Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Amanda Rees awarded AHRC funding

Amanda Rees has just been awarded AHRC funding for 'Unsettling Science: expertise, narrative and future histories'. In collaboration with researchers at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Newcastle, this 3 year project will investigate the relationships between science, fiction and popular culture over the course of the long technological 20th century (1887-2007), focusing on the ways in which innovations in science, technology and medicine were used by writers, policy-makers and the general public to anticipate and think about the future.

The value of talking to different audiences: A sociologist home and abroad

Robin Wooffitt (central figure in the photograph) reflects on presenting to three very different kinds of disciplinary audiences: 
  • the Department of Sociology at the University of Leicester (as a contributor to the Department's seminar programme); 
  • members of the Society for Psychical Research (as plenary speaker at the Society's annual conference)
  • child and adolescent psychotherapists (at the Leeds-based Northern School of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy, as part of their interdisciplinary seminar programme).  

My topic for each talk was a form of coincidence that occurs in everyday social interaction, where one person's unstated thought or mental imagery is reflected in another person's figurative or playful talk. The sociologists were interested in how this apparent confluence of one person's inner experience and another person's publicly expressed utterances can add to recent sociological research on the role of the private, or interiority, in social life. The Society for Psychical Research were interested in the apparent parapsychological aspects of this phenomenon - the person who first noticed it even called it an 'ESP pun', where ESP stands for Extra Sensory Perception. And the psychotherapists were interested in the ways that the phenomenon illuminated psycho-dynamic tensions that they see regularly in their clinical practice. So I was exposed to three intersecting perspectives on my research: the sociological, the parapsychological, and the psychotherapeutic. 

The questions and comments I received have been extremely useful in suggesting ways to take the research further, but in unexpected ways. A comment from a sociologist illuminated an aspect of the phenomenon that I had considered to be a more psychological issue; a psychotherapist offered an observation that touched directly on parapsychological features; and the Chair of the SPR conference pointed me to new sources of data. The various comments and questions emphasised interdisciplinary overlaps that will be significant in my future work. The experience of talking to three very different kinds of audiences has been a salutary reminder of just how arbitrary disciplinary boundaries can be. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Grant Success - Brian Loader and Sian Beynon-Jones

Congratulations to Sian Beynon-Jones who is CoIlaborator on a newly awarded AHRC network 'Regulating time: New perspectives on law, regulation and temporalities', starting in February.  

The project is led by Emily Grabham at Kent Law School.
Congratulations are also offered to Brian Loader who has been awarded a British Academy small research grant to run the following symposium, 'Streets to Screens: Mediating Conflict Through Digital Networks' on 7th November.

Sociology's future - Dr Dave Beer

Dave has written a very short piece on the future of sociology for The Sociological Review's new website. It's part of a series of pieces on the challenges and opportunities that face the discipline. 

If you do want to take a look it's available here http://www.thesociologicalreview.com/information/news/sociology-s-dual-horizons.html

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Top tips on academic writing

Clare Jackson is displaying her talents again as a natural born blogger but giving insight into academic writing. Definately insightful for undergraduates, postgraduates and academics everywhere:

Write as I say, not as I do

Soon, if they haven’t already, students everywhere will be facing the blank page, aiming to express knowledge, understanding and critique in x number of thousand words.  For some, words will flow easily, for others words will remain elusive, and they will freeze under the tyranny of blankness.  Then there are those, like me, who will write and delete in equal measure, stuck in a spiral of perfection and frustration, getting no-where.
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Writing is central to academic life.  For students, it is the principal method of assessment.  For academics, it is the lifeblood of a career.   For both, the outcome of the effort is scrutinized and evaluated, held up as evidence of intellectual (un)acceptability and (in)validity.  It’s scary!

I find writing difficult, effortful and exhausting.  I write slowly and I use the delete key as often as any vowel or consonant.  I know my bad habits.  These include hours of procrastination, in which there is much tidying of desks, searching of the net for inspiration and lots and lots of coffee.   I write linearly, from beginning to end, trying to perfect each paragraph as I go in a futile attempt to circumvent the dreaded editing.   This means I often get stuck in paragraphs for hours, unable to move on until I’m satisfied that what I’ve written. I write with a loose plan but the reality is that the plan emerges from my efforts to write.  I refuse to start writing unless I have several hours to dedicate to it.  Bad, bad, bad.  Well, not bad, but not good either.  I know my writing habits sufficiently to be able to manage them.  I allow weeks to write a few thousand words, and I would never ever begin to write within hours of a deadline.  Still, what I really need to do is change my habits, not merely make adjustments for them. 

Intellectually, I know what good writing habits are:
·         Plan your time
o   As obvious as it sounds, panning your time is crucial.  A last minute hurried attempt will produce at best a first draft and it will show!
o   By planning your time, I mean actually scheduling it into your diary.  Do not leave blanks in your diary where you plan to be working towards, or actually writing.  Put it in and stick to it.
o   If you have only an hour on a particular day, use it.  Do not wait for the vast expanse of ‘free’ time to begin writing.
·         Plan your writing
o   You will overcome the blank page if you know what you are going to write.
o   Make a detailed plan that sketches out the entire content.  Planning often starts with diagrams or lists.  Play with them until you have a coherent ordering of ideas and a sensible structure.  Then, when you open the blank page, copy and paste your plan onto it. 
o   A good plan will support you actually beginning to write at any point in the essay.  You do not have to start at the beginning and work to the end.  If you are stuck in one section, start writing the next.
·         Be flexible
o   Ideas will occur to you as you write and this is one of the pay-offs of the creative effort in writing.  Adapt your plan as you go.
·         Embrace editing
o   Never submit a first draft.  Most writers go through several drafts before showing something publicly.  The editing process is as important as getting the words out in the first place.  It is in the editing that a poorly structured, wordy, descriptive piece can be transformed into great work.  Trusting in the editing process means that you can be freer at the early stages of writing – just get the words out and know that you’ll be coming back to shape the whole thing up.
·         Embrace feedback
o   Writing does not have to be a solitary activity.  There are ample opportunities for feedback along the way.
o   Share your plan with a tutor.  Tutors are not permitted to read drafts but we are allowed to comment on plans.  Many a wayward essay has been put back on track with gentle nudges from people who will read the final version.  Please do use this opportunity.
o   The writing centre can help at any stage of the writing process.  They can help you to organize your ideas or comment on your final draft.  They will not offer advice on content but they will help you to present your arguments and to tighten up your style.
o   You will get feedback once your essay has been marked and submitted.  Read the comments objectively and draw on them to help shape your future writing.

There are other useful pointers.  Have a writing goal for every writing session – numbers of words, complete a section, add citations.   Try not to end a session with a final point.  Instead, begin the next section, so that when you come back you know where you are going.

So, these are the things I wish I’d known thirty years ago, when I was an undergraduate.  I share them with you now, in the hope that you’ll write as I say and not as I do.

Male Rape and Feminist Theory Review

Aliraza Javaid's article on male rape and feminist theory which this blog postedabout
about last week has already made an impact and been written about in
Science Daily

Follow the link

Friday, 17 October 2014

Clare Jackson reflects on: Is pursuing an academic career worth it?

Over the next few weeks the blog is going to run a series of 'Meet the Staff of the Sociology Department' posts. In this first post Clare Jackson reflects on her the trials and tribulations of pursuing a career in academia as a mature student:

'So what should you do when you are the mother of four children aged sixteen to one, have a full-time job and up against the challenges of mid-life?  Do a PhD.  Of course!  Then, two years in to the part-time doctorate, decide that you love it so much that you’re going to throw in your nice secure full-time job, sell your house, move your family across the country and take up temporary work to pay the bills.  Insane?  Probably.  Worth it?  Definitely!

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So it was that in 2005 I came to the Department of Sociology at York to start a part-time PhD using Conversation Analysis to study how gender is made relevant in talk.  In 2007, I moved from Carlisle to York, embracing a very uncertain future of temporary contracts as a Teaching Fellow in the department.   Another four years of study followed as well as a number of anxious summers when I wondered whether my contract would be renewed.  It was.  In 2012 I got to wear the silly floppy graduate hat of doctor-ness and earned the right to use a non-gendered form of address; Dr. Jackson.  In 2013, I was appointed lecturer in Sociology, and now have four children, a full-time job, and am still facing challenges of (late) mid-life… and I have a crazy, wonderful dog named Alfie.  I still do not earn what I did in 2007 when I gave up that nice, secure job.  But, I’ve been on an amazing journey and have inspired my four brilliant daughters to believe that anything is possible, and that achievement is not only for the young. 

The rewards of being Dr someone are many.  I got to completely terrify my new GP, who had assumed I was a medic of some kind.  I’ve never been treated with such respect in a medical encounter!  I did confess… eventually. I get to teach subjects I am passionate about, especially Conversation Analysis.  For the uninitiated, this involves listening to conversations, transcribing them in great detail and analysing them, searching for regularities so that we can describe how talk is organised in a way that permits us to make sense to each other.  It’s amazing!  The sheer orderliness of interaction is a beautiful thing.

I also get to research topics I am passionate about.  My current research focusses on decision-making that gets done in talk between healthcare professionals, women and their birth-partners in the labour ward.  We know that labouring women often want to be involved in decisions about how they give birth but that this does not consistently happen.  My research team are intending to record and analyse the interactions that take place during labour in order to describe how decisions are initiated, who initiates them and how they are responded to.  In preparation for making a bid for funding, we have been working on the data available from the Channel 4 programme, ‘One Born Every Minute’.  A clear finding from this (admittedly small and heavily edited) dataset, is that one way in which decisions are initiated by Healthcare professionals is through use of the phrase ‘we need to ….’.  In a sense, this formulation closes down the opportunity for women to decline whatever is being asserted as a ‘need’.  However, women can and do resist.

Oh, and I also get to do lots and lots of admin.  I am leader of the pathway for Sociology with Social Psychology, Chair of Mitigating Circumstances Committee and the departmental Exams officer.  This means that I am involved with almost all aspects of students’ progress from admission to graduation.  I am new to the exam role, and have quickly discovered that it’s not going to put me at the top of any popularity poll; I seem only to write demanding emails to colleagues stressing the urgency of some very tight deadline.  This means, many of emails begin with ‘we need to…’.  My colleagues can and do resist… for a while.'

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Before I Die:Video of the Festival of Death and Dying

Festival of Death and Dying - Before I GoBack in May this year, Celia Kitzinger arranged a week long Festival of Death and Dying. This event included death cafes, panels of experts speaking about death and dying, poetry and plays, to name but a few of the events.

Filming throughout the festival took place and the end result is

Before I die

It provides a taste of the events that took place and the issues that were discussed

Andrew Webster Retirement Reception

Prof Andrew Webster retired on 30 September 2014 and a retirement reception was held in Wentworth College on Wednesday 15 October.

Whilst Andrew has retired from teaching and departmental roles he is still going to spend time in SATSU working on the numerous projects that are ongoing in SATSU.

About 30 colleagues and friends attended the reception and this was followed by a dinner in York in the evening.

Both Nik Brown and Phil Stanworth both spoke of Andrew's enthusiasm and endless energy and cast serious doubts on his ability to stop working altogether unless summonsed to do so by Helen.

We wish him a long and happy retirement.

More photographs are available at: www.york.ac.uk/sociology/about/news-and-events/news/2014/andrew-retirement 

Graduate of 2014 Research Job Success

Jeremy Bushnell one of our graduates in July 2014 has been in touch to let us know how he is getting on since graduating:

"I loved my three years at York so much that I've decided to come back and live here! The staff were so enthusiastic and inspirational and as a result I've managed to get an executive job at a social and market research firm. The Social Research Methods module has given me the perfect platform for a career in research and is one of the many reasons I so enjoyed my degree."

Many congratulations to Jeremy!

Sociology Department PhD Student publishes on Male Rape

Aliraza Javaid is a PhD student at the Department of Sociology. His journal article “Feminism, Masculinity, and Male Rape: Bringing Male Rape ‘out of the Closet.’” has recently been published in the Journal of Gender Studies.

The paper critically examines feminism, masculinity and male rape collectively. It argues that, although feminist explanations of rape are robust and comprehensive, male victims of rape have largely been excluded from this field of research. As a result it contributes to current knowledge through critically evaluating the social constructions, stigma and phenomenological realities associated with male rape (by both men and women), arguing that there has been neglect in this area that functions to support, maintain and reinforce patriarchal power relations and hegemonic masculinities.

Aliraza’s PhD from which the article is drawn focuses on state and voluntary agencies’ responses to, and attitudes toward, male rape and the conception of hegemonic masculinity fundamentally underpins both the thesis and his publication. It helps to explain and understand why some societies, feminists, state and voluntary agencies are overlooking, disbelieving, or inadequately dealing with male rape victims. For instance, arguably, men are expected to be strong, powerful, invulnerable, unemotional, insensitive, heterosexual, tough, and self-reliant; but if you are none of these things, you are automatically frowned upon, not just by other men, but also by ourselves.

Aliraza has more plans to published including on whether the masculine police subculture influences the treatment that male rape victims get, and whether the Sexual Offences Act 2003 accurately reflects male rape victims’ experiences of rape.

PhD Student Lecture Series

After the PhD away day, it was decided amongst the PhD students that we should showcase our own research contributions to the department through a PhD lecture series. After approaching PhD students in our department, Alex Simpson, Piotr Maron and Holly Steel all offered to contribute to the first "PhD Open Lecture Series" which all are welcome to attend. We also intend to have all lectures chaired by PhD students. 

Ros WilliamsThe point behind this was to try and give ourselves experience of giving lectures beyond the seminar experience we get through leading seminar groups. It also demonstrates to the department and the wider university how active, diverse and - most importantly - interesting our own research contributions are.
Depending on the success of this term's lecture series, it may be feasible to add extra lecture slots in. Currently, though, the endeavour is incorporated into the Sociology PhD curriculum along with our PhD seminars in which we spend time with academics in the department who offer advice on topics such as the REF, authoring articles, and preparing for Confirmations. 

I hope over the academic year that those PhDs involved more generally in social sciences across campus might like for their own work to be show-cased in the PhD Open Lecture Series. If they are interested, they can email me at rgw511@york.ac.uk.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Nick Hardwick speaks at Jim Matthew Fund Public Lecture

The long awaited Jim Matthew Fund Public Lecture organised by the Sociology Department was successfully delivered last night. The lecture was delivered by Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Her Majesty’s Prisons who came to campus to talk about the nations prisons. Around 500 people braved the pouring rain to attend the talk including members of the public, staff from various departments and a range of postgraduate and undergraduate students.

Nick was eloquent and at times funny in his delivery but what underpinned this was the fact that the nation’s prisons are struggling. Prisoners are facing 22-23 hour days in their cells shared with another inmate and an open unscreened toilet. They get to enjoy a nutritionally balanced but dull diet that is limited by having only £1.92 to spend on each prisoner a day. Being in prison is not the luxurious holiday camp environment it is sometimes portrayed to be in newspapers. The prison service’s budget cuts have had a serious impact on prisoner conditions and the 126 UK prisons are currently running at 99% capacity. It would seem that prisons are stretched to the point where inmate violence is on the increase as the conditions in which they are incarcerated are creating a stressful pressure cooker environment. The one sign of hope and success according to Nick is the big decrease in young offender incarceration which has dropped by 2/3’s although this raises issues as it means the most troubled young people are housed together in centralised institutions often a long way from their homes.

Nick provided thought provoking stories of his experiences in visiting prisons balanced with insight into the limitations facing the prison service which the general public are not always aware of. On leaving the auditorium it was clear that the audience was left with much to ponder regarding what the state of the UK’s prisons says about the society in which we live. For as Nelson Mandela said: “no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

New Socio-Legal Publications by Paul Johnson

In the last few weeks, Paul Johnson has published the following new articles in academic journals:

1. Making Unjust Law: The Parliament of Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, Parliamentary Affairs http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/10/05/pa.gsu021.abstract
This article provides a critical analysis of the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 and the process by which it was enacted by the Parliament of Uganda.

2. Sociology and the European Court of Human Rights, The Sociological Review
This article offers a sociological analysis of the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

3. Pornography and the European Convention on Human Rights, Porn Studies
This article considers the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the former European Commission of Human Rights in respect of human rights complaints, brought under the European Convention on Human Rights, about issues relating to the possession, production or distribution of materials classified as pornographic or obscene.

In addition, Paul has written a case comment for the European Courts website, on E.B. v Austria, which concerns the denial of a conditional release for a prisoner in Austria who alleged sexual orientation discrimination. http://europeancourts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/eb-v-austria-no-conditional-prison.html

Thursday, 2 October 2014

California (day)dreaming by Alicja Heisig (Undergraduate SPS Student)

California (day)dreaming  by Alicja Heisig

If somebody told me a year ago that in June 2014 I would be going to California to present my own paper during an international conference at UCLA, I would have never believed it. At the time, I was still in the final year of my undergraduate degree in Social and Political Sciences, so was overjoyed just to be accepted to speak. When I was also informed, a couple of weeks later, that I had been awarded the Santander International Connections Award to pay for my conference fees, travel and accommodation, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. This was rapidly followed by some anxiety and doubt! Was there really anything new I could report to a roomful of experienced academics? As it turned out I was the only bachelor student there, most probably the youngest, quite likely the most nervous but definitely the most excited. And soon after I arrived this feeling of excitement overrode all the others. The 7 days that I spent at the International Conference on Conversation Analysis at UCLA were an unforgettable experience for me. In a vibrant, international environment of scholars, social scientists and professors from all over the world including a team from York, I had a chance to talk to my CA “celebrities” whose articles and books I had read and studied, I was able to network and make a lot of inspiring acquaintances and, most importantly, I managed to interest some conversation analysts and other participants in my research, which I was truly delighted about. The take home message is: even if you’re at the very start of your career, it’s worth a little bit of dreaming – sometimes those dreams can become a reality more readily than you’d think.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

PG Uni Fair - Saturday 11th October

Dr Xiaodong Lin will be representing the Department of Sociology at the UniFair in London (http://www.unifair.org/). If you are interested in studying Sociology, Criminology, Culture, Society & Globalization, or Social Media and Management/Interactive Technologies, and would like to know about the Department of Sociology and the postgraduate programmes we offer at York, please come along to talk to Dr Lin on Saturday 11th October. 

 He will be at the University of York stand.

Time: 12:00-17:00 on Saturday 11th October 2014

Venue: Monarch Suite, Hilton London Metropole Hotel, 225 Edgware Road, London W2 1JU

BSA Postgraduate Forum Event: The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues

20 November 2018 (09:00-17:00) Call for papers Research concerning sensitive and emotionally demanding issues is vital but challenging...