Sociologist T he
A POSTGRADUATE NEWSLETTER
12 NOVEMBER 2009
e d i t o r i a l s c r i bbl e
Photo: Roma Termini, taken by Chr. Michels
Hi everyone and welcome to the fifth edition of the Sociologist newsletter! Since this is the first issue of the new academic term, we’d like to welcome all the new MA and PhD students who have recently joined the department. For those of you reading this for the first time, the Sociologist began last year as a means to provide a space which features the postgraduate voice in a supportive and inclusive atmosphere. Therefore, there are no strict guidelines on the content and style of submissions. And whilst there are no specific themes threaded across each issue, this current edition showcases ‘reflection’ as a running topic since the essays address notions of memory and contemplation in a variety of ways. Thanks again to all of the contributors for taking the time out from their research to write a line or two, and thank you to the two new editorial members (Christoph Michels: layout editor, and Müzeyyen Pandir: co-editor) for all of their efforts in making this edition possible. Happy reading and we hope you enjoy this latest instalment. Jenn Tomomitsu
Contents PhD Welcome Profiles – 2 guest who? – 3 Puzzled – a (post) viva experience – 4 On the performativity of method – 5 Fighting Fascism Feels Good – 7 2009 October Festivities – 8 My PhD Office – 9 Lancaster Landscapes – 10 The Unremembered Self – 11 Paganism – 13 Contributors – 15 Soci-classified ads – 16 Calendar 2009 – 17
P h D Welcome P r o f i l e s I’m sure all of us can recount the excitement and anxiety of being a newcomer. And, since meeting all of your fellow colleagues can sometimes take awhile, below are a few introductory profiles to get you further acquainted with some of the new faces who are roaming the halls of the Sociology department:
1st year PhD student Sociology I am Carla and I have been at Lancaster for quite some time. I completed an MA in sociological research this year and before that did my undergraduate degree in sociology. It will come as no surprise then that I love Lancaster and am excited about spending more time in the Sociology Department. My supervisors are Anne Cronin and Tim Dant and my general research area is centred on practices of shopping and display - particularly window displays - in urban space (both how they are constructed and the environment in which the construction takes place and is viewed). I hope to eventually produce an ethnographic account of window dressing and window shopping. I am also interested in the use of photographs in sociological research, particularly in urban studies but also visual culture more generally. Outside of my academic life I work part-time as a retail assistant and, when I have the time, love horse riding.
1st year PhD student Sociology I was born and bred in Lancaster. I have both a BA in Sociology and an MA in Sociological Research, both awarded here at Lancaster. I think the Sociology Department here is a great place to be, so I stayed! My research is ethnography of an arts-based NHS Mental Health Service. The service uses art practice and appreciation to work towards recovery with their service-users. They also engage in partnership work with cultural institutions to curate public art interventions addressing discrimination around mental health. I am interested in how they do what they do, and the key challenges they face in demonstrating the complexity of their work. My approach is in line with the disability rights movement, critically engaging with ideas of 'recovery' and 'social inclusion.'
Tomás Sánchez Criado
Visiting PhD Centre for Science Studies I am a visiting PhD student from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain) and I will be around until February 2010. I work in collaboration with Maggie Mort and Celia Roberts as part of the EFORTT project. Half-psychologist and halfanthropologist, I have found a welcoming space in the STS community. My PhD project titled "Translating care, crafting habitalities", focuses on the material semiotics of elder selfmaking and it is an ethnography of how telecare for the elderly is designed, managed and used.
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Visiting PhD student Centre for Gender & Women's Studies Just recently arriving from Sweden, I am still amazed by the rain, the colours of the trees and the wonderful coffee. My name is Jennie and I will spend the fall in Lancaster as a visiting PhD student. Being in the final stage of my thesis I guess I will mainly be seen carrying heaps of books to and from the library (when I am not scribbling away on the computer that is). My thesis engages in the implementation process of a robotic welding system. More specifically, I study how the relation between bodies, artefacts and spatiality is arranged and rearranged in times of implementation. In 2008, I spent time at an industrial site in a mining town in the northernmost part of Sweden. Following mundane activities, I observed the production of iron-ore baskets. The extracted iron-ore is in need of transportation, something that is facilitated through railway transportation to the coasts of Sweden and Norway. The ultimate wagons measure 11*3*3 metres and carry a load of about 100 tonnes. Investing in a robotic welding system, it was initially argued, will enhance productivity, while the installation undertakes tasks that are deemed boring or repetitive. This, however, turned out to be a much-contested statement. I am looking forward to spending the autumn at Lancaster University and think that this will be a great experience. My current supervisor is Celia Roberts, although my main supervisor resides in Sweden. All together, I think that the Centre for Gender & Women's Studies constitutes a thriving foundation for further discussions and debates.
guest who? Each issue we will question a mystery postgraduate student in the Sociology department. See if you can guess this issue’s mystery interviewee! Who knows, it might be your office-mate, your best 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:
every day of our lives feel as good as we are supposed to feel when we are on 'vacation'. But having said that, everyone likes sleeping on the beach in the sun.
Drowning in PhD-ness 2. Worst habit?
Trying to do too much at once 3. What’s your most valued possession? Wedding photo album
7. The world needs a lot less…
4. Favorite food?
8. Recount a memorable childhood moment:
Peanuts, celery and liver. I was 10 and my parents sat me down and told me I had my first little brother or sister on the way and I started crying because I was so happy. Now I hate the cheeky little brat!
I'm not fussy, I like everything accept peanuts, celery and liver. 5. Something you’re good at:
Drawing straight lines with a ruler
9. Describe a moment in history you’d like to have been there for:
6. An ideal vacation for you is…
'Vacations' (I'm sure we call them holidays over here?) are social constructs designed to make us accept spending the majority of our time engaging in meaningless pursuits! We need to reject them and fight for a revolution so we can make
It's a close one between the first time that fire was discovered to see everyone’s reactions, and the time when someone pulled a cow's udders for the first time and drank what came out just to see what sort of sicko did it! -3-
Puzzled – a (post)viva experience by Karolina Kazimierczak My name is Karolina and on were not there to get me. They March 20th 2009 I became a doc- were distinguished academics, tor. and – as my supervisors kept reminding me – they were there to Now, I could tell you how discuss my work with me for quite this one day (or few hours of it, some time and in quite a lot of really) was a culmination of the detail. It was thus not a judgelong and often difficult process of ment day, but a rare opportunity. doing my PhD; how it served as a This is not to say that some things test for my academic knowledge were not exposed during these (and identity), and how it jump- discussions. There were things I started my academic career. In didn’t know (surprise, surprise!) short, how it made all those long and things I haven’t thought about and agonising hours of reading, (when I should have really). I was researching, writing and staring at the end of my wits to explain blankly into the window worth some of my arguments and justify each and every one of its agonissome of my theoretical choices. ing minutes. But I’m not going to And there were one or two occado this. Not because I don’t be- sions when I had to own up to my lieve such a ‘quest’ story to be lack of knowledge or a slightly true on some level, but because misshapen reasoning. But – as I this is not a ‘quest’ story, but found out in puzzlement – it was rather a story of puzzlement. all expected. Far from the grim I cannot say that the viva tribunal of my pre-viva nightwas one of the most important mares, the viva itself turned up to events in my life, but I can say be an exercise in friendly, if firm, that it was one of the most terrify- encouraging but not uncritical, ing. Not in its actual proceedings, grilling. I was questioned, crossbut in its anticipation. I submitted examined and challenged, but all my thesis in December 2008. With in all was found competent the viva scheduled for the end of enough to get my PhD degree March it meant that I had a good with nothing but a few spelling 3 months to work myself up to the mistakes to correct. Puzzling! state of highest, almost paralysing anxiety. What I feared terribly and irrationally was the thought that during the viva they would finally find me out. I would be found out for the impostor that I was. I might have bluffed my way through 3 years of supervision meetings, seminars and workshops, and even an odd conference or two, but the examiners would call all my bluff and find me seriously lacking. That was the anticipation. The reality of the viva was both much more encouraging and mundane.
Fast forward 6 months, and I am now holding my first postPhD job at the University of Aberdeen. I am a research assistant in the Medical School. Now, this isn’t really that puzzling. There are many sociologists working in health research, and there are at least two others in my research team. We are the UCAN research team and are working with urological cancer patients, and with urology doctors. My job is to design patient-friendly information about cancer treatments and support, so-called Plain English And so, the examiners were Guides. My new bosses told me it not ruthless inquisitors and they is a job for someone with good
experience in social research and with a strong theoretical background. Not puzzling at all that I should do this job then. Now, I should probably tell you that my PhD was on ‘Star Trek’ and Tolkien fan communities and on invented Klingon and Elvish languages. So it is puzzling after all. It is a long stretch from fan culture research to health research. But maybe not such a long way from the exploration of the relationship between fan and academic discourses to the examination of the ways to translate clinical information and medical terminology into everyday language and patient-friendly terms. This is what I tell myself, while I work on a project which, for the first time in my ‘career’, is not entirely mine. And I try my best to reconcile its practical – as in ‘applied social sciences’ – purpose with my theoretical interests. But all the while I am puzzled by the experience of finding myself – with my sort of poststructuralist / postmodern mistrust to models and categories – among the firm believers in ‘randomised controlled trials’ and ‘evidence-based practice’. I’m quite sure of one thing: I am not ready to give up my sociological beliefs and affiliations. So I keep in touch with Sociology in Aberdeen, where I teach brand new students what sociological thinking is. And I work hard to get some articles from my ‘labour-of-love’ PhD thesis on fan culture published.
But if you ask me, I have no idea where all of this will lead me. I don’t know where I will find myself in, say, three or four years from now. But I’m quite sure I will be puzzled again.
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O n t h e p e r f o r m a t i v i t y o f m e t h o d s. O r a little bit of pain in the right foot… by Anna Mann Prologue: It was in my second year of my Bachelor’s degree in Sociology when I read about “ethnography” for the first time. The authors were describing the data collection as a “deep immersion into the field”, a process of “going native” during which the ethnographer uses “his/her own body as a recording instrument”. They also talked about the “performativity of methods”, about the ways in which methods “do something”. At the time, I didn't bother much with these fancy words, about the “performativity of methods”. Doing ethnographic field research just sounded exotic, exciting and very adventurous. And now, I am in the first year of my PhD. My research focuses on food, taste and pleasure. But what is pleasure? And how can pleasure be studied? These were the questions I was asking myself and my supervisors. “Go and have a look how other researchers study pleasure!” one of my supervisors suggested. So, I walked to the library and borrowed anthologies like “Social Studies of Emotions” and “The Measurement of Emotions in Psychology”. I browsed journals such as “Neuroscience”, “Chemical Senses”, and “Archives of Sexual Behaviour”. I began to read about neurophysiological experiments on taste and pleasure and on sexual pleasure. It was amazing to read about the ways these natural scientists tried to get a grip on “pleasure”, through experiments about orgasm and machines which picture different brain areas during the orgasmic peak. And in contrast to most of the sociological texts, the articles were illustrated with pictures showing PET scans, EEG curves and MRI images of the human brain while tasting salt or during those “clitorally-induced orgasm”.
probably just walked too much. And you have an abnormal foot posture, a fallen arch. You ought to take shoe inserts.” To stop the pain, the doctor gave me pain killers. But the pain stayed on my right forefoot. So, I went back to the hospital and complained. The doctor took my blood. He sent the sample to the laboratory. When the analysis was done, I returned to the hospital. And once more I waited in the orange corridor. In the examination room, the doctor told me that my blood did not show “any abnormalities” and that the “CRP was 0.15”. This meant that rheumatism was excluded as well. “But it still hurts!” I insisted. The doctor then said, “Well, we could do an MRI.” As I had read all these papers on studies using MRI, I absolutely wanted to have an MRI examination so I insisted that the pain was a serious problem! And the doctor sent me to the diagnostic centre to get an MRI and other imaging examinations.
One evening while heading home from the library, I made a wrong step on the side-walk. I stumbled over the kerbside and my foot began to hurt. As the pain didn’t go away the following week, I went to the hospital. They did an x-ray examination, but the picture didn't show a fracture. “You -5-
S TO R I E S F RO M T H E F I E L D
Photo taken by A. Mann
The evening before the exam, the pain in my foot was no longer annoying. It was barely noticeable and I was doubting the necessity of the MRI examination. I called my GP. “Do I really have to go there?” “No, of course not. If you don't go there, it will save you time and the national health system's money.” But in the end, I decided to go to the MRI examination anyway. “At least, this will produce some nice data”, I thought. So, I went to the laboratory and I experienced – as a real patient – how the MRI works. And of course, I wrote an observation protocol! The next day, I picked up the pictures of my right foot and went back to the hospital. This time, the doctor was very serious: “You have a so-called march fracture. You have to have a plaster cast for six weeks. You won't be able to go jogging, ride your bicycle, drive a care or go swimming.” “Oh no, I don't want to have a plaster!” “But you have to. The MRI pictures show clear pathologies of the metatarsal bone. Your metatarsal bone is broken.“
Epilogue: In the end, I was lucky. One of my friends is working in a Swiss hospital. When he heard about my fracture, he called me and said: “In Switzerland, if your metatarsal bone is broken, they don't put the whole leg in plaster. They use a weird boot instead, the so-called Vacoped. I asked my college on the emergency ward if he might give you one. He agreed, he is a really nice guy. You just have to come to our hospital in order to get it. And you know what? I think that the boot might even be removable!” I didn't need to be told twice. As I was staying near the Swiss border at the time, I went to Switzerland the following day. I got rid of the horrible, immobilising plaster and put on the astronautic, grey boot instead. For the next six weeks, I had to walk weirdly and I couldn't go running. But at least I could take off the boot to take a shower every morning and go swimming from time to time.
Methods are performative. They do “someSo here I am. Sitting with my right leg in plas- thing”. If I had ever doubted about the performativter! I am literally experiencing this damned perfor- ity of methods, now, after having a broken leg for six mativity of methods my supervisors always talk weeks, I definitely believe it. about. And I am completely pissed off !
F i g h t i n g Fa s c i s m Fe e l s G o o d : Nick Griffin on Question Time by Joe Rigby On Thursday 22 September Nick Griffin, leader of the far-right British National Party appeared on the BBC’s flagship political affairs programme, Question Time. Griffin answered questions from a studio audience alongside the Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action Baroness Warsi, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs Chris Huhne and author, critic and playwright, Bonnie Greer. Just a week earlier a court had requested Griffin to submit a signed undertaking to change the B r i t i s h N a t i o n a l P a r t y ’s constitution on the grounds that its restriction of membership to ‘indigenous Caucasian people’ broke the Race Relations Act. The prospect of Griffin’s appearance on Question Time stirred much controversy and debate, including calls from the Welsh Secretary Peter Hain for the BBC to reverse its decision to give Griffin a position on the Question Time panel. The BBC defended the move with reference to its ‘responsibility of due impartiality.’ The Deputy Director General argued that since the BNP had crossed a certain ‘threshold of support’ (they currently have two seats in the European Parliament and around 50 local councillors across the country) it was incumbent upon the organization, as a public service broadcaster, to give the party chance to air its views and the public a chance to subject them to scrutiny. On the day, Griffin’s presence did not go unopposed. Unite Against Fascism (UAF), an umbrella campaign group chaired by former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, organized a counterdemonstration outside the BBC
studios. The UAF formed with the stated intention of ‘alerting society to the rising threat of the extreme right, in particular the BNP.’ They charge that, in essence, the BNP is a Nazi party, citing amongst other reasons the BNP’s historical connection with the white supremacist National Front movement and Griffin’s history of holocaust denial. Exposing these ‘fascist truths’ of the BNP, increasingly hidden behind a discourse of cultural preservation and patriotism in a bid to gain more electoral credibility, is one of the expressed aims of the UAF. The latter also advocate a ‘no platform for the BNP’ position, pointing to how appearances in the mainstream media tend only to normalize, more than challenge, the organization’s racist views. At this juncture it is not possible to tell whether or not Griffin’s appearance on Question Time ‘normalized’ the BNP’s racism. The conceited consideration of how the ‘disillusioned masses’ interpret the BNP’s message, misses the point. Griffin’s appearance on Question Time in fact provided the opportunity for a great and collective catharsis for the studio audience, the other panellists and great swathes of the liberal press the following day. It feels good to fight fascism when it comes in such an obviously odious form as Griffin’s. It can in fact be reassuring to identify racism in the other as it helps to establish an anti-racist position for oneself. In this context, however, the moralizing tirade against Griffin helped legitimize a more insidious form of racism which is much more a reality than the threat of the BNP.
Griffin was effectively challenged on holocaust denial, homophobia and the fiction of a racially distinguishable Britishindigeneity. On the subject of immigration, however, all the panellists (apart from Bonnie Greer, who remained silent on the issue) agreed that Britain did have an immigration problem. The representatives of the three major parties competed over who was being the most honest about the problem, each attributing the rise of the BNP to the incoherence of mainstream immigration policy. There was near unanimity over the appropriate combination of solutions to the problem of immigration: withholding welfare entitlements from administratively irregular immigrants, the outsourcing of border control and internment camps, voluntary and forced repatriations. Each met with applause from the studio audience. The racism of the BNP, which is still given an explicitly racial or cultural coding, legitimized the market racism of the panellists and audience. It is more often than not that this kind of market racism is at work when defining the nature of ‘fair competition’ in a cramped labour market is at stake. It is not enough to ask where an ideology, such as the BNP’s, positions itself with respect to social struggles. One must ask how it effectively functions in these struggles. Focusing exclusively on the fascism of the BNP, worryingly obscures the reality of market-based racism, the latter being less a distortion of class exploitation and/or the free market (depending which side you are on), than an internal part of it.
2 0 0 9 O c t o b e r Fe s t i v i t i e s Postgraduate Conkers Competition ‘Conkers’ is a traditional British game involving horse chestnuts (the name ‘conker’ refers to the nut itself). The way it works is that each conker is threaded with string. Two players face each other and take turns trying to break the other person’s conker. This requires solid aim and a good swinging technique using the momentum from the string. As soon as one conker breaks, a winner is declared. In October, the Sociology department held another postgraduate conkers competition (organized by Elizabeth Shove) in the County South courtyard. The winner of this year’s competition was Erkan Ali who is holding the conker trophy. Congratulations Erkan!
photos taken by Mirte Cofino
Sociology Halloween Party The annual departmental Halloween Party, held on October 27th was another big success. Creative costumes were in plenty, but the winning prize went to Ruth Love for her amazing home made version of the God Shiva. Runner-up prizes went to Nicola for a creative PhD take on the game ‘Operation’ and to Kate for her colourful pumpkin costume. If you weren’t able to make the party, below are some photo highlights from the evening:
Copyright Christos Stavrou. All rights reserved No photos may be stored, copied, printed, digitally reproduced or used in any other way without permission. www.christosstavrou.com
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‘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 Ozge
An important part of the hard, sweaty PhD work is to find – or create – a proper place to work in. This however, is not as easy as it seems, as it involves both practical and mental processes. It is not just a matter of putting your table, computer and books in a room and turning it into an office; it is about deciding how to live your life. Should your work embrace all of your life or should you define a clear line of demarcation between life – in the private sense – and the work? In practical terms, should you work in the evenings, on weekends or should some spare time be spent with your family/partner/friends or with yourself who is just a little tired of dealing with the PhD?
As I accepted the idea that I have to work at home, too, I decided to create a nice study, a bit of a consolation, in the biggest, nicest room of the house, which is quite light and airy. My table is just by the window, looking outside to remind me there is a world out there, even though I’m not allowed to go out and experience it at that
time. My weird little green wooden toy – I’m not sure what kind of creature it is really - which is hanging in front of the window, helps to cheer me up even in desperate times. I also have a nice, comfy couch to read on and also to lie down, close my eyes and dream. Having such a nice office at home, my only hope is to speed up and write my thesis as soon as possible, amen!
After I moved in with my partner last October, I tried to keep the work in my office on campus and save my time at home to feel the joy of love. Unfortunately, it didn’t work! Soon after, I understood that we, the miserable PhD students (who have chosen ‘a wrong path of life’ as wisely pointed out by Marge Simpson), do not have the luxury of having a private life as such. It is not possible to write that bloody thesis if you do not want to sacrifice your comfort and joy. So, finally, I invaded the best room of the house, which used to be the massage room of my partner, to let my PhD invade my life.
day: e h t of Quote -
om s a c a w e ctur the “My le , but s s e c suc .” plete failure a s a e w AD) audienc (htt
“LANCASTER LANDSCAPES” by Christos Stavrou
Christos is a photographer and a new postgraduate student in the Sociology department. To see more images of his work, please visit his website: www.christosstavrou.com or http://lancaster09.shutterchance.com/ (his new photo blog - one photo per day - about Lancaster and his new experiences).
© Christos Stavrou (http://lancaster09.shutterchance.com/)
My photography is influenced and inspired by such photographers as Lee Friedlander, Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank, William Eggleston, and Josef Koudelka, who amongst others - established a new and expanded way of documenting the 'social landscape'. Within this new understanding, 'documentary photography' moved away from its traditional ties with major social events and facts, closely linked to political situations or causes. Its subject-matter could also be what interests or fascinates the photographer. In these terms, I perceive my own field of exploration as quite open and flexible; one that, for example, tries to reveal minute, often ironic, and always peculiar, layers of social communication; one that tries to capture the commodified transformation of the banal into spectacle. And of course, one that wishes to penetrate the commonplace life and deal with subjectivities and personal meanings. Copyright Christos Stavrou. All rights reserved No photos may be stored, copied, printed, digitally reproduced or used in any other way without permission. www.christosstavrou.com
© Christos Stavrou (http://lancaster09.shutterchance.com/)
© Christos Stavrou (http://lancaster09.shutterchance.com/)
© Christos Stavrou (http://lancaster09.shutterchance.com/)
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T he Unremembered Self by Gail Crowther How does the self write about a self it no longer remembers, may never have even remembered? How does the writing self produce the written I? Imagine from the image of two girls. They are on holiday with their parents at the seaside in Blackpool. Perhaps it was a hot summer; the swimming costumes suggest a day on the beach playing in the sand. The smaller of the two girls has a mouth covered in sand. She has been eating it all day. It is odd that neither the parents nor the photographer cleaned her mouth. Maybe they thought it looked cute. For years up until the present day, the photograph is presented as “this is the holiday when you ate sand all of the time.” The photograph is the proof that it happened. The photograph along with the parents’ memories is all that exist of that day, that time, that holiday. The small girl with sand around her mouth remembers nothing of this time. She has been constructed and narrated by others. Yet this unremembered self is still a story resurrected from the rubble of other peoples’ memories. It is not a tidy or an accurate story, but then memory is neither of these things. In fact, the story is unreliable on a number of levels. Maybe it does not matter that the writing self here and now should be narrating an unremembered self. There would have been a time when I remembered. Maybe ten minutes after the photograph was taken I was back on the beach or walking the prom holding my mother’s hand thinking about having had my photograph taken. Maybe when my sister and I were posing I wondered what the finished photograph would look like. Maybe none of these things happened and I was still too young to perceive a world beyond my own control. Perhaps I had yet to realise that I was not the centre of everything. Almost certainly the photograph captures my pre-linguistic days since supposedly I refused to speak or grow much hair until after the age of four. How would I be able to distinguish a world abstract from myself without the language to construct it? How would anything have any meaning beyond experiential immediacy?
My sister would interpret grunts and inform my parents what I wanted. Apparently I usually helped by pointing at certain objects to at least give the grunts some context. No doubt there was much grunting and pointing that holiday as the family of four walked along the prom at Blackpool. This was the town when it was still a highly sought after holiday destination for working class Northerners. In the mid 1970s amid instability and unemployment in my ex-mining hometown, families saved all year for a week in Blackpool. In the rows upon rows of guest houses and B&Bs with gongs that sounded for breakfast and plastic flowers in vases on the tables in the dining rooms, families took refuge from the routine of daily life for a week by the sea. Of course, my writing self is already merging its own memories of later holidays where my sister and I were allowed to sound the gong for dinner, and the week I would eat nothing in front of strang-
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Muses ers and had to be taken outside for breakfast facing the sea. This could have happened in Morecambe, another family holiday destination; my memory is too messy to tell the difference. There is no chronology, no strict narrative of what happened and which year we went there. That only came later when I kept a “holiday diary”, but even reading that years later, parts of myself are still unremembered. Selfnarration then, one’s own store of memories seems no more or less reliable than anyone else’s. If my mother can narrate my unremembered self who ate sand and grunted, why should this depiction be any less reliable than if I remembered it myself ? Of course, my mother does not have access to my interiority, but then why would her interpretation of the little girl be any more or less of a construct than if the little girl herself could speak? As soon as we begin to narrate ourselves, as soon as we use language, perhaps we begin to tell a story, one of an infinite number of versions of events. Sometimes we change the narrative ourselves over the years, sometimes we perfect it to a story that we like or that makes us laugh or feel safe or nostalgic. But the self seems essentially a story, a created, fictional unified whole that we like to shape and set neatly into a chronology. To be a series of unrelated vignettes and halfremembered anecdotes perhaps diminishes our sense of importance and stability. By creating continuity through self-narrativisation we can comfort ourselves that we really do exist with a past and a certain amount of future. There is certainty and familiarity.
who set up their seaside booths for professional holiday photographs. The fake background and the style of the swimming costumes are unmistakeably 1970s. There is something a little more timeless about the two girls whose faces would not be out of place in a Dickensian street scene. The smaller girl is not looking at the camera, but off to the right, perhaps at her parents. This is a pose she often repeats in family photographs, or sometimes the older sister is the object of the younger child’s gaze, as if the camera was not there at all or did not matter. Why was this photograph taken? Certainly as a memento of the holiday, possibly even to capture how the two girls looked after a day on the beach. In the 1970s, the sea front was littered with outdoor photography studios – sometimes with false backgrounds of blue skies, palm trees and green sea as if mocking the slightly muddy sand and sluggish waves reflected across the road. Photographers would try to entice you to have a photograph taken. Sometimes, as in this picture, they would have a monkey that would sit on your shoulder and groom your hair, sometimes the studios had cartoons of caricatured men and women with a hole cut out where their head should be. When you placed your own head through the hole you suddenly transformed into a large woman in a polka dot swimsuit or a man in a string vest and baggy shorts. My parents must have paid what for us would have been quite a lot of money for the photograph. It must, therefore, have been important for them to record and capture that moment. I am tempted to think they were persuaded into it by a keen photographer, but equally I know my mother would not do anything she did not want to. So it was probably their decision to spend a lot of the money we did not have to capture their children at a particular moment on that particular holiday. A picture for the family album or maybe for a short time the mantelpiece at home in the ‘front’ room, or the china cabinet where the best glasses were kept.
Yet I only know that the little girl in the picture ate sand and grunted because I have been told stories about her. The girl in the picture is ‘me’ and yet could well be someone I have never met before. The unremembered self is the equivalent to the stranger in the street. Even the remembered self seems a fiction, a patchwork of false, unreliable narratives tentatively strung together to form a whole. Although the memories themselves may seem abstract, as if existing in a vacuum with little concept of order (both in the storage and the retrieval), they The two little girls in the photograph would are nevertheless culturally and historically embed- have no idea that their holiday destination was less ded. than two hours drive from their front door. Blackpool seemed, as I grew older, as far away and exotic Look closely at the photograph of the two as Africa and Egypt seemed later on to me in life. small girls. The style is typical of photographers - 12 -
Muses I romanticise the seaside working class holiday, of course. The decent, innocent folk who worked hard and saved all year for a week playing slot machines, building sand castles and hiring stripy deck chairs. Nostalgia grieves for this time when people from your hometown might be staying in the guesthouse next door and people would say “it’s a small world” and it certainly is when you never travel more than two hours away from home. There is a longing for that sense of community and a ‘proper’ working class – a time before so many individuals became atomised consumers and the evils of Thatcher’s Britain gradually eroded away the working class identity. “There is no such thing as society”, she said and the two little girls in the picture grew
up under Thatcher’s legacy of privatisation, the destruction of the trade unions and grassroots movements, poll tax riots, a war in the Falklands and increasing unemployment. “Get on a bike and get a job,” said Tebbit who never once saw my father’s face as he arrived home from yet another fruitless visit to the Job Centre. “Something will turn up,” my mother used to say. Maybe it was those times that made holidays so special. A sunny day by the sea, with two slightly grubby children and a photographer to capture the moment. The self is unremembered but I know it was happy.
Pa g a n i s m o r t h e R e l i g i o u s C u l t u r e o f Green Capitalism by Basak Tanulku Everything seems ‘greener’, ‘greenified’ and ‘greeniuos’ today. From recycled supermarket bags to hemp-bags at the Organic Food Shop next door; from green cars sold in your town’s showroom to the beautiful English countryside which has become full of new eco-housing developments, “green” in the UK seems to control the greed which has dominated the world since the 1980s, also known as the period of excess. Now it is time to find something new to exploit: a greener world which can sustain capitalism and which also makes people accept it by showing itself as less greedy but more sustainable and affordable. There are also web pages of those who regard Christianity as the solution for a greedy and capitalistic world. They claim to be real Christians and there are also vegetarians, respectful to the Earth and animals. But monotheistic religions have lost their battle against Nature, even if they try to hide behind a green and animal-loving mask. However, they cannot be covered by the best make-up sup-
ported by new greener ways to purify themselves and reserve a Place in the Green Heaven. On the one hand, there has been a rise in conservatism in the world. On the other, there has been a growing interest in the ‘esoteric’ which dates back to when monotheistic religions were the dominant ruling force, killing everything different from them by blaming them as “demons”. In a recent article in the Guardian, Cole Moreton argues that interest in Paganism has grown considerably due to the popularisation of pagan ideas in novels such as Harry Potter, or in BBC programmes ranging from Raven to Merlin, from Robin Hood to Doctor Who (Moreton, 2009). For Moreton, Paganism has its roots in the 1960s when James Lovelock wrote his theory on “Gaia”, the Greek Goddess, as the personification of Mother Earth. This idea gave rise to the environmental movement in the 1960s and 1970s. However, I think the rise of Paganism has deeper roots than we think. “Pagan”, in its dictionary use means “rural” or
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Muses “country” which symbolises both a return to the countryside long neglected in favour of the urban, and a different form of belief based on the motto of “do as you will, and harm none”. It can also be the answer for the “lost” youth, who are in search of “something” they do not know. I think that while atheism (agnosticism to a certain extent) is the religious answer for a socialist/ communist order, Paganism is the religious answer for the new generation who do not want to identify themselves with the “rigid” structure of atheism (and socialism/ communism). This is also parallel to the multicultural era of the 1980s and 1990s which was crystallised by the rise of green and gender/ transgender movements which base their existence on the non-hierarchical organisation of the society. Moreover, as Moreton draws attention, Paganism is an individualistic faith which allows each person to believe in his/her own way, so there is no need to belong to any kind of faith, which responds to the individualistic period that we live in. However, communism has been regarded as the “evil” example of domination and as an unnatural system which rejects “human essence”. For the capitalists, of course, this human essence is based on competition and profit maximisation. So, communism is against humans who would like to earn gains
out of nothing. Moreover, humans want to believe in something, so atheism is not a solution for the weak human soul, who is in search of a God/father/ mother. Interestingly, Paganism is seen as the new spiritual way of life which creates a religious culture in everyday life, but in a different form from the one created by monotheistic religions. Moreover, there is also the dark side of Paganism which can lead to the rise of racism based on the superiority of the Aryan race, regarded as being “degenerated” by immigrants from different parts of the world. Paganism is more than the answer for lost souls (either young or old). It consists of something unexploited by capitalism until now, since monotheistic religions have already been “digested” by capitalism. I would call it the new religion of “green” capitalism, which would provide a peaceful life where everyone goes to outdoor sports, eats organic food in restaurants to increase their green cultural capital, and lives in eco-homes. Capitalism regenerates itself in Nature, as she regenerates herself every spring. Can Paganism really become an alternative to the existing order which uses everything to survive and sustain only for itself ? Is it a search for a Golden Past that we lost or is it only another way of exploiting Nature and humans, this time by “the green power” of capitalism?
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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 Basak Tanulku Basak is a PhD student waiting for 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.
Gail Crowther Gail is a final year PhD student studying reader responses to the work of Sylvia Plath. When she’s not doing this, she’s reading Sylvia Plath and sometimes other people as well.
Anna Mann Anna Mann is in the 1st year of her PhD in Sociology / Science Studies, focusing on the relations between food, taste and pleasure. Beside of weaving arguments for her PhD, she enjoys knitting and sewing more tangible stuff like scarves.
by (newly-re-discovered) Joss Whedon's brilliant 'Firefly'.
Jenn Tomomitsu Jennifer is in the final year of her PhD in Sociology & Science Studies. Her project analyses the relations between ‘seeing’ and manipulation in scientific imaging practices. As a reprieve from writing, she enjoys yoga, cycling, walking in the Lakes, playing the guitar or snowboarding when back home in Canada.
Müzeyyen Pandir Muzeyyen 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 enjoys movies, music, books, tea and coffee.
Joe is a third year PhD student in Sociology. His research focuses on contemporary capitalism, border control and states of emergency.
Christoph is a visiting PhD student from the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland. He just handed in his thesis on „modes of ordering an art museum“ and the possibilities of participating in those. After the viva he plans to stay in Lancaster until March next year in order to prepare publications and further research projects.
Özge is a final-year PhD student focusing on the work of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. She is trying to analyse the EU membership process of Turkey in the light of theory of hegemony. She enjoys watching good movies, discovering new places and being cosy at home –what’s better than reading a good novel under a warm blanket?
Christos was born in Athens, Greece and lived for many years in Leeds where he studied Sociology and practiced photography as an artist and a documentary photographer. Some of his previous work can be found on his website: www.christosstavrou.com. He arrived in Lancaster this autumn to conduct doctoral research, funded by the ESRC, which is an interdisciplinary approach bringing together Visual Sociology, Disability Studies and Photography.
Karolina Kazimierczak Karolina completed her PhD in Sociology at Lancaster in March 2009. She is now working in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences (Academic Urology Unit) at the University of Aberdeen. In her work she is interested in the complexities of exchanges between the 'popular' and the 'authorised, between 'high culture' domains of art and scholarship and their representations (or re-enactments) in lay expertise, popular texts and everyday practices. In her free time she is mostly interested in the 'popular' bit: she loves anything sci-fi and at the moment she is obsessed
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S o c i - cl a s s i f i e d a d s 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).
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PhD Workshops 10th November - 1.30 to 3.00pm in B135 – writing workshop with Frank Trentmann for all PhD students before his presentation at the departmental seminar. The format is open and flexible, you can talk a bit about your work, we can discuss in greater depth the articles on which the seminar focuses, or you can take the chance to talk with him about his experience as a programme director. 24th November – 1:30 to 3:00 pm in B135 – open workshop with Doreen Massey before her presentation at the departmental seminar Doreen works on issues relating to globalisation, cities, regional inequality and the significance of geography and of space and place in the currently globalised world.
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CGWS Research Day and book launch We are planning to hold the first CGWS Research Day on Wednesday 2 June 2010. Pencil this date in your diary. This is an opportunity for Lancaster researchers, working on any aspects of gender and women’s studies, to present short papers, make new contacts and develop fresh ideas. We encourage contributions from all parts of the university and welcome papers that report work in progress, present new ideas or summarise recently-completed projects. More information about the scope of CGWS is at: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/centres/gws/ If you are interested in presenting a short paper please send a title and brief abstract (c100 words) to Anne-Marie Fortier email@example.com by Friday 17th January at the latest. BOOK LAUNCH: The day will end with a book launch to showcase the GWS-related books published between 2008-2010.
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Calendar *Please note: this schedule is still preliminary as speakers, paper titles and dates may change in the upcoming weeks
DATE 10 November 2009
SPEAKER TITLE VENUE Frank Trentmann Divides: Things, Practices, Poli‐ Bowland North SR 20 tics 16:15 – 18:00
17 November 2009
Anthony D'Andrea Mobilities Seminar: Cultural Hypermobility and Nomadic Identities
Bowland North SR20 16:15 – 18:00
19‐20 November 2009 Experimentality Workshop (see website for speakers)
Workshop 2: Experiment as IAS MR 2/3 Event in the Arts and Sciences 12:30 – 17:00 http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/soc iology/event/3042/
24 November 2009
Revisitng ‘A Global Sense of Place’
1 December 2009
Tomás Sánchez‐ Criado
Translating Care, Crafting Habi‐ Time and Venue TBC talities: An Ethnographic Ac‐ count of Design, Management and Use of Telecare for the Eld‐ erly
3 ‐ 4 December 2009
See website for details
Forced Migration and Mobilities IAS Room TBA Research Workshop 9:00 – 5:00 http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/pro jects/medmobilities/
4 December 2009
See website for details
Mediterranean Mobilities work‐ IAS Room TBA shop on Forced Migration 9:30 – 5:00 http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/pro jects/medmobilities/events.htm
8 December 2009
CGWS Seminar: “Out of Sight, out of Mind: Family Resem‐ blances in Lesbian Donor Con‐ ception”
16 December 2009
See website for details
Ethnographies of Cycling Work‐ Bowland North SR23 shop 10:00 – 5:00 http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/cen tres/cemore/event/2982/
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Bowland North SR20 16.15‐18.00pm
Bowland North SR2 16:15 – 18:00
we want to hear from you! Call for submissions Next deadline: February 13, 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.
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: Leon Moosavi
This is because images inserted into a word document will shrink in size