Dr Jude Roberts (Keele)

Title: “I will never reveal the truth!”: figuring out non-binary gender in contemporary comics.

This paper will discuss the representation of non-binary gender in two contemporary comics and the reception of non-binary gender characters amongst fan communities. Focusing on characters from The Runaways and The Order of the Stick, I’ll consider the ways in which their creators are attempting to navigate some of the key questions of representation – language (non-binary pronouns), bodies (both the diversity of bodies and challenging belief in the body as the location of the reality of identity) and subjectivity (resonance with real people’s identities and experiences) – and the ways in which much of the reception of these comics is concerned with ‘figuring out’ the characters ‘real’ gender. Ultimately the challenge of representing non-binary gender characters is that we exist in a culture in which, as argued by Judith Butler, binary gender and heteronormative sexuality are taken as markers of personhood. I will argue here that the comics medium brings these questions to the fore through its specific visual/linguistic juxtaposition. Images produce a particularly affective form of anxiety about our ability to know: we simultaneously believe that seeing something with our own eyes makes us more likely to know the truth and are trapped in the surface of the image. Although there is no underneath to a line drawing, the visual representation of characters of non-binary gender seems to provoke a particularly strong desire to ‘figure it out’ and a belief that it is possible to do so.

 Dr Carolina Matos (City University, London)

Title: Women in transnational contexts: gender politics and the media in Latin America and Brazil

From advertising, to television and film, feminist media scholars have examined the changing nature of media representations form the 1990’s onwards in comparison to the 1950s in the UK and the US. Many debates focus on the current complexity and ambiguity surrounding media representations which are inserted within post-feminist texts that tend to equate femaleempowerment with choice, individualism and consumerism. This has occurred in a context where there have been some achievements in gender equality worldwide, with women occupying more spaces in the marketplace, business and government, although the process has been extremely slow since the start of the struggles of the first wave of feminists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2015, the United Nations underlined that full gender parity would only be reached in 80 years. Latin America and the Caribbean however have been seen as regions which have made some improvements in the last decades, although there are not that many reasons to be cheerful.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC – UN 2004) underlined that full equity was reached in the 1990’s with access to primary education. In the last decade, the region also saw the election of female politicians throughout the continent in the context of the re-democratization period following from the collapse of dictatorship regimes in the 1980’s. Countries like Brazil, despite the reduction of inequalities in the last four decades, are still home to gender discrimination and inequality, with high levels of domestic violence towards women, low levels of political representation, a culture of machismo that permeates Brazilian society and accusations made by feminists of stereotypical gender representations in the media.

This research looks at the correlation between gender inequality in society with media representations, situating the case of Brazil and Latin America within the global quest for gender justice and also the debates on the extent to which it is possible to pressure for change and pursue public policies in favour of gender and development in an era of market restrictions and globalization. Questions asked include: Why do media representations matter, and for whom? How can the media assist in gender development and nation-building, contributing to wider democratization? This paper is part of the forthcoming book, Globalization, gender politics and the media), to be published by Lexington books in 2017.

Dr Carrie Friese (London School of Economics)

Title: Fields in STS: Reconciling Care, Science and the Structuring of Social Life

Bourdieu is something of a taboo figure within Science and Technology Studies. On the one hand, his structuralist accounts of social life are simply at odds with the post-structuralist understandings of science and society that dominate STS. But in addition his caustic tone inScience of Science and Reflexivity combined with his need to ensure the special status of scientific knowledge have made him something of a scape goat within the field. It is in this context of historical hostility that I am currently embarking upon a field analysis of in vivo science, asking what the role of animal care is within that field. This paper discusses the different models of science and society that exist today, specifically actor networks, social worlds/arenas and fields. I address why I have moved from a micro-level ethnographic approach, which would seemingly align better with actor network theory, to field analysis. I close by addressing the dilemmas that arise when exploring a relational practice like care from the perspective of a hierarchical theory like fields.


Dr Michaela Benson (Goldsmiths)

Title: In-house ethnography: creating a sense of place through narrative and filming

In this paper, I draw on my recent research with selfbuilders—‘where the first occupants arrange for the building of their own dwellings and, in various ways, participate in its production’ (Duncan and Rowe 1993: 1331)—to explore ways of conveying a sense of place and how this is experienced by occupants through ethnography conducted within domestic space. Through the simultaneous presentation of narrative and participant-produced home tours, I question the value of mixed methods for the production and communication of ethnographic research.

Dr Robert Gibb (University of Glasgow)

Title: Some questions and reflections on working in/across different languages in a collaborative research project

Drawing on my recent experience of conducting research in a new (to me) place (Bulgaria) and language (Bulgarian), I will raise some questions for discussion about language hierarchies and the relationship between language and power both in research teams and ‘in the field’. I will also reflect on some issues relating to translation and interpretation, and to being ‘less than fluent’ (to borrow Annabel Tremlett’s term) in the main language used to conduct the research.

Dr Ipek Demir (University of Leicester)

Title: Diaspora and Translation: Conceptual Borrowings

My presentation will examine how the insights of translation studies can enrich studies of diaspora. As those who have led and defended the ‘cultural turn’ in translation studies have argued, translation is in fact always a site of ‘gain and discovery’ (Bassnett and Trivedi 1994: 4). It is also a site of ‘erasure and exclusion’ and of violence (Venuti 2008). Through an examination of how diasporas choose to translate the home and their ethno-political struggles with the home, we can discover what they deem as significant, and how, if at all, they can make their stories ‘palatable’ to the host community. I will focus on some of these possible conceptual insights which a focus on ‘translation’ can bring to the study of diasporas by discussing the difficulties the Kurdish brokers face, as well as the various coping mechanisms they employ, when they translate the Kurdish struggle and rebellion to British audiences and to their 2nd generation.


Dr Hannah Jones (University of Warwick)

Title: Uncomfortable Positions: Against Heroic Sociology

For me, the core of sociology is captured by C Wright Mills’ formulation of the interaction between ‘public issues and private troubles’. The operation of power in both structural and personal forms is at its core. I will argue that, while sociologists may be ready to discuss and write about conflict and tension in the subjects they study, and to draw attention to operations of power in a range of forms, it is often too easy to ignore the way in which we ourselves are implicated in unequal power relations, both structurally and personally, in the production and communication of knowledge. I will suggest that a powerful contribution of sociology to understanding (and changing) society can be through resisting the impulse to position oneself (explicitly or implicitly) as part of a progressive and morally superior insight and voice. I think there is potential in embracing the uncomfortable positions in which we each find ourselves as researchers, writers, teachers and students, and in recognising and understanding our own failures and partialities, rather than ignoring or attempting to smooth over the messy contradictions of our implication in systems of control, power and inequality. This is not suggested as an excuse for hand-wringing, but as a call towards imaginative and collaborative negotiations of ever-unfinished sociological work, within and against these spaces of power.

Dr Emma Jackson (Goldsmiths)

Title: For a feminist punk sociology: Collaboration as rebellious sociology?

 This provocation begins with Dave Beer’s call to ‘Punk Sociology’. Drawing on my experiences as a musician and sociologist, I will consider what sociologists can learn from a DIY sensibility, in particular I will explore what a feminist punk sociology might look like (and where it might already exist). I will particularly focus on how might this manifest in writing practices, in collaborative work, peer support and in the temporalities of the production of academic work. I will also consider the barriers to practicing this kind of work in a wider context where Early Career Researchers are under pressure to market themselves as exceptional individuals in competition with each other.

Professor John Holmwood (University of Nottingham)

Title: Sociology after the Public University.

This paper argues that sociology takes its meaning as a critique of  liberal reason and asks how the neo-liberal knowledge regime of the contemporary English university might be contested.


This session focuses on navigating and negotiating an academic career in sociology and related disciplines. We take as our starting point Bourdieu’s concept of ‘playing the game’, particularly Bev Skeggs’s related question ‘what if you can’t get on the field?’. Under current conditions the academic field often feels precarious – permanent positions are scarce and audit culture is dominant. As a result certain key methodological, intellectual, and pedagogical positions are often obscured in favour of a more instrumental approach to social science. This panel confronts the reality of a career post-PhD and provides a forum to discuss how we can approach the current situation with both positivity and pragmatism. How can we pursue our intellectually and affectively held goals in teaching and research whilst also succeeding in gaining employment? How do we keep a sense of collegiality and integrity in contemporary competition-driven academia? Is it possible to play the game and subvert the game at the same time?

Dr Robert Gibb:
Borrowing the terms used in the summary of this roundtable, I would bring to the discussion my experience of managing to get on ‘the field’ in the UK relatively easily, then voluntarily leaving it and struggling later to get back on it in the UK, but with attempts also in France, Denmark and Switzerland. I would also be happy to share what I think I’ve learned from trying to ‘juggle’ teaching, administration and research as a lecturer – from applying for research grants, and being involved in (or subject to) various kinds of ‘review’ at individual and departmental/subject-level.

Dr Ipek Demir:
Ipek is Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester. She is happy to take questions on a) 
pros and cons of doing interdisciplinary work as an early career researcher; b) theoretical insight and sociological imagination – why they matter; c) methodological innovation- why it matters; d) applying for funding as an early career sociologist.

Dr Helen Kara:
Helen’s first degree was a BSc in social psychology, and she got her PhD in 2006. For the last 17 years she has been an independent researcher specialising in research methods. She has never been ‘on the field’ of academia, and only began formally working with academics in the spring of 2012, yet in autumn 2015 her work was recognised by the Academy of Social Sciences for its ‘excellence and impact’. Is this because she learned to play the game fast and effectively, or because the game is changing, or both?


Laurie Taylor is visiting professor in the department of politics and sociology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a Fellow of Birkbeck College and holds visiting professorships at the University of the Arts and Westminster University. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Universities of Nottingham, Leicester, Queens Belfast, Aberdeen, Goldsmiths College, and Central England. His contributions to social science were recognised in 2003 by his election to the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences.

Before entering academic life at the University of York, where he went on to become Professor of Sociology, Laurie had eight years industrial and sales experience, worked as a librarian in Liverpool, taught in a London comprehensive school, and was a professional actor with Joan Littlewood’s famous Theatre Workshop Company at Stratford East.  He is the author of fourteen books on motivation, change, communication, and personal identity. His weekly satirical column on university life has been appearing in the Times Higher Education Supplement for the last thirty-four years.

Laurie can currently be heard every Wednesday afternoon on BBC R4 presenting Thinking Allowed, a programme, now in its fifteenth year, devoted to society and social change. He has recently completed the sixth series of his Sky Arts television interview programme, In Confidence. A book based on the series called In Confidence: Talking Frankly About Fame was published in August 2014.