Tag 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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Interview with Kelly Tucker

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This week we catch up with Kelly Tucker, 3rd Year Sociology SSLC (Student Staff Liaison Committee) Representative to get her take on what it feels like being representing her cohort.

Hello Kelly, great to meet you. Could you give us a little introduction about yourself?

Kelly: Hi, great to meet you too! Well I have just completed my second year at Exeter studying BA Sociology and will be going into my third from September, which I am looking forward to. I am originally from London and I love reading, participating in sports, and spending time with friends and family in my spare time.

Great! Could you tell us more about what the SSLC does?

Kelly: The purpose of the SSLC is for students to voice their opinions, concerns, and ideas to senior members of staff in the department. We are a point of contact for fellow students to approach us with anything that they would like to be voiced to the department or anything that they would like changed. This could be for clearer feedback, different methods of assessment, or anything else that could be thought of to improve the course for the next incoming students! We meet regularly and this gives the staff an opportunity to ask us how things are going, and for us to propose suggestions and ask questions.

What made you want to run for the position as 3rd Year Sociology Rep?

Kelly: I am really passionate about my course. I want to make an academic career out of it so I really wanted to get involved as much as I could. I felt this would be a great experience and a chance for me to share the opinions that myself, friends and classmates have. I also felt this would provide a good networking opportunity, a chance to meet other students in the department as well as develop stronger relationships with members of staff of whom I may not have been taught by.

What are the key areas that you are looking to improve within the sociology course?

Kelly: Well I think the course is great, so this is a tough question, of course there is always room for improvement, so I will just be looking out for things that I feel could be strengthened. Quite a lot of people that I have spoken to have stressed concerns surrounding modules that are marked 100% on one essay, this was raised at our latest SSLC meeting and staff are now considering revising that. During the exam period many felt that one hour for one question was not quite long enough and therefore felt quite pressured, so that is perhaps an area for the SSLC to look into. I also feel getting students to be more involved in tutorials is an area that could be improved, and letting students feel more comfortable in approaching lecturers during office hours as these are underused and lecturers really do want us to make the most of it, there is so much more you can get from a face to face conversation than a two sentence email!

What are the challenges that you anticipate facing this year in your work as an SSLC rep? How would you resolve them?

Kelly: I suppose differentiating opinions may arise, so these will need to be approached by taking everyone’s point of view into consideration until reaching agreement. Encouraging people to get on board and support your ideas can also be a challenge, so I would just try and resolve this by making sure that my case is feasible and realistic!

In what ways do you think the needs of a student change as they progress through their degree?

Kelly: I think we begin to develop our interests. We begin to understand more about what we are specifically interested in researching and exploring. I think often it is assumed that as students progress through their degree they become more independent and need less support from staff, but I actually don’t think this is the case. Second and third years still need the support but in different ways, this is when students should be encouraged to take it upon themselves to approach staff members that are working in the fields they are interested in. I recently approached a lecturer who specialises in the area of research that I want to write my dissertation on. I found her so helpful and got a lot of encouragement and resources to look at over summer.

And, finally, what advice would you give students in balancing their time between university work and play?

Kelly: I would say write out your deadlines at the start of term! I always do this, and it is rewarding when you get to cross them off as you go along. Don’t leave things until the last minute. Plan! Plan fun things too like a trip to the cinema or a night out with friends. Always take a look at the essay and sample exam questions at the start of your module and make a note of the one that interests you so you can look out for things relevant during lecturers. Set aside a few hours a day for study, and give yourself the evenings off to unwind! Remember you only get to go to university once and it goes so quickly so be sure to do your best but also enjoy the learning experience too, don’t let the stress and pressure take over, you’re here because you want to be! I can’t believe I am going to be in third year already.

Find out more about the SSLC here: https://www.exeterguild.org/change/howto/content/How%20Tos/2013/07/11/How-To-What-Is-an-SSLC/

Jason Chang

Discovering Sociology and Anthropology at Exeter

Amory BuildingAlthough one of the smaller disciplines within the department, Anthropology nonetheless has a large number of students who are proud and excited about their programmes at Exeter. Often taken in conjunction with other related courses such as Sociology and Philosophy, Anthropology is also a fascinating discipline in its own right. We caught up with two students in the latter stages of their courses to see how they’ve found it so far.

Owen, 2nd year BA Sociology and Anthropology

My first two years of studying anthropology totally removed the blinkers forged throughout my life as I discovered an incredible variety of world-views. It made me question and put into perspective my own culture, which up until then seemed to be a universal truth. It only now seems to be one of the myriad ways of living and going on about one’s life. It is as if you had been taught all your life to put in milk before the tea and then someone showed you that you could also put it after. Not only can you put the milk after but at any moment and in any fashion! The way people bring up their children, the customs and habits, the symbols vary dramatically from one culture to another. All these ways of being are just as valid as one another although in some lectures I have been tempted to judge certain practices. Criticizing one culture for its practices is tempting as we touch upon ethical issues such as FGM. Obviously the picture is far more complex. If anything, anthropology has taught me to be far more critical of what I see in everyday life and how I’ve been socialised into a certain world-view.

Jess, 3rd year BA Sociology and Anthropology:

Anthropology at Exeter offers a diverse range of modules that have grounded my understanding of the discipline through the study of classical texts, but that have also opened up exciting new fields ranging from childhood to medicine and even terrorism studies. Taught alongside Sociology, the dual nature of the department (particularly following the BA stream) provides the opportunity for a more inter-disciplinary approach to studying which I believe is unique to Exeter and makes the course fresh and exciting with the wider range of module choices available each term. This alongside our own personal ethnography and artefact projects has allowed me to engage practically with the course and work not simply as a student but as an anthropologist out ‘in the field’. In particular I have enjoyed the small, close knit and supportive nature of the department with students collaborating across year groups on projects and seminar discussions.

During my time here the successful Sociology and Anthropology Society have organised a range of fantastic careers talks aimed specifically at the interests of students within the department. These areas have so far included the charity sector, the police force and journalism. They have proved particularly useful in third year as a source of networking. Termly socials and end of term balls have increased the sociable nature of the degree too. Student led subject mentoring, module choice guidance, friendly, approachable and down to earth lecturers and a brilliant administrator have really contributed to my overall enjoyment of the course alongside everything else the wider University has to offer.