Archive for category Alumni

27 more names for the Roll Call

17Sian MOORE (2010) is Professor of Work and Employment Relations at the University of West England

Bethany MORGAN (1999-2011 BA, MA, PhD ) worked in the data Archive at Essex, taught in the sociology department and is now Senior Lecturer in sociology at the University of East London.

Rhiannon MORGAN (PhD, 2004) is Senior Lecturer in Political Sociology, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Professor Ronaldo MUNCK (-1977 Ph D) (Argentinian by birth) held the first post-apartheid Chair in Sociology at the University of Durban in South Africa after a number of years at the University of Ulster. He was Professor of Political Sociology and Director of the Globalisation and Social Exclusion Unit (1996-2004) and then Professor at Dublin City University since 2004.

Karim MURJI (1980-83) is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Open University

Danzan NARANTUYA is in the Department of Sociology, National University of Mongolia, Mongolia

Daniel NEHRING (2002-8, BA, MA, PHD) is Lecturer in Sociology, Pusan National University, South Korea.

Howard NEWBY(BA, PhD 1969-1968) is Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

Tom OBINYAN was last sighted at at the University of Lagos

Karen O’REILLY (1989-1999 BA. PhD. ISER) is Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University

Nigel PARTON (1977,MA) became Professor in Child Care and the Foundation NSPCC Chair of Applied Childhood Studies at Huddersfield University

Constantinos PHELLAS (1994-8, PhD) went to South Bank University and is now Rector for Research at the University of Nicosia. Cyprus

Steve PLATT(1967-70, BA) is Professor of Health Policy at the University of Edinburgh

Lucinda PLATT (taught 2000-7) moved to ISER in 2007 and later became Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Education and Director of the Millennium Cohort Study….

John PODGORSKI (2000-2003, BA) gained a MSc in Passenger Transport Management via a joint CILT/Aston University (distance learning) programme in 2011 and currently employed as a training Manager cum bus driver at Hedingham Omnibuses – part of Go Ahead Group PLC.  also a self-employed tutor in Business (to degree level), Sociology (to A level) and English (GCSE) He is also a committee member of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT UK) for the Eastern Region and Chair of South Essex sub-group

Jennie POPAY (1996-7, MA) is Professor of Sociology and Public Health at the University of Lancaster, and Director of the newly established Collaborating Centre for Community Engagement in England. She spent five years teaching in East Africa and then studied in New Zealand before beginning her research career at the Unit for the Study of Health Policy at Guy’s Hospital in London at the end of the 1970s.

Garry POTTER (1985-200, Ph D, Tutor) became Associate Professor of Sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada Nicole POWER is Associate Professor of Sociology at Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Anthony PRYCE (1998, PhD) is Emeritus Professor in the School of Community & Health Sciences
City University

Maurice PUNCH (1965-1966, MA, Ph.D 1971, 1971-4 Lecturer) and has worked in universities in the UK, USA and The Netherlands – where he has lived since 1975. After 20 years in Dutch universities he became an independent researcher / consultant in 1994 and in 1999 was appointed Visiting Professor at the Mannheim Centre at LSE: he is also Visiting Professor at King’s College London in the Dickson Poon School of Law.

Wapula Nelly RADITLOANENG (1989, MA) is an Associate Professor at the University of Botswana Nirmal PUWAR (1994-7, Research) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmith’s College, London

Dave REASON graduated with a degree in Sociology (having intended to specialise in Theoretical Physics), and moved to the University of Kent where he is Master of Keynes College and Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Studies in the History & Philosophy of Art.

Penny RICKMAN (80’s) became a Probation Officer.

Andrew RIGBY (????) is Professor at the Center for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at the University of Coventry.

Michael RILEY enjoys a “rewarding career as a Professional Chef with extensive management experience in the restaurant, catering, hotel, resort and film catering industries, including his own business ventures.” “My ongoing passion for cooking and the hospitality industry continues, as I explore new opportunities to advance my commitment to culinary excellence”. Last was Executive Chef at Painted Boat Resort, Canada.

Chrissie ROGERS (1995-2004, BA, MA, PhD) went on to lecture at Keele and Brunel before moving to Anglia Ruskin as a director of PhD research and the Childhood and Youth Research Institute. In 2012, she joined Aston Sociology as a Senior Lecturer in Sociology.

Heather ROLFE (1985-7, Research Officer) is Principal Research Fellow National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)

Mike ROPER (MA, PhD) is now a Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex

David ROWE (1978-81, PhD 1986)was for many years at The University of Newcastle in New South Wales. In 2006 he moved to the University of Western Sydney (UWS), where he is currently a Professor of Cultural Research in the Institute for Culture and Society.

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Susan Mason (1978-2001:MA, Ph.D)


In 1978 I enrolled on a higher degree course. ‘Welcome’, said Brenda, showing this new part-time M.A. student to her desk and shelf space in an office. So I went to lectures from Howard, ate sandwiches in the Reading Room with Harold, and drank coffee down town with Dennis. I discussed Symbolic Interactionist work, and, looking for a new view of things I walked across corridors overlooking Square Three. Meanwhile I refilled the coffee percolatator, deferred payment and, sitting in lumpy and unbelievably shabby sofas, exchanged secrets with my friends. Sadly, I found I couldn’t continue, although the fees were £50 a term.

Fast forward to 2001. ‘You’re a graduate ‘, he said at Registration, ‘You know about computers’. ‘Welcome’ said Brenda, showing me to an office. ‘Which desk is mine?’, I asked a fellow student. ‘None’, she said, ‘We share’. I talked about Post-Modernism and listened to lectures from a young man called Rob. At the end of term an irate librarian asked the reason I hadn’t responded to her email. Email… I had received about 900 and did not know I even had a student address. Nobody else had noticed and I’d missed nothing. One day the Reading Room reappeared, resembling a dental reception room. No more intimate conversations snuggled in velvet cushions. Prepaid coffee from a machine which I never had to re-fill. As for sandwiches, I had to bring my own. Brenda retired, and this time I did graduate. So did thousands of other students, all on time.

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Andreas Pöllmann (2004,MA;2008,PhD)

Andreas PollmannI owe it to the central library of Montpellier’s Université Paul Valéry and some unknown marketing people at Essex that one late afternoon, during a coffee break, I found this prospectus about postgraduate studies at the University of Essex. In hindsight, I’m ashamed of my ignorance, but this really was the first time I’ve heard of this institution of Higher Education on the island close to Europe. Anyway, I recall that, when getting to the pages about the Department of Sociology and the Department of Government, I was struck by an almost instant sensation that the overall study experience – and particularly staff student relations – would be so much more inspiring and engaging there than in any of the places I had studied before. I didn’t change my mind even if (or perhaps because) I used to pass by the statue of Auguste Comte when walking home from the Université to the 16th century inner city flat that I was living in back then. Even the fact that in the Montpellier of that time (autumn 2000 to summer 2001), ordinary public cinemas used to screen productions like “La sociologie est un sport de combat” – a documentary dedicated to Pierre Bourdieu – could not convince me of staying on the continent.

As much as I never got to develop a strong affection for Britain’s oldest recorded town (apart from some notable, geographically quickly locatable, exceptions), I did instantly fall in love with the University and the nearby village of Wivenhoe. I often miss the open, diverse, and friendly atmosphere at the university’s main campus and, above all, the wonderful people I had the good fortune to meet during my time there. It is no exaggeration to say that I spent some of the happiest years of my life at the University of Essex. In particular, I owe a lot to teachers and fellow students from the Sociology Department and am deeply grateful for their companionship and (in many cases) lasting friendship. One of these friendships led to a marriage, two children, and me/us living in Mexico City.

Whatever one may think about causalities … and common indicators of graduate student satisfaction (let alone the obsessive measuring of it) … one can hardly deny this University’s charm. I am now working at another great university – the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) – with particular research interests in the field of intercultural teacher education and the notion of intercultural capital.

The following link leads to some further and regularly updated information on my research and publications:öllmann

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Jason Cobb (1990-3. B.A.)

I arrived at Essex in The autumn of 1990. The Berlin Wall was falling, Thatcher was about to be toppled and Nottingham Forest would reach the FA Cup Final that very same season.

“Historically there has never been a better time to study sociology,”

…declared Professor Ken Plummer during his introduction to Sociological Analysis I, the Thursday morning mainstay for any Essex sociological undergraduate.

He wasn’t wrong.

Within days I was thrust into a brutal rent strike against the POWERS of the University. The origins of the uprising have become a little lost in Essex legend. The rallying call was the forceful eviction of Swamp Thing, a third year Comrade who claimed that he was being brutally abused by the University Senate.

The reality was that Swamp Thing was a little smelly and had allegedly stolen some cheese from his fellow Comrades on campus.

The rent strike collapsed overnight. The Student Union padlocks were cut  from entrance to the Lecture Theatre Block where we had held an overnight lock in for Mr. Swamp Thing. Three hours later and Professor Plummer was delivering his introduction to modern Marxism.

Welcome to Essex, Comrades.

Having failed to make the great leap forward with Swamp Thing, my attention soon turned towards my new department.

Essex was THE place to study sociology in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I knew this because my A Level tutor was a graduate, and routinely went misty-eyed when dismissing Durkheim and suicide to tell her students about her life-changing Essex experience.

The fool, I thought.

Whatever was wrong with a classical education at a traditional red brick University?

I remember receiving my Little Red Essex Book, the departmental manifesto, outlining the course options that were available. I was in awe of names such as Lockwood, Gilroy and Thompson. They only existed in the Appendix for Giddens’ soc-lite white bible.

Yet here they were, walking around campus and inviting me to attend cosy classes and discussions in their back room warrens buried away towards the back of Square 3.

Or was it Square 4? I remain convinced that I attended everything but sociological teachings during that first term.

Which wasn’t too far from the truth.

My major disappointment during that first year as a sociology undergraduate was that sociology only counted for a quarter of the curriculum. The fluffy Faculty of Social Science dictated with an iron fist that computer science, linguistics and government had to form part of my learning.

I remain convinced that Losing an Empire, Finding a Role was more of a publishing sales pitch than genuine undergraduate political theory.

No worries.

My DIY ethos was found at Essex. The idea of re-launching the lapsed Essex Sociology Society was floated. I was somehow enlisted as the Treasurer.

I dreamt that the job description would involve writing out cheques to cover the expenses of the UK’s leading sociological thinkers as we invited them along to stimulate sociological debate on campus.

But the department already employed the UK’s leading sociological thinkers. The last thing they wanted to do was to put in some unpaid overtime to address a campus society that was noting but a ruse for swindling the student union out of some booze funds.

I resigned my position in protest when the Soc Soc launched with a Cowboys and Indians themed party (FFS) at the abysmal Level 2 bar. It was almost enough to make an undergraduate to return to Durkheim and his dark thoughts.

My study became slightly more serious in the second year. FOUR dedicated sociological courses in which to choose from. I had finally finished reading Losing an Empire by this point.

Most of my third year was swallowed up with dissertation writing / trips back and forth to the Fair City to watch Forest.

My dissertation itself was truly dreadful. I foolishly focussed on the Sociology of Football. It did open doors later for me though to carry out postgrad research at the dedicated football department at the University of Leicester.

It wasn’t really until my final term at Essex that I began to realise how tribal the Sociology Department was at the time. You had the oral history tradition placing a tape recorder in front of anyone who had a story to tell; the criminologists were on the rise, whilst there was also a bonkers brief flirtation with post-modernism.

I remember attending a class with Bryan Turner where we sat down and watched an entire episode of Twin Peaks. No introduction, no explanation at the end. See you next week, space cadets.  Don’t forget your black polar necks.

Where’s Weber and class, status and party when you need him? Probably too busy enjoying yet another Cowboys and Indians themed party.

A bout of shingles coincided with the sitting of my finals. I was allowed to take my exams in glorious isolation. My Essex perspective had shifted from the grand theories of the decline of the totalitarian state to a more phenomenological theory concerning my own well-being.

I somehow managed to escape Essex [ha!] with a slightly wobbly 2:1.

I remember the departmental Head helpfully explaining:

“You had a strong case for a high 2:2, but we quite like you. Here, have a 2:1 and don’t even think about applying for postgrad funding.”

Ta very much.

I boycotted the graduation ceremony as a collective act of defiance against The Establishment, and as a protest at the failure of Forest to win the FA Cup Final.

No other Comrades joined me in my actions.

Critical theory and the need to question EVERYTHING remains the overriding Essex legacy for me. This has probably held me back over the years, but it has also enabled me to live the life that I want to.

I still see some of those legendary sociology figures walking around Wivenhoe, slightly frail, but still fighting the fight.

I think.

“Historically there has never been a better time to study sociology,”

…declared Professor Ken Plummer, before then playing Is That All There Is to conclude Soc Analysis I.

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Rie Debabrata: M.A Social and Economic Development (1998), Ph.D. Sociology (2002)



I would like to thank Ken Plummer for inviting me to share my memories of Essex. I was Ken’s Teaching Assistant in 1998-1999 and 2000-2001, and to say that I was completely blown away by the vitality and incredible lucidity of his lectures – would be such an understatement. Listening to him (SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology) made me wish that I had learned from him as an undergraduate.

Besides Ken, some of the inspiring professors that I had the privilege to study and interact with, both during my Masters, and later PhD, were — Miriam Glucksmann (my PhD supervisor), Ted Benton, Lydia Morris (PhD examiner), Pam Cox, Jane Hindley, to name a few.

I came to Essex in 1997 to pursue a MA in Social and Economic Development (an inter-disciplinary course between the Departments of Sociology and Economics), which I understand is no longer offered. I had graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economic (Honours) from the University of Delhi, India, but had chosen to pursue the inter-disciplinary course at Essex mainly because I had always been fascinated by Sociology (knew very little about it, though). It was also because at the end of my 3-year bachelor’s degree, I could not visualize myself pursuing a career in Economics. I had found it to be very econometric-centred, something that did not sit well with me. I was interested in Development Economics – or as my late-grandfather used to put it – the kind of economics that Amartya Sen (a fellow-Bengali and an acquaintance of my grandfather’s) teaches. The fact that Essex offered a course that combined both Development Economics and Sociology seemed like a win-win.

The academic environment at Essex was so vibrant – there we so many lectures, seminars and colloquiums to attend, constantly expanding one’s intellectual horizons. Up until then, I had mainly studied within the Indian academic system (except for a brief stint at the University of California, Berkeley, where I took a course on Women’s Studies). The Indian educational system places a premium on learning by rote (it still does, although changes are afoot), and I do not recall being encouraged or trained to critique the material in any way. Lectures were often a one-sided affair, with students memorizing the lectures/notes and readings, and there was very little space for genuine debate or reflection. Learning by rote was something that I was quite good at during my school years, but I simply could not sustain that by the time I entered University for my undergraduate degree. So much of what I was studying either did not make sense to me, or seemed at odds with my politics – and yet there was no avenue for expressing that. As a result, I retreated and did not engage with the material or attempt to genuinely learn from it. By the time I had arrived at Essex, therefore, I was craving an interactive and intellectually stimulating environment. And my, did Essex deliver!

Even though I was new to Sociology, I did not feel like an outsider for too long. I encountered a department full of professors, administrators (Brenda Corti, Helen Hannick, Diane Allison, Mary Girling, Sue Aylott) and peers that were unfailingly warm, accommodating and engaging. As a result, I developed some wonderful friendships, some of which continue till today, despite the distance.

Some snapshots from my time at Essex:

–        Introductory conference for new students, followed by a welcome dinner at Wivenhoe’s Tandoori Hut: a first glimpse into a fiercely talented and charmingly quirky community that was going to be home for the next, almost 4 years.

–        Lecture by George Ritzer on ‘McDonaldization’: a very engaging discourse on a fascinating concept, which was followed by Ted Benton’s equally incisive query along the lines of “where/how does class fit into all of this?” It confirmed Ted’s status as one of my intellectual heroes!

–        Fuller Scholarship: I was grinning like a Cheshire cat (for what felt like days) when I received news of having been awarded the scholarship. This ensured that I would stay on at Essex for my PhD. I can still recall Tony Woodiwiss’ (then HOD) warm smile as he informed me of the Department’s decision and congratulated me.

–        Mentorship and guidance: I was never more convinced that I had chosen the right PhD supervisor in Miriam, than when I would receive very pragmatic and consistently supportive messages from her while in the midst of my field research – this was a challenging year spent travelling to remote villages and towns in India. Miriam also did not hold back on her criticism, as she did when she quite bluntly warned me that I would not complete my PhD if I took a break during my third-year to commence a consultancy with the United Nations. While I was initially taken aback (Miriam later gleefully confided that she had overdone it a bit to ensure that I would listen!), it did force me to refocus my priorities and to persuade my future employers to wait until I had submitted my thesis.

–        ‘Ruth Cavendish’: I have always been terribly impressed by the fact that Miriam, as the pseudonymous Ruth Cavendish, wrote “Women on the Assembly Line” – a groundbreaking ethnographic study. I recall having mentioned this several years later to my husband, Bernard (we were newly dating then), and even though he’s a political scientist, he knew of this study – needless to say, he scored big points.

Before arriving at Essex, I had worked with several civil society organisations and NGOs including the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (which provides micro-credit loans to rural women). I grew up within the ‘NGO-world’ in many ways, owing in a large part to my parents’ political and social activism in India.

After leaving Essex, I worked (very briefly) with the Asian Development Bank (posted in Manila, Philippines), and then with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where I have been since 2002. My work with UNDP has taken me to some exciting destinations – I was in Lao PDR for 2.5 years as the Assistant Country Director (I headed a team that worked on poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS prevention, gender empowerment, private sector development, and UNDP’s flagship ‘Human Development Report’). I also worked with UNDP’s regional programme on HIV/AIDS for South and Northeast Asia, specializing in anti-trafficking and migration issues. I have been posted in New York since 2006, where I am currently working as Donor Relations Adviser with UNDP’s External Relations Bureau. My team works on resource mobilization and maintaining partnerships with a variety of actors, including ‘donors’ to UNDP, such as the Nordic countries, Canada, UK, US, Australia, etc. A career with the UN certainly has its ups and downs. While it is hugely satisfying professionally, the pace of work and constant pressure to travel does take a toll on family life. Bernard and I have a young daughter and we find ourselves, as do many others, constantly trying to find that elusive work-life ‘balance’!

Looking back, I can quite confidently say that being at Essex was in so many ways a life-changing experience. I could not have asked for a better intellectual ‘home’. Even though I have not pursued an academic career since completing my PhD, the training that I have received here has held me in good stead!

Dr. Rie Debabrata Tamas

Donor Relations Adviser, Resources Partnerships Cluster, Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy,
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), One United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017

Photo: Miriam Glucksmann with Rie Debabrata Tamas (6 months pregnant!) and Bernard Debabrata Tamas in New York, October 2009

Rie and Miriam

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Judith Okely ( Lectured 1981-1989)

UnknownFurther details on my Essex Students in the 1980s Judith Okely

When I arrived at Essex from Durham University where I had been lecturer, I soon noticed very different students. In the former, many came from elite Public Schools, although I am delighted one of the most talented was first generation university from a Manchester working class family. He is now professor and former Dean at Durham. But he was the exception. In Essex I did not encounter many students from private schools. One who attended my Social Anthropology Course, I knew immediately was from the North East. He was a true Geordie and shockingly, not likely ever to have been at Durham university. Indeed, so disconnected were the Southerners at Durham that when a postgraduate, born and brought up in Newcastle, was heard talking at a student party, several congratulated him for his ‘perfect imitation’ of the local accent.

The student in Essex was doing a joint sociology/government degree and told me years later he knew John Bercow there. This person is now Speaker in the House of Commons. Andy Dawson , by contrast got to know me well. He was gripped by social anthropology. I supervised his dissertation where he gathered the older university porters and cleaners for a recorded discussion about ageing. Typically he had got to know them. There was no class distance here. He obtained a distinction for the outcome.

Well into my time at Essex, I obtained several ESRC grants on Ageing both in France and Essex. There were at the time competitive ESRC phd awards ‘linked’ to an existing staff research grant. This was the year of the miners’ strike. Despite negative support from the then senior staff, I put in an application for Andy, at his suggestion, to do research on Ageing, retired miners. Just before we finalized the application, I asked if he had any connections with miners. His reply “EEH flower, 11 of me uncles were miners!” It was an added bonus to elaborate his knowledge of the North East locality as research site. I believe that some about 6 colleagues applied with different proposals. I was the only successful one.

I had been thrilled by Andy’s parents’ excitement at his graduation. He was the first in his extended family. The joy was even more ecstatic when he obtained his phd. He had various research jobs then a lectureship at Hull university. In the mid 1990s, he persuaded me to move there from Edinburgh. Eventually,  Dr Andy Dawson was to become Professor of anthropology at Melbourne university, Australia.

Recently I emailed him to ask for details of an extraordinary encounter which he had mentioned in the late 1990s when we were both at Hull. One of our phd students had become involved in studying conflict in former Yugoslavia. Andy followed him to the field sites, many of terrible violence.

Dr Andy Dawson in Bosnia asked if he could make contact with key peacekeeper officials. Initially skeptical, he found door after door opening. Entering the main office, he approached the manin charge who casually looked up and said ‘Hello Andy. I did your course on the Anthropology of Europe at Hull’. He argued that this was the only thing which helped make sense of the context. He has become a leading light in ‘The Organisation of the High Representative’ led for most of its existence by Paddy Ashdowne, the EU’s body in Europe. This senior official’s main degree was in S. E. Asia Studies at Hull, with the one course from our sociology/ anthropology department.

Andy emailed me: ‘ When I was there, Bosnia was full of young lawyers and political scientists whose core belief was that, since Bosnians has got themselves into this mess, they were the  last people that one should listen to in devising resolutions. They believed that peace-building was all simply about the rigid implementation of international law. In contrast, Jonathan  (Robinson) was very much an anthropologist, learning the language, getting out into the field and listening to people. The feeling was that through this he was able to broker some really significant agreements between local Serbs and returning Muslims. I have no doubt that this explains his rise.”

All this is inspirational. As a committed anthropologist I delighted that Paul Thompson, then HOD, and others on the appointments committee which included David Lockwood and Peter Townsend, offered me the lectureship. It was only a year later, that I was to discover  that a female sociologist, initiated an unsuccessful petition against my appointment. Apparently for her, anthropology was reduced to racial/racist profiling. A couple of years into my appointment, she asked me why it was that so many students enrolled for my course. It was incomprehensible. The example of Andy Dawson proves the point. I still note other ex students who have progressed in wonderful ways after graduating. It is always a joy to recognize them and see their trajectory.

Judith Okely

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Karen O’Reilly (1989-1999: B.A. Ph.D. I.S.E.R.)

Memories of Essex in the late 1980s to early 90s: social theory and qualitative methods

Karen O’Reilly


The Reading Room, with filter coffee and a bowl to throw in your cash payment.

Ken Plummer, impressive because he didn’t just use one overhead projector – he used two!
And he flitted between them.
And he showed film clips, and played tunes.
‘Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing’.

 Catherine Hall telling us to expect no fancy tricks from her like OHPs;
She just talks in her lectures and we’d better get used to it.
And we did.

 David Lee teaching us about Durkheim and anomie by getting us to think about what motivates a soldier to go to war, and to die for his country.

Ted Benton. Marx. The 1844 manuscripts.
I even bought a copy of the Communist Party Manifesto.
That caused a bit of a stir at home among family and friends.
It looked terribly out of pTlace next to The Sun on the coffee table.

The Graduate Weekend!
Singing ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ on the bus on six different languages.
And Ken Plummer telling us something about tap dancing.

 Social anthropology, Richard Wilson and Roger Goodman, with their enthusiasm for understanding exotic worlds, and familiar ones. Those guys really turned my world on its head.
And they showed films!

 And through it all, I loved it and hated it. Loved it because I felt so challenged, enthused, intimidated, enlightened. Hated it for all the same reasons.

 It turned out I was quite good at doing quantitative research! The truth is I found it so difficult that I worked three times as hard on that topic. That’s what explains the 80% grade, and, 3 years later, the job in the Institute for Social and Economic Research (in The Round Building).

 I was never fully happy there, despite the lovely people I worked with. I had done my PhD using ethnographic methods, and supervised by social anthropologists. That was my intellectual and spiritual home. I want to understand what makes people tick.

 My research questions are likely to be: why do people do that? How does this happen, over and over again? What drives people to be that way? What is going on here? Those sorts of questions – about real people, with real (yes, real), messy, complicated lives, people who can’t always articulate their reasons, who don’t always get what they want (or perhaps even know) – those sorts of questions are answered by getting to know people, by getting involved, getting in there. It’s tricky, and entangled, and it involves very little mathematics.

 I think, to do qualitative research you have to, basically, like people – and perhaps yourself a little, too. Because, if you really do simply want to know about their lives, it’s my experience that they let you in. And that is amazing, really.

Such a privilege.

 And that privilege is an outcome of being taught ethnographic methods by such enthusiastic teachers all those years ago.

 When I remember Sociology at Essex I feel an incredible sense of gratitude. Being there changed my life. I was able to be part of something a few lucky people have shared. I feel an invisible thread connects me to every other student and staff member that was there around the time I was. And I feel sad, because those times have gone.

 “Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? ” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? ” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Karen O’Reilly is a Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University. She is author of The British on the Costa del Sol, Lifestyle Migration (edited with Michaela Benson), Ethnographic Methods, Key Concepts in Ethnography, and International Migration and Social Theory.  She also helped design the UK National Statistics Socio-economic Classification. Being a humble person she doesn’t like to show off any more than that about her achievements. She also finds it weird to write about herself in the third person. Above all, she is incredibly proud to call herself a sociologist who was once at Essex.

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Liz Kelly (1980-1986 PhD)

Liz Kelly (1980-1986 PhD)I still vividly remember the day I came to Essex to be interviewed by Mary MacIntosh for a possible ESRC PhD studentship in 1980.  Walking along the corridor I relived my first degree: I had read and cited so many of the names on the doors, I was intimidated and excited in equal measure.  Much to Mary’s initial dismay I changed my topic after a few weeks from women’s financial independence (her passion) to violence against women (my passion).  Many have been surprised that an avowed socialist feminist supervised a radical feminist, but Mary was in so many ways the perfect supervisor – my analysis and writing had to be rigorous to pass muster.  I learnt to develop and build an argument with her, Ken Plummer and Joan Busfield (my other supervisors) in mind – training that I have held onto ever since, to not think only in relation of those who have a similar perspective/politics.  I have drawn on it many times to imagine and find arguments/evidence which might open up a different conversation with policy makers and practitioners.

I also learnt to teach at Essex, drawing inspiration from Ken Plummer whose love of, and devotion to, teaching was remarkable.  His was the door that always had lines of students outside, seeking intellectual and human guidance.  We PhD students got to teach rather a lot, especially on first year courses, since many of the academic staff clearly regarded it as beneath them to engage with anyone who had not already committed to the sociology department.  Some of our most brilliant scholars were also impatient with second and third year students who struggled with new, complex and challenging ideas.  My style – to begin seminars checking whether they had understood the lecture, where they had got lost and asking if they could apply the concepts to contemporary lives – offered something different, that many, especially mature students, welcomed.

Some other random and fond memories:

–        our wonderfully smart admin staff, all older women, who found ways to manage the ornery and often arrogant Oxbridge mentality that was such an obvious undercurrent among many, but never all, of the academic staff;

–        the women’s group we established that connected students, support staff and academics to explore how we might change the university culture;

–        the feminist PhD/MA support and reading group that got many of us through those moments of despair when you cannot bear your data/topic/chapter that does not work anymore;

–        telling the important male academic who had never acknowledged me in four years to ‘f-off’ when he deigned to do so the day I was awarded my PhD.

Doing my PhD at Essex changed my life, enabling me to become one of the women who have established violence against women as a field of study, how could I not be grateful.

Professor Liz Kelly is the Co-Director of CWASU and Roddick Chair of Violence Against Women at London Metropolitan University where she also helps run the MA on Woman and Child Abuse. She has been active in the field of violence against women and children for over three decades, has led CWASU since 1993, and is recognised as a leader in the field. She is the author of Surviving Sexual Violence (1988), which established the concept of a ‘continuum of violence’ and has written over 100 book chapters and journal articles. Liz is chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, an expert on VAW to the European Women’s Lobby and EU Gender Institute, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

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Andrew Dawson (1981-1990, BA, PhD)

Andrew Dawson (1981-90, BA, PhD)I thank Ken Plummer for offering me this opportunity on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary to reflect on my years at the University of Essex. Time well spent! I completed my BA Honours in Sociology & Government in 1984 and then, after a year¹s break in sunny Spain, returned to complete my PhD in Sociology in 1990.

I can¹t say I found the early days at Essex particularly easy. My period betwixt school and university, spent serving an apprenticeship and playing music in The Big Smoke, had stretched a little longer than most. Following this, the campus milieu struck me as decidedly unreal, like a youth club in a large field. And, even for those times, which were the very darkest of Thatcherism, campus politics were often disturbingly to the left of fruity. Here was a place where supporting the Soviet Union rather than England in televised football matches was de rigueur. Here was a place where, in order to gain respect, decent middle-class kids would return from vacation with affected industrial accents. And here too, more humorously, was the place that, for the ears of a visiting and philandering Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the immortal words ³Cecil, Cecil, CecilŠ.in, out, in² were coined.

However, more difficult than any of this was academic life. I found my first two years as an undergraduate tough in the extreme. At one level it was intimidating. I had chosen Essex because of its Sociology program, and in my eyes the luminaries of the discipline were nothing less than rock stars. So, sitting in a 101 tutorial with none other than David Lockwood ­all pipe smoke, gravitas and brilliance ­ invoked confidence sapping ³I am not worthy² emotions. At another level, the intellectual rigour demanded by the program was quite considerable and, it felt, beyond my capacities.

Having flirted with dropping out at the end of my second year, and chancing my arm once again as a musician, I returned to give Essex another go. Suddenly and mysteriously, so it seemed, everything just clicked. I guess that a big part of it was just my developing. But the biggest factor of all was undoubtedly, the brilliance, kindness and dedication of the staff I was so lucky to encounter. In particular, the Third Year subjects ŒSociology of Knowledge¹, ŒJoint Seminar in Government & Sociology¹ and ŒSocial Anthropology¹, that were convened by Ted Benton, Bob Jessop/Tony Woodiwiss and Judith Okely respectively, were inspiring. I was also blessed by the superb pedagogical presences of Ian Craib and (again) Judith Okely.  Without revealing his technique, Ian literally taught me how to write, how to write fast and how to enjoy writing. I cannot thank that simply wonderful man enough, and I miss him dearly.

And of Judith Okely, the list of contributions and qualities is too long to repeat here. Here are just a few. She has been a wonderful patron. Were it not for her efforts in obtaining the ESRC scholarship that funded my doctoral study, I would almost certainly not be in the academic profession today. Who knows, I might even have become an ageing rock star by nowŠ.not! She has been, especially as my doctoral supervisor, a source of enlightened intellectual support. Notably, in commenting on my work she displays a very forgiving and confidence-inducing ability to hone in on the intellectual rough diamonds and ignore the rubbish that often encases them. Lastly, she holds in unrivalled abundance the very intellectual skills ­ those of an ethnographer ­ that I cherish most, especially her near telepathic ability to read the meanings within social encounters, even silent ones! It was my great fortune that some years after both of us had left Essex Judith and I became colleagues at the University of Hull. Also, despite geographical distance, I am so glad she is just a phonecall away.

Speaking of which..what have I been up to? After working for several years at the Queen¹s University, Belfast and the University of Hull, in 2004 I took the Chair in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne, where I have also directed its Development Studies program for several years. I have conducted three major ethnographic projects in England, Ireland (north and south) and Bosnia & Herzegovina and amongst its diasporas. My work focuses largely on identity politics, particularly in post-industrial and post-conflict contexts. However, I have also conducted theoretical work on postmodernism and mobility. Much of my work also has an applied focus, and I have conducted research on migration and asylum-issues for a range of non-governmental and governmental bodies, including the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (U.K.). I also remain a passionate and very active advocate for the right to unfettered mobility and, particularly, for the dissolution of immigration controls. Most satisfyingly, I have been able to use the skills learned from my teachers and supervisors at Essex in helping many undergraduate and doctoral students to reach their full potentials. Despite being in Anthropology, I have the good fortune of sharing a school with Sociology. In a disciplinary division of labour where, stereotypically, one is better at theory and the other data and one does the West while the other does the rest, I enjoy inhabiting a pleasurably liminal position. On everyday matters, life in Oz is good (it¹s 40 bloody degrees as I write), especially sharing it with Kotoyo, my wife of twenty-five years and Fintan, our ten year old. For the happy position I am in I have much to thank the Sociology Department at the University of Essex, a place that, if truth is to be told, I still think of as my real intellectual home.

Andrew Dawson

Professor of Anthropology
School of Social and Political Sciences
John Medley Building
The University of Melbourne

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Raymond Chan (MA 1989, PhD 1996)

Raymond ChanKen asked me to write a short piece to share my memory of my encounter with Sociology Department at Essex, which I am delighted to do so.
I learnt about Sociology at Essex from my former teacher Sammy Chiu (who had been at Essex in 1982 to 83). Those big names such as Peter Townsend, Stan Cohen, David Lockwood, Paul Thompson …; and the radical and progressive academic atmosphere attracted me. With all those fantasy and romantic dreams on studying overseas, I came to Essex to study the MA in Social Service Planning programme (which ceased to be on offer from the early 1990s) in 1988. I was greeted by Dennis Marsden along the corridor (in fact, he sent me most of the course outline months earlier so that I could prepare better), and then, a warm welcome by Brenda Corti who showed me my pigeon hole in the Sociology Reading Room. The Reading Room became my favourite place to meet friends and fellow students (and I learnt how to refill the coffee powder in the machine, and drink coffee on and on every day). It was there I found two Hong Kong students (C H Ng and W K Chan) were in there final stage of PhD study in the Department. I was very fortunate to have the Department’s support and then receive a full scholarship to support my study. Without this, I don’t think I could have come to Essex. It proved to be a turning point of my life.

Yet, I was probably not too ready for academic study at that time, and did not perform very  well during this year. Nevertheless, it gave me an eye-opening experience, being exposed to a variety of theories and perspectives, staff with diverse academic interests, and personal contact with students from all over the world. I was also impressed by the very informal and warm atmosphere in the Department, with a lot of social activities: the graduate workshop and conference at Clacton-on-Sea, the gatherings and interesting discussions in The Rose and Crown at Wivenhoe (I can now  find it  on Google Earth!), Chinese meals at the relatively cheap Dragon House also at Wivenhoe (I still have a picture with Omololu Soyombo who is now at Lagos University, and Moha Asri Abdullah who is now with International Islamic University Malaysia). I also remember Mary Girling’s lovely dogs sitting quietly in the Reading Room. May to June 1989 was a dramatic and traumatic moment for many Chinese students, for the things happened in Tiananmen Square. And the Department staff were very understanding and supported us in organizing actions on the campus. In that year, I also experienced many personal challenges, and I was so grateful to the support from Dennis, Michael Harloe, Brenda, Mary and many others, that I could recover quickly to complete my dissertation (supervised by Michael) in August and then have time for  a lovely “run-the-England / Scotland” trip with Moha.

I graduated in 1989, and went back to Hong Kong to work for three years. But I decided to return to Essex to start my PhD in September 1992, under the supervision of Michael. As Michael was leaving for Salford to become  Vice-chancellor in 1997, I had a good reason pushing me to finish my study as quickly as possible (I passed the viva in January 1996, and received my PhD in July). I still consider coming back to Essex to do my PhD as the right decision. I received tremendous support and excellent guidance from Michael, Colin Samson and Rob Stones (they were my panel member). Studying PhD was a very different experience from studying a MA. Well, I became older and more mature, spent lesser time in the Common Room and more time in my own office, concentrated on my own study and more intellectual discussion with other PhD students. The Department offered me financial sponsorship on data collection both in UK and in Hong Kong. After spending the first year in Essex, I returned to Hong Kong to work with City University of Hong Kong (where I stay until now) to earn money to pay tuition fee. Thanks to email, I received very good guidance from Michael. Michael gave me very detail comments on every draft chapter.

It was 25 years since I first came to Essex. In August 2013, I visited the Department again with my family, told my children how I spent my times in there. That was summer, and the Reading Room and the campus were almost empty. Still managed to buy souvenir from the shop. I also visited Mary, and my children played with her deerhounds.

have had many opportunities to connect with old and new friends from Essex in many other occasions. Met Ken, Rob, Paul Thompson, Yasmin Soysal, Karen O’Reilly (she is also the external examiner of a programme in my University) and Tony Woodiwiss in Hong Kong, Bryan Turner in Seoul, Adrian Sinfield in Edinburgh, Michael (apart from Hong Kong) in Salford and Oxford, Mary in Brightlingsea, John Scott through email (!), visited the ‘Colin Bell’ Building at Stirling, hosted two Essex Sociology graduates as my post-doc fellow and visiting PhD student.  But sad to know some have passed away in these years: Ian Craib, Dennis, Brenda, Mary McIntosh, Barbara Hudson …

The Department has changed a lot. The social policy (my major research area) component seems no longer a key emphasis in the Department. Many familiar faces have left. Yet, the Department is as strong, vibrant, energetic and international as always. Wihtout any hesitation, I am proud to be a graduate of the Essex Sociology Department.

I welcome you to visit me in Hong Kong!

Raymond Chan (MA 1989, PhD 1996)

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