Thursday, 18 March 2010

Post-graduate study while you work? Visit our Twilight Event

Are you interested in studying for a full-time Masters' degree while you work full-time? The School of Sociology and Criminology at Keele University is offering an innovative way of studying which allows you to keep your earnings coming in while pursuing your intellectual ambitions, and completing your Masters' within a year...

Come and find out about your post-graduate options at our Twilight Event
Wednesday, 31st March, 2010
Starts 4.30pm until 7.00pm
in the Claus Moser Research Centre, Keele University
Download the programme and the RSVP form

Our new MA in Urban Futures and Sustainable Communities, and our new MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice will offer taught modules within week-long blocks, instead of weekly classes. This means you can use annual leave, or negotiate 'professional development time' in order to study. The blocks are spread over the year, typically in early Autumn, Winter, early Spring and early Summer, followed by a Dissertation.

This mode of teaching also means you can visit from wherever you live in the world because you don't have to be on campus all year round: we support your learning with online resources and reading materials, and your assessments will be completed with in-person or remote supervision following each of the teaching blocks.

Of course, if you wish to come and sample life on the beautiful, green Keele campus all year round, you're welcome: there is a wealth of cultural and intellectual activities going on - seminars, concerts, cultural events. The Claus Moser Research Centre for the Humanities and Social Sciences hosts a range of post-graduates and provides study and meeting space

There are plenty of other post-graduate options to choose from, including our Masters' in Research in Sociology

Friday, 12 March 2010

Poverty Porn

By Siobhan Holohan

For a while now the current economic downturn has presented programme makers with a dilemma of sorts. After years making a good living off the back of the property boom with television gems like Channel Four's Location, Location, Location, the credit crunch, accompanied by thousands of job losses and home repossessions, made the conspicuous consumption found in such shows hard to swallow.

Move over property porn here comes poverty porn. I first heard this phrase last year in relation to Danny Boyles’ hugely successful film Slumdog Millionaire, then again a couple of months ago in relation to Channel Four’s Slumming It. This programme saw property guru Kevin McCloud spend time living in and exploring Dharavi, a shanty town in Mumbia and one of the largest slums in Asia. Like poverty tourism, where the affluent travel to less developed parts of the world to ‘experience’ how the other half live (sometimes with horror other times through rose coloured spectacles) the television equivalent drops a presenter and camera crew into an area exemplified by poor living conditions and subjects it to the lofty gaze of the Eurocentric traveller.

But it’s not just global others programme makers treat as strange. Recent weeks have seen a number of reality television programmes alluding to social and economic deprivation in the UK. Coming close on the tail of Channel 4’s The Tower Block of Commons, which dressed MPs as 'ordinary members of the public' and housed them with council tenets, this week BBC One offered up Famous, Rich and Jobless, a two-part examination of how unemployment affects the 2.5 million currently out of work in Britain. In this programme four celebrities were sent to unemployment black spots around the country ostensibly to find out what its like to be out of work in the UK today. With the trappings of celebrity taken away and replaced with a bag of second hand clothes (apparently the poor person's uniform), they spent four days (!) experiencing life on job seekers allowance. In that time Meg Matthews (famous for being married to Noel Gallagher) found work on a market stall, celebrity gardener, Diarmuid Gavin, managed to find a few odd jobs to supplement his JSA, Emma Parker Bowles (one time It girl and recovering alcoholic) worked a shift in a pub, and Larry Lamb, AKA Archie Mitchell from EasterEnders, bucked the trend by living quite happily on the £40 he was given to survive. The underlying narrative was clear: job seekers – there are jobs get on your bike and find one.

In the second part of the experiment the celebrities went to live with people currently on job seekers allowance in order to help them to break the cycle of claiming benefits. Regardless of the fact that this is purportedly what government agencies are for, the strange shift in gear between programme one and two saw a new form of moralising appear. While Meg, Larry and Emma embraced their roles as part therapist, part life coach, Diarmuid found his role in a household with two long-term unemployed parents and their five children (with another on the way) morally problematic. He could not escape either his dismay at what he considered to be their poor parenting practices, or the mindset that told him that they shouldn’t keep having kids if they can’t afford them. In the end the celebrities got their own clothes back, went home and no real solutions were found.

Beyond the idea that such programmes simply exploit those living in poverty and socially degrading circumstances for television ratings, I’m not sure what the moral of this programme was. Perhaps that celebrities have more get up and go than the average person? This is the difficulty with these kind of unreflective reality shows, they simply serve to perpetuate the hyperbole found in much of the mainstream media which continues to suggest that people in difficult circumstances are there of their own making. What the programme makers, the celebrities, and possibly the job seekers failed to recognise was that there is no easy solution to the problems of job losses or long term unemployment. These issues must be tackled at every level – top to bottom – not just by forcing blame on those affected by their social conditions.