Monthly Archives: March 2016

Interview with lecturer in Criminology, Katharine Boyd

Belfast Katharine Boyd

This week we catch up with Katharine Boyd, lecturer in Criminology in our department.

Hi Katharine, I hope you are well! Thank you for doing this interview. Could you give us a brief introduction about yourself?

Katharine: Hi Jason! I’m doing well, thank you. I’m a criminologist here at Exeter. My research focuses on terrorism, or political and religiously motivated violence, as well as evidence-based policing and alcohol related violence.  I moved here from NYC a year and a half ago and I suppose I can’t help but mention that I row, since I’m training 8 times a week!

What got you interested in researching policy and literature regarding terrorism and violence?

Katharine: It may sound cliché, but I became inspired to research terrorism following 9/11.  After this tragedy people suggested numerous strategies for how to respond, some more reasonable than others, and after doing some digging I realized there’s not a lot of research done on terrorism and evaluating counterterrorism policies.  I feel it’s important that policy decisions are informed by research and we do not make important, consequential decisions based solely on emotional or ideological rhetoric.  So, I guess, I am still quite idealistic hoping to someday contribute to a safer and more peaceful world by producing relevant research and by teaching students about this complex and important topic so they are informed citizens.

Congratulations on receiving funding of £249,974 from the Police Knowledge Fund HEFCE and College of Policing Grant. Could you let us know what sort of research will you be pursuing with this?

Katharine: Thanks!  This is a very exciting opportunity for me and my colleagues – Brian Rappert and Hannah Farrimond, also in SPA, and Mark Pearson and Iain Lang in the med school –to work with the Devon & Cornwall Police and the OPCC.  The ExPERT project has numerous components related to evidence-based policing.  The project aims to develop and sustain capacity amongst police officers and staff for evidence-based practice, to do research that is relevant to the realities of policing and accelerates evidence-based approaches, and to improve knowledge transfer between the police and academia.  The ExPERT Project includes four components to meet these needs. The first are workshops to teach police officers and staff how to identify, critically appraise, and utilize research evidence.  The second component is a series of Project Generation Forums (PGFs) where the police, academics, and community stakeholders meet for the co-production of research projects.  PGFs are used to identify specific topics of concern and develop concrete empirical research projects.  The third component to the ExPERT Project is the use of knowledge brokers to bridge the gap between research and practice communities by exchanging knowledge and information held within these different groups.  Short, goal-oriented secondments for police and university staff will enable us to identify areas where research can improve policing and embed evidence into practice.  The last component is to conduct systematic reviews that summarize research evidence on topics by identifying, assessing, and synthesizing the existing evidence.  Systematic reviews produce evidence that is more robust than a single study and provide valuable information for evidence-based policy making.

How has the international outlook on counterterrorist policies by governments shifted over the years since the 9/11 attacks? 

Katharine: Well, I think there is greater international attention to what counterterrorism policies are being used worldwide.  Social media is a platform where information is shared and it may be more difficult for governments to conduct themselves without public oversight.  People are more aware of, and interested in considering, the unintended effects of counterterrorism measures, and therefore may be more critical of certain policies.  At the same time, people who feel threatened, especially just after an incident, may understandably feel motivated by retribution and endorse short-sited policies.   I like to think that governments will be prudent and consider international opinions when making big policy decisions, though there is no guarantee this would necessarily affects outcomes.  It all depends on who holds powerful positions.  This brings up the importance of elections.

How do you see counterterrorism policy changing in the future?

Katharine: I think polices to prevent terrorism will continue to be advocated for and developed.  Studies show that not all counterterrorism measures produce the intended effect, and similar policies may not produce the same effect on different types of groups.  More research in this area is critical. Governments have been funding research on terrorism and counterterrorism policies, but whether accurate and relevant information is utilized in policy-making is an on-going question.

One of your research interests happens to be alcohol related violence. Is this solely down to alcohol causing the violence or a socially produced violence as a result of its consumption?

Katharine: I’ve only recently started studying alcohol-related violence since I’ve moved to the UK and started working on the #RU2drunk initiative.  In England and Wales, over half of the violent encounters between adults are alcohol related.  Obviously most people who consume alcohol are not involved in violence, so I wouldn’t say it causes violence directly.  People have described a ‘binge and brawl’ culture in the UK that suggests a relationship between drinking and violence that is influenced by the context and environment.

Could you take us through what goes on in someone’s mind when drinking alcohol? What goes through this person’s mind when consuming it? Why is there this heighten aggressiveness towards not only violence, but a heightened motivation to attempt acts that one would normally not do?

Katharine: I think these questions may be better answered by a psychologist or neurologist!  From what is known about alcohol as a substance, it affects neurotransmitters and therefore brain chemistry, which influences people’s perceptions and behaviour.  Rather than simply attributing aggressive behaviour to alcohol alone, however, I think it’s important to note the social and environmental factors that influence the relationship between alcohol and aggressiveness.  Social psychology and criminology show how people –  including you! – behave differently in different contexts.  I’m sure you can think of a time, especially when you were an adolescent, when you did something that you feel was very ‘out-of-character’.  Did you explain or justify your behaviour in relation to a substance and/or circumstantial and social factors?  Well I think it’s necessary to consider the interpersonal setting when assessing the relationship between alcohol and aggression.

Finally, having been in the university for over a year now, how would you reflect on your experiences so far?

Katharine:  I’ve really enjoyed it!  Both the city and the Uni.  I admit when I was moving here from New York City I was concerned Exeter would feel ‘too small’ for me, but Exeter has many of the conveniences of a city that I like and it is truly a beautiful place.  I love the rolling hills, the historic buildings, and the quayside.  I’m glad I started rowing here so I get to spend hours on the river!  As for the university, I really can’t speak highly enough of the colleagues in my department and in Q-step.  I am so fortunate to work and develop research ideas with such great people.  And, of course, I really enjoy the students here as well!  I’ve enjoyed getting to know students who have taken a few of my modules and students – like you – who I just see around campus all the time! Overall I’m really glad I came to Exeter and it’s been a great year and a half!

Third year? Don’t forget to fill in the National Student Survey!

 

If you are a third year studying Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology at Exeter you have until April 30 to fill in the National Student Survey (NSS). If you have not done so already, we strongly urge you to do so. Departments which fail to receive feedback from 70% of their students do not get a grade in the following year’s league tables. Currently, the SPA department is only slightly further than halfway to reaching this threshold, meaning that the department, currently in the UK’s Top 10, could become ungraded. Obviously, it is in students’ interests that the department receives a grade, as this will affect the value of our degrees.

For every completed survey, Exeter University will donate one pound to RAG and those who complete the survey will be able to claim a free bar of fairtrade chocolate, or vegan alternative, from Amory reception. Theodore Stone, Subject Chair for SPA, writes: ‘It’s extremely important that finalists provide as much feedback as possible in order to locate problems within the college and improve standards.’

Completing the survey takes less than five minutes, and could make a real difference to your degree. So please, if you’re a third-year SPA student, fill in the NSS at www.thestudentsurvey.com and urge any friends you have who are also finalists to do likewise!

 

SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop: Highlights

The long-awaited SPA Post-graduate Applications Workshop was held this past Thursday, the 10th of March. If you wanted to go but didn’t get the chance, here are the highlights of the event to keep you informed on the realities of social science postgraduate applications! The workshop was conducted by Jess Wiemer, second year Anthropology student,in partnership with the SPA department as a Students as Change Agents project. Talks lasted approximately an hour and a half, followed by a chance to chat with the speakers over refreshments. The subject of postgraduate applications in sociology, philosophy, or anthropology was approached from four different perspectives by the four speakers.

Prof. Susan Kelly

Prof. Susan Kelly

The first was Professor Susan Kelly, one of the Sociology Professors in the department and Director of Post-Graduate Studies in SPA. She spoke about how to write post-graduate proposals. She provided excellent resources for good proposal writing in the forms of books and websites, including Przeworski and Salomon’s The Art of Writing Proposals (1995) and the ESRC guidance to research grant proposals found at http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/how-to-write-a-good-research-grant-proposal/. She explained how to justify the costs of the research and connect to the research interests of potential supervisors and concluded by discussing the typical structure of a proposal.

Dr. Andrea Butcher

Dr. Andrea Butcher

The second speaker was Dr. Andrea Butcher, anthropology lecturer at the University of Exeter. She spoke about the importance of collaborative research and how to profile oneself for these collaborations. She explained the changing values placed on the social sciences and emphasised the current requirements to demonstrate impact outside of academia. She spoke about how interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary collaborations can help provide funding for research through the demonstration of social, economic, or political impact. She provided links to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) website, which gives information on the expectations of research (http://www.ref.ac.uk/), and to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Consortium website, which includes a list of different collaborative organisations (http://www.ahrc-cdp.org/about/). She concluded by stressing the importance of networking and making yourself known through online profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter and through joining organisations like the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA).

Lauren Redfern

Lauren Redfern

The third speaker was Lauren Redfern, Exeter Alumni and MA student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She spoke about post-graduate education and how to use your undergraduate degree to your advantage. She explained how skills acquired through experience may be even more relevant than academic excellence, and that these skills can come from areas which may not always seem relevant to the future research project. Drawing on her own experience she explained how her internship with an anthropological filmmaker give her the research skillsshe could highlight in her application for a medical research Masters programme. She explained that mixed methods are becoming more common and asked for in the social sciences and stressed interdisciplinary collaboration. She concluded by stating that the most important thing to keep in mind when developing research is to focus on an area that is needed.

Ashley Kilgallon

Ashley Kilgallon

The final speaker was Ashley Kilgallon, Exeter Alumni and PhD student at the University of Leeds. She spoke about the process of application to publication and the realities of the PhD journey. She also stressed the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the social sciences. She provided an example from her own research of the Police Liaison Teams of the Metropolitan Police Service. She explained that it was collaborating with the police force that provided her with the access needed to conduct her research. Collaboration, she explained, built trust between her and the employees of the Metropolitan Police Service. She then made several useful suggestions on how to conduct oneself in an interview for applications to research programmes. She stressed the importance of networking, field work, and having passion for your research. She concluded by noting that what makes you stand out is your drive, and to demonstrate this you must stay true to your character no matter what.

The SPA Post-Grad Applications Workshop was one of many events conducted to inform students about careers and postgraduate education within the social sciences. The event was a wonderful opportunity to ask questions about the postgraduate journey to those who have already, or are currently, experiencing it. The speakers provided helpful advice on writing proposals, getting grants, conducting research, and publishing material. Informally chatting with them over refreshments afterward was a great way to network and to gain knowledge on the realities of social science academia. The SPA department at the University of Exeter continues to collaborate with the Careers office and Students as Change Agents projects to develop creative programmes and events to support its students. If you desire to organise an event, create your own Students as Change Agents project to make your idea into a reality!

Modern Anthropology and the Repatriation of Material Culture

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Portrait of Chief Crowfoot (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Anthropology is often seen by the general population as a discipline which deals solely with broad, theoretical concepts. Being a discipline based in theory, it is not seen to have much practical use outside of academia. Until I began studying anthropology at the University of Exeter, I was among those who felt that way. I thought anthropology was interesting, but not very applicable. However, with a growing globalised world, anthropology is more relevant to practical life than ever before. Anthropology is necessary in international and European policy-making organisations, advocacy and aid groups, tourism, heritage sites, diplomacy, journalism, and day-to-day life. There are many examples of the uses of anthropology in Exeter, which I have come to learn about through my studies. One example is the recent debate over the repatriation of a collection of artefacts from the RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum) and how this involves changing attitudes toward ownership and the importance of material culture and heritage.

Repatriation of museum-based artefacts is an issue that many museums across the UK are currently facing. The RAMM in Exeter has held ethnographic collections from across the world for over a hundred years. One particular exhibit houses artefacts from various First Nations peoples of Canada, some of which were acquired during the colonization of Canada at a time of enforced power hierarchies between indigenous peoples and colonists. Museum curators must now re-examine the roots of these artefact acquisitions and the underlying ethical problems. They must also consider the educational value of these items, and where that value is best put to use. Of particular interest is Crowfoot’s regalia in the RAMM’s ethnographic exhibit.

Crowfoot’s regalia is a collection of items which once belonged to Issapoomahsika (or Crowfoot, ‘Leader of the Blackfoot’ of Canada). 110 years after it was sold to the museum, it received a visit from home. In November 2013, the RAMM welcomed representatives of the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai nations of Canada and the Blackfeet nation of the United States. This visit was conducted in an effort to attain better understanding of the artefacts through the interpretations of the Blackfoot people, but moreover it has opened up further discussion of repatriation. The collection hadn’t been seen by the Blackfoot people for 130 years. It contains a decorated deerskin shirt, leggings, a ceremonial knife, two pouches, a bow-case and quiver, bows and arrows, two quirts and a bear-claw necklace. They served as emblems of Crowfoot’s earned authority and status as a leader. It was sold to the museum for £10 in 1904 by Cecil Denny, then a member of the North West Mounted Police. It is unclear how Denny came to acquire Crowfoot’s possessions, but he did acquire them sometime before the signing of the 1877 Treaty and it was widely known that he and Crowfoot were friends. (Eccles 2015)

Physical possession of Crowfoot’s regalia is extremely important to the Blackfoot people, because they believed him to have been a significant leader in their history of whom many can learn from. Crowfoot was not the leader of all Blackfoot nations as some thought, but was acknowledged as one who could speak for all. He urged the Blackfoot to sign Treaty 7 in 1877 between the Crown, Blackfoot nations, Sarcee and Atsinas nations in the desire for peace and the only alternative to war. The treaty put the First Nations under the rule of the Crown, by which England could then implement various institutions into First Nation societies. Despite prejudice and unethical treatment of the First Nation peoples under the law, the treaty meant they were now required to obey the Crown. By signing this treaty, life for the Blackfoot, like many aboriginal nations, was characterised by cultural upheaval. Despite this, Crowfoot is seen by the Blackfoot people as a strong leader who always vied for peace. (Eccles 2015)

The RAMM has been in conversation with the Siksika Blackfoot elders to return the regalia to Bow Crossing, Alberta, Canada (Eccles 2015). Herman Yellow Old Woman, a cultural curator at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum east of Calgary on Siksika Nation, stated that repatriating the regalia would be ‘bringing [Crowfoot’s] spirit home’ (Dempster 2014). He went further to say, ‘To bring back these artefacts to our community will give us a sense of pride… Our children are starting to lose their identity and I think for these kind of artefacts to come back will give them a boost and a positive energy to connect back to who they are as Blackfoot people’ (Dempster 2014). Repatriation of the regalia would evidently contribute to the remembrance of cultural and historical identities of Blackfoot nations and be an educational asset to Canadians visiting the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park museum. The museum itself also supports the repatriation.

Tony Eccles, curator of the RAMM, was very supportive of the repatriation, stating, ‘Isn’t it about time Crowfoot came home?’ (Dempster 2014). Herman Yellow Old Woman planned to have the regalia returned to the Blackfoot Crossing museum by spring of 2015 (Dempster 2014). Unfortunately, though the regalia is no longer on display, this has yet to occur. Eccles stated that there is still a long way to go before the return of the regalia is agreed upon between involved parties, but was happy to say the RAMM and Exeter City Council are heavily involved in these negotiations. The content of this continuing discourse is not yet open to the public, but readers are urged to keep an eye out for the next issue of the Journal of Museum Ethnography, which will include an article written by Tony Eccles, Alison Brown, and Anita Herle about their involvement with the Blackfoot.

Even small cities like Exeter are alive with international culture and discourse. As an anthropology student, I find places like the RAMM fascinating, not only for its historical ethnographic information but for its involvement with current cultures today. The repatriation of Crowfoot’s regalia is but one example of how anthropology can be used practically to aid in the sustainability of heritage in a modern world. This goes to show that anthropology is so much more than an academic discipline. Studying anthropology at Exeter has given me so much more insight into its applications in ways I never would have considered: anthropological theory does not need to be restricted to academic writing but has many uses for a range of topical cultural and political issues.

References

Eccles, T. 2015: RAMM Meets Blackfoot Representatives, RAMM: World Cultures. [online] Accessed at http://rammworldcultures.org.uk/ramm-meets-blackfoot-representatives/ on 18/02/2016.

Dempster, A. 2014: Chief Crowfoot’s Regalia to Return Home to Alberta, CBC News. [online] Accessed at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/chief-crowfoot-s-regalia-to-return-home-to-alberta-1.2654211 on 18/02/2016.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Crowfoot: Blackfoot Chief, Encyclopaedia Britannica. [image] Accessed at http://www.britannica.com/biography/Crowfoot on 19/02/2016.

An interview with the newest member of the SPA team, Christopher Thorpe

Christopher Thorpe is the latest addition to Exeter University’s Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology department, taking over from Anthony King, who left in December. Thorpe graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2008 with a PhD in Sociology, having already secured a lecturing role at the Robert Gordon University in 2007. In this interview, we ask him about what led him to the subject, his philosophical thoughts and his life prior to and since academia.

Could you tell us a little about your life prior to academia, and how you became interested in Sociology?

When I left school I had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of subject choice for further study. I  wasn’t particularly interested in going to university, so I didn’t. I wanted to travel and work abroad, in Italy specifically, so that’s what I did. I worked on a campsite, learned Italian fluently and subsequently returned to Lake Garda and Verona every year during the summers whilst I did my undergraduate degree in sociology. In terms of what attracted me to sociology, this is a vexed question! I tend to think such a question is a bit misleading because it implies I made a conscious decision to do sociology, which of course, I did at one level. What I didn’t do, or rather, what I cannot lay claim to, are the very many aspects of myself that meant sociology struck me as the only game in town. I went to private school and grew up in a boarding house but my father went to the LSE and was a local Labour candidate for a while (it’s a long story!). Sociological ways of thinking enabled me to understand the social conditions out of which my own selfhood developed, a sense of selfhood that I always felt slightly at odds with at one level. Therein, I believe, lays part of the truth behind what was to become something akin to a very intense relationship!

 

For those who aren’t familiar with it, what kind of research did you undertake during your time at Aberdeen?

During my time at Aberdeen, and at the Robert Gordon University before that, I began to develop my research interests. One strand of my work, which I hope to reengage with very soon, builds on the subject of my PhD thesis and is concerned with inter-cultural dynamics and processes between Italy and Britain. In particular, I am interested in the ways culture generally, but Italian culture specifically, is understood, shaped and consumed by different social class-groups in the U.K. Part of this involves looking at the ways in which aspects of Italian culture that seem quite banal for native Italians are re-appropriated into the lifestyles of dominant social groups as markers of class-based taste and distinction. In terms of my interest in (Italian) culture, my next project, which I have discussed with Jeffrey Alexander, whom I was fortunate enough to meet, will involve using my PhD thesis as the basis for writing a structural hermeneutics of international cultural interchange between Italy and Britain. On a completely different note, I am presently in the latter stages of writing a social theory textbook aimed at social work students and professionals entitled: Social Theory for Social Work: Ideas and Applications. Part of my teaching remit involved teaching Masters level social work postgraduates. They loved the insights that social theory gave them, but the issue of how to incorporate them into their thinking and practice was not clear to them, and the book aims to address this.

 

Do you identify with any schools of Sociology in particular?

I suppose I do, yes, but always in a context wherein I am aware that this says as much about me as it does about the merits of the ideas of that school. An act of identification always implies a relationship and relationships are more likely to take hold and develop in certain contexts and not others. In fact, the issue of the context in which an elective affinity springs up between a given thinker and a particular set of ideas is one which interests me a great deal and is something I have written about.

 

Do you have a favourite academic book/paper/piece of research etc.?

As a piece of writing I was massively impressed with Simon Charlesworth’s ‘A Phenomenology of Working-Class Experience’. I think, really it should have been entitled ‘Phenomenology of Unemployment’, but there you go. I think his use of language, once you take the time to master it, is brilliant. I know certain writing styles are accused as being overly obfuscatory, but to write about the things he does, and so well, I believe requires going beyond everyday ways of thinking and writing. I am okay with that. I wish I could write like that.

 

Do you think there are any sociologists/anthropologists/philosophers whose importance and work is underestimated?

I can think of a few who are vastly overrated – that would have been an easier question! Not that I think his work is necessarily underestimated, but I don’t believe students are exposed enough to the work of Simmel. I think too, that the work of Norbert Elias is a considerable achievement, although like Simmel, his work is regarded as something a little off the beaten track. Elias obviously owes a large debt to Simmel, which he seems very little concerned to have acknowledged, ironically! I think sociology in the present day would have been quite different had the work of these two thinkers been embraced more by the discipline.

 

Is there a major issue – whether philosophical or political – on which you’ve changed your mind?

This will sound incredibly soppy, but I am a bit of an old romantic at heart. I think my views on the issue of love have changed. One can, and many have, tried to philosophize and think about love sociologically and anthropologically, but I have never read anything that I feel really does the subject justice. Bourdieu’s analysis of love, for example, ends in a kind of self-affirming narcissism. Luhmann focusses on the different forms love has taken at different times and what is understood to constitute love, but really, as it is experienced and in terms of its power as a motivating force in human life, it remains a very powerful and largely analytically resistant topic. I read quite recently a relatively unknown book called ‘Love and Limerence’, which I thought was brilliant (I wouldn’t say I loved it), but ironically the author ended by concluding that her study had not really provided her with any real insights into what love is or why it is capable of exerting such strong feelings – and not necessarily positive ones – over people.

 

Finally, can you name a favourite novel, album and TV series?

My favourite novel is tough, not least because one’s tastes change with the passing of time. That said, I am rather fond of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The story is a very simple one and yet it operates on so many levels. It’s a psychological thriller of the highest order. My favourite album is Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I cannot sit still listening to it. My favourite TV series is ITV’s adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories featuring the superlative, Jeremy Brett. Cumberbatch is good but when I watch Brett at no point do I ever feel that he is acting. I like that.

Christopher Thorpe is the latest addition to Exeter's SPA department

Christopher Thorpe is the latest addition to Exeter’s SPA department