Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Just out: The Hermeneutics of the Urban Spatial Sociologies of Simmel, Benjamin and Lefebvre by Andy Zieleniec

Dr Andy Zieleniec, Lecturer in Sociology and Programme Director for Liberal Arts has a chapter included in a new publication. This is part of his ongoing interdisciplinary research into various aspects of the interface between space, culture and society.

The Hermeneutics of the Urban Spatial Sociologies of Simmel, Benjamin and Lefebvre in Janz, B. (ed.) (2017) Place, Space and Hermeneutics, Springer

Sociology as a discipline has a long history of hermeneutic approaches to understanding the complexity of interpreting meanings and actions. However, there is less emphasis on the contribution of sociologists to theories of space and spatial theories. Social life takes place and is shaped and moulded not only by actions but the meanings and values that are attached through everyday life and practice in, through and to space. This chapter will provide a discursive introduction to the works of three seminal sociologists whose theories and analysis explicitly address the spatial dimensions of social interaction, of socio-spatial formations, of the impact and influence of the social production of space. That is, the works of Georg Simmel (the first ‘sociologist of space’), of Walter Benjamin (social and cultural critic of the city of modernity) and of Henri Lefebvre (the major influence in the spatial turn of the social sciences). Whilst I do not claim that any or all of these theorists would have identified themselves with an explicitly hermeneutic approach, philosophy or method a hermeneutic analysis can be applied to their works to elucidate the practical application of their insights and perspectives. Taking space seriously is not only important for the social and human sciences but also for understanding space as an essential element of hermeneutic practice. Each of these theorists has an explicit focus on the city and the urban which can be treated hermeneutically as a text-analogue. That is, from the social, cultural and historical context in which we are situated we can seek to interpret and understand these theorists of space and spatial theories to analyse and explain the similarities and differences, the continuities and contrasts with our own urban times, experiences, spaces and places.

Studying Abroad: a semester in the USA

In this post, Daryl, one of our second year students, reflects on his semeter spent at Loyola University, USA. More information on the study abroad programme for year two students at Keele can be found here. Our single honours students have the opportunity to apply for an optional year abroad, as part of a four year degree programme.

Loyola University
Hello all, my name's Daryl and I study English and Sociology at Keele. For my study abroad experience I travelled to New Orleans, Louisiana for a semester at Loyola University, a Jesuit university. At first I was only interested in studying in either Canada or continental Europe but my love of Southern Literature and Jazz got the best better of me. On top of that I did want to go somewhere that would be very different from England, and the Deep South seemed different enough to fit the bill.

A swamp in County Sligo
I met some wonderful people during my studies. The Americans I met were friendly, intelligent, creative and very aspirational: I often wondered where they got their energy from to do all the tasks they set themselves. Most were members of sororities or fraternities (more of a commitment than you may think). They’d have several jobs, find time to do recreational activities  and submit work by their deadlines! Needless to say, for some of the international students in order to keep up caffeine was in constant supply and consumption. I ended up not trying to keep up socially with the Americans or the international students. 

Jefferson Square

I suppose what I'm trying to say is try not to assume that your study abroad experience will necessarily be a breeze. Of course, I hope it will be but you will need to work also, and American Universities, or at least Loyola specifically, have a tendency to pile work on onto their students. You may be much better at keeping up with the workload than me, and this will givey ou enough time to get out and familiarise yourself more with your surroundings,wherever you choose to study. And I certainly hope you do.

The famous beignets!