editorial s c r i bbl e
A POSTGRADUATE NEWSLETTER
8 MARCH 2010
Hello everyone and welcome to the sixth edition of the Sociologist newsletter. I am happy to say that this might be our biggest issue yet, with articles ranging from the joys of starting a writing group, to tips on surviving a viva, as well as some interesting reviews and social commentaries. Therefore, rather than write an engaging editorial, hopefully you will need no further encouragement to open the first page and start perusing. As usual I want to say a big thank you to the contributors, without whose continuing eagerness this publication would cease to be, and to Christoph for his fantastic job on the newsletter layout. A special thank you goes to co-editor Muzi, who took on a majority of the editorial work for this newsletter while I was home in Canada. And lastly, thanks to you, the reader, for continuing to support the Sociologist. We hope you enjoy this latest edition..
Photo: On the ferry to Dover, taken by Chr. Michels
The Sociologist team, Jenn Tomomitsu Muzi Pandir Christoph Michels
Contents PG Research Highlight – 2 The Wonders of Writing Groups – 3 A Day in the Life of ‘Writing-Up’: – 5 Guest who? – 6 Reflections on the Viva – 7 My PhD Office – 9 Silencing the Palestinian Issue – 10 Speakers’ Corner – 11 The Famous Sociology Crossword! – 12 On the Drugs Debate and the Sacking of David Nutt – 13 Road to a good life – 14 Contributors – 15 Calendar 2009 – 16
PG Research Highlight with Allison Hui One of the aims of this newsletter is to promote postgraduate research in the department. For this issue, we’re happy to introduce Allison Hui, a third year PhD student in the Sociology Department. We recently caught up with Allison to ask her some questions in relation to her project. 1. In a few sentences, can you describe what your project is about and why you chose this particular topic? My current research grows out of interests I developed in my MA, which looked at how prominent spatializations of tourism and home do not resonate with the practices of those who travel to second homes or previous homes. In my PhD, I am considering how theories of mobilities and of practices can be brought together to explain the complex spatial and temporal relationships behind people doing certain types of things at certain times in certain places. While I'm interested in abstract and theoretical relationships, my research hopefully avoids becoming too obscure by being grounded in four leisure practices: birdwatching, patchwork quilting, yoga and hiking. 2. What has been the most enjoyable part about doing research on your thesis? On a personal level, I have been very touched by the willingness of participants and colleagues to share their knowledge and advice with me. In terms of research though, nothing beats the moments when you finally piece together a really helpful analytic strategy or theoretical argument. 3. Can you describe a worst and best moment during your PhD? I try not to think in terms of worst and best moments because for me grad school has been about learning to contextualize the difficulties and the triumphs, the days that you can't string one sentence together and the days words just flow from your fingertips. The lows and the highs are inseparable, and so what I always try to do is just keep working away. 4. Three words which describe how you feel about your project. Challenged - committed - careful 5. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? As a child, I seldom agreed to state what I wanted to be when I grew up, and today I still find it hard to say where I will be in the future. While I would like to be a lecturer in a department that has a strong teaching and research reputation, the realities of the current situation in higher education mean that I may weave a very circuitous route on my way there. 6. If you could do another PhD, what topic would you choose? I would draw inspiration from David Sudnow and do a study of piano accompanists - how they learn to identify and respond to cues from the singers they make music with. Having accompanied singers for years myself, I think there is something very interesting about the nonverbal communication and complex sensations of such collaborative performances. 7. What advice would you give to people who are just starting their PhD? Don't try to figure it all out yourselves. I have learned an immense amount from speaking to students in other years, departments, and countries, as well as to members of staff and non-academics. People are usually very happy to share their experiences with you, but they often don't do so unless you ask.
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T h e Wo n d e rs o f Wr i t i n g G r o u p s by James Tomasson* As postgrads, most of us recognize that one of – if not the – toughest challenges of doing a PhD is the actual process of writing the thesis. It’s no secret that eloquently articulating critical and highly-abstract thoughts into a well-organised narrative structure demands a lot of time and effort. Yet I’m sure most of us can recount a time when no matter how much we wanted a piece to be good or how many hours we devoted to it, it just didn’t happen as quickly or as effortlessly as we would have liked. Many times this is due to relatively straight-forward issues: how well we know the material, the amount of time available to draft and revise, and our emotional states when composing. This last factor can be a particularly powerful one with respect to completing a doctoral thesis. As with many of life’s other challenges, when the writing is going well, a sense of faith in the ability to attain one’s goals is quite easily generated. On the other hand, when things aren’t going as planned, we often find ourselves unable to shake off feelings of ineptitude, confusion or selfdoubt. In the very worst cases, we may assume the discrepancy between our aspirations and achievements is due to some inherent intellectual deficiency which somehow went unnoticed prior to enrolling in the postgraduate program. Being impatient and suffering from a lack of confidence, we may find ourselves caught up in an unending cycle of perfectionism and procrastination where the standards are set too high and we put off writing until the last moment, consequently submitting poorly-
conceived work and fulfilling the field of interest and in the process very prophecy we hoped to avoid. of putting words to paper. When the going gets tough, it’s also I found myself in a similar comforting to know that our susituation towards the end of my pervisors have had plenty of PhD fourth year. At the time I still students prior to us and, hence, hadn’t produced the quantity or possess a lot of experience in the quality of chapters I knew I coaxing students along the path would need in order to graduate. to graduation. My supervisors were, understandably, becoming increasingly Yet, despite the best of inimpatient with my lack of progress tentions, I believe showing one’s and I began to wonder if I made a sometimes crude and flimsy draft serious mistake in deciding to do chapters to a supervisor can be a PhD. With time running out I potentially quite debilitating and realised if I was to ever get a han- counter-productive. This partly dle on my project and make some has to do with the fact that many serious advances, I would have to supervisors graduated years ago adopt a novel approach to my and, in some cases, were doctorproblem. As it turns out, forming a ate students themselves before writing group was just the solution we were even born. Hence, beI needed. cause they have been writing for so long, many of us may find it Although I’d been toying difficult to acknowledge they truly with the idea of showing my writ- know what it’s like to struggle with ing to other people for several the writing process. My point here months and had learned about is not to deny the extraordinary the benefits of writing groups efforts supervisors exert in helpthrough the Web, it still took me a ing us to write well, but merely to while to work up the courage to point out some of the reasons email some friends to see if they why showing work to people more were interested in participating. It professionally advanced might has now been a year and a half occasionally be a hindrance in since I sent that email and, look- completing a thesis. ing back, I can whole-heartedly say it was one of the best deciAt this stage you might be sions I’ve ever made. And this is wondering exactly what happens why, regardless of whether you’re in a writing group meeting. Conin your first year or your final one, trary to what you might think, I’d like to encourage you to start a even when it’s not your turn in the writing group yourself. ‘hot seat’ for a particular week, participating in a group is a great Before I describe what opportunity to better reflect on happens in the group and provide your own ideas and writing style. some tips on how to form one of This is because when you read your own, it’s worth mentioning a someone else’s chapter, you start bit about supervisory meetings. to see in their material the misAll postgrads are required to pre- takes that you yourself make. sent work to at least one acaMore importantly, you remember demic in the department. Show- the advice you gave them. Thus, ing our work to supervisors can by reading and editing other peobe a reassuring experience be- ple’s work, you hone valuable cause they’re experts in a shared
O N W R I T I N G, PA RT I skills which can be implemented into your own writing practice. In addition, when someone in the group is having trouble with a specific part of the composition process (i.e. their text lacks theoretical depth or is too convoluted) it’s much easier to provide suggestions, especially if you suffer from those very same challenges. In short, writing groups create a ‘full-circle approach’ whereby you can routinely apply the lessons you learned when editing others’ work to your own method of creating chapters. There’s also something very reassuring in witnessing a fellow members’ chapter evolve from a set of scattered and rudimentary ideas into a wellargued and succinct text.
suggestions on how to go about it, based on what my fellow group members and I have learnt over the past year and a half. For us, the best group size is four people: it’s small enough to circulate work on a regular basis but large enough that if someone can’t attend, someone else can usually throw something together and the meeting isn’t cancelled. In terms of meeting frequency, although we originally came together once a week, it turned out that this was too often as it required everyone to have something fresh to read every month. Thirty days sounds like a long time but, unless you’re quite advanced in your program and already have lots written, it really is quite a short period to get something drafted and ready for There are several other comments. This is why we now benefits of being in a group. For meet every two weeks. instance, because writing a PhD can be a very isolating experiAlthough we each label ence, there’s a lot to be said for ourselves ‘sociologists’, it also the opportunity to socialise with really helps that we study different other people in the same position sub-disciplines. Having areas of as you. Often there are moments expertise which don’t overlap is before and after the meetings beneficial since it prevents the where jokes are shared, frustra- dangerous practice of relying on tions are vented and any tensions too much jargon to convey what incurred throughout the day can we mean, thereby inadvertently be released. Joining a group masking any ambiguities or inmight also give you the confi- adequacies in our work. Coming dence to throw something to- from various sub-fields encourgether you otherwise wouldn’t ages us to explain our argument show anyone, especially your su- in layman’s terms, thus improving pervisors, which might be just the overall quality of our ideas. In what you need to get started in a short, I would suggest that you try new, and perhaps even more fruit- to step out of your comfort zone ful, direction. Furthermore, if you and find people who may not be find yourself in a situation where in the same sub-discipline. If anyyour supervisor is offering advice thing, you’ll at least learn about which runs counter to your intui- some of the strange and wondertion, discussing it with others that ful ideas your colleagues have are familiar with your work can come across in their readings. raise alternative perspectives. All My final suggestion is to in all, writing groups can facilitate not worry about handing in a very supportive environment in ‘proper’ or ‘complete’ draft chapwhich to develop your craft and ters. Instead, feel free to submit cultivate a vital sense of selfanything you’re currently working confidence. on. It could be a paper for an upHaving made a case for coming conference, a mind-map why you might consider starting with some well-explained notes, your own group, here are some or even a few pages from your
research journal outlining some of the difficulties you’re presently encountering. What matters most is that by showing the work to others, it will aid you in developing and crystallising your ideas into something that you can use later on. By now you can probably see why I’m a strong supporter of participating in writing groups. I hope this article encourages you to email some of your friends and set a date for your first group meeting. If you’d like more information, visit: http://chris.golde.org/filecabinet/w ritegroups.html or just type “academic writing groups” into Google. Good luck!
*Special thanks to Allie, Dana, Misela, Sergio and Tom for all the chats we shared which contributed to the creation of this article.
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A D a y i n t h e L i f e o f ‘ Wr i t i n g - U p ’ : r e fl e c t i v e t h o u g h t s o n p r o d u c i n g a t h e s i s by Jennifer Tomomitsu Day 45 It’s 7:30 a.m. and the torrential rain has finally subsided. Over breakfast, I watch seagulls descend on to a still pool of water in the cricket field outside, the whiteness of their bodies a stark contrast against the greyness of morning. For a moment, I find myself wanting to step out onto that green expanse and immerse myself in a world that exists outside of the ideas that never seem to escape my weary head. I consider how great it would be to live like a bird for a day where my only concern would be to forage for food, not ponder how my thesis argument is taking shape. But of course I don’t step outside - instead I pour myself a cup of coffee and walk into the office, ready to start another work day. As I open my laptop, it greets me with its usual mechanical hum. The only novel event this morning is my new desktop image, a famous Japanese woodblock print of ocean waves and Mt. Fuji in the background. This pixelated scenery breaks the monotony of my routine if only for a fleeting moment, but then I am back to the usual set of tasks: checking emails, looking at the weather forecast and reading a few snippets in the news. I try to avoid Facebook first thing in the morning because it has this habit of sucking me in. It’s not like I have anything terribly exciting or important I need to tell my friends, it’s just another excuse to explore everyone else’s world rather than tend to my own. After about 30 minutes, it’s time to start writing. I open my current chapter and peruse through the paragraphs. Between
sips of coffee, I edit a few sentences, move some ideas around and then suddenly find myself staring blankly at the screen. Time: 9:43. It’s only been 43 minutes and already I feel bored and deflated. At the moment, the draft is 80% complete, meaning the task ahead of me is to refine the argument and elaborate on specific ideas. For me, this can be the most difficult stage since I am the type of person who gets the most enjoyment out of creating something from a blank page. Today, it takes a lot of energy to just stay put and keep going. For the next few hours, I eventually gain momentum but waiver back and forth between feeling fully engaged and not being able to stop, to wanting to crumple up the computer into a ball and roll it under the sofa. This is how it is with writing. Some moments are like bursts of energy but then other times nothing comes out. I liken this to the difference between running a tap and pumping water from a well since the words and ideas either flow naturally, or they remain stagnant, requiring great effort to extract them from the depths of your brain. And then of course, there’s time. Minutes can often dissolve into hours without notice and depending on the session, looking back on your progress can be either a victorious or a demoralizing experience. As well, while eight months still remain before my proposed submission date arrives, the days seem to slip by at a pace quicker than I would like. With each passing month, writing takes on a new sense of urgency when the deadline hovers around like an imperceptible and unwelcome cloud. But it is the
idea of completion that drives me forward, which helps instil motivation into my pace of work. Feeling satisfied but slightly sluggish at 1:00, I take a break, eat some lunch, go for a walk, answer a few emails and deal with other bureaucratic matters pertaining to my academic life. Around 3:30, I start to get antsy. Taking a break has been therapeutic but if I stay away too long, it starts to feel like I am not working hard enough and I fear time will suddenly slip away. As much as I want to procrastinate, I return to my desk, open the chapter once more and start writing. It seems the break has done me some good. In only a few minutes, the work has grabbed me and everything dissolves around me. I am silently suspicious of how long this motivation will last but I ignore that pessimistic voice and continue on….and on. This is how my life will be in the coming days and months. Too bad I am not getting paid for this. *** I love writing. I always have. But thesis writing is a different kettle of fish. It demands so much mental energy that at times I feel consumed by the thesis nearly every minute of the day. Barely a moment goes by when I am not thinking, dreaming or worrying about it. This is because a PhD demands so much introspection. I mean what other job requires you to be so obsessed with your thoughts every hour of the day? When I try to explain to friends and family about the intense process of doing a PhD, I’m at a loss for the words to describe it. Luckily my partner is also writ-
O N W R I T I N G, PA RT I I ing up, so there is no need to justify my desire for solitude or explain why doing any activity other than writing can cause an immense sense of guilt. All of this frustration is compounded by the fact that I am officially in the midst of what is known as the ‘writing-up’ period. Prior to this, writing was interspersed with attending seminars, organizing conferences and being an active postgraduate. But now, I find myself slowly changing shape. Whilst still busy with academic activities, I am not as social as I used to be. I no longer attend workshops, departmental semi-
nars or take extra courses to discuss ideas. I promised myself I would not become one of those reclusive final-year students who rarely show their face, yet it is happening despite my resistance. Too many distractions make it too easy to put the writing aside and procrastinate. ‘Do it later’ is becoming an old mantra, a luxury I can no longer afford. In many ways, I enjoy this new routine. Yes, it can be lonely and monotonous, but there is something nice about the intensity of focus. Carving out space for writing and reflection brings a sense of quiet, even if that space
is occupied by webs of complex thoughts. Part of me is sad to see the end in sight, and yet the other part cannot wait for that day of submission, when the pages are finally printed, when the heaviness of the thesis no longer weighs me down like an invisible anchor. But until that time arrives, I continue on through the edits, the revisions, the re-writes, as well as the highs, the lows, the disappointments, the struggles, the anxieties and the excitement. Despite the fact that the PhD is one of the most difficult things I will ever do, it is has been worth every gruelling step.
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. 1. Use three words to describe yourself:
Trustworthy, responsible and fun (with the right people) 2. Worst habit?
Procrastination, what else?! 3. What’s your most valued possession?
My hard won money 4. Favorite food?
Anything that I don't have to cook myself 5. Something you’re good at:
Being a friend (my friend suggested this answer, so it must be right) 6. An ideal vacation for you is…
Back home with my friends around laughing our hearts out 7. The world needs a lot less…
I don't know... but it definitely needs a lot more laughter 8. Recount a memorable childhood moment:
The first time I wore pointe shoes! Priceless!! 9. Describe a moment in history you’d like to have been there for:
"Small step for a man, big step for… Wait a minute! Who on earth is she?!" :-)
R e fl e c t i o n s o n t h e V i v a - B e f o r e a n d A f t e r by Basak Tanulku When the editors of the Sociologist asked me to write my reflections on the viva (which took place on December 15, 2009), I thought it would be quite boring. However, instead of feeling a little bored, I realize I enjoy talking about it, especially since I found out that I have passed! In this piece, I want to give basic recommendations about what to do before, during and after your viva. Of course, it starts when you submit two hard copies and a CD copy of your thesis to University House. Please make sure you keep your receipts given by the binders at the library in case they lose your thesis. For me, while I was waiting for a date for the viva in October, I received an email from my supervisor who warned me that both examiners did not receive my thesis. He suggested, as you might guess, to check with University House about the destiny of my thesis and of course, of me! Since I read this email at night, I felt totally helpless until morning. After spending a night without sleep full of stressful moments, I ended up in University House early in the morning to ask the destiny of it. However, everything seemed normal for the staff there. A couple days later, the examiners received my thesis due to a delay in mail service, and decided on the date of the viva: December 15th, 2009. So, please check the status of your thesis regularly with the relevant officers, even though this might be regarded as being a ‘control freak’. After I submitted my thesis, I kept myself busy with other things. First of all, by reading, repeating and inventing questions out of it, I started to work on my thesis. One thing I found useful was to repeat it out loud to myself
when I was alone in the office. It might have seemed strange for those who were working on the other side of Bowland North, and continuously seeing me talking to myself when I was practicing it. However, it was very useful for me, since I could remember the references used in my thesis during the viva. So, it is always good not to be worried about what others think when you are talking to yourself to repeat your work, thesis or paper. It is always good to be prepared and to be able to explain to an audience who will examine you in a very stressful situation. Another thing which I did, as recommended by a staff member at the department, was to work on concepts I used throughout my thesis so I could easily connect different subjects with each other. Besides focusing on the actual thesis, there were other things I did during this period. For example, I wrote papers based on the thesis and submitted to several journals, and also sent them to people who could use them as conference publications. Although I am still waiting for an answer from most of them (except a refusal from a journal) this has given me focus on my research, with a different eye. Meanwhile, I also applied to several conferences which helped me to write shorter pieces about my thesis. Moreover, I also worked part-time, so that I could earn a little money and keep myself busy and focused. This period was also good for reading extra material which would help during the viva. For this, I printed the latest articles on my subject field on the internet and presented at different conferences. When I finished reading these, I really thought they pro-
vided me with a wider perspective: from the visual aspect, to sustainability, from mobility, to the latest studies conducted in different cities in Turkey and the World; these papers gave me the ability to differentiate myself from the latest versions of the literature. However, of course everything was not as smooth as I explained so far. Before the viva, I started to feel nervous, but thanks to my good friends at the department and especially my officemates who have always showed a smiling face, I felt more comfortable at times. The social milieu of the department deserves more than a sentence here. Not only before the viva, but as a student who makes a lot of use of the office space, I have always found the department to be a stimulating space in which I could see friendly people around me. As a mature PhD student at my department who no longer has access to an office space, thanks to my friends, I was able to get access to my old office in Bowland North. Also during this period, my family talked to me via Skype at night telling me to “calm down”. Despite this support, I started to have nightmares about exams, schools and jobs. So please do not feel alone if you are having nightmares before the viva or any situation which will change your life forever! A week or so before the viva, I also started to read suggestions on the internet about what to do and what not to do during a viva. My supervisor decided to do a mock viva to prepare me for the big day. One thing he suggested was for me “to calm down” since the viva would require an extremely “cool” person-
COMMENT ality. He told me that sometimes students defend their thesis too strongly, which can cause problems. Instead, he suggested that I don’t try to answer every question during the viva, as there would certainly be (and should be) questions which a student cannot answer. Another thing he added is that the examiners generally look for how a student deals with different questions, instead of answering every question they ask. This would show that the student is prepared for different audiences. It also shows the psychological aspect of the viva. So besides the content, please be careful about how you show yourself i.e. how you answer and deal with unexpected questions. We also decided to tape record everything during the viva, which I find similar to a “trail record”. If any problems arose during the viva between myself and the examiners, this would be proof. My supervisor also suggested that if I get too stressed during the viva, I could have a break. Another thing to add here is to bring some food and water, in case you might need it.
There were questions about each chapter of the thesis. They asked me how I became familiar with the topic, why I decided to come to Lancaster, how I got access into the field, the representativeness of the participants and of course tougher ones related to the data and questions regarding analysis about different subjects as well as Turkey’s social and po-
However, when the day came, I felt “nervous” and “empty” at the same time. On the one hand, I was trying to seem “normal” by talking to everyone as if it was an “ordinary” day. On the other hand, without lunch and a
proper sleep, I felt anxious about the approaching meeting. The viva started at 2 o’clock and lasted for 2 hours. When I saw the examiners - the external is a very prominent name in my area and the internal is an expert on subjects that compliment those of the external - I decided to stay calm to see what would happen. After a brief introduction they asked me if I would like to do a presentation, and since I wanted the viva to happen soon, I decided to receive questions. The first few minutes were good to provide the milieu for the examiners and to become familiar with the “psychological climate”. So, as a fiery person sometimes, I felt surprisingly cool and calm, which might also be related to the lack of energy because I didn’t have lunch! However, by answering questions one at a time, I felt quite confident in myself. When I received a question, I did not “drown” in it; instead I waited a couple of seconds and then answered.
litical climate. After two hours, they told me to leave the room and wait for the outcome. While I was waiting in the kitchen at the department, I did not do anything other than try to guess the outcome. Then they came and told me “You passed with minor amendments”. I went to my supervisor’s office and told him “The examiners told me to do this and this...” I then remember him enthusiastically asking me, “Basak, tell me what is the outcome”. And when he heard it, he really celebrated with a full heart! Of course, he might have been hoping to get rid of my long chapters and discussing with a person who sometimes does not stop talking during the supervisions! Before I returned back to Istanbul for a vacation with my parents, I decided to do every correction, especially regarding the English and references (ah, referencing which deserves more than this). On my return to Lancaster, I finished the amendments and submitted the thesis to my supervisor. I am now thinking about what to do next, and I am sure my supervisor would like to get rid of this as soon as possible. Anyway, this was my personal voyage into the viva and some suggestions. Hopefully, everyone will get a Happy Ending which of course means a new beginning!!
‘ M y P h D O f fi c e ’ 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 Endre
To paraphrase Marco Polo’s description of Leandra in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities*, gods of two species protect my office.∗ Both are too tiny to be seen, although still possible to be counted. One species lives in processed wood pulp – especially in books, journal articles, newspaper cuts, paintings and photos. They followed me from Budapest to London, then to Lancaster and now to Berlin, and installed themselves in my new home sometime in early January. The other species stays in objects made of hard wood, hiding by preference in floorboards, desks, shelves and cupboards. They belong to the flat, and when the couple that normally lives here left for a 6-month internship in Morocco, they remained behind. Some of them were here before the Wall came down in the northwestern edge of East Berlin, others arrived in an Ikea van in the early 21st century. The true essence of my office is the subject of endless debate. Gods of the first species believe they are the new working-place’s soul, even if they arrived just a few weeks ago in frozen cardboard boxes. Needless to say, gods of the second species consider them temporary guests, importunate, intrusive; the real office is not made of processed pulp but hard wood. That’s what gives form to all it contains, the office that was here before the beginning of my writing-up pe-
riod and that will remain when I will have gone away, together with my bizarre dissertation. The two species have this in common: whatever happens in the office, they always criticise. The first bring out the old papers, masters theses, panel documents, the academic output of the past; the second talk about the room before it was ruined. But this does not mean they live only in memories: they strategise about conferences I will attend and seminars I will teach in the coming years, or what this office might become if it were used by a proper academic. If I listen carefully, especially late at night and early in the morning, I can hear them in the corners of the office. It’s like tinnitus: they are murmuring constantly, interrupting one another, huffing, bantering, amid ironic, stifled laughter.
*Inspiration for this piece was taken from: Italo Calvino: Invisible Cities, translated by William Weaver, London: Vintage, 1997 , pp. 78-79.
S i l e n c i n g t h e Pa l e s t i n i a n I s s u e by Müzeyyen Pandır Recently, I reconnected with a few Jewish friends from my school years on Facebook. During our school years none of us really cared about politics. So we mainly remember each other with funny and silly memories. When I joined the Facebook group, “In Solidarity with the People of Gaza” and posted some videos of Israeli intervention on my profile page, I was called “antiSemitic” by one of my friends. This did not leave any scar on me, but I felt uncomfortable with the inaccuracy of the situation, as if I needed to justify my act with a statement like, “I am not against the people, but the interventions in the form of political and military violence led by Israel in Palestine”. Having to make this statement is uncomfortable enough because of the apologetic disclaimer in the sentence. And I became even more uncomfortable thinking about the difficulty of criticising Israeli politics without the fear of being labelled as anti-Semitic in the private and public sphere. A similar “difficulty in criticising Israeli politics” is seen in the academic world. On the 13th of February, the University of Manchester hosted the ‘Palestine Conference 2010’. During the conference we were informed by one of the speakers that the organisation process did not run as smoothly as one would expect. Asking a member of the organising committee what happened during the organising process, I was told that once the conference was announced, the university started to receive complaints about the speakers, claiming that they had previously "incited hatred". The university was worried about its name and it took several meetings between the organising committee and the university to make sure that everything was legitimate. Among the speakers of the conference were John Roze, Azzam
Tamimi, Stephen Sizer, Daud Abdullah and Ismail Patel. It is a mystery which of these names received criticism and caused reluctance from the university. All of these people are either academics attending lectures at British universities or activists whose views you can read in the media such as The Guardian. The topics at the conference were not that radical to raise concerns either. The critique of historical and current day expansionism of Zionism, references to colonialism in Palestine or accusations of Israeli state terrorism are not radical ideas. They are widely debated in the academic world (e.g. Edward Said, Derek Gregory, Noam Chomsky etc.). Besides questioning what name or topic could have raised concerns, what is significant here is the imposition from the outside world which led the University of Manchester to reconsider its association with the conference. One important problem is how easily one can be labelled as anti-Semitic. There is a tendency to reduce every opposition towards Israeli politics to anti-Semitism. One step ahead of this is equating antiZionism with anti-Semitism. AntiSemitism is a form of racism directly or indirectly targeting Jewish people, and it exists. There is no question about that. Some anti-Zionist manifestations – roughly, opposition to establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine - can be anti-Semitic as well, but this does not mean that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic by nature. Zionism is a debated concept. Zionism was accepted as “a form of racism and racial discrimination” by the United Nations until 1991. Although it has been twenty years since the decision was revoked, this tells something about the controversy surrounding Zionism. Thus, equating anti-Zionism with antiSemitism (in other words, equating
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hostility to Israeli policies with hostility to Jewish people) is problematic. Anti-Semitism is a form of racism. Not being able to discuss and criticise the Israeli policies against the Palestinian population in the occupied territories is also a form of racism which aims to erase the platform to discuss the rights of the Palestinian people. In an interview, Noam Chomsky even said that after all those years of fighting against anti-Semitism, what is prevalent in the West today is not anti-Semitism, but anti-Arab racism*. Labelling every negative comment about Israel as a form of anti-Semitic racism is also a challenge to freedom of speech. In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, freedom of speech is working oneway, in favour of Israel. What is taking place with equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is erasing the critique of the aggressiveness of Zionism. What is at stake is an act of silencing. The concern of being associated with anti-Semitism when talking against Israeli policies discourages getting involved in the debate at all. The act of silencing shows itself in the academic world as an obstacle to open debate and academic freedom, as it was nearly the case in the Palestine 2010 Conference. There has to remain a legitimate way of criticising and opposing what is going on in Palestine without the fear of being labelled an antiSemitic. Or, do we have to start our speeches with a pre-warning, which we are used to seeing in cinemas before the feature starts: “Warning: This content contains material that some may find offensive”?
* “Noam Chomsky Interview”, by Jennifer Bleyer. 23 October 2004. http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2004/10/46362.ht ml.
S p e a k e rs ’ C o r n e r by Leon Moosavi Every Sunday in central London an amazing spectacle occurs. Hundreds of people congregate in the corner of Hyde Park and interact in a way that is extremely compelling for anyone with a sociological persuasion. This is ‘Speakers’ Corner’.
For those who don’t know, Speakers’ Corner is a phenomenon based on a tradition dating back decades whereby people from all walks of life, motivated by all types of ideologies, use their voices to capture the attention of passers by to convince them of their cause. And just as importantly, the audience is rarely passive and they frequently heckle, interject and dispute with the speaker and one another. It is not only fascinating to watch but it is also extremely funny. For me, it is a combination of spontaneous stand-up comedy and passionate debate; two things which surely reflect fundamental human characteristics. On a recent trip to London for a conference, I knew that I had to return to Speakers’ Corner to relive the first time I visited it last year. I was not disappointed and ended up happily standing in the cold for around 5 hours listening to a whole host of polemicists. What strikes me most about Speakers’ Corner is the obvious contradiction. Georg Simmel’s well-known critique of the Metropolis as a place of anonymity, individuality and loneliness is probably something we have all experienced when finding ourselves in big cities. And that’s why Speak-
ers’ Corner is so fabulous, because it is a total contradiction of this common understanding and experience of city life. One minute you are sat on a bus where friendly conversation with a fellow citizen is out of place and the next minute, you witness strangers shouting at each other until they are blue in the face, perhaps swearing at each other, then laughing together, and generally interacting in such an intimate way that you would think they had been friends for years. I also find it very significant to take note of the topics that are debated in Speakers’ Corner. It is invariably politics and religion, or usually a combination of the two. On my last visit, there was a Christian advocating Zionism, a Muslim asking other Muslims why they have not gone to fight the Americans in Iraq, an atheist mocking the religious, and a man with a simple sign saying ‘Free Hugs’. All of this is fascinating, but not as ironic as the Polish man I saw the first time I went shouting that all foreigners and immigrants should be ‘kicked back to their own country’ in his Polish-accent! So surprisingly, most, if not all of the debates are about politics and religion, the two topics that are famously said to not be mentioned in polite conversation. Here they are intensely debated in a way where nothing is left to the imagination. True feelings are unleashed, which, in a positive light seems healthy and refreshing, an inspiring demonstration of free thinking and free debating. Yet, in a negative light, it demonstrated some worrying prejudices surfacing in relation to racism, sexism, and religious arrogance. To me, it was a strange mix of some of the best and worst behaviour on display. How much of the ‘performances’ I witnessed were genuine and how much were just quirky and eccentric individuals commanding the attention of a guaranteed audience is open to debate. I like to think there is a mixture of both. Some seem to be there with passionate beliefs that they want others to know about, whilst others seem to be there for a bit of a laugh, to make others smile, both of which I
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COMMENT think are invigorating in the impersonal existences Oh, and, if you are brave enough to raise your voice we often live alongside our fellow members of soci- in one of the debates there then you are a better ety. person than me. I was most definitely not a participant observer, just an observer. I couldn’t build up So next time you are in London, I strongly the courage to break away from the socialisation I recommend you visit Speakers’ Corner, no matter have had that has taught me that when you meet what the weather forecast. Just be prepared to enter someone with a different perspective or ideology ‘normal’ society when you leave the park, and go from yourself, you say ‘each to their own’ and avoid back to ignoring people around you, and being ‘podisagreements and confrontation to ‘save face’. lite’ enough to never disagree or debate with them.
T h e Fa m o u s S o c i o l o g y C r o s s w o r d ! by James Tomasson Combine your love of sociology with your fondness for crossword puzzles.
Down 1 LSE's Baron Tony 3 Theorist; playing games in the arcade 4 Theorist; don't be so blaise 5 STS Frenchman; Actant 8 The ultimate goal for PG's! 11 Mode of Production 13 Theorist; Buried in Highgate Cemetery 16 Windy city; Famous school 17 After; -modernity 18 Performativity Theorist; Yes, Jeeves? 19 Theorist; Jumped out a window, rhizome 20 Rhymes with furry!
Across 2 Lacan's Slovenian buddy 6 Equality for women 7 Thick Red Book 9 Theorist; power-knowledge 10 Theorist; suicide study 12 Concept; created Matrix movie
14 15 18
Frenchman: Not Homer, Marge or Lisa Adorno's School; Hotdog minus 'er' Our department's home (2 words)
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21 22 23 24 25 26
Study of signs Not an insect; Theory Goddess or cyborg? Theorist - Fastfood McD's See more acronym The Iron Cage guy
On the Dr ugs Debate and the Sacking of David Nutt by Jennifer Tomomitsu
When Professor David Nutt was sacked as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) in November, news stories erupted about home secretary Alan Johnson’s condemnation of Nutt’s report that ecstasy is less harmful than alcohol. Johnson said he had lost faith in the Advisory’s Chair’s advice and felt the scientist was lobbying against political policy. The ACMD’s report was based on figures which showed that in comparison with alcohol, there are significantly lower numbers of deaths with ecstasy, it is not as physically addictive, and there are very few crime rates associated with the drug. Arguing that the classification system is counterproductive to the scientific evidence, Nutt has called for a more thorough investigation into harms assessment.
recently been moved from a class C to a class B. To the police, the new classification means the drug carries a more stringent penalty if someone is found in possession and thus ‘cracking down’ on its use becomes a higher priority. This removes the ability to work with drug crimes on a case-by-case basis, since the implemented system of classification necessitates a black or white response. Thus, an average recreational user who gets caught with a small amount on their person, is sentenced and put through this unyielding bureaucratic system which not only leads to wasted tax payer dollars, but pointless criminalization. And then there’s the science. Professor Nutt and his colleagues present their evidence-based approach as ‘facts’ about the real harm of drug use. Whilst I generally approve of the direction the research is heading, I am cautious about adopting a blind faith in science approach. Instead I find myself asking: What counts as ‘evidence’ and how are ‘harms’ being defined? The risk of siding purely with the science is that while it may be more open-minded, power is then given over to the scientists to dictate what counts as ‘harmful’ or ‘dangerous’. Ideally a more dialogic space should be opened up, not just to the politicians and the scientists involved, but also to the public to share their knowledge and opinions and to have a say in how drugs should be regulated, and perhaps even legalized.
While all this might seem like a boring political side story, it’s important because it reveals the interferences of competing knowledges and opinions, and how policies are done in practice. There is speculation that the primary reason politicians, like Johnson, refuse to acknowledge science is that they are ‘slaves to public opinion’* and do not want to appear too liberal on the drugs debate. Others would say there is a demonization at work here, evidenced in the ways the media has hyped up cocaine and amphetamines over alcohol and tobacco**. Thus, what this debate comes down to are the politics of how drugs are defined and classified, and the moral However, whilst I have my fabric that gets woven in response to own critiques of the classification media publicity. system and how the science is often One of the issues with the portrayed as ‘truth’, I wholly support classification system is its inherent David Nutt’s cause and his recent rigidity. Labelling almost always move to set up another independent generates essentialist definitions drug research body. I feel the overall with little room for fluid negotiation ethos of the ACMD enacts a more between safe/unsafe or right/wrong. liberal scheme, one which dismanTake cannabis for instance. It has tles a purely moralistic stance. The
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use of scientific research opens up a blank slate approach, one which does not ask ‘why are drugs bad’, but rather, ‘what happens when the multiple effects of drug-use are explored’? Thus, research into the myriad psychological, social and physical effects of drugs, and not just their classification, could become a knowledge tool through which different publics can obtain useful information. But sadly, the message from government as expressed by Gordon Brown after Nutt was fired is that ‘it does not make sense to send out mixed messages to the whole of the community about drugs”***.
This reveals the most unfortunate by-product of this entire drugs debate, which is the dualistic thinking it encourages and the need to separate into right and wrong. The whole ‘sacking’ situation created a binary of its own which put policy on the one hand and science on the other. In the end, the question is not whether the scientists or the politicians are right, or even whether alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis, but rather who gets to decide what counts as harmful, what should be banned, and ultimately, what individuals should or should not put into their body. Regrettably, the so-called dangers of drugs are therefore down to an elite few who, through the selective dissemination of 'facts', are pushing their own agenda, one centred on containment, control and securing voter support. *_http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfr ee/2009/nov/28/government-adviser-davi d-nutt-labour **_See Nutt’s article in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/nov/ 03/david-nutt-drugs-policy ***_http://www.guardian.co.uk/commenti sfree/2009/nov/05/drugs-advisory-counci l-david-nutt
Road to a good life: An Education (or maybe a mar riage?) by Müzeyyen Pandır SPOILER ALERT !! The LUSU Cinema is a good opportunity to catch up on the movies you missed and which you cannot wait for DVD release to see them. The Bowland Lecture Theatre’s seats can’t compete with the standard of the Vue, but you get what you pay for. The highlight of the week 6’s showings was the British movie, ‘An Education’. The movie lost the Bafta to the US film Hurt Locker, but it is acclaimed by many as the best British film of 2009. I fell in love with the works of the Danish director Lone Scherfig when I first saw her quirky movie, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (2002), which handles rather dark matters with the touch of modest humour. Her last movie, ‘An Education’ confirmed my affection. The movie is scripted by Nick Hornby and the story is based on an autobiographical essay by the journalist Lynn Barber. The story could easily be considered a cliché: a teenage girl meets a thirtysomething man and gives up her future plans. But the beauty of the movie lies not in its topic, but in its simple yet elegant language. Its achievement is that it is not boring even when it is giving an obvious morality lesson. It is 1962, England. There is Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a bright and beautiful 16-year-old schoolgirl studying hard through her exams to get in to Oxford. It is a time when parents believe that a daughter has two options for a good life: a good education or a good marriage. Jenny’s parents attempt to direct her towards a good education, which will eventually lead to a good marriage. The plans change when David (Peter Saarsgard) comes into the picture. In his thirties, David finds in Jenny the spark that he has lost somewhere in his life (later we understand why). Jenny has the enthusiasm, David has the money. David takes Jenny to art auctions, fancy music clubs, expensive restaurants, and to Paris… Our teenage girl becomes dazzled with the taste of a glamorous life.
And then a dilemma emerges for Jenny: why bother with an education, if marriage can provide her with the life that anyone would yearn for? Why waste all those years to attain a good life, when she can easily get it with David’s money? So, despite her teachers’ warnings, we watch her drop her plans for Oxford and wear that engagement ring. But of course there is an end to every dream and eventually we find Jenny heartbroken and betrayed, with no husband and no exams taken for Oxford. An Education is particularly successful in portraying the modern day dilemma of a teenage girl caught between various choices. The moral question of the movie is which option is the best for a good life? The answer to this is given in Jenny’s words: “If you never do anything, you never become anyone”. It is a great movie in this regard to show to your little sister or daughter that there’s a price for a good life and there is no shortcut to it. And when it seems like there is a shortcut, they might really be traps.
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C o n t r i b u t o rs t o T h e S o c i o l o g i s t Endre Dányi
Endre is a fourth year PhD student in sociology / science studies, researching the material practices of political representation in the Hungarian Parliament. After three years of oscillation between Lancaster and Budapest, he is now working on his dissertation in Berlin - the place inbetween.
James is in the final year of a PhD focusing on the materiality and practices of Aga cookers and reclaimed timber flooring. When he’s not busy contributing to ‘The Sociologist’ and working on his research, he enjoys hiking in the Lake District, cooking vegetarian meals and watching ‘Grand Designs’.
Allison Hui Allison is a third-year PhD student in Sociology who has managed to immerse herself in Lancaster life thoroughly in the last year. Though she still prefers the extremes of Canadian prairie weather to Lancaster’s nearly constant rain, her mobility to this place has fed her current research that examines the interaction between mobilities and practices in the case of enthusiasts and enthusiasms.
Jenn Tomomitsu Jennifer is in the fourth year of her PhD in Sociology & Science Studies. At the moment, she spends her time writing about laboratories and the material practices of scientific imaging, but in between she enjoys yoga, cycling, walking in the Lakes, or snowboarding when back home in Canada.
Christoph Michels Christoph is a visiting student from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. He completed his PhD last year and will head back to St. Gallen in April. There he will teach and do research for the ”KIM“, an interdisciplinary research centre for cultures (K), institutions (I) and markets (M).
OUR HELP! WE WANT Y sxt year’s new
Leon is a third year PhD student in the Sociology Department and he is researching Islamophobia in Britain.
make ne Please help us ering the tter by answ letter even be can copy and estions. You qu g in w llo fo email to: swers into an paste the an @live.com thesociologist
Müzeyyen Pandir 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.
What did you Sociologist?
out like most ab
like the least? What did you ld you offer ggestions wou su t ha W 3. e publication? to improve th or suggesr comments he ot ny A 4. ent): ideas for cont tions (such as
Basak Tanulku Basak has recently passed her Viva. Her research is on gated communities in Istanbul and she is interested in urban studies, and social and spatial segregation. In her spare time, Basak enjoys travelling, walking and spending time in the countryside.
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Calendar *Please note: this schedule is still preliminary as speakers, paper titles and dates may change in the upcoming weeks
11 March 2010
Jens Rydgren, Aris-‐ Lancaster University -‐ Interdiscipli-‐ InsQtute of Advanced totle Kallis, David nary Workshop: The Rise of Right-‐ Studies, MR 2 9.30 – Seymour, David Wing Extremism: The PoliQcs of 17.00 Sugarman, Ruth Memory in Europe and Beyond Wodak, Allyson Fiddler, Bulent Diken, Ele Lamb and Tim Jacoby.
16 March 2010
Dr. JusQn A. Wil-‐ liams, Lancaster University
CeMoRe Seminar: Bowland North SR 17 Cars with the Boom: Dr. Dre's 'G-‐ 16:15 – 18:00 Funk', Automobility, and Hip-‐hop 'Sub' Cultures
22 March 2010
KersQn Sandell, Gil-‐ lian Einstein, Ciara Kierans, Pernille Bjorn, Emily Cohen, S. Lochlann Jain
An ESRC sponsored seminar series: InsQtute for Advanced Retheorising Women's Health: Shi_-‐Studies, MR 2 & 3 ing Paradigms and the Biomedical 9:30 – 17:30 Body
21 April 2010
Gemma Wibberley, CGWS Open Seminar: “People have Bowland North SR 14 Sociology Depart-‐ this percepQon,… that all women 13:00 – 14:00 ment, Lancaster can look a_er people -‐ it's not University true": PresenQng Domiciliary Care as a Skilled OccupaQon
27 April 2010
5 May 2010
Carol Thomas, the CGWS Open Seminar: "Medical So-‐ Bowland North SR 14 Division of Health ciology and Disability Studies: un-‐ 13:00 – 14:00 Research, Lancaster derstanding the clash of perspec-‐ University Qves"
11 May 2010
24 May 2010
KrisQn Zeiler, CGWS Seminar: Agency and the Bowland North SR 2 Linköping University, Body-‐as-‐SituaQon: A Phenonome-‐ 16:15 – 18:00 Sweden nological Analysis of Intersexuality and Related CondiQons
Venue TBA 12:00 – 18:00
Sociology Department Research Day TBA
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we want to hear from you! Call for submissions Next deadline: 5 July 2010 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 youâ€™d like to offer other postgraduates in the department? Do you want to comment on specific issues or debates?
Submission Guidelines 1) Please email your articles, tips, reviews, stories or rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
and will appear blurry in the final layout.
Established 2008 Unless otherwise stated, the opinions expressed in the Sociologist publication are solely the author's and not the editors or the Lancaster Sociology Department.
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Were you able to guess this mystery guest? A: Xaroula Kerasidou
This is because images inserted into a word document will shrink in size
we want to hear from you! Wa n t e d ! Because Christoph is leaving us in April we are seeking someone who could do the layout of The Sociologist in the future. If you enjoy doing layout work and would like to become part of the editorial team please send an email to email@example.com.
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Lancaster University Department of Sociology Postgraduate Magazine