Thursday, 22 May 2014

Photographic exhibition at Keele for Refugee week, 16-22 June

Siobhan Holohan and Ala Sirriyeh, along with colleagues from Humanities, have been organising a photographic exhibition for Refugee Week (16-22 June). Refugee Week is a UK-wide festival of arts, cultural and educational events to celebrate the contribution of refugees to the UK and to encourage greater understanding of refugee experiences. The importance and benefits of sanctuary to both ‘host’ communities and refugees is persistently questioned by hostile media coverage. Keele University values and promotes a culture of welcome, and this year, for the first time, Keele joins Refugee Week and its profusion of activities taking place across the country from 16th till 22nd June. Keele campus will host a week-long photographic exhibition which aims to capture the different stages of displaced lives in search of sanctuary. From routes to home, the images will chart the difficult and challenging – often unsuccessful – journeys to safety. The pictures represent original work collected by sociologist Dr Ala Sirriyeh (Keele) and anthropologist Sebastien Bachelet (Edinburgh) during their field research in the UK and Morocco, respectively.

Refugee Week at Keele will open officially on 16th June with a wine reception in the Claus Moser building at 5.30 pm. The launch aims to gather together senior representatives of the university, academic staff, students, as well as members of the community to celebrate the history, the present and the future of refugees in the UK. This opening event will also feature a 15 minutes music performance by Dr Kelcey Swain (Bristol); for this occasion Kelcey has composed an electroacoustic piece which aims to conjure up ideas of displacement , uprooting, dislocation, yearning to belong. Music and images brought to Keele University for Refugee Week will engage the audience in contemporary refugee matters and will also offer alternative portrayals of migrants – not just victims, but actively involved in shaping their future. Come along, spread the word, and join us for Refugee Week at Keele!

Organising committee: Rachel Bright, Siobhan Holohan, Mariangela Palladino, Ala Sirriyeh.
For further information, please contact one of the organisers by email:;;;

More happening for Keele Refugee Week:
Keele University Creative Writing Students and the KPA (Keele Postgraduate Association) will host
Open mic poetry and music on seeking sanctuary and human displacement.   This will take place at the KPA, Keele University Campus, on 9th June at 6pm.  Contact Patrick Atack:

Sociology in the news: 'Keele academic brings Spanish graffiti to North Staffordshire'

Dr Andrzej Zieleniec's exhibition of Spanish urban art has recently been featured in a local newspaper.  The exhibition is a result of his study of three cities in Spain and the full article gives some further background to the project.  

This display of photographs is in the the Art Gallery, Chancellor's Building, Keele University until Wednesday 4th June and is free for all to visit.         

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

New publication - 'The origins of conflict in dependent drug treatment: Lessons for partnership working' by Sam Weston

Polarised ideologies about the treatment of dependent drug use have been long lasting features in the field of drug treatment. In her most recent paper, published in the British Journal of Community Justice, Dr Sam Weston discusses the potential origins of such disagreements. Through the analysis of drug policy and guidance documents developed since the publication of the 1998 UK Drug Strategy and interviews with practitioners from the field Sam argues that the reframing of drug policy, from one concerned with harm reduction to one that is punitive and abstinence based, has resulted in the articulation of inconsistent messages. These messages, she argues, not only provide opportunities for the development of varying interpretations of drug policy but may have reinforced the polarised treatment ideologies observed in professionals working with dependent drug users.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

PhD Studentships Available in Criminology and Sociology

Are you interested in pursuing a PhD in Criminology or Sociology? We are offering PhD funding opportunities to work with us.  The deadline for applications is 30th May 2014.  As a first step, contact Dr Mark Featherstone, Postgraduate Research Director, to discuss your research interests. 

Keele University

Postgraduate Funding Opportunities in Social Policy for 2014-2015

Keele University - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

The interdisciplinary research Centre for Social Policy in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Keele University is home to world-class scholars and research groups. In the 2008 RAE, 65% of the Centre’s research was classified as world-leading and of international importance. The Centre brings together over 40 active researchers and 130 postgraduate research students in a vibrant, interdisciplinary environment. Our facilities include dedicated PGR office suites and meeting rooms, transferable skills training and funding to support research expenses and conference attendance.
For 2014-2015, the Centre is offering a range of studentship opportunities across its research areas:
  • Sociology
  • Criminology
  • Human Geography
  • Education
  • Social Work
  • Health Management
  • Gerontology
For further details of our specific research specialisms and the expertise of our supervisors please visit:
Our postgraduate funding opportunities for 2014-15 include:
  • Graduate Teaching Assistantships (PhD)
  • Full Studentships (PhD)
  • Bursaries and Fee Waivers (PhD)
A full studentship includes an annual tax-free stipend at RCUK rate (£13,863 for 2014/15) plus tuition fee (£3,996).
Applicants are strongly advised to discuss their interests with the Postgraduate Research Director, Dr. Mark Featherstone ( and prospective supervisors. Please liaise with Helen Farrell for advice on the most appropriate contact point:; tel. +44 (0)1782 733641.
The closing date for applications is Friday 30 May 2014.

The Writing on the Wall: The Poesies and Politics of Graffiti

Dr Andy Zieleniec gave a paper, 'The Writing on the Wall: The Poesies and Politics of Graffiti', at the conference for Contemporary Anarchist Theory and Practice: Critical Perspectives, in Dumfries. 

Here is the description of this talkGraffiti is a universal urban phenomenon. It takes many forms and has become synonymous with a predominantly male urban subculture. This paper will consider the how graffiti as an embodied practice contests and conflicts with the designs, plans, regulation and policing of an increasingly privatised and commoditised urban public space by re-writing and painting the walls, buildings and streets. Graffiti reflects attempts and examples of individual and collective attempts to colonise and reclaim the public as a means and medium for non-commercial art, communication, meanings and values.  

Andy's exhibition of Spanish urban art continues in the Art Gallery, Chancellor's Building, Keele University. 

Inhabiting Borders, Routes Home: Youth, Gender, Asylum by Ala Sirriyeh

In recent years there has been growing interest in the experiences of young people seeking asylum in Europe. While the significance of the role of age is recognized, both youth transitions and trajectories beyond the age of eighteen are still largely unexplored, the role and impact of mobility predominantly centering on experiences of movement from country of origin to country of settlement. Inhabiting Borders, Routes Home contends that in considering migration and settlement experiences of young refugees it is also important to consider the role of their mobility through age and transitions in the country of settlement. Based on narrative research with young refugees, this book explores how migration journeys are intertwined with life course journeys and transitions into adulthood, shedding light on the manner in which gender intersects with age in experiences of migration and settlement, with close attention to the processes by which 'home' is understood and constructed. 

Through the concept of 'home' the book draws together and reflects on interconnections between integration in areas such as education or housing and experiences of social networks. Examining experiences of the asylum process and the manner in which they are interwoven within a wider narrative of home both within and beyond, Inhabiting Borders, Routes Home will be of interest to social scientists working in the areas of migration, asylum, intersectionality and the life course.
Reviews: ‘In this book Ala Sirriyeh captures the paradox of being still on the move for young refugees. She does so in an understated, deeply passionate way, with gentle and forceful rigour that shows how multiple journeys create constellations of meaning for "home". A kaleidoscopic work, offering fresh conceptual understandings of forced migration and its impact on young lives.’
Ravi K.S. Kohli, University of Bedfordshire, UK

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The continually shrinking conference paper

By Emma Head, Lecturer in Sociology 

This discussion was first posted on The Sociological Imagination, a blog that everyone interested in sociology should read. As is often the case with blog posts, comments on this discussion took place on twitter, not in the comments box.

This blog recently featured a call for papers that reflect on ‘forms of intellectual meeting within the contemporary academy’. I thought that this was a timely request, which resonates with different concerns we can identify around how some academic events are run. For many researchers the costs of some well-established conferences are prohibitive. We are working at a time when sociologists are reflecting on mainstream ways of doing sociology and suggesting alternatives, for example, ‘Punk sociology’, or ‘live methods’. It seems appropriate that part of this reflection on the disciplinary project is also a questioning of how we arrange conversations between researchers, how we communicate with each other, and how we seek to engage wider publics.  I’ve been wondering if there is a wider sense of dissatisfaction with the standard model of workshops and conferences, the 20 minute presentation, often accompanied by a power point presentation, followed by five or 10 minutes for questions and discussion. I have seen events advertised where this seems to be the case, in one instance participants were asked not to use power point, in another power point and similar ‘tools’ were not permitted.

I recently received a decision on an abstract for a conference paper that has prompted me to think about some of these issues. I submitted an abstract for a paper that would be 20 minutes long, followed by questions. As is common with these kinds of events, the organisers have received far more abstracts than could fit into the programme. I have been asked to give my paper as a PechaKucha presentation where 20 slides auto-run for 20 seconds each, meaning each is talk is six minutes, 40 seconds long.  So, how can we understand this move away from the standard format, to this shorter, more visual, set-up? From the perspective of the organisers it might be a pragmatic move, a way to allow more presenters to talk about their work. There might be a profit motive at play here, researchers are probably more likely to attend an event if they are presenting, rather than making up the audience, and might be more able to access university research funds for this. Thinking instrumentally, a PechaKucha presentation and a standard one might end up looking very similar on a CV, so perhaps organisers don’t think that shortened papers will be a problem for the speakers.

I think there is also something going on here about the role of technology in academic events. For some conference organisers, it seems that technology is perceived as having damaged good communication between researchers – so, we get the ban on power point, or similar formats. For the event I hoped to present at the increased use of technology seems to be a kind of solution, though beyond the issue of oversupply of papers, it is not clear what the problem is.  On the PechaKucha website we learn that the format was devised by two architects and is a response to the problem of architects talking too much when given a microphone.  PechaKucha presentations appear to be designed for creative people to showcase their work in informal, sociable, events. On other websites these kinds of presentations are described as upbeat, engaging, and where the audience is on the side of presenter. There might be some problems with translating this format to academic events - not all topics are suitable for an ‘upbeat’ style, if the audience and presenter are all caught up in ensuring the format succeeds, does this become more important than the ideas being discussed? Do these kind of ‘hacks’ to the standard model of conference presentation put more emphasis (and pressure?) on the researcher to be a performer? Is this undesirable? And, what can you say in six minutes, 40 seconds - does this help researchers focus on their key argument, or is only a superficial exploration of a topic possible in this time?  My guess would be that the latter is usually the result.  

I would like to hear from researchers who have used alternative formats at events - has this been a positive move? Is there a widespread sense that the standard model of conference sessions no longer fits into the wider culture of contemporary academic life? I think it is time to have some of these discussions. At conferences we often have a dual role, as both speakers, and as listeners. If we are going to rethink the role and format of academic events, we need to keep both of these in mind.  I would like to think of conferences as spaces for thinking and discussing ideas.  My concern is that if we start to think of presentations mainly as performances, the idea of the conference for a place for talking and listening might slip from view.