Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Keele World Sociology Society

In October 2010 a group of Keele Sociology students established a new sociology society open to all Keele students - 'The World Sociology Society'. The society aims to focus on sociological issues of everyday life around the world. The society has met weekly throughout semester one and have watched a range of films, held debates and invited speakers from around Keele to talk about current affairs and sociological research. The sociology teaching group has welcomed and supported this new student society.

The reviews below discuss a few of the weekly meetings and show the range of activities that the society has engaged in. New members are welcome - contact e.l.head@keele.ac.uk and I will pass your email on to the society organisers for semester 2.

October 26th - a review by Sally

The Wave

Unlike the practice of previous weeks, we started this week’s session with the option of three very different feature films surrounding what appeared to be highly different, yet equally important, World Issues. After adopting a democratic and egalitarian decision-making process (OK, a vote!) to decide which one was going to be shown, many of us rushed down to Comas to buy chips and drinks and we settled down for the viewing.

Actually, I cannot remember the rest of the films that were offered because I was only attracted by the film called “The Wave”. At first sight, I was interested because of its title, but the synopsis also sounded great! It was based on a real life psychology experiment and I was very curious about the end result of the experiment. Luckily - for all concerned - after my heavy promotion, “The Wave” won (Hurrah~!!!).

The movie aimed to show how totalitarianism - Nazism - grew to become such a powerful force in Germany during WWII and drew our attention to just how easily it could happen again in any part of the world in any time period.

Everyone was shocked after watching this movie; especially over the tremendous power of manipulation. We started our discussion by asking if this situation could more easily happen in Communist countries, where high social control exists. Many argued that within a society where people are highly disciplined, it would indeed be easy to slowly develop ‘totalitarianism’ style control of a group of people. In the film, the teacher originally just wanted to show the students how powerful the pressure ‘to belong’ or to ‘stay in-group’ could be utilised negatively during the school’s ‘project week’. However, he soon found that the exercises grew out of control and turned into a real-life scenario of a place under totalitarianism, and violent attacks started to become apparent to members of the ‘out-group’. Therefore proving – theoretically anyway - that the history of totalitarianism could be repeated anywhere and anytime.

We then discussed the power of manipulation and what made it so strong.

Many suggested that it was the power of the discipline and the fear of the individual being forced to become a member of the ‘out-group’ that made the power of manipulation become so strong. In effect, fear made the students conform .In addition, with more and more signs of unification (eg the wearing of identical uniforms, together with the implementation of standardised logos and gestures) students were ‘processed’ into becoming obedient and being ruled under the dictatorship.

Finally, we discussed whether the teacher should be punished as he was in the film. I personally believed that the teacher was also a sufferer and should not be punished, but others felt that he should. However, everyone agreed that he was largely responsible for the manipulation of his students, and should have assessed the dangers of exposing young adults to life's realities. Clearly, like most of us, he too underestimated the power of manipulation.

9th November - a review by Alex

The subject of this week's World Sociology Society was a viewing and discussion of a film about rites of passage in 1960's Hong Kong. It was shown in its original Cantonese and subtitled in English, and Hong Kong produced, providing a valuable perspective of a production removed from the cultural norms of the UK/US.

The highly emotive discussion following the presentation focussed around the role of Hong Kong in the modern world, particularly its relationship with the People's Republic of China; and the lives of people in both countries. The meeting was attended by lots of new faces, and the session was run by Sally Ng from Sociology and Criminology, who gave the film a short introduction and chaired the discussion.

2nd November - a review by Alex
Lots of new faces attended on Tuesday to view a documentary based on Naomi Klein's book. The showing was preceded by a talk by Dr. Mark Featherstone (Sociology, Keele) who explained the implications of the film in today's current 'coalition government' climate, how we might apply Klein's message to the recent economic downturn, and various government related narratives of how it came about.

The was chronological in sequence and gave a broad range of ideas for the discussion which took place after the viewing, which was part chaired by Dr Beth Johnson (English, Keele).