Mark Hawker, a first-year MPhil/PhD Sociology student at the University of Sheffield, reflects on his first BSA conference…

I have just got back from attending my very first conference hosted by the British Sociological Society. I have to say, the title didn’t really appeal to me that much (“Sociology in an Age of Austerity”) but I went for the experience as I have enjoyed attending conferences in the past. The first thing I shall say is that the conference programme was huge. It took place over three whole days including paper sessions across at least fifteen streams, stream plenaries, roundtable sessions and study group meetings. I found this a bit daunting but, thankfully, took my time to highlight the sessions that I was most interested in and made sure that I attended them all. I say “all” in the loosest sense as there were just two presentations that I was actually interested in! The first was on “ageing in the Age of Austerity” and looked at the body in terms of physical activity; the second was on “older people, assistive technology and the Age of Austerity?”. The latter was presented by Gary Pritchard who works at the Culture Lab at Newcastle University. Gary also works with Dr. Katie Brittain who I have read quite a bit on so was great to pick up his details and hopefully go to visit them some time in the future!

I came away from the conference feeling pleased that I’d met and talked to Gary and was thankful that his presentation didn’t cover too much of the ground that my PhD will! Mind, although I can’t quite put my finger on it I found the conference lacking a “personal” touch even though it was jam-packed full of both people and sessions. It felt like I was alone but together (borrowing a Turkle-ism) with a group of people who shared a common interest in “sociology” and whatever that entailed. The “other” sessions that I went to were heavily theoretical and I almost felt out of place listening to both them and the 5-minute long questions that came at the end of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy sociology but every day I struggle with what it “is” and what I want it to be. This conference showed me that while it is diverse it is also exclusive. But, is anyone listening to it?

Originally posted on Mark’s blog

Categories: Higher Education

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