Saturday, 28 June 2008

Keele Sociologist of the Week: Jane Parish

This is a(nother) new feature on our blog: we will be featuring a profile of staff members from the School of Sociology and Criminology from time to time. If you want to make contact with them - perhaps to enquire about their publications, research or opportunities for study of PhD supervision, then just click through the link on their name to their Keele homepage. This week:

Dr Jane Parish

Jane is by training, a sociologist and anthropologist. She did her PhD in Ghana, studying beliefs and practices on witchcraft, luck and risk among the Akan. Like most anthropologists, she feels that unless you've had at least one bout of malaria, you're not doing 'proper' anthropology. But these days she does her research a bit closer to home. She recently published a paper on 'lucky objects' collected and used in Bingo halls in the UK. This carries on her interest in the everyday use of ideas of luck and fate, which are all around us. As she says: " in contemporary Britain, everyday objects become heavily ritualized by people in order that they might seek explanations and answers for ‘the inexplicable’. Whether, as Reith (1999) notes, we avoid cracks in the pavement or, like Rousseau, engage in stone-throwing, determining if life will go well according to whether we hit a tree or another designated spot, the completion of the ritual is linked to the outcome of the game." This notion - of having some control over ones future by using ritual objects - seems like a relic of the past. Jane's work however, shows just how central the ritual object can be, even in our complex, global consumer society. Indeed, she suggests, it is because our society is so complex and rife with risk and anxiety that we must rely on such 'whimsies' and 'touching for luck'.

Jane teaches modules on Risk and Anxiety, Witchcraft and will be contributing to new modules and Masters programmes on Urban Futures. She welcomes PhD applications in any of her areas of specialism, particularly anthropology (at home or abroad) and sociology of risk, anxiety, luck and gambling.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Is the public "cut off" from the Criminal Justice Process?

By Helen Wells
A report from the Government's Crime and communities adviser, Louise Casey, says that the public thinks that criminal justice is "distant, unaccountable and unanswerable". According to the report, 79% of people think that the criminal justice system is mainly concerned with serving the rights and needs of criminals, while only 33% think it is there to serve the rights of victims.
The report also suggests that the public want to know more about criminals convicted in their area, with names and convictions circulated on posters or in leaflets. Casey suggests that offenders doing Community Service should be made to wear bright uniforms to "mark them out as criminals".

Valuable "community feedback", or counterproductive "naming and shaming"?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The sociology of clothing

By Rebecca Leach
Fashion: we love it. Dressing up, decorating our bodies, displaying our glamour and prowess to the group - these are some of the things that provide belonging and identity. And sometimes, it's just the sheer 'stuff' of fashion that is exciting: shiny, silky fabric, its newness, its difference.

Fashion doesn't have to be about being a dupe.

But it shouldn't be about being a dope either. Let's not forget who is making the Primark £50 challenge clothes. Panorama recently reminded us (again) of the global dependence of shopping relations. It's our job to think, so think: is the global rag trade providing much needed economic development to poor regions? Or are Western shoppers parasitic on the poverty and exploitation of the global South?

By the way, you can explore these issues on some of our option modules on the Sociology programme: for example, the Sociology of Consumption, Consumer Cultures and Consumption and Generation; as well as Transnational Communities and Globalization.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Oh yes, we're cooking on gas now...

We have joined the 21st century with our blog. And we now have a Sociology and Criminology at Keele Facebook page too. The first bit of crucial social networking you can do on that page is to get going with the student society you all keep talking about setting up. Why not kill two birds with one stone and make it a Sociology and Criminology society? Since we're having a new School and all? Or a Criminology and Sociology society? We don't mind: it's yours to do with what you will.

All you need is to make use of the Facebook site to drum up support from all years of the programme (so first job is to make sure all your mates join that group), get the first 10 people to join, nominate some officers and get down to the Students' Union for them to press your palms with silver. Yes, they will give you money if you have enough people. And then you can spend that money on important things, such as invited speakers, trips to worthy places to support your studies and so on. Or you can just put on a massive party... Sociology and Criminology staff might even dip into their moth-eaten pockets to subsidise such activities further [howling wind blows tumbleweed across an empty Chancellor's building corridor...]

And then you can put up a stall at the Freshers' Fair to get more people to join.

To find out more about setting up a Keele Student society, setting up a stall at Freshers' 2008 and lots more information about what is going on in the Union, have a look at the students' union Societies webpage and the Societies' Handbook. Andy Zieleniec, one of our Sociology lecturers, is also helping get this going, so if you're interested in a SocCrimSociety, please email him.

Criminology Summer School

A number of Criminology staff and students are heading off to Slovenia in July for a Summer School on Post-Conflict Policing as part of the EU-funded EU-Australian Student Exchange Programme. Keele students (and other European students) currently studying in Australian universities and Australian students currently studying at Keele (and other European universities)will all meet up with staff from their respective universities for a series of lectures and workshops, a student conference- and lots of social activities.

Monday, 23 June 2008

New School of Sociology and Criminology?

It is almost certain that by the end of this week that old school will become new school! At least, in the sense that we will be a stand alone School of Sociology and Criminology as opposed to CESSW, CRESS or whatever acronym we had for Criminology, Education, Sociology and Social Work.

For current and prospective students, the main thing to know is this will MAKE NO DIFFERENCE at all to your courses or administration - except perhaps to make things better (like this new blog for example ;o) )

If you have any questions about the new school developments, please post them here and we'll try and answer them.

Sociology student wins Student of the Year (Neil & Gina Smith Prize)

We are delighted to announce that Rachel Wiggett (Sociology/French) has won the Neil and Gina Smith Prize for Student of the Year. Rachel has been an outstanding student in Sociology achieving very high firsts in all her modules. Her dissertation challenged the distinction made by contemporary social theorists between 'the pure relationship' and the idea of 'romantic love' and drew on her strengths in both subject areas, Sociology and French. Her background as the daughter of missionaries working in Niger and her experiences of the developing world and being part of an international cohort of young people in a unique kind of transnational communityhave informed the subject of her chosen topic for study at PhD level. Rachel will be coming back to Keele next year to do the MRes in Sociology as the first step towards a doctoral degree.

This is a great accolade for the Sociology group and our students. This is the second time in only three years of this award that a Sociology student has won this prize: the first winner being Heather Phillips, who studied both Sociology and Criminology and who went on to do the Masters in Social Work at Keele.

The Neil and Gina Smith prize is a cash award of £5000 and is open to all undergraduate finalists who have made an outstanding contribution to Keele University life as well as achieving highly in their academic studies.

Welcome to the new Sociology and Criminology blog...

We hope you like the new blog. This will be somewhere to find out what is happening in the School of Sociology and Criminology at Keele University, pick up news, hear from some of your lecturers (or lecturers-to-be, if you are thinking of coming here), find out information and ask questions.

We also hope it will help to inspire you, support your learning (whether you're already studying with us or doing preparatory studies before coming to University) and sometimes perhaps make you laugh.

Please post your comments, ask questions about our courses and our School and make suggestions about the blog.