a working class high school: Adolescent voices on the decision to leave. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 12(3), 277-291.
Sweetland, S. R. (1996). Human capital theory: Foundations of a field of inquiry. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 341-359.
Zipin, L., Sellar, S., Brennan, M., & Gale, T. (2013). Educating for futures in marginalized regions: A sociological framework for rethinking and researching aspirations. Educational Philosophy and Theory 45, 1-20.

About the author: Garth Stahl (@GarthStahl) is a Lecturer in Literacy and Sociology at University of South Australia. He is a theorist of sociology of education. His research interests lie on the nexus of neoliberalism and socio-cultural studies of education, identity, equity/inequality and social change. Currently, his research projects and publications encompass theoretical and empirical studies of learner identities, gender and youth, sociology of schooling in a neoliberal age, gendered subjectivities, equity and difference, and educational reform. Of particular interest to him is exploring counternarratives to neoliberalism around ‘value’ and ‘respectability’ for working-class youth. His book, entitled Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-class Boys is now available from Routledge.

2015 Social Media, Activism, and Organisations Symposium (#SMAO15)

2015 Social Media, Activism, and Organisations Symposium (#SMAO15)

Call for Submissions

Social media (from mainstream platforms such as Twitter to organization-specific tools) have become increasingly pervasive. This is exemplified by the diversity of uses ranging from Twitter and Facebook use during the Arab spring to the use of Snapchat by highly surveilled activist groups. Many social movements have increasingly seen social media as a means to collaboratively crowdsource, to network and communicate with diverse stakeholders. In large  organizations, social media is often supported because the technology can help foster the sense of a “digital village”, where individuals are able to “see” the lives of others within their organization and feel closer to them. However, the literature on social movements and social media has not fully grasped just how much social media has fundamentally changed the landscape of organizational communication, ranging from stakeholders being able to directly mobilize resources to making grassroots transnational social movements more organizationally feasible. Social Media, Activism, and Organisations (#SMAO15) seeks to better our understandings of how social media has shaped social movement organizations and the organization of social movements.

The Social Media, Activism, and Organisations symposium will be held in London, England on November 6, 2015 at Goldsmiths, University of London. The symposium is sponsored by The Sociological Review, The Centre for Creative & Social Technologies at Goldsmiths, and the Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths.

We invite you to submit short papers which explore the social media-influenced intersections of social movements and organisations. Full papers are not required for this conference, only short papers (~2500 words, excluding references) related to the broad theme of “Social Media, Activism, and Organisations”.

Papers should be submitted by September 7, 2015 via Easy Chair at and there is no preset template for submission. If selected, the author(s) will be invited to give a 15-minute oral presentation followed by a 5 min Q&A period at the symposium.

Author(s) of accepted paper abstracts may also be invited to submit full papers to a special issue of The Sociological Review, published by Wiley.


•    Organisational communication and social media

•    Democratizing organisational structures via social media

•    Gender, social media, activism, and organisations

•    Activist knowledge aggregation techniques

•    Enterprise applications and social activism

•    Collaboration, social media, and activism

•    Virtual teams, social media and activism

•    Activist networks and organizational communication

•    Social media and organizational leadership

•    Communicating organizational messages via social media

•    Social media and advocacy organizations

•    Inter-movement organizational communication and social media

•   Visual social media and organisations

•    Implications of anonymous social media

We welcome both theoretical and empirical papers and the symposium seeks to showcase a variety of case studies to advance our understandings of how social media has shaped social movement organizations and the organization of social movements.


The Relational Subject

“The Relational Subject by Pierpaolo Donati and Margaret S. Archer

Many social theorists now call themselves ‘relational sociologists’, but mean entirely different things by it. The majority endorse a ‘flat ontology’, dealing exclusively with dyadic relations. Consequently, they cannot explain the context in which relationships occur or their consequences, except as resultants of endless ‘transactions’.

This book adopts a different approach which regards ‘the relation’ itself as an emergent property, with internal causal effects upon its participants and external ones on others. The authors argue that most ‘relationists’ seem unaware that analytical philosophers, such as Searle, Gilbert and Tuomela, have spent years trying to conceptualize the ‘We’ as dependent upon shared intentionality.

Donati and Archer change the focus away from ‘We thinking’ and argue that ‘We-ness’ derives from subjects’ reflexive orientations towards the emergent relational ‘goods’ and ‘evils’ they themselves generate. Their approach could be called ‘relational realism’, though they suggest that realists, too, have failed to explore the ‘relational subject’.

The Relational Subject will be published by Cambridge University Press in July 2015. See here for more details or to pre-order.

Re-appropriating Value(s) in Higher Education

Re-appropriating Value(s) in Higher Education

25th June, University of Manchester

Despite years of investment into widening participation agendas, marginalised persons, whether in terms of class, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality or disability, remain ‘devalued’ (Skeggs and Loveday 2012) owing to systems and structures of Higher Education. Reappropriating Value(s) will be a day of discussion and will bring together various academics and practitioners whose work speaks towards, or takes direct action against these practices. See here for confirmed speakers’ abstracts.

Schedule for the Day

9:30-10:15:           Registration (tea/coffee)

10:15-10:30:         Welcome and introduction to the day

Morning Session: Re-appropriating Values (theoretically and empirically) 

10:30-11:15:         Keynote 1

Dr Stephanie Lawler: ‘We’ve been framed!’ Value, social magic and symbolic power

11:15-12:15:         Panel 1

Jessie Abrahams: Honourable Mobility or Shameless Entitlement? Social class and graduate employment

Rashida Bibi:  “I understand how the world works much better”: British South Asian Muslim women and experiences of Higher Education

Hilary Stewart: Disability, Symbolic Capitals and the Psychosocial

12:15-12:45:         Discussion with keynote and panel

12:45-1:45:           Lunch (provided)

Afternoon Session: Re-appropriating Values (politically, practically, pragmatically)

1:45-2:30:              Keynote 2

Prof. Tracy Shildrick and Prof. Rob McDonald: ‘Fat Cat Sociology’ Revisited: the pressures and possibilities of ‘public sociology’ and ‘real world’ research impact

2:30-3:10               Panel 2

Victoria Armstrong: Introducing Mad Studies…

Dr Lisa McKenzie: ‘Beyond Capital’: The value of academic work

3:10-3:40               Discussion with keynote and panel

3:40-4:30               Closing Comments & Ways Forward

4:30-6:00               Wine Reception and further discussion

6:00                        Meal and more drinks for those interested

Book here:

For more info, contact or

Location information here:

Critical Realism: Reimagining Social Science

“Critical Realism: Reimagining Social Science”
 at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame/South Bend, Indiana, USA
27-30 July 2015
“What difference does critical realism make for how we do our empirical work?” More work must be done on how Critical realism may re-orient practical Research.
Papers applying a critical realist approach are invited on all topics, but in particular papers that focus on the practical, analytical and methodological implications of critical realism.

The Conference program will include a memorial for Roy Bhaskar (1944-2014)

Details about conference registration, paper submissions, housing and more: 
Submission of papers: send abstract of no more than 500 words to Nicolette Manglos-Weber by April 15th 2015
Conference registration deadline: May 30 2015
Registration costs: $ 400 USD
Conference organiser is professor Christian Smith, Department of Sociology, University of Notre Dame.
After the Conference a one-day interdisciplinary workshop will be held on What Conversations about Science, Religion and Theology does Critical Realism make Possible (that other Philosophies of Science Do Not)?
The annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) will be held August 22-25 in Chicago. Notre Dame is two hours away from Chcago, and IACR participants may want to prolong their stay to attend the ASA Conference.

How to live tweet effectively at academic conferences

This useful post on the Pickle Jar blog offers some pointers about effective live tweeting. I agree it’s important to remember that most (?) people reading your live tweets won’t be in the room with you and thus will be confused by any features of the context you take for granted in your tweets. In that sense, I think this is excellent advice:

Context is key. If you’re sending a tweet out into the world, assume your audience knows very little. If you hear something interesting, try to share it as if you’re sharing words of wisdom with someone who wasn’t there. Feel free to paraphrase, and take pictures of the slides if there’s just too much amazing stuff on there for 140 characters. Those who aren’t there will get something out of it, and those that are will have a reminder that they can re-tweet or favourite.

But surely live tweeting also serves a purpose for people within the room? The experience of live tweeting has often lived up to the rhetoric of the ‘back channel': offering an outlet for both exchange with and awareness of other people at the event, many of whom I’ve never previously met. There are obviously risks posed by this (a topic for another post) but it’s also something that can introduce a novel sociality into what might otherwise be a large and impersonal event.

This is why I think it’s important to distinguish between the official live-tweeter (scene setter, context communicator and summariser in chief) and the voluntary live-tweeting of others at the event. Part of the role of the former is to encourage the latter through regular retweets and rapid responses to any questions. But another crucial part is to provide a sufficient sense of the context to ‘outsiders’ for the flurry of activity taking place amongst ‘insiders’ to be comprehensible and engaging. The insider activity isn’t a threat to the quality of the live tweeting, it’s rather what can make a hashtag fascinating to read if there is someone mediating between the two in order to ensure that ‘insiders’ don’t exclude ‘outsiders’ by taking their shared context for granted.

There are numerous ways to establish context: regular reminders of what the hashtag is (e.g. “We’re live tweeting from  @BritSoci conference day 2, #BritSoc15″), taking pictures of the venue itself to convey a sense of place, regular statements of the schedule (e.g. “Our next speaker is @mark_carrigan from @SocioWarwick talking about social ontology of social movements”) and signalling openness to queries (e.g. “If you have any questions about #BritSoc15, whether you’re here or not, please get in touch!”). This kind of activity can help if you’re subsequently using the hashtag as a basis to compile a report of the event by providing way marks to make sense of what can be a vast stream of activity. But more importantly I think it also contributes to the accessibility of the event, structuring what might otherwise be an intimidating mass of communication and doing so in a way which encourages it to grow.

There’s a really important suggestion later in the Pickle Jar post which I’ve only recently started doing myself:

One way to really add some useful background is to start digging up links. Is the person on stage mentioning a project they worked on? Dig up a link to that project (or better still, a video about it), and share that on the conference hashtag. Do they have a personal site, with background detail? Go find it, and share it. It may seem like a bit of a slog, but Google is your friend here.

I prefer to live tweet on a phone but I’m planning in future to always use my laptop for this reason. If someone mentions a paper they’ve written, look it up and tweet the link! Tweet the institutional profile of the speaker and always ensure you link to their personal twitter feed and tag the department as well if they have a twitter presence.  In this sense, the official live tweeter does a large part of the ‘networking’ in order that other people don’t have to.

There’s suggestions later in the post which I’ve experimented with in the past but found people quite reluctant to participate in. Perhaps it’s how I’m phrasing it? But the promise of Audioboom for micro-podcasts with speakers really fascinates me and I’ve love to find a way to suggest this possibility to speakers that doesn’t immediately make them recoil in horror:

While you’re there, how about tracking a few speakers down for an audio interview? We’ve already chatted about the possibilities of platforms such as Audioboom, and you can use these with little more than a smartphone and a quiet sideroom or corridor.

If video’s more your thing, why not provide some great content for curators and your followers by capturing a quick chat or a tech demo using Youtube CaptureVine, or Instagram Video? Or if you’ve got an audience that isn’t in a wildly-different timezone, why not livestream an interview or a quick event summary using Periscope or Meerkat?

Boyhood in Neoliberal Times: The ‘Crisis of Masculinity’ Debate, Post-industrialisation, and Identity Work

by Garth Stahl

In the late 20th/early 21st century, many scholars (Mac an Ghaill, 1994; Fine, Weis, Addelston, & Marusza, 1997; Weis, 2004; Nayak, 2003; 2006) have cited the massive societal shifts in economic and gender-relations which have resulted in fragmented rites of passage (employment, marriage) and which have placed the males in a position of confusion commonly called the ‘crisis of masculinity’ (Faludi, 1999). Evolving from the moral panic concerning boys’ ‘underachievement’ (Griffin, 2000) and, more specifically, underachieving working-class males (Epstein, 1998), debates over ‘failing boys’ has focused on the complexities associated with the so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’ (Faludi, 1999) and boys ‘underachievement’ in schooling. A highly charged context of backlash politics has shaped a particular gender agenda, and in this miscellany we see arguments concerning boys (as a homogenized group) portrayed as victims of discrimination both in schooling and in wider society (Weaver-Hightower, 2003).

As the so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’ (Faludi, 1999) occurs beyond the classroom, there has also been major pedagogic shifts inside the classroom; school processes have become increasingly neo-liberal (league tables, high stakes testing, a rise in accountability), which creates more difference and influences the how learner identities are formed (Francis, 2006; Wilkins 2011). In his analysis of the ‘boy turn’ in education, Weaver-Hightower (2003) argues that there have been four main strands to the ongoing debate on boys’ education: popular-rhetorical, theoretically oriented, practice oriented, and the feminist and pro-feminist. Weaver-Hightower contends a significant prompt for the ‘boy turn’ has been ‘increasing neoliberal education reforms and the rise of the New Right-the conservative restoration since the 1980s’ which is particularly true in England, where neoliberal reforms ‘produced an educational choice structure in which schools compete with one another for students’ (p. 476). Epstein, Elwood, Hey, and Maw, (1999) identified separate discourses used in the popular and academic press to explain boys‘ educational underperformance: ‘poor boys’, ‘boys will be boys’, ‘at risk boys’, and ‘problem boys’. While these discourses have framed key debates in gender theory concerning boys, the neoliberal policy drivers ensure that working-class boys are individualised and held accountable for their failure (Francis, 2006, p. 191). Furthermore, such neo-liberal discourses, while denying the existence of any real class distinctions, limit the discursive space in which various forms of working-class masculinity are acceptable.

‘Urgency’ and ‘solutions’?

Griffin (2000) argues that the ‘language of crisis, alarm and urgency’ (p. 170) is typically followed by a list of school-based remedies which have been posed by policy-makers to counteract male ‘underachievement’ (for critiques see Skelton, 2003; Weaver-Hightower, 2008). There have been a plethora of policy responses to this perceived ‘crisis’ but very few take into account the ‘very significant ways in which the social construction of gender impacts significantly on curriculum, pedagogical practices and relations with and between students in schools’ (Lingard, Martino, & Mills, 2009, pp. 9-10). In the policy discourses surrounding boys and schooling, there are ‘constant slippages’ that reaffirm what are ‘natural predispositions or learning behaviours and orientations for both boys and girls’ [emphasis in original] (Mills, Martino, & Lingard, 2007, p. 15). Drawing on biological essentialist notions and Gardner‘s multiple intelligences, certain common tropes such as kinesthetic learning, devaluing inter/intrapersonal skills, preferring explicit/relevant teaching, and requiring male role models to learn often tend to dominate. Such strategies fail to acknowledge the culture of masculinity as well as environments and discourses from which boys draw their identity from. These initiatives risk homogenizing working-class boys into one cohesive group when we must recognize heterogeneity and their diversity in values, attitudes, and behaviour and how these are influenced heavily by their school and social contexts.

The working-class male

The ‘crisis of masculinity’ is arguably felt more harshly by the working-class male. The so-called ‘macho lad’, whose ‘reproduction of working-class masculinity has been ruptured’ (Kenway & Kraack, 2004, p. 107), and who, perhaps, finds it more difficult to adapt. Today, working-class youth have to contend with a rise in credentialisation alongside a hazy economic future where stable employment is less common (Brown, 2013). As traditional social structures have disappeared, young men, particularly those from lower and working-class backgrounds, have to negotiate their identity work around rapidly changing discourses of aspiration and power. In place of traditional, respectable, working-class employment we have seen the steady rise of service-level positions which require working-class men to ‘learn to serve’ (McDowell, 2003) or ‘learn to loaf’ (Marks, 2003, p. 87). If working-class boys are drawing upon employment as part of their identity construction, they are now more likely to draw upon the ‘McJob’ (Bottero, 2009, p. 9).  The impact of post-industrialism on white working-class masculine identity, specifically how masculinity is constructed in relation to education and the labour market, is framed by efforts to preserve tradition, uncertainty, survivalist mentalities, unrealistic expectations, and new searches for ‘respectability’ and ‘authenticity’ (Dolby & Dimitriadis, 2004; McDowell, 2003; Nayak, 2003).

As a result of post-industrialization, I argue working-class males draw on certain historically validated dispositions, such as social cohesion and social solidarity (through a legacy of union action and community involvement) to confirm their gendered, classed, and ethnic subjectivities inside and outside of schooling (Stenning, 2005; Mac an Ghaill, 1994: Pye, Haywood, & Mac an Ghaill, 1996). Social solidarity is often rendered through farouche ‘laddish’ or ‘loutish’ behaviours (cf. Francis, 1999) which can be socially empowering but also transgress boundaries of what is considered acceptable in a school context. Laddish behaviour is always a form of social validation and tied to self worth (Jackson, 2002; 2003).

About the author: Garth Stahl (@GarthStahl) is a Lecturer in Literacy and Sociology at University of South Australia.  He is a theorist of sociology of education. His research interests lie on the nexus of neoliberalism and socio-cultural studies of education, identity, equity/inequality and social change.  Currently, his research projects and publications encompass theoretical and empirical studies of learner identities, gender and youth, sociology of schooling in a neoliberal age, gendered subjectivities, equity and difference, and educational reform.  Of particular interest to him is exploring counternarratives to neoliberalism around ‘value’ and ‘respectability’ for working-class youth.  His book, entitled Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-class Boys is now available from Routledge.


Intersections of Ageing, Gender, Sexualities (i-ages)

Intersections of Ageing, Gender, Sexualities (i-ages)


6 July 2015 – 7 July 2015

This international, multidisciplinary two day conference offers a unique opportunity to explore the intersections between ageing, gender and sexualities. It explores how they work together to produce structural inequalities, privileges and disadvantages, challenges and opportunities, and diverse lived experiences. Papers will be presented by researchers from, Australia, Hong Kong, Iran, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Taiwan, UK and USA.


Professor Toni Calasanti, Virginia Tech, USA


Professor Mark Hughes, Southern Cross University, Australia

Associate Professor Travis Kong, University of Hong Kong

Professor Yvette Taylor, London Southbank University, UK

Registration for two-day event (includes lunch and refreshments both days) £80 (£40 students)


CfA: Ethnographies & Health early-career workshop

CfA: Ethnographies & Health early-career workshop 

LSHTM, 1st – 2nd October 2015


We are pleased to announce a call for abstracts for an exciting new workshop for early career researchers, entitled ‘Ethnographies and Health’, to be held at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in London, UK, on 1st and 2nd October, 2015.

Keynote speaker: Dr Tiago Moreira, Durham University

We invite abstracts of up to 400 words for papers that explore topic-based, methodological and theoretical questions of using ethnographic approaches in health, and health-related research, from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.  Supported by a workshop grant from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness, the workshop will be free to attend and will be structured to allow for supportive and engaged debate around each paper presented.

Please see the attached poster for more information, and please feel free to circulate this call widely.

Deadline for abstracts is 31st June, 2015.  Please send abstracts (and any enquiries) to

Big Data & Society – Early Career Researcher Forum

As part of its effort to expand beyond traditional types of academic publication, Big Data & Society has introduced an Early Career Researcher Forum targeted to scholars finishing or having recently completed advanced graduate degrees.  More specifically the ECR forum seeks work by researchers reflecting about some of the challenges of their work (related to Big Data topics) in about 1000 to 2000 words with a range of illustrations, figures, etc. as well as a brief bio (100 words).  The goal is to encourage reflexive submissions that explore what it means to be a researcher studying issues concerning big data and society.  As guidance we ask authors to consider a series of questions (addressing any or all of these):

  • What kinds of challenges empirically and/or methodologically have you encountered in your work?
  • Do you have an example of these challenges, particularly one that can be shared in an online forum such as the journal offers, i.e., with visualizations, graphs, etc.?
  • Does Big Data allow you to ask new questions or explore old issues?
  • Are there questions that your data can not answer? Why? What else is necessary?
  • Why is your research important and interesting?
  • How do you relate back to your home discipline, and do your colleagues understand you?

In addition to targeted submissions, the Early Career Researcher forum accepts unsolicited contributions and encourages those who are interested to correspond with the co-editors (Irina Shklovski and Matthew Zook) for guidance.


Against word counts as part of a daily writing routine

As some people reading this might know, I’m an obsessive cultivator of habits. I’m preoccupied by them intellectually and spent 6 years writing a PhD about how who we are is shaped by the situated interplay between reflexivity and habit over time. But this is also a big part of how I orientate myself to my work: what’s the most satisfying and effective way to to approach what it is I have to do? I’ve blogged in the past about the apps I use for this purpose.

It’s for this reason that I’ve tried various writing routines over the last few years and I’ve recently come to the conclusion that word count goals just don’t work. In fact setting myself a goal for how many words to write a day now strikes me as representative of everything that’s wrong with the academy i.e. counting your writing rather than valuing it. Looking towards a quantity of words inevitably encourages you to see how quickly you can write them and move on to something else. If not necessarily alienating, it now strikes me as quite alienated, no matter how useful the capacity to do quasi-automatic speed writing I’ve developed over the last few years is increasingly proving to be.

Since giving up on a word count goal I’m enjoying academic writing more than I have in a long time. I’m actually finding my book interesting again, after months of seeing it as an obstacle to be negotiated through daily bouts of meeting my word target (in turn ratcheting up my stress about the book when I failed to meet them). My new resolution: to only count things if I’m certain doing so serves a useful purpose. Perhaps this is a useful starting point for thinking about how the Qualified Self does inevitably sometimes interface with self-quantification.

"Nothing is more distressing than a thought that escapes itself, than ideas that fly off, that disappear hardly formed."

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari


Why Do Things Matter To People?

In this podcast I interview Andrew Sayer, Professor of Social Theory and Political Economy at the University of Lancaster, about his book Why Things Matter To People.

Here’s a link to the book:…nce/dp/0521171644

There’s a review I wrote of the book here:


The Future of Social Critique

Collaborative Seminar, at Loughborough University on 2 June 2015

This Day event will take place in the James France Building, room CC021, from 10.30-4.30pm – 2 June 2015, and will focus on the Future of Social Critique.

The event was organised to celebrate the careers of two renowned colleagues in our department, Prof Michael Pickering and Prof. Graham Murdock, but also as an opportunity to broaden the discussion on the subject.

The continuing financial crisis of capitalism in Europe has been accompanied by a right-wing response that has sought to reduce the size of the state and the power of labour, changes that will inevitably increase income inequality and consequently other inequalities in the future placing the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of those least able to bear it. This neo-liberal response has not gone unchallenged at least in some European countries. We have witnessed the growth of extra-parliamentary and more recently parliamentary opposition on both the right and the left. In the UK, however, whilst we have experienced a ‘revolt from the right’ with the growth of UKIP, the response from the left has been more muted. While there has been some left opposition to austerity, it has remained largely on the margins. In contrast, the early years of the Thatcherite project in the UK saw a flowering of radical opposition that crossed over from politics to culture to the academy. The questions animating this seminar are: if then, then why not now? What has changed both inside and outside universities? How do we assess questions of value and make this a key aspect of critique? What resources are generally available for the renewal of critique? Whatever happened to the ‘public intellectual’?

To download the poster of this event click here


To download detailed information and schedule click here


The 5th ICTs & Society Conference

The 5th ICTs & Society Conference:
The Internet and Social Media at a Crossroads: Capitalism or Commonism?
Perspectives for Critical Political Economy and Critical Theory.
Vienna University of Technology.
Vienna, Austria
June 3-7, 2015.


Given that the information society and the study of information face a world of crisis today and are at a crossroads, also the future of the Internet and social media are in question.
The 5th ICTs and Society Conference therefore wants to focus on the questions:
What are the main challenges that the Internet and social media are facing in capitalism today?
What potentials for an alternative, commonist Internet are there?
What are existing hindrances for such an Internet?
What is the relationship of power structures, protest movements, societal developments, struggles, radical reforms, etc. to the Internet?
How can critical political economy and critical theory best study the Internet and social media today?


An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving in the UK

This podcast was recorded at a Centre for Social Ontology seminar in February 2015. The speaker is Balihar Sanghera from the University of Kent.

This paper examines how charitable giving is an outcome of different interacting elements of lay morality. Charitable giving reflects people’s capacity for fellow-feeling (or sympathy), moral sentiments, personal reflexivity, ethical dispositions, moral norms and moral discourses. An eclectic account of lay morality and charitable giving is warranted because of the complex nature of the object. Though ordinary people engage in ethical reasoning, they often think and act in piecemeal fashion, so that confusion and inconsistencies can occur. This is particularly evident when gender, class and ‘race’ shape people’s feelings and evaluations of others, their attention and care for others, and their understanding of responsibility and blame for social issues. Morality is further complicated because it takes place in the mundane world of everyday life that can result in inconsistent and confusing judgements and actions on giving.


National Demonstration Against Casualisation and TeachHigher

19th June at the University of Warwick. There’s a Facebook event here. Details copied & pasted below:

“No to the ‘insourcing’ and further casualisation of academic staff!”

TeachHigher threatens job security and quality education at ALL UK universities.

Make your voice heard at Warwick University Open Day!

Warwick University staff and students call on their colleagues across UK Higher Education to support them in resisting TeachHigher. TeachHigher is a scheme whereby hourly paid academic staff will no longer be recruited and employed by academic departments but contracted via this new ‘internal academic recruitment and administration service’. TeachHigher is being piloted at Warwick but intends to franchise out at universities across the UK.

We oppose TeachHigher because it will institutionalise and entrench a two-tier system of academic staffing at Warwick – further separating off hourly-paid academics from those on more secure contracts. It will give Human Resources control over hiring and firing – not only threatening the autonomy of academic departments but also making it easier for central management to recruit ever larger numbers of hourly-paid and casualised staff while continuing to reduce the number of secure and permanent positions. TeachHigher staff will be employed on even worse terms and conditions than those currently endured by hourly paid academics at Warwick.

TeachHigher represents a threat not just at Warwick, but to anyone working and studying at a UK university. Warwick Employment Group plan to sell TeachHigher as a commercial franchise to other universities. In fact, Warwick is already complicit in promoting casualisation and precarity at numerous other UK Higher Education institutions, via Warwick-owned agency UniTemps which contracts mainly catering and cleaning staff but also some admin and academic staff. TeachHigher looks suspiciously like another version of Unitemps – a national outsourcing agency for academic staff – unless we stop it now!

Active opposition to TeachHigher among Warwick staff and students has already met with two small but significant victories – collective resistance can work! Massive public meetings, extensive press coverage and so-far three academic departments voting to boycott TeachHigher has resulted in the cancellation of the pilot scheme due to begin in April, and its postponement until October 2015. Management have also begun to backtrack on the outsourcing question – whereas the initial website for TeachHigher described it as a ‘subsidiary’ company, it is now claimed that it will be an academic services department. But there is still much to be done…

We need to act now, and act together, to put an end to TeachHigher once and for all!

This demonstration is supported by Warwick UCU.


The nearest railway stations to Warwick University campus are Coventry and Leamington Spa. Do not go to Warwick train station (it is far away, and has no public transport links.) From Coventry station catch the number 11 or 12 bus, from Leamington Spa catch the U1. 19th June is a Warwick University open day, so transport may be congested – leave lots of time to get here. There may be free shuttle buses running from Coventry railway station to campus.

Photo: Milena Kremakova (Idle Ethnographer) TM

Petition for Warwick University staff to show solidarity with graduate students opposing Teach Higher

The petition is online here. Please forward to any Warwick staff you know who are opposed to casualisation in higher education. Events have been moving so rapidly that there’s no up to date report on events but this Times Higher Education article gives useful background.

Is human culture collapsing under the weight of its own verbiage?

I just quoted this article from Charlie Brooker in the section of Social Media for Academics about ‘how to ensure you’re not wasting your time when you should be doing real work’. I’ve begun to feel like this about social media sometimes (particularly Twitter) and I thought my own feelings about this could be a helpful way to structure the wider discussion in the book:

I’ve recently been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jabber in the world: a vast cloud of blah I felt I was contributing to every seven days.

If a weatherman misreads the national mood and cheerfully sieg-heils on BBC Breakfast at 8.45am, there’ll be 86 outraged columns, 95 despairing blogs, half a million wry tweets and a rib-tickling pass-the-parcel Photoshop meme about it circulating by lunchtime. It happens every day. Every day, a billion instantly conjured words on any contemporaneous subject you can think of. Events and noise, events and noise; everything was starting to resemble nothing but events and noise. Firing more words into the middle of all that began to strike me as futile and unnecessary. I started to view myself as yet another factory mindlessly pumping carbon dioxide into a toxic sky.


But then right now I don’t “get” most forms of communication. There’s just so much of it. Everybody talking at once and all over each other; everyone on the planet typing words into their computers, for ever, like I’m doing now. I fail to see the point of roughly 98% of human communication at the moment, which indicates I need to stroll around somewhere quiet for a bit.

I’m taking a break from my own personal Twitter account for this reason. Ultimately I can’t really take a break from social media (given it’s my job, at least 0.6 of the time, as well as my commitment to SI and the fact I’ve become disturbingly dependent on blogging to develop my thoughts) but hopefully whatever step back I can take will help restore some of my currently waning enthusiasm.