The Sociologist Postgraduate Newsletter, March 2011
Editorial Scribble ................................................................................................... Welcome to the Sociologist newsletter! Now in its 9th edition, weâ€™re back with more Sociological content, as well as some introductions from a few of the new students who have recently joined the department. If you have something youâ€™d like to say, please support future issues by submitting articles, images or advice that you want to share with your fellow postgraduates. Without the efforts of the many writers who have contributed over the years, this newsletter would not be possible. Thanks for reading! Your Sociologist Team Jenn Tomomitsu Muzi Pandir Lara Houston Cover image: Valetta, Malta, by Paul Mumford
We want to hear from you!
Contents Welcome Profiles PG Research Sketch Warsaw & Lancaster: A Tale of a Dual PhD Programme Guest Who! My PhD Office Comment: Crisis, Protest & Radical Critique Islamophobia -Does it Only Concern Muslims? Contributor Profiles Calendar of Events PhD Celebrations
Established 2008 Unless otherwise stated, the opinions expressed in the Sociologist are solely the author’s and not the editors or the Lancaster Sociology Department.
Call for submissions Next deadline: 01 May 2011
6 8 9
Want to write a review about a book, article or conference? Have a story to tell about doing field work? Is there a bit of advice you’d like to offer other postgraduates in the department? Do you want to comment on specific issues or debates?
11 15 17 13 19
Submission Guidelines 1) Please email your articles, tips, reviews, stories or rants to thesociologist@live. com. We also welcome research-related photographs/artwork so please send them along. 2) If you are a new contributor, please send in a short biography (1 or 2 lines), and if possible, a photograph of yourself so we can include it in the contributor’s section. 3) If your submission contains images, please email these as a separate attachment and then label them accordingly in the word document. This is because images inserted into a word document will shrink in size and will appear blurry in the final layout.
Welcome Profiles You may have noticed some new faces roaming the halls of the Sociology department. As a way of welcoming them and helping you get acquainted (if you haven’t already) below are a few profiles from some of the new postgraduate students:
My name is Christoph Musik, I work, study and live in Vienna, Austria. I am recipient of a DOC-teamfellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences at the Department of Social Studies of Science, University of Vienna. In the Lancaster Sociology Department I am a visiting student working together with Lucy Suchman. I will stay in Lancaster for about four months (from March to June 2011). I received a BA and MA in Sociology from the University of Vienna. During my master studies I specialized in Science and Technology Studies and finished my degree with a thesis on Facial Expression Recognition technologies.
My name is Wylie Carr and I am a visiting PhD student from the University of Montana in the U.S. I will be at Lancaster for the spring and summer terms to learn about science and technology studies and how such a perspective might inform my dissertation work on geoengineering. More specifically, for my dissertation, I am planning to research how communities that are vulnerable to climate change view various geoengineering proposals. I understand that there are quite a few post-graduate students and faculty members here at Lancaster that are interested in geoengineering and related climate change issues, and I look forward to meeting and working with you in the next few months. I am participating in two modules this spring: Policy, Publics, and Expertise; and a special subject course with Lucy Suchman and Claire Waterton.
My interest in machine vision continues in my PhD project: I analyse current processes of the negotiation and implementation of algorithmic identification technologies (e.g., face recognition, behaviour pattern analysis) in the Austrian context. The initial research question is how non-human actors are being taught to see, recognize and identify objects as well as humans, their movements and interactions. My dissertation is integrated in the interdisciplinary research project: Identification Practices and Techniques in Austria, 18th–21st century’ (http://www.identifizierung.org).
In addition to formal coursework, I am excited to work with other students and faculty on climate change and geoengineering-related topics whenever possible. I have provided my contact information below, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me - I would love to chat over coffee or a pint! Additionally my wife Austen and I are always looking for recommendations (or preferably company!) for good pubs, walks, outings, etc. 3
Karolina Papros My name is Karolina Papros and, despite my Greek-sounding surname, I am 100% Polish. Warsaw is the city I currently live in but my heart belongs to my hometown, Jelenia Gora, which is called the ‘Pearl of the Karkonosze Mountains’ (feel free to visit my town’s website: www.jeleniagora.pl).. I graduated from the University of Warsaw with an MA degree in Applied Linguistics. However, I decided to change my field of study to Sociology and I received a Polish post-graduate diploma in Society and Politics from the Centre for Social Studies under the auspices of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and an MA degree with merit from Lancaster University. Currently, I am a participant in the Dual PhD programme, which means that the next three years of my studies will be divided between Warsaw and Lancaster.
My supervisor in Warsaw is Prof. Kazimierz Slomczynski and at Lancaster University I am supervised by Dr Richard Tutton. My interests revolve around the concept of biopolitics and social aspects of genomics. I plan to stay in Lancaster until the end of this calendar year. You can find me in the room B107 or in Graduate College.
Mikolaj Szwechowicz I am a dual PhD student from Warsaw. I graduated from Sociology at Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University as well as from the Centre for Social Studies (Lancaster University) where I finished the Economy and Society track. Currently I am working with Maggie Mort who helps me to prepare my ethnographic research which I plan to convey on one of the Polish NGO’s. In my spare time I like to hike and hitchhike.
Research Sketch For each issue of the Sociologist, we promote postgraduate research in the department by interviewing our fellow colleagues. For this issue, we’re happy to introduce Carla Banks, a second year PhD student in the Sociology Department.
In a few sentences, can you describe what your project is about and why you chose this particular topic? I’m looking at how very particular types of shop display such as shop windows and mannequins (known as visual merchandising) set up encounters between people and commodities. I’m doing an ethnographic study of visual merchandising in a British department store focussing on how displays are designed and implemented. I’m fascinated by the inner workings of retail and there’s little empirical sociology which addresses it. What has been the most enjoyable part about doing research on your thesis? Doing the fieldwork. Probably the most enjoyable part of it has been attending a press show in London for the launch of the store’s Christmas collection. The visual merchandising team had designed and created the whole show so it helped me to understand much more about how they operated. It was also just fun to take in the spectacle of it all and eat lots of free sweets. Three words which describe how you feel about your project.
Passionate, fascinated, engrossed. Can you describe a worst and best moment during your PhD? Probably the most exciting moment was my first fieldwork trip. I was shadowing a team of visual merchandisers in a London department store and suddenly found myself
Sociology research highlights
being ushered into the largest shop window on Sloane Square. It was such a surreal experience to be on the other side of the glass and to actually have access to the people and practices I was so interested in. Even more strange was having passers-by stop to watch and wave! Worst moment…getting up at 5am every morning to travel to the Trafford Centre for my fieldwork wasn’t great. Visual merchandising is usually done when the store is closed so I had to get used to their early starts. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I haven’t thought that far ahead. If you could do another PhD, what topic would you choose?
Something else that required me to spend large periods of time in shops! What advice would you give to people who are just starting their PhD? Write everything down, even if it doesn’t seem important. It’s so easy to forget all the small details of your fieldwork. As I’m writing I like to go back over the little notebooks that I filled during my fieldwork. They instantly take me back to being in the field and I spot new connections with what I’m writing each time.
Warsaw & Lancaster: A Tale of a … Dual PhD programme Karolina Papros and Mikołaj Szwechowicz tell The Sociologist about their ‘Dual PhD’ experience Karolina and Mikołaj come from Poland, live in Warsaw and study in the Graduate School for Social Research (GSSR) under the auspices of the Polish Academy of Sciences. They came to Lancaster a few weeks ago as participants in a freshly-launched Dual PhD programme between Warsaw and Lancaster University. In this interview Karolina and Mikołaj share their Warsaw/Lancaster experience. Q: It has been a month since you both came to Lancaster. What do you think about the city and the university itself? Mikołaj (M): I think Lancaster is a nice city but what I appreciate the most is the fact that it is so close to many beautiful wilderness areas like the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales. I am still too busy with my dissertation but as soon as I have some spare time, I will for sure go there. The University itself is simply a stunning place and it gives amazing possibilities to students, especially if one’s study is interdisciplinary in scope. However, the distance between the town and the campus might be a bit problematic because, on the one hand, it probably helps students stay focused on their studies during the week but, on the other hand, commuting becomes tiring after some time. Karolina (K): I live in Graduate College so commuting is not a problem for me, however, since the Polish Academy of Sciences is located in the heart of Warsaw, I miss being in the city centre. Apart from that, I think Lancaster is a lovely town with its own distinct atmosphere. I like it. As far as the University is concerned, it is truly a world-class institution. Q: Do you enjoy studying at Lancaster University? 6
K: Yes, definitely! Most of all, I enjoy spending
time with people. Since we came, we have had plenty of opportunities to meet with other PhD students and academic staff. It helped me stop missing so much of my life in Warsaw. Everyone is kind, nice and helpful, therefore it is impossible not to enjoy studying here, especially when the university provides you with your own office and a great office-mate! M: I wholeheartedly agree. I think most of our PhD colleagues enjoy their time here. I consider myself very lucky because I work with a great supervisor – Maggie Mort. Our lively discussions usually end up with dozens of new ideas, which I find extremely cool. The university staff seems to be very engaged in what they teach or research and this attitude is truly contagious! I really feel that working here is like being on the intellectual fifth gear almost all the time. Q: ‘Intellectual fifth gear’ – I like it! But coming back to the ‘duality’ of your experiences, could you explain in a few words what this Dual PhD programme is about? M: It is really hard to explain in just a few words. The basic idea is to give students the opportunity to benefit from studying in two world-class institutions – the Polish Academy of Sciences and Lancaster University. As full-time students we have unlimited access to their resources and facilities, and, more importantly, we have one supervisor from each institution. After all, it is not only about a nice entry in your Curriculum Vitae but, most of all, it is about this unique experience which only studying in two different countries can give you. K: It should be also mentioned that we write one single dissertation for both institutions
The Polish Academy of Sciences is located in the beautiful Staszic Palace and, if we are successful, in the end we may receive two PhDs. This is quite an incentive. However, right now I do not think about it, I just want to start narrowing my topic! Q: To be honest, this programme sounds too good to be true! Whereâ€™s the catch? M: Excuse me if I am being too pragmatic but money is what makes the world go round. Careful calculations of expenditures, which are obviously higher in the UK than in Poland, are important if you want to get the best out of this experience. Apart from that, you must be also aware of the different approaches to studying. In Poland, for example, the supervision looks a little bit different: all students of a given supervisor meet together during a seminar to discuss their research. Very rarely we meet our supervisor on a one-to-one basis. Also the viva looks differently in Poland; it is a public event, so you can invite anyone you like, whereas here, it is something you share just with your supervisor and the examiners. Finally, in the Polish system all students are required to collect points for courses, which is not the case
in the UK system. K: Let me elaborate on those credit points. Every year we are supposed to collect a certain amount of points in order to pass to the next year. We can receive them for attending classes, writing books, articles and participating in conferences. Attending classes is probably the most common way of collecting those points; that is why we have to take at least 5 courses per year. Personally, I prefer the British system where PhD students are not required to attend any courses at all and they can focus on their dissertation. I favour this system because in Poland you choose 5 courses, which usually are not in your scope of interests, and later on you have to use up your energy on writing 5 thematically-different essays. Q: Would you recommend this programme to other students? K: Yes. Even though it is our first month in Lancaster, I can already say it was worth coming here. I just wish that our Academy was
more interested in how we feel and how we are doing here because I have the impression that they have forgotten about us…
Q: Wow, that was really deep. Thank you for your insight. And the last question: Is there anything you miss about Poland?
M: I still hope they do remember us and I agree with Karolina that this programme is definitely worth recommending! Every time you expose yourself to other cultures and people from different countries, you not only learn a lot about them, but also your cultural and sociological sensibility becomes sharper. What is equally important, you learn a lot about yourself, too. One of my professors once told me that if you want to understand your own society, you need to feel detached from it at least once. Then you will know what it is that makes it as it is. I think that this approach, together with the ability to look at things from different angles, to ask questions and find multiple answers in the most creative way – these are the essential skills that we all strive for in the field of social sciences.
M: I miss a lot of things. First of all, my family and friends (including three crazy dogs that I have at home) but I think it is quite natural. I regret that I will not have a chance to go skiing or snowboarding this year. And… I think that there is a different approach to food in the UK than in the continental Europe... In my opinion, we celebrate the ritual of eating a bit more and…. K: Oh, yes, the food! I miss Polish shops and Polish prices… Everything is so expensive here and I cannot find any meat, at least on the campus, that would look fresh or at least edible (I cannot wait to come home for Easter)! But food is not the most important here, I miss very much all the people I love and I wish they were here with me. However, they are keeping their fingers crossed for me and my dissertation, so I cannot let them down. Thank you very much and good luck to both of you!
Guest Who? Each issue we will publish a mystery person in the Sociology department. See if you can guess this issue’s mystery interviewee! Who knows, it might be your office-mate, a close friend or someone you’ve never met before. The answer is on the bottom of the last page. Use three words to describe yourself: Optimistic, self-confident, obsessed
An ideal vacation for you is Far away from everything usual
Worst habit? Taking work everywhere even if I’m not doing it
The world needs a lot less ... Commodifed relations
What’s your most valued possession? What’s inside my laptop
Recount a memorable childhood moment: Playing in the beach in Mozambique in the shallow emerald waters . Describe a moment in history you’d like to have been there for: The Portuguese democratic revolution
Favourite food? The Portuguese version of fish & chips, “Bacalhau à Brás” Something you’re good at? Being a mum 8
My PhD office Do you have a story about your office that you’d like to share? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Send us your thoughts as we’d like to learn more about how postgrads create work spaces for themselves. This issue’s postgraduate office belongs to Shaun Perng. At this stage, I’m waving bye-bye to my office in the department, which features an eyecatching, building-colour (which is purple) and an extremely complicated chair and a plain desk. The desk, as many have pointed out in previous issues, is often the quintessential object in a PhD office, no matter if it is on campus or in a cozy room at home. There are, however, other things that are crucial to what (or where) my PhD office is. The tree (oh.. sorry... this borrows from Ingold and the idea of taskscape - please forgive my pathetic bookishness) in the courtyard is essential as boredom strikes much more often than typing fleeting thoughts into one file after another. Boredom is not always a bad thing, if properly entertained. You can’t always feel meaningful in the office, but a living tree and its colour-changing and falling-and-growing-again leaves provide just enough entertainment to the highly repetitive process of writing, idling, editing, deleting, regretting-deleting and computer-crashing routines. Speaking of coming in to the office, leaving is also important. If cycling in is courageous (i.e. challenging the uphills, gusts of wind and constant rain) and ambitious (planning to finish a whole chapter by the time I return home), leaving (the physical) office is then full of bitter disappointments. But a recent study conducted in Lancaster’s psychology department (it’s real!) shows that watching an open space
is closely connected to provoking creative thinking, and it is what cycling back to town pays off. Sliding down the road with a tail wind is of course wonderful, but it is often the time when new ideas splash like a fountain (though not workable every time, I have to reluctantly admit). This study shows the importance of taking a break, which leads to the final crucial piece of the jigsaw of my office.
The place I visit the most when I come in to work is here. It is a part of ‘the office’ not because of the function it provides for the apparent physiological reason. There are socio-psychological ones because the development of many sentences or structures of articles, presentation, etc. is indebted to the enclosed space that it provides by blocking the luring and attention-eating world of the Internet, and separating myself from endlessly enjoyable chitchats with officemates. This space, according to the previously mentioned research, mandates a break to the brain and commands a chance to, paradoxically, think outside the box when inside a box. So, all I ask for from a desk is a large size and having no drawers. But without cycle path, the tree and the box, my PhD office would not be complete!
FLOORBALL Try out floorball by joining the weekly game – Tuesdays from 12-1pm in the Minor Hall where colleagues from Sociology, Geography, and other departments come together for a fun game. All you need are running shoes and a sense of adventure (i.e. no skill required).
Crisis, Protest and Radical Critique by Diana Stypinska
Crisis: Everything is OK. The word crisis originates in the Greek κρίσις which derives from κρίνω meaning ‘I decide’. Κρίσις implies determination, judgment, trial or dispute as well as a turning or decisive point. In contemporary times crisis comes to be recognized as an unexpected threat to important goals which creates uncertainty and the need for change. Crisis is an emergency event, a testing time for the society. Crisis is not simply a Schmittian state of emergency; a time when governments introduce exceptions under the guise of deterring an alien threat to human finitude. On the contrary, the power of crisis lies in its tedious character. Ours is a society where crisis becomes a dispositif of security in the Foucauldian sense: by announcing a national (or even global) crisis, the state is demonstrating to its subjects that it is aware of an increasingly difficult situation and that it is already taking steps to minimise its impact on the people. It is a government’s way of saying ‘Everything is OK’, we are all in the same boat and there is no need to rock it. Instead, we should come together and row more efficiently. Everything is OK. Yes, the rats might be abandoning the sinking ship, but we should keep rowing in good faith that which has become a wreck will be repaired by those
in power. That is, as long as we keep it moving and don’t let it go adrift. Subsequently, within a society organized through conspicuous consumption and politics of security, the notion of crisis acquires a postpolitical dimension. The classical ‘I decide’ moves into the sphere of individualistic lifestyle politics and is replaced by ‘We decide for you’ – a governmental pledge of devotion to and solidarity with the people who don’t need to preoccupy themselves with the political realm of decision-making, but can instead express their ‘unique ideas’ through the acquisition of mass produced waste. The message to the people reads as follows: Yes, the economic crisis is taking place. Yes, there are severe cuts to the public services. Yes, many of you are losing your jobs and being faced with financial insecurity. But, we have it all in hand. We know what we are doing. We are the experts and we are already working on the solutions. We are the government you have elected, trust us. Everything is OK. Just keep shopping. The economy needs you. Politics doesn’t. Protest ! Nowadays, our right to freedom of speech is located in the ability to protest. Protesting is seen as a way of publicly expressing
Photo taken with permission from Stock xchng one’s opinion, opinion that usually stands in opposition to something actual. Recently, this right to protest has been taking the form of public demonstrations – against cuts to public service and the increase in university tuition fees. Those demonstrations, powered by the anger of the people, were organized in order to influence governmental policy. This is the people’s fight against injustice, a stand for equality, a call for solidarity. Those public protests demand actual changes and show a considerable transformation in collective consciousness, a shift in people’s understanding of and relationship to politics.
Many look upon the repetitive chants of protesters (i.e. ‘Nick Clegg is a Dickhead’) in a sceptical manner. They argue that power is in the numbers and the very marginal turnout at the local protests only suggests that the majority of the people believe that everything is OK. Those are the people who look upon protest as a site of praxis (an activity that aims at the end that is not distinct from the activity itself). They ask what have the protesters
achieved and point to the indifference of the majority. They laugh at the prospect of a revolution (systemic change) and bitterly proclaim that the time of the power of the people is over. Why are we so quick to judge? Hannah Arendt asserts that revolutions cannot be made, that when power disintegrates they are possible but not necessary. She believes that people are responsible for their own political circumstances, even if just through tacit consent to tradition and state law. She does not link revolution to protest. Rightly so. The potential for change cannot be reduced to the actual state of things. Recent British demonstrations might not have been successful in the achievement of their actual and immediate demands. This does not, by any means, suggest that they are a failure. A failure to mobilize the amount of people significant from the governmental perspective, perhaps. But something much more interesting and important is taking place here. The public demonstrations are extending far beyond
the symbolic of the expression of solidarity and free speech. They show a possibility of challenging one’s ontology, a possibility of critical thinking and a possibility for a reestablishment of common politics, where every vote matters and indifference does not take place. The recent public demonstrations are all about breaking out of the nice, shiny, sterile cage of indifference. In reclaiming the public spaces they open up a potential for being more than just a good consumer. They ever so slightly lift the curtain of the illusory control and let us have a naughty peek at what it could be like. They take the crucial step towards critique, not being fazed by the lengthiness of the process, by the lack of immediate results. This is the difference between posing infinite demands which need to be immediately met and demanding infinity, standing up for a universal idea – reclaiming politics and freedom. Perhaps the cynical criticisms and immediate negative judgements cast upon the recent demonstrations are symptomatic of not only the magnitude but also the urgency of the collective change. Not a call for revolution, but a more reasonable and mature appeal for the resuscitation of politics and the political. Perhaps, just perhaps, the so-called failure of the public protests against the increase in tuition fees was a success in illuminating the full extent of the problem. Perhaps, a thorough understanding of the business status of the universities and the consumer rights of its customers carries the possibility of student demanding their moneys-worth: an education system that is not a politically charged profit-driven panoptic structure, but one that teaches them about politics – a space for free and critical thinking. Radical Critique… Critique understood as the art of criticism is in its analytical investigations a steadfast companion of academic writing. In fact, critique has become such a fashionable commotion in contemporary academia, that it is difficult to find one that does not claim to conduct a critical analysis in his/her field of expertise.
Recently, the critical threshold had reached such an overload that many internationally acclaimed sociological figures, as for example one of the main representatives of this trend Luc Boltanski, have come forward proclaiming that we are living in the times of the ‘paradox of critique’, or indeed, its ‘crisis’. That critique fundamentally established as a macroanalysis of the global systems is assimilated into them on a regular basis, without any major changes. That even the vocabulary of resistance has been accommodated and that the notion (and pursuit) of individually justified common good is now the prerogative. Everything is OK, thanks for your feedback, now please get back to your shopping. In this, the chief adversary of critique – that is, its radical potential – is being repeatedly removed out of the ‘critical thinking’ paradigm. Today, we find the word ‘radical’ dirty. It is a dangerous noun that finds its place amongst anarchist movements inciting vandalism of private property, causing disorder and distressing the majority of others (programmed to think that ‘Everything is OK’ apart from that unpleasant minor incident swiftly suppressed by police). It seems that the original meaning of ‘radical’ – that which goes to the root or origin of the problem – is nearly forgotten. Hence, the identity politics movements. Environmentalists, ethnic minority rights, non-discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs and disability movements, feminists…I could go on… All these groups are highly critical of their empirical study sample. They fight in a good cause, often demanding equality and dignity for all. What they however, fail to entice is critique of a radical nature; the one which looks at the underlying assumptions of systemic structures, digs deep down to the roots of the problem and makes the connection to a so-called ‘bigger picture’. The inherently political critique – as we are inherently political beings. The radical activity which unveils the real cause of all problems, reaching to us from the realm of possibility, opening our eyes to alternatives. The critique that is a process of transformation outside and within us – the challenge to one’s ontology and the actual order surrounding him/her. . If critique is indeed in crisis, it is because of its
inability to think freely, to sustain its political character, to reach to the root of the problem and to become truly radical. In fact, what is taking place is what Bülent Diken describes in terms of ‘radical critique as the paradox of post-political society’. ‘It seems today as if whatever is considered as ‘critique’ is invented to forget politics’, says Diken. Radical critique, on the other hand, as a perverse activity that requires no justification, does not fit the confines of the actual order. It’s seen as either terroristic or delusional. Correspondingly, protest in times of crisis is also seen as either a terroristic, violent activity or an insane shouting match between representatives of different groups. This has been particularly visible during the recent protests against cuts to the public services in Lancaster town centre. Apart from the usual indifference of the public to these manifestations of political disillusionment, there were also some angry responses from Christmas shoppers, who accused the protesters of spoiling the festive mood and warned them that vandalism and attacks on high street brands are not supported and will not be tolerated. Living in what’s called a liberal society, this reaction should come as a shock. However, from a theoretical perspective it is to be expected. Protest comes very close to radical critique. Whilst protest is an act of reaching into the domain of possibility from the plane of the actual problems; radical critique is the reverse of this activity. Radical critique comes to being in the void between the potential and the actual. It is a hand reaching out from the realm of not yet fulfilled potentialities, holding up a mirror to the people and allowing them to see what futures might lie ahead. Both protest and radical critique are disruptive and offensive: protest in its call for solidarity and actual change; critique in its inhuman demands and detachment from identity politics. Protest is there to say that something needs to be done.
The message that radical critique offers is that of sacrifice, of being critical and open to the event which is taking place now. Demonstrations attempt to create events, whilst radical critique withdraws from the
domain of strategic planning and opportunism. Perceiving the world through the lens of radical critique, it becomes painfully clear that there is no time like now, that the change needs to take place, so that we can take yet another step in the direction of the possibility. Radical critique in its perverse activity aims at self-annihilation. It strives to be obsolete as it has got no identity to hold on to, only ideas and values through which it becomes immortal just as the individuals who advocate it. It is my academic research that leads me to believe that protest, radical critique and even (forgive yet another dreaded word!) revolution, remain to hold their political potential. The problem (if we can even call it one) is the common indifference manifesting itself perhaps most symptomatically in the belief that politics fall outside the individual domain of necessity; the belief that one can simply divorce him/herself from having a political identity and opinion, and perform the role of an ethical consumer instead. And even if all the protests planned for 2011 will fail in achieving their actual demands, they will still retain their political potential. Qualitative change is a long and difficult process of political awakening in which radical critique plays a very important role. So, dear readers, next time you will see a word ‘radical’, do not dismiss the article so easily. Yes, you will probably be offended by the content and confused by the intention of the author. Try to remember, however, that beyond our ascribed identities and interests we are all humans and radical critique taps into that humanity, taking away the fear of scarcity and offering priceless, yet the worthiest of all gifts: the immortality of an idea.
Islamophobia – Does it only concern Muslims? by Müzeyyen Pandır On the 10th of February it was noted that all the posters belonging to the university’s Islamic Society were ripped from the campus walls. The posters were announcing a series of talks during the society’s Islamic Awareness Week between 14-18 February. The posters were all around the campus and the fact that each one of them were ripped off signalled that it was done deliberately. The Islamic Society reported the incident to the university’s security and student union (LUSU). LUSU responded in writing that it was common that posters on campus get destroyed. There was an assault on each poster of the Islamic Society and this was seen as normal. Coincidentally (or shall we say relevantly?), the second talk of the Islamic Awareness Week was on Islamophobia. Dr. Chris Allen from the University of Birmingham gave a presentation titled “Who is afraid of Islamophobia?” He talked about prejudice against Muslims in Britain. He started his talk noting that after ten years we, all members of the society, are living under the shadow of September 11th. We have been living with ethnic diversity for decades but this question has emerged since September 11th, “Can the Muslim identity and European identity co-exist?” This is a question belonging to the post-September 11th world. To present a general picture about how people see Muslims in Britain, Allen presented some
statistical numbers about Islamophobia. According to the numbers; 58 percent of the nation links Islam to extremism. 52 percent of the nation believes that Britain is deeply divided along religious lines. The implied religious divide, Allen explains, is between Muslims and everybody else. 45 percent of the nation sees religious diversities have a negative contribution to the society, again further explaining that this is about seeing the presence of Islam having a negative impact in society. Allen provided some more numbers like these but one moment that raised laughs amongst the audience was when he mentioned an online poll conducted by Daily Star on 25 October 2010. The newspaper asked, “Do you think that Britain will become an Islamic state” and 98 percent of the participants replied “yes”. I always approach statistical numbers sceptically but here I find it important that these surveys show us the framework in which the Muslim community is thought of in Britain. Especially in regards to the Daily Star poll; although we do not know whether we can take it seriously because we do not know out of how many participants 98 percent responded “yes”, nevertheless there is something here that is more striking than the finding itself: a newspaper has thought of such a question, and found it relevant enough to organise a 15
poll about it and maybe provoked its readers to think that there is a danger that Britain will become an Islamic state. Even if it is in a question format, forming this question invokes the message that there is a threat of Islamification of Britain, which is actually the message of English Defence League. If we come back to Allen’s talk, after illustrating through numbers that Islamophobia exists, he raised the issue of the way that Islamophobia is seen in public today. A recent debate on this issue was started by the Conservative Party chairwoman Lady Warsi when she gave a conference speech in January and stated that Islamophobia is now socially acceptable in Britain (Guardian, 20 January 2011). Her statement received various positive and negative responses, yet it was an important speech because somebody in the government openly made a warning that prejudice against Muslims is now seen as normal and that Islamophobia exists in an unrecognised way in society. Later in the talk, Chris Allen confirmed Warsi’s statement through conclusions from his own research. Some finishing remarks he made were “Muslims are perceived as challenging our culture and our values” and there is a “commonsense” among public that “no ground between Muslims and non-Muslims exist or can exist”. Overall, I found this to be the most worrying
issue that Allen’s presentation pointed at: antiMuslim views are now commonsense. As Allen noted, even recognising and acknowledging Islamophobia is difficult because there are instances when acknowledging Islamophobia is itself perceived as supporting Islamification. Criticising Islamophobia is compared to being an extremist. On the other hand, there are organisations such as the English Defence League that are organising people to march against Muslims. So we are living in a climate in which we are not allowed to diagnose the problem because it has been naturalised, yet the problem is becoming bigger every day. With regards to the question in the title of his talk, “Who is afraid of Islamophobia?”, Allen replied, we should all be afraid of it. Islamophobia does not only concern Muslim people. It signals the way how society sees those who are different from the majority. Islamophobia is a form of racism targeting Muslim people in the post-September 11th era. Seeing its instances as normal or acceptable is just a way of contributing to it. In this respect, it is disappointing that LUSU did not see it as important to consider why each one of the Islamic Society’s posters was ripped from the walls all around the campus. They could have at least refused to see it as normal, and confirmed that such behaviours are unacceptable. After all, recognising a problem is the first step in treating it.
Contributors Müzeyyen Pandır
Müzeyyen (or Müzi, as most of you know her) is a final-year PhD student in Sociology. Her research explores European Union discourses with a special focus on the kinds of inclusion and exclusion they produce. She is from Istanbul and she enjoys movies, music, books, tea and coffee. Jenn Tomomitsu Jennifer recently submitted her thesis on enactments of seeing and the material practices of scientific imaging. In between waiting for her viva and applying for jobs, she enjoys music, yoga, cycling, learning the violin and watching episodes of Mad Men. Lara Houston Lara is a second year PhD student in the Centre for Science Studies. Her work focusses on mobile phone repair cultures in Kampala, Uganda, and she’s currently undertaking her fieldwork there. Diana Stypinska Diana Stypinska is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and PPR
PhD Workshops Lent term (Gail Crowther) 15th March: Looking (way) ahead – The viva!
We need your help... Please help us make next year’s newsletter even better by answering the following questions. You can copy and paste the answers into an email to: thesociologist@live. com 1. What did you like most about the Sociologist? 2. What did you like the least? 3. What suggestions would you offer to improve the publication? 4. Any other comments or suggestions (such as ideas for content)
Guest Who?! Silvia Ferreira
Departmental and Faculty Seminar Schedule Please note: this schedule is still preliminary as speakers, paper titles and dates will change in the upcoming months
DATE 2 March 2011 12.30 - 2.00 pm
TITLE Seminar Series - Beyond Inclusion: Special and Mainstream Schools working together
VENUE FASS Building Meeting Room 1
SPEAKER Tania Vazquez Doctoral Student, Educational Research
3 March 2011 4.00 - 6.00 pm
Ruskin Research Seminar
FASS Building Meeting Room 2/3
9 March 2011 2.15 - 6.00 pm
DELC Departmental Litfest
DELC Resource Centre (B83 Bowland North)
Francis O’Gorman (University of Leeds)
9 March 2011 9.30 am - 4.15 pm
Agamben & the Future of Law, Newcastle Law Politics & Philosophy School
10 March 2011 4.00 - 6.00 pm
Ruskin Research Seminar: Coming of Age: Ruskin’s Drawings and Watercolours from the Grand Tour of 184041
FASS Building Meeting Room 2/3
16 March 2011 2.30 - 3.30 pm
Writing External Funding Applications seminar series, ‘Applying to Charities for funding’ (seminar 5)
FASS Building Meeting Room 3
17 March 2011 12.00 - 1.00 pm
CSS/CSEC Mixtures: Science, media, policy and wildlife: the badger/bovine TB controversy
FASS Building Meeting Room 3
Dr. Angela Cassidy, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia
17 March 2011 4.00 - 6.00 pm
Ruskin Research Seminar Politics of Class and Politics of Caste: New Perspectives on Ruskin and Gandhi
FASS Building Meeting Room 2/3
DATE 24 March 2011 4.00 - 6.00 pm
TITLE Ruskin Research Seminar: Ruskin and Tolstoy: Sex, Violence and Philosophy in Late Imperial Russia
VENUE FASS Building Meeting Room 2/3
SPEAKER Stuart Eagles
29 March 2011 4.15 - 6.00 pm
Maternal Publics: Time, Relationality and the Public Sphere
FASS Meeting Room Lisa Baraister 2/3
11-12 May 2011 10.00 am - 5.00 pm
Bowland North SR20 Arthur Bradley Brian Garvey Tom Grimwood Patrice Haynes Gavin Hyman Chakravarthi RamPrasad (Lancaster) David M Seymour Graham M Smith Alison Stone Andrew Tate Tom Wolstenholme
25 May 2011 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
CeMoRe Annual Research Day 2011
PhD Celebrations! During the past term, there were several successfully completed vivas and many celebrations in the corridor! Big congratulations go to ... - Dana Bentia. Her thesis title was “Training Tastes: A Relational Approach to Food, Taste and the Senses”. Dana worked with Anne Cronin and John Urry. - Nicola Spurling. Her thesis title was “Authors of our own lives? Individuals, Institutions and the Everyday Practice of Sociology”. Nicola worked with Andrew Sayer and Elizabeth Shove.
- Sam Brown. His thesis title was “In the Heat of Power: Understanding Vulnerability to Heatwaves in Care Homes for Older People”. Sam worked with Elizabeth Shove, Will Medd and Gordon Walker. - Silvia Ferreira. Her thesis title was “The Paradox of the Third Sector”. Silvia worked with Bob Jessop and Will Medd.
Published on Mar 3, 2011