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PGF Pre-conference Day 2015: Session One – Sociology in Practice: communities, publics, and grassroots.


rob macdonaldProfessor Rob MacDonald, University of Teesside, “Zombie-slaying? The pressures and possibilities of ‘real world’ research impact”

Abstract: Increasingly UK university researchers are required not only to have academic impact but to have impact on society or economy. This talk reflects on one attempt to try to make research influential beyond academia. The studies, based at Teesside University and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,  were about poverty, ‘welfare dependency’ and ‘cultures of worklessness’. Theoretically, they concluded that contemporary political and policy thinking on these matters is infested with ‘zombie theory’; ill-founded but powerful ideas that rise and rise again despite the weight of academic evidence against them. Encouraged by the REF impact agenda, as well as by a deeper political/ ethical imperative, the researchers adopted a range of approaches and strategies in order to get their work known, understood and used: by the public, by practitioners, by policy makers and by politicians. The talk reflects on these experiences.

Biography: Robert MacDonald is Professor of Sociology at Teesside University. He is also Obel Foundation Visiting Professor at the Danish Centre for Youth Research, University of Aalborg. He researches and teaches across sociology, social policy, criminology and youth studies. Most recently, together with colleagues, he has published about work, welfare and worklessness, including Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain, which won the 2013 British Academy-Policy Press Peter Townsend Award.

AS_pictureDr Andy Smith, Reader in Sociology, University of Glasgow, “Sociology and Poetry: tentative conclusions from a study of working class readers of poetry”

Abstract: What is poetry, sociologically speaking? What characterizes it as a specific form of social utterance? This paper presents provisional findings from a recent study which explored the reception of written poetry among groups of working class readers in Glasgow. It’s particular concern is to explore how evidence of this kind – evidence about what readers ‘do’ in and with their encounter with poetic writing – can help inform our sociological understanding of poetry as a particular way form of expression, whilst also demonstrating how often that form can be experienced as exclusionary.

Biography: Andy Smith in Reader in Sociology at the University of Glasgow. His main area of research interest is the study of literature, sport and creative cultures more generally, in the colonial and postcolonial contexts. He is the author of C.L.R. James and the Study of Culture (Palgrave Macmillan)and of essays on the representation of imperial defeat (Race and Class), ethnicity and everyday life (Ethnic and Racial Studies), the experience of shopworking (New Left Review)  and Nigerian e-mail scams (Cultural Studies).

phillyDr Phillippa Wiseman, Research Associate, University of Glasgow: “In Search of Belonging, Rejecting Community; Researching Disabled Young People in Scotland”

Abstract: This paper will explore notions of community and belonging for disabled young people in Scotland. It will also explore the methodological difficulties that arose in researching a group of people who don’t necessarily identity with a wider ‘disabled identity’. The paper is based on PhD research undertaken with 18 young people. Disabled people are often understood as belonging to a ‘community’, in fact much of the disabled people’s movements’ achievements have come from collective political identity and collective action. The young people who participated in this research, for the most part, rejected being part of a ‘community’ of disabled people as they felt this membership rendered them ‘different’ from non-disabled peers. Through a complex interplay of sameness and difference, participants were trying to negotiate a sense of belonging in what mainstream social life.

Biography: Dr Phillippa Wiseman is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow, in the Institute of Health & Wellbeing and the Strathclyde Centre for Disability Research. Her research focuses on intersecting inequalities and reconciling the ‘private/public’ divide.  She is interested in the intersection between the body, disability and citizenship and future research interests include toilets as a site of inequality.

@PhillyWiseman (Twitter)

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