Social Icons
Subscribe to Blog via Email

new posts by email.

When Sociologists fail to talk about the future

Earlier in the week I organised a Design Fiction for Sociologists workshop at Goldsmiths with the help of Les Back. It was a really interesting event on a number of levels but the aspect of the discussion which has most preoccupied me since is the failure of sociologists to talk about the future. I learnt that projective analysis is a relatively common feature of scholarship in the material sciences and yet it is largely absent from sociology, at least as a routine and taken for granted part of research.

We need to be cautious about this. If we accept that the social world is an open system (as opposed to the closed systems produced in laboratory work) then prediction in the traditional sense would be an obviously mistaken goal. There’s simply too many contingencies, with their potential impact multiplying over time in a path-dependent way, for it to be feasible to offer definitive claims of what will happen.

But can we forecast? My hunch is that we can and that a mechanisms based sociology is actually well equipped to do this, providing it is extremely sensitive to contextual changes over time i.e. recognising how the operation of a mechanism will unfold differently across changing contexts as other, perhaps newer, mechanisms will act conjointly to amplify or impede its operation. The results are obviously fallible but so is everything else we do. I’m increasingly convinced we can sketch potential futures, as well as the conditions likely to give rise to them, in a manner that has the status of something significantly beyond speculation.

Routines and Reflexivity in Organisational Life

In this podcast recorded at a Centre for Social Ontology seminar in March 2014, Alistair Mutch (Nottingham Trent University) discusses routines and reflexivity in organisations.

Much of the debate occasioned by the development of ideas about reflexivity and morphogenesis has turned on the status of habit. Whilst recognising the importance of this debate, this seminar takes an alternative tack. Returning to Bhaskar’s formulation of ‘position-practices’, it reviews recent work on organizational routines. Developing a position which sees routines as a key emergent property of organizations, recent developments in information technology are seen to cement autonomous reflexivity. Accompanied by an increasing discourse of ‘strategizing’, this might limit the development of meta reflexivity.

Dear academic hive mind, please help me identify radical education projects in the UK

A few years ago I produced a list of all the radical education projects that sprang up in the wake of the government’s agenda for higher education ‘reform’. I didn’t really have a clear definition of ‘radical education projects’ beyond people “trying to explore different, freer and more autonomous ways of learning”. Looking back at the list now, I’m struck that I’ve forgotten what half of these projects actually were or how I came across them:

  1. Left Overs (podcast)
  2. The Social Science Centre
  3. The Really Open University
  4. The Really Free School
  5. The University for Strategic Optimism
  6. The Third University
  7. The University of Utopia
  8. Campaign for the Public University (podcast)
  9. The Free University of Liverpool
  10. Birmingham Social Centre and Free School
  11. WikiQuals
  12. Student as producer
  13. The University of Incidental Knowledge
  14. The University Project

It seems I saw a family resemblance between a lot of different projects I encountered in a very specific period of change within higher education. However a conversation with Nick Mahoney yesterday has left me wondering if my focus on responses to government policy was overly restrictive: it left me ignoring things that were more recent (the post-occupy education projects) and things that were much more long standing (the Workers Education Association). So I’d like to compile a new list of projects that represent different, freer and more autonomous ways of learning. Any suggestions? Here’s my attempt:

  1. The Social Science Centre
  2. The Ragged University
  3. The Workers Education Association
  4. WikiQuals
  5. New Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies

It’s interesting to look through the previous list and see how many of the projects lapsed within a few months and how many continued for a few years. I’d love to interview people involved in both, as well as those that are still ongoing, in order to understand how these developed over time and how they changed the people involved.

The new Apple Watch and the problem of our creeping connectivity

by David Beer

One of the most memorable images from my childhood is a suave and leather jacketed David Haselhoff, playing the reluctant but slick hero Michael Knight in the TV show Knight Rider, speaking into his watch. He’d usually utter something like “Come and get me Kitt” or “I need you buddy”. Kitt, the automaton car, would be there in seconds. The fantasy of being able to communicate through a watch was spectacular stuff for a child in the 1980s. With the launch of Apple Watch we may only be a mildly sarcastic robotic car away from that dream, but for some reason the realities of the networked watch seem a little less shiny than the fantasy version. Instead, the corporeal hyper-connectivity of this new wearable device highlights to us the strains and pressures that come with always being switched-on.

The problem is that this type of smart watch inevitably seeks to increase our already deeply connected lives. Just over a decade ago Scott Lash wrote of the lack of space for critical reflection that results from the dense information flows that have come to dominate our lives. Our constant exposure to information simply leaves us with little room to think. We live, he has suggested in a more recent book, in an ‘intensive culture’. The pace and volume of these information flows are seen to be escalating and are becoming increasingly difficult to swim against. With the arrival of smartphones in 2007 and now with the smart watch, these information flows are increasingly finding their way to the inside of our bodily routines and are embedding themselves deeply into our everyday lives. As these wearable devices connect us into our environments, it will almost certainly become harder for us to disconnect – even for fleeting moments. The Apple Watch is another step towards the networking of our bodies into the communicative networks in which we live. The consequence is that we will be opening our bodies up to the pressures of constant networking and the unstinting demands of mediated social connectivity.

Indeed, if we put this into a broader context, there has already been plenty of work to suggest that the very divide between work and leisure is breaking down. This is a result of the changing nature of work and, more specifically, the rise of mobile and home based working. It has been argued that we occupy and exist within a kind of social factory. Work and leisure blur as the time and space of labour and “free-time” dissolve into one. Our lives become spaces of production and value creation. The consequence, for writers like Ros Gill and Andy Pratt, is that work can become inescapable – as can the type of bodily and emotional sensations that it provokes within us (they report on how the precarious nature of labour and the heightened competition it fuels leads to feelings of insecurity, fatigue, anxiety and exhaustion). Alongside this, it has also been argued that the divide between production and consumption is breaking down as we engage in the significant labour required to maintain our social media profiles, feeding them with personal data for others to consume. These arguments have been unfolding for some time, but with the Apple Watch we have a device that is designed to further blur the boundaries between work and leisure and to optimize our performance as productive and active consumers. This is a device that makes clear to us the very inescapability of our role as value or content generators, and reinforces the obligation to be always switched-on.

William J. Mitchell once spoke of the way that our nervous systems are extended and augmented by mobile devices. With the Apple Watch we have the most literal and obvious embodiment of this meshing of our nervous systems with our informational environments. The biological body can now be connected ever more directly and smoothly into these information flows.

When you look at the marketing that has accompanied the launch of the Apple Watch, you actually find that this kind of bodily and nervous connectivity is a central part of how the watch is being sold. We are told that it will provide a more “haptic” experience. This is a tactile and sensory set of connections, with the watch sharing sensory information with the body. It extracts information such as heart rate, using its sensors placed on the skin, whilst buzzing with notifications and bodily interventions. For example, as the TV advert shows, the watch might buzz to tell us that we have been sitting for too long and that it is time to stand up, this is just one possible way that we can use it to enhance our lifestyles.

Reflecting on how these devices are constructed in Apple’s series of marketing videos is revealing. We find the fetishisization of materials, of personalization and of capability. The “heritage” of watch making is forged in the metals and connects the past with the technological present. This is a device of precision. It is a device that heightens our sensory connections – we can now feel information as well as see and hear it. There are then various new possibilities for the body to be tracked, measured and compared. The device is presented as being part of a lifestyle in which our connectivity becomes the means of self-improvement and heightened experiences. This is a device, we are told, that helps you to be more healthy and active. As the video dedicated to health and fitness suggests, this watch “gets to know you the way a good personal trainer would”. That is to say that it takes on an active role in guiding your lifestyle, suggesting goals and activities. The promise is that you will become less sedentary and the watch’s presence on your body will stimulate and provoke action.

The launch of the Apple Watch gives us the opportunity to reflect more broadly on how connected we might want to be. Do we really want a “haptic” connection to our informational environment? Given the recent accounts of contemporary work and productive consumption, we might wonder what the consequences of not being able to step away from the intensity of contemporary culture will be. Based on the discussions of precarious forms of labour and the active role of the consumer in the production of culture, it is certainly a device that is fitting with the social conditions of today.

Despite their glossy appeal, I won’t be buying a smart watch. A buzzing wristwatch will only heighten my stress levels by reminding me of the work that needs doing and the things that require my attention. The type of physical feedback that these watches give, the corporeal buzz of a responsive and personalised notification, is the perfect technological embodiment of the social factory. Our bodies will get caught up in the demands of being switched-on and will become the surfaces on which the tensions between work and leisure become a reality.

So the type of connectivity that the Apple Watch offers is not so much the realization of a fantasy as the spreading of the pressures of the contemporary world. We should note William Mitchell’s observations and wonder what might be the outcomes of appending our nervous systems with such devices. Being physically connected with information and communication systems might seem like progress towards some technological dream, but it is likely to extend the reach of the demands placed upon us by the social factory. Such devices are likely to disrupt our immediate social connections and interrupt our time/space of rest, recuperation and thoughtfulness. These, via such devices, are likely to be unsettled and disturbed by the pressures of constant and inescapable connectivity. The dreams of the communicative watch that populated my childhood seem less appealing in the unforgiving and stark daylight of the present day – especially as they represent the furthering of the presence of new forms of mobile work, bio-tracking and the demands of new media-based consumption. In short, the Apple Watch is emblematic of the creeping extension of our connectivity. Its launch presents us with an opportunity to reflect on just how connected we want to be.

David Beer is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York. His publications include Punk Sociology, Popular Culture And New Media: The Politics of Circulation and New Media: The Key Concepts (with Nicholas Gane). He is currently working on a book called Metric Power and he is an editor at .

Making The Familiar Strange: A Festival of Critical Ideas

Last week I attended re: publica in Berlin for the first time. For those not familiar with it, it’s a vast conference about internet and society incorporating activists, journalists, hackers, academics, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in a melange of sessions over 3 days that was at times frustrating but which I nonetheless found enormously stimulating and enjoyable. It takes place in a stunning post-industrial venue in Kreuzberg, a vast series of linked warehouses and out buildings centred around a large court yard, the scale of which can be seen in the Flickr stream for the event.

By the second day of the event, I was consumed by the thought: what would a sociological re: publica look like? I’ve been preoccupied by this ever since and I’m starting to plan how to make something like this happen. Obviously re: publica is a massive event that has grown over many years and I’m not planning to attempt anything on this scale. But the idea I have is for an initial 3 day event, taking place in summer 2017, taking the form of a literary festival focused around sociology, anthropology and related disciplines.

The theme of the festival would be making the familiar strange. This might seem too diffuse but I think it captures something crucial about the capacity of these disciplines to contradict common sense, unsettle taken for granted ways of viewing the world and to work creatively in elaborating upon dormant alternatives. In this sense all the content would be ‘critical’ but in a way that avoids obscure theoretical argument and addresses everyday life in an accessible way.

I’m obsessed with the idea that this would take place in a post-industrial venue similar, though smaller, to that of re: publica. Birmingham and Manchester immediately seem like potential locations which could facilitate this. I’m keen that the atomisation of TED talks be avoided (as well as the simplification that they sometimes fall into) so I would imagine a lot of the intellectual content of the events being centred around a key topic which  speakers would explore in different ways. For instance here are some of the potential session topics that occurred to me. These only reflect my own interests and I’m hopeful that the actual range of topics would be much broader than this:

  1. Life after capitalism
  2. Acceleration society
  3. The future of cities
  4. Riots and disorder
  5. Real utopias and dystopias
  6. Stigma and shame
  7. Robots and the end of work
  8. Freedom in an age of big data

However I’d like there to be lots of stuff that isn’t talks. As well as the generic category of ‘workshops’ (about what I’m not sure) I’d like there to be art installations scattered around the venue and the 3 days could be a host for all manner of public engagement projects that fit with the theme of the event.

This plan is far from complete but I think it’s starting to take shape. I’ve had a first attempt at an initial financial plan and I’m cautiously optimistic that if I could raise £15k+ in funding, this could otherwise be self-financing through ticket sales at a price that wouldn’t be extortionate. However this is so far beyond the scale of anything that I’ve ever tried to organise before that it’s possible I’m being wildly unrealistic.

If this seems like something you might want to help with then please get in touch:

Visual Matrix Workshop: Imagery, Affect and Visualisation in a Psychosocial Research Method 

Association for Psychosocial Studies 

in collaboration with

Birkbeck Institute for Social Research

Description: Description:

Visual Matrix Workshop: Imagery, Affect and Visualisation in a Psychosocial Research Method

Friday 5 June 201510.00am – 5.00pm | Room B03, 43 Gordon Square


This is the first workshop in our new series, “New Developments in Psychosocial Methods”, organised by Association for Psychosocial Studies in collaboration with the BISR.


Speakers: Lynn FroggettJulian Manley and Alastair Roy (all University of Central Lancashire)


The Visual Matrix is a new research method, led by imagery, affect and visualization, that has been developed in order to inquire into phenomena that research participants may find difficult to put into words. It works with a group, who are invited to respond associatively to a stimulus related to the research problem or question. Typically, the stimulus is presented in visual or other sensory form, and the group’s associations build up over the course of an hour into a ‘collage’ of images, affects and ideas. This collage provides the material for a discussion that is organised through ‘image mapping’. Both the matrix and the post-matrix discussion are then subjected to an interpretive process that is normally carried out by a research analytic panel.


The Visual Matrix, was developed and tested through a study (Froggett et al 2014) that aimed to understand the impact of public art on a town, through people’s experience of the artworks. This included unarticulated dimensions, still in the process of emergence a year after the artworks had arrived. It has since been used in clinical environments and social interventions where people are subjected to experiences they find hard to articulate; for example the ‘unspeakable’ experience of breast amputation following breast cancer surgery, or in the context  of an arts/health collaboration on erectile dysfunction.


The workshop will engage participants in a short ‘taster’ matrix and in the beginnings of the interpretive process that follows. The hybrid theoretical underpinnings of the visual matrix, will be highlighted and the further interpretative protocols, that would normally follow a matrix, explained. This will help to clarify the research outcomes that can be expected, and how they might differ from other group-based methods such as a focus group. Hence the workshop offers participation in a ‘live’ matrix, an understanding of how it is situated in a research process, and an opportunity to discuss its theoretical origins and research applications. A link to a short video clip of a visual matrix, recorded for demonstration purposes, can be found at


Froggett, L., Roy, A. and Manley, J., Prior, M. & Doherty, C. (2014) Public Art and Local Civic Engagement, Final Report, Arts and Humanities Research Council


Registration and payment are essential –book your place here
£15 Standard | £10 APS Members / Birkbeck Staff & Students | £5 APS Students /Unwaged APS Members

The sociology of climate change (in blues format)!


by Bill Carroll

In January 2015, scientists recorded atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide above 400 parts per million on a regular basis – the first time such a level had been reached so early in the calendar year.  It is well established that levels of CO2 above 350 (already well above the preindustrial norm of 275 ppm) spur global warming – we are now experiencing the effects in extreme weather, droughts, rising sea levels, thawing permafrost, etc. Levels above 450 will most likely put the planet on an inescapable course toward catastrophic climate change.

400 ppm is an eco-political music-video which encapsulates climate crisis and climate justice in three minutes flat. It is an intervention in popular political ecology/economy, aimed at those who are uneasy with the increasingly obvious deterioration of the living systems of which we are an inextricable part.

The arc of the song begins from basic observations – symptoms of the crisis – and then shifts to the ideological problem of denial, softened in recent years by massive Corporate Social Responsibility advertising and complemented by the emergence of ‘silver-bullet’ geo-engineering schemes. At the song’s midpoint, its bridge identifies the structural drivers of the crisis: carboniferous capitalism, and the contradiction between compounding capital accumulation and the principle of homeostasis which governs the biosphere. The next verse underlines that point and invokes, with the wheel of fortune, a financialized casino-capitalism inured to its material ‘externalities’. Wes Carroll’s spirited guitar solo is accompanied by images from Canada’s notorious Tar Sands of bitumen extraction and what it leaves behind. But at this point the video begins to arc toward hope, with footage from the Tar Sands Healing Walk (featuring Cree activist and writer Clayton Thomas-Muller) – an annual event since 2010 bringing together Indigenous activists, environmentalists and others. The last verse gestures toward a just transition – a power shift – to a post-capitalist future that combines global justice and solidarity with ecological stewardship, and that abandons the consumer-capitalist logic of always having more in favour of buen vivir: ‘living well’. To get there, we had better start healing what Karl Marx called the metabolic rift between capitalist extractivism / accumulation and the conditions for a vital ecosystem. Mass popular struggle, building on but going beyond the September 2014 People’s Climate March (the final image), is a necessary condition for such a radical remaking of our world.

– – –

Bill Carroll is Professor of Sociology at the Department of Sociology, University of Victoria (Canada). We previously posted another of his sociological blues compositions, Blind Eye Forward, and a video talk on global politics.

Childhood and Youth Postgraduate Summer School

5th International CSCY Summer School for Postgraduate Students

Wednesday 15 – Thursday 16 July 2015

ICOSS, 219 Portobello, Sheffield, UK

This exciting two day international summer school is for post-graduate students working in the area of childhood and youth.  The workshops and networking sessions will be of interest for students about to embark on research and for those who are preparing their dissertations. 


Professor Allison James, Sociology: ‘Personalising children’s lives: reflections on childhood research’

Professor Kate Pahl, Education: ‘Co-production in practice: the processes and practices of research without a map’

Also featuring ….

  • Practical research workshops to include visual methods, ethnography, ‘impact’ and making a difference and using social media in your research.
  • Careers panel session.
  • Ethical question time:  submit your ethical dilemmas to a panel of experts and join in the debate!
  • Students are encouraged to submit posters.

Further details, including the programme, how to book and the booking fee are available on the CSCY website:  If you have any queries contact Dawn Lessels,

Luc Boltanski at University of Westminster

The Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster is delighted to announce that this year’s CSD Encounter will be with the internationally renowned French sociologist Luc Boltanski. Convened by Chantal Mouffe. Details below and attached. Additional speaker information can be found via the booking link: Apologies for any cross posting.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Campaign Against The Arms Trade: Universities Network Co-Ordinator

Universities Network Co-ordinator (internship)

This is a great opportunity for someone wanting to take their first career steps in campaigning with an award winning NGO​.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works to end the international arms trade and promote peace, justice and democratic values. The arms industry is a deadly, corrupt business that has a devastating impact on human rights and security, and damages economic development.

CAAT is offering a 9 month paid internship post to someone wanting to build on their campaigning and outreach skills. CAAT’s Universities Network is an informal collective of students and groups at universities across the UK who are campaigning to break ties between their institution and arms companies. We are looking for someone to inspire and support students to take action and campaign effectively.

The internship will be full-time based at our London office, although travelling to universities around the country is also a large part of the role. The intern will be offered a comprehensive training programme when they start and support from our Local Outreach Co-ordinator throughout the nine month period.

For more information on the post including how to apply please visit:

The deadline for receiving application forms is midday Wednesday 3rd June.

Decolonizing Gender: Raewyn Connell at LSE

Decolonizing Gender

An LSE Gender Institute and Feminist Theory public lecture

Speaker: Professor Raewyn Connell

Date: Monday 18 May 2015
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Old Theatre, Old Building
Chair: Dr Ania Plomien

Members of the public, LSE alumni, LSE students and LSE staff can request one ticket via the online ticket request form:
Ticket Request – Decolonising Gender, Professor Raewyn Connell, 18 May

The creation of contemporary knowledge about gender is a revolution in thought that has been closely connected with political struggles for gender justice. In the last generation a major problem about this field of knowledge has been recognized, its constitution within a worldwide economy of knowledge shaped by the power and wealth of the global North. This lecture will explore recent attempts to overcome this problem, in feminist re-thinking of imperialism, coloniality and Southern perspectives. The lecture will consider connections of knowledge with feminist politics in the neoliberal era, when new forms of patriarchy have emerged; and will ask if we can have a fully decolonized global feminism that is both politically effective and socially radical.

For more information:

How obsessive auditing produces “a profession which is incompatible with a normal life”

80% of new teachers in 2005 were still teaching after their first year. In 2015 that has shrunk to just 62%, coupled with record numbers leaving mid career. In the intervening period, we’ve seen successive governments seek to transform schooling in a way that has left the “profession monitored to within an inch of its life”: increasingly teaching can’t retain its new recruits and given 76% of new teachers report having considered leaving the profession, it’s possible the retention rate will continue to collapse over time.

Can you blame them? David Cameron recently pronounced that “if you’re not good or outstanding, you have to change” and that “If you can’t do it yourself, you have to let experts come in and help you” – with ‘good or outstanding’ constituted through the unreliable judgements of an audit regime utterly disconnected from the realities of teaching. The result is a ratcheting up of situational demands amidst a climate of fear, leaving teachers drowning in assessment, terrified of negative assessments and increasingly prone to illness, as a recent survey found:

  • 83% had reported workplace stress.
  • 67% said their job has adversely impacted their mental or physical health
  • Almost half of the three thousand respondents reported they had seen a doctor because of work-related mental or physical health problems
  • 5% had been hospitalised, and
  • 2% said they had self-harmed.

This has produced a situation which the general secretary of the ATL describes as teaching having become “incompatible with normal life”. This is what audit regimes do when they’re pursued as an instrument of workplace control. How far behind is higher education? Will the greater sunk costs of newly qualified PhDs preclude a mass exodus from the profession? The analogy is far from perfect, not least of all because of the much lower ratio of available jobs to newly qualified academics, but there seems to be a similar direction of travel in both professions.

‘Sexuality, Borders, and Categorical Edges’, Prof. Allaine Cerwonka (University of East London

CMRB (The Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging) at the University of East London is pleased to announce as part of its Borders and Bordering Seminar Series:

‘Sexuality, Borders, and Categorical Edges’, Prof. Allaine Cerwonka (University of East London)

This seminar will take place 5-7pm, Monday 8th June 2015 in EB.G.08, Docklands Campus, University of East London, E16 2RD, nearest tube: Cyprus DLR


The event is free but spaces are limited so please reserve a place by following this link:

Algorithms and Accountability

Algorithms and Accountability took place in the Department of Law at New York University in February. Here’s the description of the symposium:

Scholars, stakeholders, and policymakers question the adequacy of existing mechanisms governing algorithmic decision-making and grapple with new challenges presented by the rise of algorithmic power in terms of transparency, fairness, and equal treatment. Algorithms increasingly shape our news, economic options, and educational trajectories. The centrality and concerns about algorithmic decision making have only increased since we hosted the Governing Algorithms conference in May 2013. This event built upon that conversation to address legal, policy and ethical challenges related to algorithmic power in three specific contexts: media production and consumption, commerce, and education.

The event was recorded in full and the videocasts are attached below:

“Go Home”: Mapping Immigration Controversy – End of Project Conference

“Go Home”: Mapping Immigration Controversy

End of Project Conference


June 10th, 9.30am – 6.30pm, University of Warwick, Social Sciences Building

This one day conference is aimed at academics and activists interested in discussing the findings of the Mapping Immigration Controversy project. We want to bring together learning and research within and outside universities, to discuss how government rhetoric and practice on immigration is affecting our everyday lives, and the new forms of resistance that are emerging.

Keynote speakers:

Bridget Anderson, University of Oxford

Rita Chadha, Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London

Suresh Grover,  The Monitoring Group

Georgie Wemyss, University of East London

Panel discussions on:

Activist Research Methodology

State Communications on Immigration


The conference will also include performance and interactive sessions
Free attendance, including lunch, but you need to register

The Mapping Immigration Controversy project is an 18 month research project that had been exploring the impacts on local communities and national debate of current publicity campaigns about migration by the UK Home Office. Discussions at the conference will build on our interim findings and will include other researchers and activists.


The nearest mainline station to the University of Warwick is Coventry station. Buses and taxis to campus are available at the station. There is pay and display car parking on campus but spaces are often very limited. You can find out more about transport options here:


We have travel bursaries for travel within the UK, to enable participation from people who would not otherwise be able to come, and to encourage attendance from community organisations, activists, migrants, people directly affected by Home Office immigration campaigns, young people, students and early career researchers.

If you are applying for a travel bursary, please be prepared to write a sentence about why, and give an estimate of how much your transport costs are likely to be on the registration page. Please note that we will ordinarily expect you to pay for your travel in advance, and will reimburse you by BACS transfer to your bank account after the conference (you will need to complete a form and provide receipts). If you foresee a problem with this – for example if you are not able to pay the cost of your travel up-front, or if you do not have a UK bank account which can receive BACS transfers – please get in touch and we will try to make arrangements to book your travel for you.

Call for Papers: The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World

Call for Papers at the ISA World Forum, Vienna, 10-14 July, 2016

Theme: The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World

Dear colleagues,

We would like to call your attention to the call for papers at the ISA World Forum,  RC34, Sociology of Youth panel entitled Understanding Youth Activism in Local, National and Transnational Contexts: Innovative Methodological Approaches’ (full description of the session can be found below).

The session will include 4 papers presented in person, with the possibility of additional papers being made available for distribution or as posters. Papers will be selected by Session Organisers from those submitted to ISA by the deadline of September 30, 2015. Abstracts should be submitted at:

Notification of acceptance will be made by 30 November 2015.

Carles Feixa, Hilary Pilkington and Mariona Ferrer

Session title:

Understanding Youth Activism in Local, National and Transnational Contexts: Innovative Methodological Approaches’

Session Organisers:

Carles FEIXA, UDL, Spain
Hilary PILKINGTON, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Mariona FERRER, Pompeu Fabra University, Spain

Session description:

Amidst the call for academics to think big and to routinely cross disciplinary and geographical boundaries, this panel invites critical discussion of what value is added to knowledge from conducting large scale, transnational research into youth activism. The session invites challenges to methodological assumptions that survey research shows the big picture but at the cost of local nuance while qualitative research cannot speak beyond the individual case.  It welcomes discussion and examples of the potential for conducting context-sensitive survey research and meta-ethnographic analyses that allow interview and ethnographic data to speak across the local and national contexts in which they are embedded without making false claims to representativeness. It also welcomes contributions that demonstrate the added explanatory value that can be generated from triangulating data of qualitatively different kinds in order to understand contemporary youth experience.

Call for Papers: Mediated Intimacies: Relationships, Bodies and Technology

Mediated Intimacies: Relationships, Bodies and Technology

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Journal of Gender Studies to be published March 2017 edited by Alison Winch, Feona Attwood, Jamie Hakim.

We are looking for 7000 word completed essays by 31st December 2015

In what ways does media convergence culture represent, intervene in, exploit and enable intimate relations? How is intimacy being reconfigured under neoliberalism?

On the one hand we are living in atomized and individualistic times where relationships are increasingly strategic and competitive. On the other the media has become, as Beverly Skeggs argues, intensely intimate. This special issue on mediated intimacies aims to explore how understandings of intimacy are (re)constructed and experienced, particularly in digital cultures. In addition, we are interested in the ways in which the apparently alienated entrepreneurial self is constructed through and by forging intimate connections and simultaneously how these networks are mined and monetized by corporate culture.

This special issue of Journal of Gender Studies is developed from a symposium held in July 2014 on Mediated Intimacies where the speakers explored, among other topics, girls’ online friendships, ‘expert’ sex advice in printed media, male seduction communities, and how pornography reconceptualises the very idea of intimacy itself.

Potential papers could explore the affective dimensions of intimate practices reflecting the pleasures and pains of life lived under neoliberalism, including how precarity and class impact on the ways in which intimacy is forged. Because digital culture is primarily corporate driven (Taylor 2014) we are interested in how user-generated media employs self-branding strategies. For example, in the refashioning of the body or gendered and sexual identities, or the ways in which intimacy can be a form of self-promotion.

Feminist and queer perspectives seek to expand the reach of what is constituted as belonging, love, connection and intimacy. Whereas recession culture has reestablished normative gender categories (Negra and Tasker 2014) contemporary digital cultures have the potential to challenge and rework gender and sexual identities (McGlotten 2013). This issue hopes to explore these productive tensions.

Potential papers could also explore how sexuality, sex, sexual knowledges and sexual pleasure function by looking, for example, at Do-It-Yourself porn, sexual subcultures and alternative sex practices. A final consideration underpinning this issue is how different intimacies intersect along axes of class, race, disability, age and geographical location.

Possible topics could include:
● adapting and resisting gendered and sexed identities
● forging new normative gendered identities
● mediatised kinship (families, parenthood and fertility)
● geolocation technology
● dating and hook up apps, sex dating and relationship cultures
● selfies
● role of experts (e.g. sex advisors and agony aunts), including their changing meaning in peer-driven contexts
● mediated romance
● fitness apps and body culture
● use of social networking sites, including instagram, Facebook, Twitter
● self-branding
● the mediation of friendship
● rebranding feminism
● pornography
● monetization of intimacy, including big data, content generation and PR/advertising

Please send 7000 word completed essays by 31st December 2015 through Scholar One Manuscripts:

Please direct enquiries to Alison Winch (<><<>>), Feona Attwood (<><<>>) and Jamie Hakim (<><<>>)

Publication schedule:

31 December 2015: Papers to peer reviewers

March 2016: Comments to authors

June 2016: Authors final revisions

September 2016: Final acceptance

The Brave New World of Work: Over 25% of Jobs on Unitemps are for Interns

Out of curiosity I just searched for ‘internship’ on Unitemps. There are 57 results with intern in the title. There are currently 201 jobs listed on Unitemps. So over 25% of jobs on Unitemps are currently looking for interns. Many of these have an identical description as “3 Months ‘Paid’ Internship”. The invert commas are presumably intended to indicate a description of the status rather than to cast doubt on the meaningfulness of the pay. But the effect is jarring nonetheless.

What’s even more jarring is how many of these internships are clearly just jobs. But calling it an internship is seen to justify much lower wages and/or a flat fee on the strength of a barely sustained pretence that it’s a training programme rather than a strategy for recruiting staff at (and potentially below) minimum wage. Remember it’s a university at the heart of this. Unitemps is “the University owned temporary staffing service providing job opportunities on campus and with local commercial businesses” for those who haven’t encountered it. 

The other jobs service my university runs is doing the same thing. These are the first few of the 25 results when you search for “internship” on Surely the first ‘internship’ is obviously below minimum wage?

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 21.14.39

Brick Walls: On Racism and Other Hard Histories – Sara Ahmed @SocioWarwick on May 20th

Warwick Borders, Race, Ethnicity and Migration Network Public Lecture 2015

Brick Walls: On Racism and Other Hard Histories

Professor Sara Ahmed, Goldsmiths, University of London

Wednesday 20th May 5pm-6.30pm
Room S0.11, Social Sciences Building, University of Warwick

In her book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed considered how diversity work is often described as “a banging your head against a brick wall job.” In this lecture, she reflects further on brick walls as the hardening of histories, or as how histories becomes concrete. But walls that are hard for some (because of who they are, or what they do) do not appear for others. This lecture will invite reflection on how some borders that are tangible and material (that can stop or block bodies from entering) can be understood and lived by others as immaterial (as phantom walls). Thinking through and with walls, the material stuff of power, allows us to explore how diversity work (both the work we do when we try to transform an institution and the work we do when we do not quite inhabit the norms of an institution) can be an experience of shattering and of assembling worlds from being shattered.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception

This is a public lecture and all are welcome.

If you have any queries about this event please contact Dr Hannah Jones, Sociology

The Shifting Sociologies of the Street

Tuesday 15 September 2015, 10.00 – 18.00, University of Kent

A symposium sponsored by The Sociological Review

The street has long been a key laboratory for studies of social life, from the roots of urban sociology in the pioneering ethnographies of the Chicago School through to the diverse studies considering the performative, affective and non-representational nature of social practice through in situ examination of street etiquette and encounter. For all this, the street remains only loosely defined, and sometimes disappears from view in studies in which social action is privileged over material context.

This symposium – and a subsequent special issue of The Sociological Review – will act as a spur to take the street more seriously in contemporary sociology, and will demonstrate the value of a more careful scrutiny of the importance of the street as a site, scale and field for sociological research.

For more information or to register, see the symposium’s website at the University of Ken

27th May @SocioWarwick – Female power in our great ape cousins

Female power in our great ape cousins: The roots of female dominance and social bonds in bonobos.

Zanna Clay, University of Birmingham
27 May 2015: 5 – 6.30pm
R 1.03 (Ramphal Building)

Despite being one of our closest living relatives, bonobos are still one of the least well understood of the great apes, largely remaining in the shadow of their better known cousins, the chimpanzees. In contrast to chimpanzees, bonobo societies are characterized by strong female social relationships, female dominance and generally peaceful social interactions. Here I explore the roots of female power in bonobos, focusing on both their reproductive and feeding ecologies, patterns in their communicative behaviour, as well as the extent to which close social bonds contribute to their raised status in bonobo society.

A rare interview in English with the enigmatic French philosopher Michel Serres

I was only introduced to Michel Serres yesterday and he seems like a fascinating figure who is relatively unknown in Anglophone philosophy. Here’s what seems to be a rare interview him in English:

Michel Foucault – The Culture of the Self

Lectures given by Foucault at UC Berkeley soon before his death:

Social Theory Centre Annual Lecture @SocioWarwick: Imogen Tyler: Classificatory Struggle

Social Theory Centre Annual Lecture 2015

Classificatory Struggle: Class Culture and Inequality in Neo-liberal Times

A Public Lecture with Imogen Tyler
Warwick University, MS.02

May 13th 17.00-18.30 followed by drinks reception – this event is free to attend – all welcome!

Classificatory Struggles: Class, Culture and Inequality in Neoliberal Times

The fate of groups is bound up with the words that designate them (Bourdieu, 1984).

This paper begins by arguing that the fundamental problem that the concept of ‘class’ describes is inequality. The transition from industrial to financial capitalism (neoliberalism) in Europe has effected ‘deepening inequalities of income, health and life chances within and between countries, on a scale not seen since before the Second World War’ (Hall, et al., 2014). In this context, class is an essential point of orientation for social theory if it is to grasp the problem of inequality today. Traversing a route through Pierre Bourdieu’s relational understanding of class, Jacques Rancière ‘s formulation of declassificatory struggles, Beverley Skeggs’ understanding of class as struggles over value, and Wendy Brown’s argument that neoliberalism is characterised by the culturalization of political struggles, this paper develops a social theory of classification, with which we might better apprehend the escalating inequalities which characterise the societies in which we live today. The central argument is that social theories of class should be grounded not in the assumption and valorisation of class identities but in an understanding of class as struggles against classification. That is, the most effective forms of class-analysis are concerned not with undertaking classification per se, but rather with exposing and critiquing the consequences of classificatory systems and the forms of value, judgements and norms they establish in human societies. Only through a movement of declassification can social theories of class contribute to the development of alternative social and political imaginaries to the biopolitics of disposability which characterises neoliberal governmentality.

Imogen Tyler is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Centre for Gender & Women’s Studies at Lancaster University. Imogen’s research is concerned with social inequalities, power, injustice and resistance. It examines why inequalities exist, why inequalities are currently growing (patterns of neoliberalism, marketization, privatisation and the erosion of democracy in the transition to ‘postwelfare’ systems) and the intersections of different histories and forms of inequality. This is interdisciplinary research which employs mixed methods and draws together long-standing research interests in migration, internal and external borders, sexual politics, social class, race & ethnicity, disability and poverty, and an abiding interest in culture, processes of mediation and political aesthetics. Her book, Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain (2013) developed the concept of ‘social abjection’ to examine the operations of neoliberal state-crafting and was shortlisted for the 2014 Bread & Roses prize for political writing. Imogen has also recently edited a special issue of Citizenship Studies on ‘Immigrant Protest’ (2013) and a book Immigrant Protest: Politics, Aesthetics, and Everyday Dissent (SUNY 2014). Imogen is in the early stages of a new project on the sociology of stigma in neoliberal times, ‘The Stigma Doctrine’.

Imogen blogs at

Tweet @DrImogenTyler email.