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.

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