Category Archives: Sociology

SSIS BBQ

Sun, burgers, good laughter, goodie bags and plenty of familiar and new faces – these were all part of the end of year Student Engagement and Academic Representation BBQ held at the RAM garden on campus. The event was organised by George Flower and Anna Hamilton from the College of Social Sciences and International Studies with the aim of rewarding students from the college for their dedication to the improvement of the student experience.

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Plenty of awards recognizing the achievements of various projects and individuals were handed out. Within the department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (SPA), members of the Sociology and Anthropology society were commended on their contributions to the department, alongside Global Exe, the youth project started by editor of this blog, Jason Chang.

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The BBQ provided an opportunity for SPA to interact with other attendees from CSSIS. Attendees from the politics department who had set up the “Diplomatic Hub” conversed with attendees from Global Exe and exchanged various ideas between each other to improve and make progress to their own individual projects.

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The melting pot of ideas and conversations did not simply stop at the projects and initiatives that students had set up. With the wealth of expertise in attendance, students from law to philosophy conversed about ideas for their future and also the sharing of good practice in their coursework. Among the many themes of discussion at the table included the study of linguistics, military law and even the sociology of name tags!

If you would like to join the table for such interesting conversations and would like to represent your cohort in a leadership position, places are still available to nominate yourself to be a representative for the Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology SSLC positions! If you would like to find out more information or nominate yourself, email today!

Jason Chang

Studying for a degree? Consider doing work experience!

One of the most useful things about studying for a degree is the opportunity for work experience and the extra-curricular activities it brings. These endeavours can not only enhance your CV, but also broaden your understanding of the subject and how it relates to the wider world.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to intern at the local office of Ben Bradshaw MP, and I can honestly say that as well as demonstrating the practical applications of sociology the experience was a rewarding one, helping me judge in which direction I wish to take my life.

Exeter’s MP since 1997, Ben Bradshaw. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)

As Exeter is holding elections for its City Council next month, most of my week was taken up by canvassing. We spent the week traversing the length of Exeter, often accompanied by Ben Bradshaw, which though physically tiring gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the city and its residents. Indeed, any kind of volunteer work within a city broadens your knowledge of the area and makes you feel more a part of it. This was furthered by the fact I was able to meet not only the local MP, but also the council leader and various councillors who were able to share their experiences of working in local government and information about Exeter’s communities and the problems they face. Meeting residents was also very informative; issues raised ranged from housing and schooling to their dislike of Labour’s new direction.

From a sociological point of view, what was most interesting was how demographics offer a key indicator of voting behaviour. While working-class areas and council estates proved more likely to support Labour, they were also far more likely to want to vote to leave the European Union. This ties in with findings that show that people in areas that generally possess a lower level of education and are more directly affected by immigration are more likely to wish to leave the EU. Similarly, while middle-class areas were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, they were also more likely to vote Green, which corresponds to the idea that people who have less to lose are more likely to risk voting for principles rather than out of pragmatism.

Anyone studying for a Social Science degree should make sure they learn something of the society and people about which they are theorising and back up their ideas with hard evidence. An ideal way to do this is through work experience in the political, journalistic or charity fields. University is about more than just studying for a degree, and the excellent connections and services of Exeter University and its SPA department provide students with perfect opportunities to pursue the fields in which they are interested.

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!

 

Why Study Sociology? Because it’s more relevant than ever.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a Sociology student is, ‘why study a Social Science?’ Shouldn’t I be studying something like a hard science, economics or business management if I want to get a “serious job”? Why should employers be interested in a social science degree? I must say, I find these assertions a little disingenuous. Quite aside from the benefits which come with any degree – research and analytical skills, an increased ability to work independently etc – I believe that Sociology is one of the most applicable degrees available.

Boiled down to its simplest elements, the word Sociology means the study of society, which makes it a discipline grounded in an ever-changing social world and one which is always relevant. The close relationship the subject has to everyday life and current affairs makes it an exciting one to study, prompting its students to look at the world around them anew. As well as this, this relationship makes the discipline a very important one, with those working within it tackling such problems as the refugee crisis, urban deprivation and crime.

While society has always been subject to upheaval and unrest, I do believe that we are currently experiencing a particularly tumultuous period, the gravity of which people are only just beginning to understand. It would seem that the consensuses established after 1945 are being undermined at an alarming rate. Since the financial crash, we have seen an unprecedented rise in nationalistic, anti-egalitarian movements which no one could have really predicted. From UKIP’s rise in the UK, to the Front National’s in France and the PVV in the Netherlands, nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-EU parties are surging. Even in Germany, the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement has rapidly grown in popularity – particularly after the attacks in Cologne. In no small part, the growth of these sentiments has been fuelled by the refugee crisis putting pressure on European border policy, and the expansion of ISIS and renewed threat of Islamist terrorism.It is clear that the very foundations of European co-operation and liberal democracy are seriously threatened for the first time in the postwar era.

A protest against the ‘”Islamisation” of Europe, by the German far-right street movement ‘PEGIDA’. (Photo Jan Meyer/AP)

Coupled with this are seemingly ever-increasing divisions between social groups. Only last week, the so-called pick-up artist and anti-feminist ‘Roosh V’, a more grotesque example of the growing ‘Men’s Rights Activist’ movement, had to cancel a series of meetings of his ‘neo-masculinist’ movement. This was largely because of threats he had received as a result of his stance on legalising marital rape. Thankfully, such extreme views are rare, but it cannot be denied that the climate of debate in general has become more toxic – especially with the advent of social media. Debates between left and right have become increasingly polarised, with personal insults, censorship and threats now commonplace – a state of affairs which should worry anybody who values democracy and debate.

All this being set against an increasingly insecure job market, a hacking back of the state and revolutions in digital technology makes the future very uncertain, even rather dangerous. We have made the mistake of assuming that ‘progress’ is something easily defined and linear, and we forget that society is able to fall back into darker times far easier than progress to brighter ones. If our present is marked by anything, it is uncertainty, and it is the job of sociologists and anthropologists to try to both understand and explain what is happening. In my opinion, we are experiencing a backlash against rapid social change which has left an increasing amount of people ontologically insecure and in need of something to stake their colours to.

For my part, studying Sociology has led me to the thought of Émile Durkheim, and I believe his belief in social solidarity and collectivism in preference to the individual has great pertinence for our age. However, I realise there are plenty who would disagree with me, and it is this that makes Sociology a stimulating subject to study. In 2015, Exeter was ranked as one of the top 10 Universities in the UK for Sociology by both The Complete University Guide and the Guardian newspaper. Coupled with the broadness of the course and specialisms of the academic staff, studying Sociology at Exeter can equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to help combat some of the most pressing issues of our time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with the Joint Presidents of the Sociology and Anthropology Society

One of the ways you can get more involved in the SPA department is through the Sociology and Anthropology Society, who put on both social and academic events and are a good port-of-call for any issues students may have. In this interview, we talk to Joint Presidents Lily Francis and Rachel Reed about studying at Exeter and the society itself.

Introduce yourselves!

LF: Hi, my name is Lily Francis, I am a third year sociology student and Joint President of the Sociology and Anthropology Society!

RR: I’m Rachel, Joint President of the Sociology and Anthropology Society and a third year BA Sociology Student.

Why did you choose to study Sociology?

LF: I chose to study Sociology because I always knew I was interested in people and why we act in the ways that we do. Once I studied Sociology at A level I knew it was the subject for me! I love the range of topics you can cover in sociology, anything from media, to health, to globalisation and I honestly feel that it relates to the actual world we live in, rather than being too theoretical!

RR: I was supposed to study Biology as an A level but I got put off by the course. I started scrolling through the courses at college and came across Sociology. After reading about it and researching it, I discovered that it was something I’d rather be doing. I preferred looking at different aspects of society, particularly education and childhood. So I quickly changed my Biology A level to Sociology. After working hard and getting an A*, I realised it was something I enjoyed and should carry on pursuing.

What’s your favourite thing about studying in Exeter?

LF: The range of subjects that we can study, and the flexibility of the courses here. I’ve taken modules in Sociology, Anthropology, and Philosophy which means I’ve been able to widen my knowledge and be more than simply a Sociology student. I also love the campus! It’s so pretty and green, and I am always finding new places that I hadn’t yet discovered like the gardens surrounding Reed Hall.

RR: The campus! It’s so green and open. Although the hills are a struggle; it’s a good workout!

Why did you get involved with the Sociology and Anthropology Society and why should others do the same?

LF: I thought it would be a great way to make friends – and I was right! Most of my really close friendships at Exeter have originated from the society, whether we met at my fresher’s meet and greet picnic, or at a social in 2nd year, I have found some amazing people to hang out with! I think being part of the committee only strengthens those relationships, but also is a great way to develop yourself as a person! I have gained lots of confidence by being on the committee, and have developed vital skills that will (hopefully) impress future employers!

RR: I joined SocAntSoc as a member in first year. At the end of first year I realised that I hadn’t been getting involved in as much activities as I would have liked to. The AGM for SocAntSoc arrived and I decided I should run and got the place as the academic and careers rep. Then this year I got the joint role of president. It allowed me to take a break from studies, explore what Exeter has to offer outside of the University and to make new friends. Not only that, but it can allow students to help each other with their modules

Do you have any study tips for your fellow students that you consider vital?

LF: 1) Actually do work in first year (I know, boring!). But it helps you to prepare for the next two years, rather than it being a shock when you find yourself with 3 pieces of coursework that you had never properly practised before!

2) Learn how to reference properly and quickly. Find a method that works for you, and try and do it as you are going along – it saves lots of time in the future.

3) Find a favourite place to work. Mine is at my desk in my flat, but many students like the library, the sanctuary, or even Costa! Wherever you work best – stick to it!

Lastly, I know everyone says it, but actually give yourself a break and have some fun! I guarantee your lasting memories of university will be the good times you shared with your friends rather than slouched over a desk at 2am.

RR: Organise your time – Write down when all of your deadlines are. Make quality notes! They’ll help you out with revision and essays. Finally, get enough sleep!

Finally, what are your post-graduation plans?

LF: To go travelling for a month around South-East Asia, and after hopefully find a job! I am aiming to work in customer services management in the South West area.

RR: I’m going back home to Cornwall as I have a place on a postgraduate SCITT programme. I’m going to (hopefully) become a primary school teacher!

Seasons Greetings from your New Editors!

Welcome to Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (SPA) Undergraduate News! It’s almost Christmas and we thought we’d introduce you to this year’s editors of the blog – Jason Chang, Jess Wiemer and Samuel Fawcett.

Given that Christmas is around the corner, we thought we’d add in a bit of a festive cheer with some festive questions to the editors!


 

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Jason Chang

Third Year Sociology major continuing with SPA Undergraduate News this year. Jason runs Global Exe, a youth project on campus dealing with conflict resolution and cultural integration through interactive theatre. He is a massive fan of cafés and people watching, and you can often find him holding a baguette down the high street. He is also a keen hiker who recently completed several of the tallest mountains in the Swiss Alps. Check out his personal blog here: www.labohemefr.wordpress.com

Festive Question – What’s your favourite Christmas song?

A: Last Christmas by Wham! I know the lyrics sound awfully depressing, but I have quite an odd taste in music, often first liking the tunes before researching the lyrics. And this song has a great tune – if only the lyrics were as joyous!

Festive Question – What’s your favourite Christmas decoration for the home?

A: Probably some snowflakes with fairy lights in the background. I’m quite a fan of winter and snow and this creates quite a unique ambiance in the house.

Festive Question – What are you hoping for from Santa’s bag of presents this year?

A: A bag full of hiking equipment! Crampons, walking sticks, ropes etc. I eventually hope to do alpine climbing more regularly in the future, so the basic equipment for survival will be much welcomed!

 

Jess Wiemer

Jess Wiemer

Second Year BSc Anthropology major and a new addition to the SPA Undergraduate News team. Jess is the Deputy Subject Chair of Anthropology in the SSLC in which she is currently undergoing an employability Change Agents project and is a student mentor within the SPA Buddy Scheme. Originally from Canada, but now living in Belgium when she’s not over-caffeinating herself at the University of Exeter. She loves to travel and is planning to fly to Laos this summer to help at an elephant conservation and children’s school. As a lover of fine art, history, theatre and writing, you’ll often find her sipping wine at the Bike Shed or strolling through the RAMM.

Festive Question – What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

A: My family and I used to visit a Christmas tree farm in Canada every year. We’d hop onto the wagon’s hay bales and be driven out to that year’s plot, trudge through the snow to pick out our tree, and saw it down. Then we’d head back with soggy boots to be welcomed by an open fire and free hot chocolate and cookies. I miss the scent of pine needles.

Festive Question – What is your favourite winter sport?

A: Ice skating. I grew up near the Rideau Canal, which is the longest skating rink in the world and home to the best homemade maple taffy. I think I learned to skate before I could run.

Festive Question – What is your favourite Christmas film?

A: How the Grinch Stole Christmas – the original 1966 cartoon directed by Chuck Jones. I think I’ve watched it every year since birth.

 

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Samuel Fawcett

Second Year BA Sociology student and new to the SPA Undergraduate News team. Sam is one of the two Social Secretaries for the Sociology and Anthropology Society. He also studies French through the Foreign Language Centre and does an evening class in Italian. Aside from Sociology, Sam likes literature and poetry, and is a long-suffering member of the Labour Party, having worked as a Press Officer in Taunton Deane during the 2015 election. When not at university, Sam will either be found at home in Somerset, or attempting to drunkenly convey the virtues of Émile Durkheim in a local pub.

Festive Question – What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

A: Christingle. I haven’t been for ages due to the slight issue of not believing in God, but when I was younger my family and I always went to the local church on Christmas Eve and everyone would sing carols etc and then we’d get an orange with loads of sweets stuck into it on little skewers. Admittedly my sister and I went more for the sweets than anything else, but the communal feel was lovely and gave a real festive feel to the occasion.

Festive Question – What’s your favourite Christmas song?

A: ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ by Greg Lake. It’s a very deceptive song, as it has a lovely melody and chord progression which all sounds very festive, but actually it’s a massive downer. ‘They said there’ll be snow at Christmas, they said there’ll be peace on Earth. But instead it just kept on raining: a veil of tears for the virgin birth’. Merry Christmas.

Festive Question – Quality Street or Roses?

A: Roses. Every time it’s Roses. Them or maybe the big tins of Heroes that tower over you every time you walk in to any British supermarket at Christmas.

What SPA students think of studying at Exeter

We asked students what it’s like study to study Sociology, Philosophy or Anthropology at Exeter. Here’s what they said!

Dan Mason, BA Philosophy, Year 1:

“Studying Philosophy at Exeter is a fulfilling experience: the subject has a lot of freedom and it rewards hard work and determined effort. The department contains world class staff ready to support us students.”

James Beeson, BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Year 2:

“Studying Philosophy at Exeter has been a challenging but rewarding experience. I have really enjoyed the wide variety of modules on offer, and found the topics to be stimulating. The seminars are always well prepared and led, making for an enlightening experience.”

Katharina Becker, BA Philosophy and Sociology, Year 3

“What makes studying Philosophy at Exeter so great is the lecturers; they’re all simply fantastic people. Also studying Philosophy at university is probably the last time you can concern yourself with things most people find trivial such as what human nature is and what matters most to us existentially.”

 

Gemma Joyce, Jason Chang and Ciarán Daly

Sociology Desert Island Books

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Too many books to prep yourself before university? Want to read something that wouldn’t overwhelm you with technical language? Then check out this Dessert Island books recommendation by our Sociology Editor, Jason, for his take on the most engaging books to read before university!

Erving Goffman, Presentation of the Self

Goffman uses the art of performance to illustrate how it is a representation of our everyday interactions. This fascinating account talks about how your interaction with another allows you to obtain information about the other person and the social encounter itself. Goffman’s work is also one of the few to focus on the Sociology of Emotions, especially that of embarrassment. This book is an engaging account that makes you reflect on how you act in social encounters and how one might reconsider certain taken-for-granted aspects of emotions in a sociological sense.

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Where do we begin with Marx? This book is perhaps the best summary of his sociological and political ideas. The book is illustrative not only in a theoretical sense, but you get the sense of his passion in what he stood up for, making it a high energy reading any time of the day. The book gives a brief account of the future he foresaw under capitalism. While there are some errors in the future he foresaw, the book makes you reconsider the notion of communism contrary to mainstream ideas on the subject. Theoretically robust, Marx’s most famous work was written more than a hundred years ago and will most certainly remain a classic for years to come.

George Ritzer, The McDonaldization of Society

Why am I waiting so long in the queue? Why are they playing a particular genre of music in the restaurant? Why are the chairs of this restaurant so uncomfortable? Ritzer’s book provides a breath-taking insight into the workings of bureaucracies and how institutions have utilized the “McDonald’s model” to streamline their operations. It also offers an insight into how our lives have been segmented and structured almost into a bureaucracy in itself and engages you to eye-opening accounts of how and why we consume goods.

Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology

Berger invites prospective Sociology students to discover the subject in a humourous and witty way. How will you introduce the subject itself at a dinner party? Why do you want to study Sociology? Which subject area would Sociology students be best friends with? Berger invites the reader to read sociology in a playful way and illuminates your thoughts on how sociology is connected to the wider field of the social sciences and our everyday lives.

Charles Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination

The Sociological Imagination is the most fundamental skill any sociologist can have. It is the foundation, execution and stimulus to the work we do. This book will offer you the insight to arguably the most valuable skill you will obtain in Sociology. It writes not only of its theoretical dimension, but its practical applicability in how you can make a difference to your everyday life, how you will reconsider social life and be able to assess critically the world around us.

Jason Chang

5 important tips for SPA graduates

Graduation isn’t all about goodbyes – there are plenty of ways to stay connected to the University! Check out these tips to find out how you can continue to benefit from services offered at Exeter:

1. You have access to My Career Zone for 3 more years!

This means you’ll be able to access their resources and search for internships and jobs even while you’re not in Exeter. All of the details on careers services you can access once you graduate are available here.

2. Exeter alumni continue to get special access to library resources!

While you might not miss spending hours puzzling over what floor the Communist Manifesto is on or getting annoyed at someone for eating crisps in the silent study rooms the library can continue to offer you learning opportunities after you graduate. Exeter alumni have free access to online resources like JSTOR and becoming a member means you can still take out books from the library and use inter-library loans!

3. Join the Exeter Alumni groups on social media

Don’t forget to join the Exeter alumni group on LinkedIn – it’s a great way to stay connected and there could be potential for a career boost if you’re lucky! There’s also a Facebook and Twitter page to stay up to date with.

4. Make the most of Graduation Week

Sadly this could be the last time you and all of your course friends are all together. Since most SPA graduations will take place early on in the week you’ll have plenty of time to party and take photos – enjoy!

5. Be proud!

Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’re now joining an enormous and diverse group of incredible Exeter alumni. Just don’t forget where it all began and remember that there are all kinds of opportunities the University can offer its graduates after they leave.

 

Gemma Joyce

Interview: SPA Subject Chair Theo Stone

Photo credit: Edwin Yeung

Theo Stone is Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology Subject Chair. We chat to him about his plans for the coming year.

Introduce yourself!

I’m 18 and slowly completing my first year of Philosophy. Among my various extra-curricular activities, I currently serve as one of the Online Features Editor for Exeposé and I can also play a few instruments to a questionable level of quality, which I currently do in the Symphony and the Concert Band.

Could you tell us a bit about your role as Subject Chair and what it entails?

My role as Subject Chair means that I oversee the departmental Student Staff Liaison Committee in order to ensure that the academic representatives are able to successfully do their jobs. This means that I am required to chair the meetings that are held by the aforementioned SSLC, assist on any movements on any relevant issues, and oversee campaigns that have been instigated by the committee.

What do you enjoy about your role?

The main area of enjoyment arises from the fact that it means that I can help to make a difference within the confines of the SPA department, as well as the fact that I can play a part in ensuring that the department maintains its exceptionally high standards.

What are your main aims for this year as Subject Chair?

One of my primary aims is to get rid of some of the ‘Committee Apathy’ that seems to permeate large swathes of the student population. Part of my plan to combat this involves bringing the SPA SSLC onto Social Media. We now have a Twitter feed, and there’s a Facebook page/group in the works. Alongside this, I’d like to ensure that we see a greater turnout with the National Student Survey, seeing as how turnout numbers within this particular department haven’t exactly been favourable in recent years when compared to numbers in other departments.

Another aim is to ensure that the SPA SSLC is able to reach its full potential over the next academic year. This year we’ve seen Politics lead the charge in a number of areas. Pavel Kondov and his team have done an amazing job for this year and they’ve had a phenomenal amount of success with registration for the General Election, the Bulgarian Elections, and the ‘Basics of British Politics’ project. It’d be great to see SPA reaching the same giddy heights next year. If an opportunity arises for us to make a difference, I’m going to go ahead and grab it by the horns and not let go.

How do you balance your role alongside your academic work and other activities?

More tea than I’m willing to admit.

You can follow the SPA SSLC on Twitter here!

 

Gemma Joyce