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The ROLL CALL continued

More names to join the ever growing list: why not add yours?

Ajay KHANDELWAL (MA, PhD,1995) has worked in a number of health and social care roles over the last twenty years across voluntary and statutory sectors. Ajay joined NESTA in 2011.

Motohiro KAWASIMA (MA PhD 2004) Assistant Professor Education and Research Support Center, Graduate School of Medicine, Gunma University 4-2 Aramaki-machi, Maebashi, Gunma, 371-8510, Japan

Richard KILMINSTER ( PhD  ) lectured at Leeds University and became a specialist on the work of Norbert Elias

Dave KING (1977-1986 PhD) became a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool University

Travis KONG (1993-2000 MA, PhD) is Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University and currently editor of the journal Sexualities.

Pauline LANE (1986-89,BA; 91-95 PHD) is Reader in Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin University & South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, but about to leave.

Di LEONARD was one of the first to teach a feminist agenda in the department in the early 1970’s. After several years at Essex University, she moved to the Institute of Education where she became a professor in the 1990s. She died in 2011.

Chin Ju-LIN ( 2003, PhD )   is currently Associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Gender Studies in Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan

Ruth LISTER (1964-7) became a poverty campaigner, a social policy Professor at Loughborough University and a Dame in the House of Lords ……

Jose LOPEZ (1994-2000, MA PhD, Fellow) became associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada

Terry LOVELL is now Emeritus Professor Sociology at the University of Warwick, where she taught courses in women’s studies and cultural studies

Trevor LUMIS ( 1981, PhD   ) wrote many books based on “oral evidence’; he died in September 2013 ( see:

Dawn LYON (2004-7 Senior Research Officer) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent

Dan MAHONEY (1998-2004) is an Associate Professor with the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and is also a family sociologist with an interest in the social, cultural and health-related aspects of interpersonal relationships. Dan teaches and conducts research in the areas of health, research methods, sexuality, and family studies. His methodological interests in family-based research include interpretive ethnography, self-reflexive storytelling, and thematic and narrative analysis.

Jane MARCEAU (lecturer 1967-70)   Professor Jane Marceau was formerly Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), University of Western Sydney

John MARSHALL (1976-82) became editor of Gay Times for ten years. After this, he left academic and gay politics to become a librarian.

Gordon MARSHALL (1978- 1990) became Chief Executive of the ESRC, Vice Chancellor of Reading University(2003-11), Director of the Leverhulme Foundation and awarded FBA and CBE.

Susan MASON (1978-2001, MA, Ph ) is now retired and lives in Ipswich.

Hannah MASON-BISH ( 2009, PhD ) is Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Sussex

Ken MENZIES (1973, PhD) Professor of Sociology, University of Guelph, Canada.

Gareth MILLINGTON (2006, PhD ) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton, London

Gad MIMRAN (2005-8, BA) runs an international volunteer placement organisation called Plan My Gap Year.

Siyndu MOHANATHAS (2009-12) a business support officer with NSPCC ChildLine


Go to the cumulative listing at: ROLL CALL

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23 more names for the Essex Sociology Roll Call

Fiona DEVINE  (1980-1990) did a joint degree in Sociology and Government between 1980-83; then an MA in Sociology on a part time basis between 1983-85, and a PhD in 1985 and was awarded it in 1990.Became Professor of Sociology at Manchester, a world leader in the study of social class, and an OBE  and member of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Jean DUNCOMBE (  ?-   1999, MA, PhD) married Dennis Marsden and became a Principal Lecturer at Chichester University. She is now retired.

Tim EDWARDS ( Ph.D 1991  )   is a Senior Lecture in Sociology at Leicester University

Dave ELDER-VASS  (2006 -10, Postdoc) After a career as an IT specialist and executive, he studied for his PhD at Birkbeck, University of London, and spent three years as a British Academy post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex. He is now a Senior Lecture in Sociology at Lougborough.

Annabel FARADAY (1973-198?). After becoming a ‘pioneer of lesbian history’, she left academia to become a ceramicist.

David FORD  (PhD, 2000) was a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Programme Leader at University College, Chester. Included in David’s publications is ‘Realism and Research, Philosophy and Poverty Politics: the Example of Smoking,’ in Lopez, J and Potter, G. After Postmodernism: Critical Realism, Athlone Press, 2002.  He sadly died in 2011.

Tabitha FREEMAN (1996-2004, PhD )  has been a Research Associate at the Centre for Family Research since 2004 at Cambridge University. Her research addresses parent-child relationships and child development in different family forms, including those created by assisted conception.

Kimberley Drae FISHER (1994-2002, PhD Research Fellow) worked for ISER and is now Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford  where she works in the Centre for Time Use Research

Pauline FULLER (BA, PhD, 1995..) is a Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Well Being at the University of Wolverhampton

Eileen GREEN (1974-5, MA) joined Teesside University as Professor of Sociology in 1996. She was a founder Director of the Centre for Social and Policy Research and co-director of the Unit for Social and Policy Research USPR. Before this she was Reader in Sociology at Sheffield Hallam University, where she was Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies between 1988 and 1992 and Head of Sociology from 1994-6. She retired in 2011 but remains a Professor Emeritus at Teesside University.

Aisha GILL (1993-2002, BA, MA PhD) is a senior lecturer in Criminology at Roehampton University. In 2011 she was named Professional Woman of the Year at the Asian Awards ‘and also Alumna of the Year at Essex, 2012.

Diana GITTENS  (Ph.D1979 )   is a writer and poet, with various publications in both prose and poetry. She has been an Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing for the Open University, but is now writing full-time. She has published four works of nonfiction, a collection of poetry, short prose and a number of reviews and essays in various magazines and journals. Her poetry pamphlet, BORK!, came out in May 2013, published by HappenStance Press. Born in the USA, she came to the UK when she 14, where she attended Dartington Hall School and the University of Essex. I also studied at the University of Paris and Bath Spa University. She now lives in Exeter with her partner, two cats and three hens.

Paul GODIN ( 2002 PhD   ) is a Senior Lecturer at City University. His research area highlights mental health care and examines the links between the penal and asylum systems.

Dennis GORMAN (  -1988 PhD ) is Professor and Head of Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Texas A & M University.

Michael HAJIMICHAEL (1979-82, BA) is Assistant Professor in Communications at The University of Nicosia, Cyprus.  He is also a performance poet, radio broadcaster and DJ, known as Haji Mike.

Catherine HAKIM   ( 1974 PhD) became Director of the ESRC Data Archive for one year ( 1989-1990) and in 2013 was a Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Policy Studies. She is the controversial author of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital (2011).

Peter HALFPENNY ( PhD 1976) former Associate Director of MeRC and Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences until September 2010. He was Head of the Department of Sociology from 1993 to 1996, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law in 2003-04, and first Head of the School of Social Sciences for two years after the new University of Manchester was formed by the merger of the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST in 2004. He was Executive Director of the National Centre for e-Social Science from its establishment in 2004 until 2009

Mike HARDEY ( 80’s) taught at Surrey, York  and died unexpectedly in 2012 (see his daughter’s web site and account on:

Gina HARKELL (Social History 1980’s) has become a celebrated jazz singer

Barbara HUDSON ( 1977-198?) became Professor of Criminology at University of South Lancashire. Died September 2013….

Edith R. JIMENEZ  HUERTA  (  PhD1988  )   Research professor, Department of Regional-INESER Studies, University Center for Economic and Administrative Sciences, University of Guadalajara, Mexico

Meltem KARADAG (2004, PhD ) is Associate Professor of Sociology at Gaziantep University, Turkey

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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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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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Garry Potter (1983-2006, PhD) : The Pedagogy of the Oppressed*

Garry Potter (1983-2006)Back in the 1990s I was an angry man, a bitter man, in what at the time was a somewhat unusual relationship to the department. Many, if not most, tutorials were done by Ph.D students; few at that time were done by people like myself who already had Ph.Ds. There were some; but it was not anywhere close to the present situation where my university and department Wilfrid Laurier University rely upon academic casual labour for over one third of all their teaching. Some Canadian universities employ a higher percentage  of “sessionals” than do others; but one third of all teaching is around the national average.

“Casual labour”, that is the concept that would mark the moment in Essex Sociology for which I might be remembered. I wrote and circulated to all faculty and grad students a departing epistle: “Casual Labour: a Few Farewell Remarks from the Department’s Nigger”. I complained about injustice; I attacked polemically members of the faculty; I named with the attempt to shame. I was, as said before, an angry man.

I am, of course, no longer angry; and I look back upon my time at Essex with very great fondness. In addition to teaching there for many years, I also did my Ph.D there. I was around for quite a long time. I learned an awful lot! I had a lot of fun! Many people were very good to me and I have many lasting friendships from the time.

I am now on the other side of the fence, as it were. I am tenured, well paid and secure. I get funded to travel, to buy books and computer equipment. I have a pension, health care and a dental plan. Currently I am on sabbatical, which I consider the very greatest perk in the world. I am lucky!

By that I don’t mean that my present good fortune is wholly undeserved. I have worked hard. I have taught well, and perhaps most of all, I have published. But I am still aware that I am lucky.

Many of my colleagues who teach “part-time” (a serious misnomer of there ever was one – many of them teach twice as many courses as I do; they just get paid a lot less for it) desperately want a full-time tenure track position at Laurier. And they too have worked hard and they have Ph.Ds and many of them have published much. But few of them stand any realistic chance of obtaining a ‘proper’ academic position at Laurier, at Essex  . . . or anywhere.

Many of them are as bitter and angry as I was. An interesting point to note concerning this: more than the poor pay, the lack of an office or a dental plan, the absence of any job security, what these people repeatedly stress as what is the worst thing in their situation is the lack of respect they feel they are receiving. It is further interesting to note by comparison that this is a common theme among casual labourers of all kinds, from Walmart to the academy.

They exist in academia in such numbers because they are a part of the world’s neo-liberal transformation of the university, the MacDonaldization of higher education. The academy is not now, if it ever fully was, a meritocracy. There are meritocratic elements in it but unfairness is also built into it. I just had the misfotune to be among the first of a wave in this process and . . . of course, the good fortune, to personally get out of the situation. Many . . . most . . . will not be so lucky.

I’m going to finish this piece with a quotation by Aimée Morrison posting in a blog directed at contract academic faculty and those who support them.

             The tenured, I am trying to say, can be allies in building a more equitable, more ethical academy. But we will have to detach from our neuroses and our   over-identifications. The contingent and the others who didn’t “win” the game that the tenured did had to learn, however violent the impetus, to detach and think of themselves in new ways. Many of you, dear readers, have done this   and I have learned so much from your writing and your thinking and your actions. It’s time that the tenured take on this process, not of examining the ways the institution has undermined us or let us down, but in the ways that by “succeeding” within it we have become blinded to our own privilege, and still struggle emotionally and psychologically to make ourselves feel like we deserve these privileges so many others don’t have. (Hook and Ery blog Tuesday, November 12, 2013

*  Note: With apologies to the ghost of Paulo Freire but it is in reference to a different situation of pedagogy and a different set of oppressed people that this piece is about than that which Freire was considering. The reference is to what are called in Canada “contract academic faculty” or “sessional lecturers”. I don’t know what their UK equivalents are called now and I didn’t know of any applicable label for my position back when I was one, in this particular ‘moment’ in Essex Sociology’s history.

Garry Potter gained his PhD a Essex in 199 …  and then spent a good few years teaching in the department across many courses but especially the theory courses. He never gained a full lectureship, but moved to Canada where he is Professor of Sociology at Laurier University. He has published widely and most recently….. He is the author of The Bet: Truth in Science, Literature and Everyday Knowledges and also of The Philosophy of Social Science: New Perspectives. He co-edited After Postmodernism with Jose Lopez. More recently he wrote and published Dystopia: What is to be done? and made a documentary film of the same title. The film can be viewed for free and downloaded for educational purposes from the website

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Interview with Peter Townsend


We have put a short extract from a long interview with Peter Townsend on the stories page. Click here…Peter Townsend interview

Here is an even shorter extracts which speaks a little about the troubles of 1968…

The crisis can be seen in large and small terms.   I think, in large terms, there was a sort of revolutionary potential about some of the attitudes and values which we’ve been speaking about, which are a threat to established elites and classes.   It’s almost like saying we were moving too fast into what collective gains and action would mean, and what democratic values, when properly spelt out, would lead to in terms of the organisation of society, including universities.   There was that revolutionary potential, there’s no good getting away from it.   And yet there were smaller issues to do with individual human rights and justice, not smaller in some important particulars of course, but where you can actually obtain restitution and acknowledgement of a dignified position more easily than you can obtain structural change, which is what I was implying a moment ago.   So 1968 was extraordinary, because although, looking back, I’m sure we were, British students were influenced by what was going on on the Continent, it seemed to be something just being taken up in different universities, and certainly students in different universities became very quickly aware of what was going on among them. It started with a protest about Porton Down, and students who attempted to prevent a particular lecture taking place, and the Vice-Chancellor feeling that an example ought to be set, and the student body believing that this was an issue of freedom to protest, and this was such a serious issue that it didn’t fit easily into the customary treatment of protests about other events.   And one thing led to another.   The students were sent down, sent away from the University.   There were appeals, there were protests within the University which escalated to such a degree that a thousand and more people attended some of the assemblies.   I mean, the entire University, including all its staff, attended a few of the meetings.   And this was extraordinary by anyone’s standards, before or since in my career, because although it of course swallowed up time that might otherwise have been given to teaching and learning, and research, it was quite unprecedented to have one’s nose rubbed in the whole business of what kind of society were we living in and working in, and how should it be organised, and who should have a right to have a say, and be involved in a decision that was taken?   And we went through one of these principles after another, and it was very exhilarating, one has to say, I have to say, because it was like going over all the taken-for-granted aspects of professional life, shaking them up, and inviting each of us to re-cast the result.

For more, click on  Peter Townsend Interview

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A new name for our site

We have been asked to change the name of our web site and so for future reference we are now called Stories of Essex Sociology


For the time being we are keeping the same URL, which is  – but this may eventually change too.  We will notify.

We look forward soon to more of your stories….

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Nirmal Puwar, Research Officer 1994-1997

Nirmal is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmith's

Nirmal is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmith’s

I  came to the Sociology Department at Essex in 1994, as a Research Officer on an ESRC project with Prof. John Scott, titled ‘New and Established Elites’.

Essex left an enduring and informative influence on my life.  I was part of a very vibrant department of staff and students. Travis Kong, Lyndsey Moon, Ayesha Gill, Junko Sakia, Miriam Glucksman, Catherine Hall, Vicky Randall, John Scott, Ken Plummer, Ted Benton, Mike Roper, Sean Nixon & Ian Craib made it a lively, heterodox, supportive learning environment. I still remember the shared Sociology common room, coffee trolley and the intellectually charged jolly away weekends  with staff and PG students in Great Yarmouth. The coming together of Judith Butler with Mary McIntosh was a moment full of suspense. So much so that I did not take off my red leather coat while I Chaired this event organised by the student led Gender and Ethnicity Group.

Today I am a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths and Director of the Methods Lab, co-founded with Les Back.  To foreground this approach we have co-edited the book‘Live Methods’ (2012, Sociological Review monograph).  Both Ken Plummer and John Scott have delivered the Annual Methods Lab Lecture here (see

When I came to Essex it was to work on an ESRC project with Prof. John Scott, titled ‘New and Established Elites’.  My fieldwork was conducted in Westminster and Whitehall, where I interviewed over a 100 MPs and senior civil servants. In my analysis, I widened the scope and pushed the boundaries of  political sociology by bringing insights from gender studies, post-colonial theory and cultural geography. From this research  I gained my PhD  – examined by Prof. Miriam Glucksman & Prof. Anne Phillips; and published as the book Space Invaders: race, gender and bodies out of place’ (2004). The Australian political philospher Moira Gatens endorsed the book by saying::

Space Invaders is the book we’ve all been waiting for! Puwar masterfully shows how neither bodies nor the spaces they occupy can be neutral…Her insights are original, her analysis clear and forceful, and the overall result is surprising, convincing and breathtakingly illuminating. Absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in power and politics.”

(For a fuller review by Gatens see Feminist Review :

Different sectors, ranging from science to art, politics and academia have made productive use of the processes highlighted  in my book  – using the concept ‘Space Invaders’ for understanding the co-existence of bodies in spaces which have not been historically or conceptually reserved for them. Perhaps the most well known contemporary globally known figure of the ‘space invader’, has been the arrival of Barack Hussein Obama in the White House in 2008.

As Director of the Methods Lab  I have been working across disciplinary fields towards a creative public sociology that speaks to both academic and non-academic environments.   Developing the notion of ‘curating sociology’  I have  worked with different situations to expand understandings and practices of space invading. The co-edited book with Les Back on ‘Live Methods’ (2012, Sociological Review monograph) foregrounds this approach.

I have also led a number of creative projects activating a sociological imagination in the sense of C W Mills. The most high profile of these has been the AHRC funded Noise of the Past, which involved a public event curated in Coventry Cathedral The attempt to re-route militaristic nationalistic notions of war and memory through the insertion of post-colonial bodies has been central to this project. Noise of the Past launched the award winning film Unravelling, directed by Kuldip Powar with a new score by Nitin Sawhney and, the music performance ‘Post-colonial War Requiem’ composed in spatial dialogue with the live architecture of Coventry Cathedral, a site of both the trauma and memory of war.  The evening screening and performance was compered by the historian Carolyn Steedman and opened by the war correspondent Martin Bell. This public event was proceeded by a conference in the Guildhall, located next to the cathedral, with a key note by the oral historian Alessandro Portelli from Rome.  We now hope to take the project to Dresden,  the city that was blitzed to bits soon ater Coventry Cathedral. To read more, see the Special Issue of The Senses & Society (2011) edited with S. Sharma:

Other projects have included the installation at Goldsmiths of the photographic exhibition ‘Pierre Bourdieu in Algeria: testimonies of uprooted’, which ran alongside a series of seminars and produced the Special Issue on ‘Post-colonial Bourdieu’ for Sociological Review (2009, co-edited with Les Back & Azzedine Haddour).

The theme of space, public sphere & cinema have been articulated around what I have termed as ‘Social Cinema Scenes’ – . This arose after she worked on an exhibition with the Herbert Art Gallery and co-directed the film, with Kuldip Powar, Khabi Ritz, Khabie Palladium, see:

This was followed by two further short films, Coventry Ritz (funded by the BFI) and Cinema III, directed with S.Sharma (funded by the British Academy).

She has also edited ‘Intimacy in Research’ in The History of the Human Sciences (2008) with M. Fraser; South Asian Women in the Diaspora (2003) with P.Raghuram; ‘Orientalism’ for Fashion Theory (2003, English & Brazilian Portuguese) with N. Bhatia; as well as ten issues of the international journal Feminist Review, including celebration Issue 100. She has published on the space of the ‘migrant’ as a figure of fantasy and attachment in the activist journals including Multitudes (2004, in French) and Derrive Approdi (2004, in Italian)

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Farewell to Rob Stones

IMG_1123Rob Stones


In December 2012, Rob Stones sadly left the Department for a post in Australia. He has been at the heart of the department for the last twenty years, and has been at Essex for thirty! He is going to be seriously and much missed.

There were several farewell parties for Rob and below is a little goodbye speech he gave.

There are other things about Rob to come: watch this space!

Thank you for the kind words, and everyone for coming along to say goodbye –

I hope you’ll bear with me, now, through some nostalgic reflections, and a few thank yous.

I’ve worked in the Sociology Department since 1990, but I’ve actually been at Essex University since 1983 when I arrived to study for a PhD in Government. I came here to be supervised by Bob Jessop after reading his article on Recent Theories of the Capitalist State whilst I was taking an MA in Political Sociology at Leeds University – where, as fate would have it, my daughter, Klong, has just finished a degree in Politics and Sociology. There’s something nice about that circle.

When Ja and I first arrived in Colchester in the late September of 83 – parking the car in the town centre on a grey, overcast East Anglian afternoon, it had been 5 years since we’d first met as undergraduates at the University of Bristol. In the interim we’d had the pleasure of spending a good deal of time in Bangkok, and more immediately we’d just enjoyed a hazy summer in a seafront flat in Brighton whilst Ja wrote her dissertation for an MA in International Relations at Sussex.

Before we’d even got out of the car on that gloomy day, we’d agreed that I’d do my PhD in 3 years and then we’d be gone. Those 3 years have clearly gone on much longer than we’d anticipated, and we’re both glad that they have.

After finishing the PhD – I make it sound easier than it was – I was employed for two years as a temporary lecturer in the Government Department (I remember teaching the same first year class 6 times a week) and then I joined the Sociology Department (in 1990), first on a one year contract, for which I’ll always be grateful to Mary McIntosh, and then on a permanent basis.

I’ve been with Sociology ever since – apart, that is, from a period away in the mid 90s when, very generously, the Department, and in particular Ken Plummer as Head of Department, allowed me to take unpaid leave so that I could go back to Thailand with Ja and our two young children, Klong and Pim, as Ja took up a three year post as the country director for Save the Children, Norway.

Leaving aside this brief period of escape, I’ve been part of Essex University for just short of 30 years. So, however long I stay in Sydney, or whatever else I may do after that, I will have spent the lion’s share of my working life here – nothing can now change this.

There was something about the intellectual environment at Essex, particularly in the 80s and 90s, that made moving on unthinkable. As a graduate student and then a young academic it was both exciting and challenging to be in such close proximity to developments that were to put their stamp on the age, intellectually, culturally, and in political debate. I’m not going to say anything more about what these were, as I’d find it hard to stop…..

Intellectual life in the social sciences and humanities at that time was very individualistic in many ways, but this was allied both to a vital degree of intellectual freedom, and to that so, so, important level of social involvement with each other, that there is now less and less time for.

There was also a clear received wisdom, then, about the importance of developing a lifetime intellectual project of one’s own, and about having some time to do this. This is something that I continue to see as the surest way towards truly valuable work, and which has left an indelible mark on how I approach my own writing, research and teaching.

I’ve had a brilliant continuing education here. I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to learn from the teachings and the example of some of the very, very best, and to have had a job in which I’ve looked forward, every day, to coming to work……….. Well, almost every day!

It’s impossible to even begin to sum up nearly thirty years at Essex, but I would like to give you, very briefly, in quick-fire fashion, a series of fragments, snapshots,of some of the memories that came most readily to my mind. If you want a cultural reference point for this,you might want to see it as the highlights of my time in the jungle:

So… Here they are:

There’s the annual departmental graduate conference at Aldeburgh – which has regularly had up to 70 students and staff attending – I’ve loved seeing, especially, how much both the home and the international students get out of this, and also how much the academic staff get out of the dancing;

To choose one of many sporting memories –although in this case I use the term ‘sport’ very loosely – there was the Head of Departments’ running group, 2004-7, which turned out to be relatively exclusive in terms of gender and age, but which featured all shapes and sizes;

Then there was the memory of the crowded table of sociologists and a few fellow travellers from other departments in the Hexagon restaurant at lunchtime on the 22nd November 1990, uncorking a bottle of champagne to celebrate the resignation of Mrs Thatcher;

There’s the near meltdown in the department, in the form of aesthetic outrage, when a Nescafe machine was introduced into the common room;

There’s being verbally abused by a colleague in my office for a full 5 minutes before he realised that there was also a student in the room;

There’s Ken and Ev taking my family to see a musical in London virtually every Christmas for the last fifteen or so years – including one famous time when we met Ted on the train on the way home, when he’d just been to the Red-Green Study Group and we’d been to see Mary Poppins!

Then, finally, there’s Joan’s pre-xmas drinks, to which, I’ve noticed, people can still be invited once they’ve retired or otherwise left the university.

There are so many people I can see here today that I’d like to say thank you to personally, but I won’t do that now. I hope you know who you are and that it will be enough if I say collectively to you that it’s been a privilege working with you over the years, and that I’m honoured to count you amongst my good friends.

I will, though, mention a few of the groups who’ve been an essential part of making life good.

The team at the nursery, Elaine, Donna and all the others, who were just fantastic in caring for Klong and Pim from a few months old to the ages of 4 and 2 when we left for Thailand;

The truly wonderful admin teams in Sociology over the years – who are always at once the really human side of the department, as well as its organizational backbone – and Sue has been a constant here, through it all;

The Social Science Faculty team, who I’ve not spent as much time with as I would have liked, but we still have the Sun Inn on the 19th;

My fellow Deans – calm, level-headed and very tall, and my Associate Dean, Simon Carmel – now to be Acting Dean – together with the formidable group in the Registry who I’ve been working with in the last couple of years, whose good humour and ability to master labyrinthine rules and regulations, and see a way forward, is often humbling, and –one more person I have to mention – Heather Tracey, Academic Officer for the Faculty, who it’s been a delight to work with, and who I can’t believe is still only 25 (if I’m allowed to say that);

All the Undergraduate and Masters’ students through the years, who have given me back at least as much as I’ve given them, and PhD students past and present, so important – always rewarding, who continually remind me of the importance of ideals and principles, and of the buzz of excitement that comes with intellectual discovery;

My close academic friends from Sociology – what can I say? – and those from elsewhere in the university – friends often first made unexpectedly, by happenstance, in coffee breaks during meetings or in extra-curricular spaces such as picking up time at the nursery, parents’ evenings, school fetes, or whilst clutching party bags at one of the many, many birthday celebrations of the primary school years.

I feel immensely privileged to have spent so much of my working life at a university of the kind that Essex has been over these years. At its best, which has been most of the time, it’s been a thoroughly civilised and civilising place to work. There’s a lot I’m going to miss. Thank you……


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John Podgorski, BA 2003

Since leaving Essex I gained a MSc in Passenger Transport Management via a joint CILT/Aston University (distance learning) programme in 2011.

I am currently employed as a training Manager cum bus driver at Hedingham Omnibuses – part of Go Ahead Group PLC. I am also a self-employed tutor in Business (to degree level), Sociology (to A level) and English (GCSE).

Outside work I am a committee member of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT UK) for the Eastern Region and Chair of South Essex sub-group. My other interests include photography, travel, history, theatre, model making, classic vehicles, transport studies, web/computing, personal development/CPD, gender identity, urban decay.

My links:
jrdpod on Flikr, John Podgorski on Linkedin

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