Speakers and Abstracts


Keynote Speaker: Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London, “Beyond the beast of austerity – inequality and the lives we hope to lead”

Abstract: The language, logic and practices of austerity seem to have saturated everyday life. In the process, we have lived through a concerted attack on ideas of entitlement and equality. This paper tries to understand the manner and nature of the shift in popular discourse and institutional practices brought about through austerity measures. The paper argues that (i) austerity is not and has never been designed as a short-term measure (ii) austerity represents an attempt to reshape the political terrain in a manner that dismantles many of the partial gains of the twentieth century (iii) this dismantling goes far beyond a cutting of service provision and threatens to corrode social connections and confound the articulation of entitlement, solidarity or conviviality. As always, the question is how we think beyond the constraints of this unhappy moment.

Biography: Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya is Professor of Sociology at the University of East London. She has written extensively in the area of ‘race’ and racisms, sexuality, global cultures and the ‘war on terror’. She is completing a book with Palgrave Macmillan on equality and justice in a post-austerity world.

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)

Session Two: Value-free or Politcally Partial? Sociology and Teaching

matt dDr Matt Dawson, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow: “But what do Sociologists Do? Public Sociology, Teaching and the Spirit of Max”

Abstract: Recent attempts to reimagine the purpose and scope of sociology, of which public sociology is here taken as a case study, have tended to emphasise the role of sociologists as researchers and public intellectuals.  Teaching, in such analyses, has been downplayed.  While Burawoy makes encouraging noises about the importance of teaching to public sociology these are generally afterthoughts to arguments about the researcher role.  This not only marginalises the fact that for many sociologists teaching is a key, sometimes even the most prominent, thing they do but is also a departure from classical writings on the role of the discipline.  This paper will return to Max Weber’s writings on social science, where teaching – conceived as the providing of ‘inconvenient facts’ – is often given equal place to research.  It is this ‘spirit of Max’ which the paper will then apply to the current day, while departing from the ‘substance of Max’.

Biography: Matt Dawson is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Glasgow.  He is the author of Late Modernity, Individualization and Socialism: An Associational Critique of Neoliberalism (2013, Palgrave Macmillan) as well as a forthcoming book on the history of sociologists offering visions for alternatives worlds.  He is also, with colleagues from the University of Sussex, currently engaged in research on asexual identity and practices of intimacy.  Matt has taught topics such as social theory, class, globalization, everyday life, methods and political sociology at both Glasgow and Sussex.

535960_10205682332806676_5942411361430623690_nDr Vikki Turbine, Lecturer in Politics, University of Glasgow: “The politics of ‘teaching’ feminist politics: responsibilities, risks, rewards”

There is an abundance of research exploring the responsibilities and risks of being feminist in the academy and recent debate has centred on the continued marginal status of feminist approaches to research and teaching within higher education. This paper begins in agreement with the findings of many feminist scholars that the social sciences remains at best dismissive and at worst hostile to feminist approaches and politics.  This is puzzling given the theoretical and empirical contributions that feminist research has generated for social theory and pedagogy, and in light of the apparent ‘resurgence’ of feminist activism among the student body. The paper considers why this resistance may persist by reflecting on my own experiences as a feminist researcher and lecturer in a politics department, teaching an undergraduate course on feminism. It ends by arguing that in spite of difficulties, there are rewards in occupying the marginal, but overtly political, positionality of a feminist teacher.

Biography: Vikki Turbine is a lecturer in Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. She has a long standing research interest in contemporary Russian politics and particularly women’s experiences of post-Soviet neoliberal reform. Her doctoral research undertook a qualitative feminist analysis of women’s perceptions of and access to human rights in Russia, exploring how gender and class shape this, and what impacts this has for women’s citizenship. She has published work from this body of research in various journals and edited collections, most recently in Europe Asia Studies. Her latest body of (forthcoming) work is based on an ESRC funded project exploring citizens’ use of the internet to mobilise rights claims and protest in Russia (RES-000-22-4195) and she is currently researching young women’s engagements with politics and feminism in Russia. She tweets @VikTurbine

Session Three: Making it from PhD to Early Career: Stories and Trajectories

Presented by the BSA Early Career Forum Co-Convenors, Dr Katherine Twamley (UCL Institute of Education), Dr Mark Doidge (University of Brighton), Dr Andrea Scott (University of Chichester):

Sociologists’ tales of life after the PhD: Getting a job and keeping it (or moving on to something better)

Many workshops and sessions focus on practical skills to bolster our CVs. As sociologists we know, however, that the social world around us cannot be reduced to a series of key skills, publications and experience. Our careers are based on our own identity, politics (personal, governmental and office), power, opportunities and opportunism.Drawing on the forthcoming Sociologists’ Tales book to be launched at this year’s BSA conference, at this session we will discuss how some of us have managed the post-PhD transition, and what lessons we can learn from our and others’ experiences (whether good or bad). The session will be run by the three BSA Early Career Forum convenors and will be an interactive session – so brings your thoughts and questions.

The BSA Early Career Forum (ECF) is for post-PhD BSA members, recognising the distinct set of challenges facing early career sociologists in the current academic and employment climate. It aims to provide support and assistance to meet the specific needs of this community. 

Session Four: Epistemologies in Action: what do we do when we write?

???????????????????????????????Professor Bridget Fowler, University of Glasgow: “A new ethic of responsibility for sociologists adequate to the challenge of marketization in  late capitalism?”

Abstract: In Nazi-occupied France from 1942 on, writers and philosophers  debated not just the general ethics of writing in relation to power  but also the specific justice of capital punishment for those writers who used their literary skills in complicity with the enemy. In the face of the profound dangers inherent in contemporary Western societies, in which inequalities are deepening to the level prior to World War 1 and feminism is being recuperated, we need to discuss similarly the “deontology” or occupational ethics of sociologists. Furthermore, if Gide remarked “It’s with beautiful sentiments that one makes bad literature” we should also remember that Bourdieu wrote that “It’s with beautiful sentiments that one makes bad sociology” – i.e. our strongest commitment should be to unstinting realism. The paper will then argue, first, that Marx’s  ban on ethical discussion of justice whilst nevertheless an impassioned emancipatory ethic pervades Capital  offers a profound paradox that needs elucidation.  Second, Weber’s epistemology is unsatisfactory because of its radical split between the social scientific analyses offered from the lecture hall and the moral/political implications offered from the political arena. Thirdly and finally, this brief paper recommends combining aspects  of  critical sociology (Bourdieu) with the more detailed analyses of transgression, resistance and transformation in Boltanski’s On Critique and The Foetal Condition.       

Biography: Bridget Fowler is an Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Glasgow. She specialises in social theory, Marxist-feminism and the sociology of culture. She has had a long-term interest in the thought of Pierre Bourdieu, whose ideas she has taken up in various articles and books including The Alienated Reader (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991); Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory: Critical Investigations (Sage, 1997), and an edited volume, Reading Bourdieu on Society and Culture  (Blackwell, 2000). She has also applied Bourdieusian theory to the study of obituaries (see The Obituary as Collective Memory, Routledge, 2007), and continues to work on Bourdieu as well as Boltanski.

Professor Satnam Virdee, University of Glasgow: “What kind of sociology do we need in an age of organic crisis?”

Abstract: The political conjuncture has worsened markedly since 2007, when the British economy spiralled into depression as part of the global economic collapse. While the main political parties call for ‘the people’ to ‘tighten their belts’ and ‘make sacrifices in the national interest’ because ‘we are all in this together’, sociologists and others have usefully drawn attention to the contradictions between such calls for austerity and the actually increasing levels of inequality between the rich and the rest in contemporary Britain (Dorling 2014; Savage et al 2013). Some have even constructed new class schema to analytically capture these new forms of heightened inequalities (Savage et al 2013). At the same time however, there is another kind of question that sociologists have been less inclined to pose thus far, namely, how do ‘they get away with it’ or to put it in sociological terms how do the ruling elites secure their right to rule in such a moment of deep, systemic crisis for British, and, arguably global capitalism? To answer this question, I contend we need to look for inspiration to a different kind of critical sociology, one that draws inspiration from Stuart Hall – a thinker who was ‘in but not of’ the academy and who contra Weber refused the distinction between scholarship and partisanship. Echoing Marx’s claim that ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it’, Hall claimed that ‘theory was a detour on the road to somewhere more important’. I will discuss the analytic and political returns to be derived from the adoption of this epistemological standpoint.

Biography: Satnam Virdee is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Research on Racism, Ethnicity and Nationalism (CRREN) at the University of Glasgow. He writes in the areas of race and racism; class and social movements, and historical and political sociology more broadly. He is the author of Racism, Class and the Racialized Outsider (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). And as part of the on-going programme of work of the ESRC Centre for Dynamics on Ethnicity (CoDE), he is currently collaborating with Laurence Brown and Stephen Ashe ( University of Manchester) in conducting a major archival and interview study seeking to recover the ‘hidden history’  of Britain’s anti-racist civil rights movement (1965-1990).


Dr Carolyn Pedwell, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Cultural Sociology, University of Kent: “Social theory, writing and mood”

Abstract: The mood within social theory has become increasingly disdainful of the legacies of textual analysis.  At their intersection, the purported affective, ontological and new materialist ‘turns’ are represented as moving away from the privileging of text and discourse as key epistemological touchstones, and indeed beyond poststructuralist approaches premised on linguistic, semiotic and discursive frameworks more generally.  In this context, it would seem, any attempt to preserve the integrity of the epistemological tools of the textual, discursive and cultural turns is marked as decidedly out of step with the affective thrust of contemporary social analysis.  I want to argue, however, that appreciating the nuances and complexities of these various conceptual turns urges us to examine how many thinkers extend a much longer genealogy of critical scholarship concerned with the nature of texts and textual formations as ‘discursive-material’ assemblages, the materiality of language and its affective excesses, and the particular relations of feeling we finds ourselves in with texts.  Drawing on my recent work concerning the links between critical scholarship, epistemology and mood, I will explore how we might understand contemporary social theory as a form of ‘mood work’ that is at once discursive and material, textual and affective, political and aesthetic.

Biography: Carolyn Pedwell is Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Cultural Sociology in the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research at the University of Kent.  She has recently held posts as AHRC Visiting Fellow at The Centre for the History of Emotions, Queen Mary (2013-2104) and the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney (2013).  Carolyn is the author of Affective Relations: The Transnational Politics of Empathy (Palgrave, 2014) and Feminism, Culture and Embodied Practice: The Rhetorics of Comparison (Routledge, 2010). She is also an editor of the international journal Feminist Theory.

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