Posts Tagged criminology



Here are some of the unsolicited REVIEWS since the publication of IMAGINATIONS:

Thank you for giving us this precious gift. Leonore Davidoff … Absolutely blown away by the book! A really wonderful achievement. The photographs are especially wonderful! Sean Nixon… It is a fitting celebration of a departmental jewel in the Essex crown. Anthony Forster…What a splendid achievement! I have only so far had the opportunity to read here and there, but enough to know how rewarding it is going to be to work through it. Alasdair MacIntyre… It looks great and will be a lasting memory of the department. Sue Aylott …Will be a landmark book in the history of the University. David Lane … It is truly a major compilation. Peter Abell… It is BRILLIANT. It is so well produced and the pics are wonderful. Miriam Glucksmann… I think the book is splendid! It’s Wonderfully designed and full of fascinating reflections on a department I am proud to have been a member of. David Rose… Congratulations once again for the book. It is a reflection of your passion for sociology and sociology at Essex but also a contribution to wider sociological discussions! Carlos Gigoux… Congratulations on producing an excellent volume that brings back very many and all sorts of memories as well as posing many questions – especially where are they now? Adrian Sinfield…The book is splendid. Anthony Woodiwiss … Even though I had high expectations of the book, it really is a triumph, a fantastic thing… and I have barely dipped into it. It really is a thing of beauty. Rowena Macaulay…The book looks great. It is a pretty comprehensive view of ‘the department’, and is really impressive because it’s so unique. Colin Samson … I’ve been thinking about the Essex Sociology 50 Years book, and marveling that you’ve managed to put it together. I’m so pleased it exists, and I’m sure there are so many other people who feel exactly the same. Rob Stones

Copies are best ordered through

The Wivenhoe Bookshop by phone 01026 824050; by e mail; or web site:

Directly from Ken Plummer through

Or Waterstones, the Essex University Bookshop by phone: 01206 864773  or email: essexuni@waterstones. com

Publication price: £25.00

With post and packing in UK £30.00  Overseas will have to add extra.

ISBN: 9780957085046; 208pp, 50 contributors.

It can also be ordered though Amazon but they will, as we know, effectively take all the money!

And here is A CONTENTS GUIDE to the book

CONTENTS: Introduction: Ken Plummer 1. Contexts – Creating Essex Sociology-A Timeline of Memorable Moments Peter Townsend’s Founding Vision – Transforming Visions for a Twenty First Century. 2. Formations The Early History: Joan Busfield: Remembering Early Days – Adrian Sinfield: The Challenge of Social Policy – Geoffrey Hawthorn; A New Lecturer’s View – Christel Lane: A Student’s View: Undergraduate Study During The University’s Early Years: 1968–1972 – David Bouchier: From Student to Staff: David Bouchier (1968–1986)- Making Troubles – David Lane:1968 – Michael Mann: Troubles of 1974- Judith Okely: The 1989 Czech ‘Velvet Revolution’ As Experienced At Essex 3. Wisdoms Imagining Social Justice: Creating Better Social Worlds For All Introduction.- Michael Harloe: On Peter Townsend’s Poverty – Stan Cohen: Remembering Harold Wolpe – Lydia Morris: Human Rights – Michael Bailey: Public Activism Research Imaginations: Creating Multiple Methods For Sociology Introduction: Unlimited Research – Peter Abell: Whatever Happened to Mathematical Sociology? – David Rose: The Origins of The Institute for Economic and Social Research ISER – Heather Laurie: ISER: So What Happened Next?- Louise Corti: The Creation of Qualidata Mark Harvey: Centre for Economic and Social Innovation Comparative Imaginations: Building An International Sociology Introduction. Alison Scott: On the School of Comparative Studies -Ayse Güveli: The Gains and Changes of Migration- Interdisciplinary Imaginations: Broadening The Scope of Sociology Alasdair MacIntyre: Philosophy in the Sociological Conversation 1960−1970 – Michael Roper: Social and Gender History Ken Plummer: Making the Person Matter – Karl Figlio: The Creation of the Centre for Pychoanalytic Studies – Eamonn Carrabine: Imagining Crime – Sean Nixon: The Moment of Cultural Studies – Michael Halewood: Theory in the Department – Colin Samson: Sociology, Neoliberalism and the Struggle to Keep the Interdisciplinary Spirit Alive 4. Communities Remembering Communities John Scott: Coming Home – Rob Stones: The 1990s in the Essex Sociology Department: A Personal Point of View- Mary McIntosh says goodbye Miriam Glucksmann: Remembering the 1990s – Building The Educational Community: The Great Sociological Conversation Rowena Macaulay: Twenty Years of Departmental Support: The Student Resource Centre – The Office Community Mary Girling & Paul Thompson: Reflections of a Departmental Secretary – The Global Community From South Africa: From Hong Kong: From India – The Web Site Community The Long Community Nigel South 5. Futures Looking Ahead Voices: Professors Voices: Former students- Refelctions: Telling stories of Essex Sociology- Epilogue And Reprise: The Last Refuge – Suggestions for Further Reading – Index Focus Boxes: The heads of department -The Vice-Chancellors -The expansion and transformations of Essex- Profile of an early student – The professors – Social class and David Lockwood – Seeking gender justice – feminism in sociology – A red-green revolution? – Moments of oral history at Essex: From Gay Liberation to “Sexualities” and Intimate Citizenship- Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so research areas and their books – Evaluating the quality of research – Some of the most cited books in the department – Focus On Public Lecture Series: The Fuller Lectures – Focus on Dennis Marsden – Honorary degrees – Consolidating the canon: The textbook tradition at Essex – Student numbers at Essex – Focus on the Rise of Teaching Assistants – Focus on the Essex newsletters and journals: The reading and writing community – Managing the department: The Secretaries – Paul Thompson remembers Brenda Corti- More stories of Essex Sociology- Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so books published by graduates and researchers – Focus on Essex’s Legacy: Some Fifty or so graduates and researchers who became ‘Essex’ Professors – Sociology in the Media: Pam Cox- Handing our stories on.

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Omolou Soyombo (1988-91:Ph D)



Prof. Omololu Soyombo I had a wonderful and fulfilling experience at the University of Essex during the period of my Ph.D. (Sociology) degree programme (1988 to 1991). The purpose of my going abroad for study was fulfilled in every sense, as I not only completed and obtained the Ph.D. degree of the University, but also had the opportunity of studying in and experiencing the academic system of a world-class university. I returned to Nigeria with a good understanding of how the academic system should work. The mentorship by my main supervisor (Ken Plummer) has remained indelible since my stay in Essex, and I try to put the experience into practice with my supervisees from time-to-time. At Essex, I was exposed to a student-focused and student-friendly academic system. There are quite a number of things for which I still use the University of Essex as a reference point/model of what and how things should be done. The egalitarian system I was exposed to in Essex is also worthy of note – common toilets, common cafeteria, common bars, etc. for staff and students. This is yet to be achieved in our university system in Nigeria.

Coming to Essex was my first trip outside Nigeria and away from familiar people and environment. However, I must say that the students’ office in the University then helped the quick settlement and integration of foreign students through various organized tours and invitations by social associations.

I cannot also forget my stay in Eddington Flat 7, Room 2 (1988 to 1989) and my good flatmates, although there was the initial cultural shock in terms of social interaction and greeting. Coming from a cultural background in which greeting is a common feature (people greet at all times and several times in a day), it was shocking greeting some people without a response or acknowledgment! Initially, I thought people were being unfriendly, but I later got to understand it was just a matter of cultural difference, as interaction with them at other levels showed that they were quite friendly, accommodating and cooperative.

The staff (teaching and non-teaching staff of the Department of Sociology were wonderful, with the administrative staff demonstrating a very commendable level of administrative efficiency for the smooth running of the Department.

Finally, is the wonderful experience I had with my supervisors (Professor (then Dr.) Ken Plummer – my main supervisor, and then Dr. Anthony Woodiwiss (my second supervisor). In this regard, I must also mention the initial cultural shock in my interaction with Ken Plummer, who encouraged and prodded me to simply call him “Ken” instead of formally addressing him as “Dr. Plummer”. This was not very easy initially, especially coming from a hierarchically structured cultural background. However, this surely helped to enhance the establishment of a good relationship with him and others in the Department.

It is therefore a great pleasure to formally express appreciation to the University of Essex for the remarkable experience I had in the University and to join others in congratulating the University on the celebration of its golden jubilee anniversary of remarkable educational service.

Omololu Soyombo

Professor of Sociology and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences,

University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

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Maurice Punch (1965-6; 1968-75, BA, PhD, Lecturer)


Scannen0001;my foto

After a History degree at Exeter and a PGCE in London I taught in a secondary school. During the PGCE I enjoyed the Sociology of Education and found Education and the Working-Class by Jackson and Marsden (1962) particularly illuminating. I had no idea that I would be taught by Dennis Marsden, would work with him at Essex and become a close friend. Sadly he died in 2009 after a long illness but I was able to visit him and Jean (Duncombe) a number of times in his last years. At a memorial symposium at Essex on his work colleagues referred to this book as graphically illustrating their mobility through education laced with class ambivalence – which was also my experience.

One day at school I saw an advertisement in The Times Educational Supplement for a Master’s in Sociology at Essex, applied and was accepted in 1965. The university was brand new and the student population tiny – my year was the second cohort – and the campus buildings were under construction. Almost none of the students had a background in Sociology and neither had many of the staff. There was an emphasis on Social Policy given that Peter Townsend was the founding father and he recruited people, including Adrian Sinfield and Dennis Marsden, with a Fabian engagement with class and social problems. Classes were small and the teaching mostly engaging although Parsonian functionalism didn`t much appeal to me: we had no idea that Geoffrey Hawthorn was new at the game and was struggling with his burden of teaching (as he explains in an interview). My focus was on the Sociology of Education and my thesis was on boarding schools. On graduation I started a PhD at Cambridge on that topic but for various reasons transferred back to Essex where I had an exemplary supervisor in Geoffrey Hawthorn. In 1970 I was offered a lectureship and taught several courses including the Sociology of Education with Dennis. Then in 1975 I moved to The Netherlands, initially for a few years but my stay has become permanent. My wife Corry is Dutch and I had spent a sabbatical period at the University of Amsterdam in 1973: the contacts made then led later to an offer to teach in the University of Utrecht.

Looking back I would say that Essex was remarkable in that it attracted staff from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines but, given that many of them were gifted and productive, it soon became a leading Sociology department not only in the UK but also in Europe. In those early years there was Peter Townsend, David Lockwood, Mary McIntosh (from 1975), Alan Ryan, Peter Abel, George Kolankiewicz, Dennis Marsden, Geoffrey Hawthorn, David Lane, Adrian Sinfield, Colin Bell, Michael Mann, Joan Busfield, Ted Benton, Paul Thompson and Alistair McIntyre (some of whom have passed away). It was largely a man`s world but the gender imbalance started to be rectified from then on. There was little academic ritual, a low sense of  hierarchy and the general atmosphere was one of trendy newness. At the same time there was a strong culture of stimulating and rewarding research and publications but without the performance pressures of recent years in UK universities. This was a golden age of individual freedom and few administrative burdens: most people set their own agendas and could, unhindered, use the summer vacation and sabbaticals for research and writing. Predatory publishers stalked the corridors forcing contracts and advances on us. Given the smallness and newness and that quite a few staff lived in Wivenhoe with young families, there were generally amicable relationships and frequent socializing – including on the Wivenhoe quayside on Sunday afternoon. We also played cricket, football and squash and on Saturdays some of us went with to watch football at Ipswich. For me it was a busy time of starting a family, preparing classes and trying to get something published.

The philosophy of the university was innovative – with few of the trappings of the traditional universities – as the Vice-Chancellor boldly proclaimed in the BBC Reith Lectures (Sloman: 1963). Unfortunately its foundation coincided with student radicalism and Essex attracted certain students – some now peers of the realm – who unsettled the benign culture with  demonstrations, intimidation of staff, rent-strikes and sit-ins. There were problems with drug use, theft, damage to property and guest speakers being shouted down. Students occupied the administration building with access to confidential staff and student files and to the keys of the offices: rooms were entered, there was some pilfering (including of research data) and all the locks had to be changed. Later conservative politicians and newspapers called for Essex to be closed down. So those were interesting times with never a dull day.

Particularly disturbing for a university were student “strikes” with the barricading of lecture theatres to prevent students attending classes. On one occasion a student resolutely climbed over a barrier and found he was alone with Alistair McIntyre. Both agreed they wouldn`t allow intimidation to restrict their freedom and McIntyre gave him a private master-class on Philosophy. The student was Geoffrey Markham who was one of the Essex police officers studying full-time. Sending officers to university for three years was a considerable investment at that time but Essex was a forward looking force. The scheme continued for some years, became  part-time and was later supervised by Maggy Lee. I became friendly with some of these officers and this began to shift my research interest to policing. Years later together with Maggy I interviewed some of them and invariably the experience of studying enhanced their professionalism and their career (Lee and Punch: 2005).

Indeed, Markham maintains that the degree has been crucial throughout his career and to his performance as a highly-regarded officer who reached high rank. Most of the police graduates stayed in the force and did well. For instance, Ralph Crawshaw studied Politics and returned to the university after retirement, took a Masters in Human Rights Law and has become an authority in the field. He writes of how stimulating it was to be taught by Ivor Crewe, Mike Freeman and Ian Budge and that the “whole experience was quite transforming”. It helped him do some things differently in the police service as he`d been made aware of the power of the state and abuse of that power. This led him directly to human rights and after graduating he decided that he would go back to the university once he`d reached pensionable age “primarily because the whole process had been so stimulating and rewarding”. Clearly attending university was of great value to him and others. I`m plainly biased – both Geoffrey and Ralph have been  instrumental in helping me with my police research and publications and we have remained friends ever since – but I believe the scheme was positive for both the Essex Police and the university. And it should be acknowledged in the institutional memory.

But in the radical early 1970s there was deep suspicion of the police presence on campus. For example, at one stage after several weeks of students blocking access to the campus, the police moved in and arrested over a 100 students. The police were led by one of the Essex graduates. Then disinformation appeared in the press that the officer had been planted in the university and had not honestly attained his first-class degree. This was typical of the antagonism to the police in general at that time, some of which rubbed off on me. Moreover, what actually happened when the blockade was broken has become distorted with memory: for a previous contributor to this site wrote – perhaps on hearsay – that, during the stand-off between students and the police at the blockade, Peter Townsend interceded and calmed matters down. That is not quite what happened. The students had been blocking access to the campus for weeks and eventually an Assistant Chief Constable met with the VC and others and firmly informed them that, although this was private property, it was intolerable that illegal conduct was restricting people`s freedom and the police would have to intervene. I`m sure Peter did his utmost to resolve the situation and avoid confrontation but, with fuel and supplies running short, the decision had already been taken. When the police contingent arrived Sociology staff inserted themselves between the police and students as a kind of deescalating buffer. But Howard Becker was giving a staff seminar that afternoon and suddenly nearly all the staff disappeared except for me. The students refused to give way, the police moved in and made the arrests when there was any resistance: after some scuffling it was soon over.

There was, then, a downside to that first decade at Essex but it was also an exciting period of innovative research and impressive productivity. Furthermore, it was typical of the eclecticism that there was the social historian Paul Thompson pioneering oral history and organizing fascinating field-trips; Stan Cohen enthusiastically promoting the Sociology of Deviance; and Colin Bell and Howard Newby reinventing Agricultural Sociology. However, the rather idyllic early years of pioneering and amicable solidarity started to wane as people of different academic and theoretical plumage joined the faculty and there were hefty doctrinal disputes that diminished the emphasis on Social Policy.

For several reasons I felt that I had to spread my wings. There were frustrations as I was low in the pecking order, would remain second to Dennis if I stayed in the education field (and he spent the rest of his career at Essex) and I was experiencing difficulties with the sponsors of my PhD research on former pupils of Dartington Hall School. The Trustees of the “progressive” Dartington enterprise endeavoured to restrict access to my PhD – Peter Townsend flatly refused to countenance that – and prevent publication of my findings (cf Punch: 1979, 1986). But I badly needed a publication and wrote  an article for the BJS without asking their permission which led to irate missives from Devon but fortunately, after some grovelling, they were not followed by a writ. So when an application to the Home Office for police research was turned down I decided to move abroad, originally for a short period.

But I look back at that period in Essex as one of remarkably productive achievement in innovative and quality scholarship: and which in a very short period of time, and reinforced by later cohorts of talented academics, developed a leading department of Sociology. There were equally strong faculties of Politics, Economics and Law – with a leading Human Rights Centre – that could muster their own line-up of star performers.

Finally, the Essex I left in 1975 was still small with predominantly British staff and students, while Colchester was a dull, grey garrison town. Thanks to the internet a Brazilian student of the time (Julio Grieco) contacted me recently and wrote about how cold the place was and how awful the food. The architecture of Mediterranean palazzos was certainly not geared to North Sea gales and the cuisine served in Wivenhoe House was of Fawlty Towers quality. Then through meeting Nigel South at a conference over a decade ago I began teaching again at Essex but in the Law School with Jim Gobert. I was amazed that there were people around from way back. Mary Girling was still the Secretary in Sociology and the old squash-ladder lay in a corner.

But Colchester had gone through a major make-over. And the university had expanded considerably, the resources and infrastructure (including for languages and for sport) had improved immensely, there was a rich cosmopolitan diversity of students and faculty, vibrant summer schools were taking place, new departments had arisen and Sociology was scoring high on the RAE. And although the northerly wind could still howl across the squares the catering had progressed greatly, at least by British standards.

Lee, M. and Punch, M. (2006) Policing by Degrees  (Groningen: Hondsrug Pers)

Punch, M. (1979) Progressive Retreat (Cambridge: Cambridge University  Press)

Punch, M. (1986) Politics and Ethics of Field Work (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage)


Amstelveen, The Netherlands.


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Jackie Turton (1992- BA, PhD, Lecturer)


Unknown-1I remember that starting a degree in the sociology department as a mature student filled me with a mixture of dread and excitement. A constant buzz of adrenalin that I had been given permission to stop the day job and study. An underlying fear that I would not ‘make the grade’. And while the memory of those early days is fading, the emotions the change in my life provoked remain.

The sociology department at Essex has dominated my working life since the early 1990s – it has been exciting; it has been stimulating and it has been challenging; what more could you ask?



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Barbara Hudson, Essex PhD 1982

In Memoriam

Unknown-3 Unknown-4Barbara Hudson, a much loved graduate student in the department in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, has died unexpectedly.  Ken Plummer recalls her as a truly lively and engaged student who loved Gadamer and Criminology!  She added hugely to the life of the department during her time here, was a much loved teacher, and a lively stalwart of the Labour Party. She returned to give a 40th anniversary lecture in the department ten years ago, by which time she was Professor of Criminology.

She wrote to Ken Plummer in January to express her sadness at the deaths of Mary McIntosh, and her beloved supervisor Stan Cohen:

“I am now retired and have that strange Emeritus Professor status.  Still doing a bit of writing and a few lectures.  I’ve had a wonderful experience of spending a month or so in Brazil every year for seven years, working with the Ministerio Publico in the state of Parana, and doing some teaching on a Masters course in law and human rights.  And I’ve also been involved in a research project with Oslo, which seems to be carrying forward the critical criminology of Nils and Thomas.  Apart from this, I’m growing roses and doing water colour paintings.  I’ve been very happily living with Harry since 1985, which seems a miracle given the ups and downs of my time in Colchester”.

Eamonn Carrabine commented:

It is with great sadness that we learnt of Barbara’s sudden death on Monday September 9th. For over three decades she has been at the forefront of shaping debates in and around the sociology of punishment. At the core of her work is a deep and abiding interest in social justice, and her more recent work remained committed to challenging inequalities by focussing on the construction of difference, the criminalisation of migration and the questions posed by security since 9/11.

The message we received about her death said:

I am very sad to inform you that on Monday afternoon (9th September) Barbara Hudson died suddenly whilst on holiday in Greece.  Barbara was not only an enormous influence and inspiration for members of the European Group over the last three decades but also a close personal friend to many.  Her untimely death has come as a terrible shock and her family have asked for privacy for the next few days.  I realise that many people will want to send their condolences and also wish to know about funeral arrangements.  The European Group want to commemorate Barbara in accordance with the wishes of her family and so we will send you further details regarding how members can send condolences in the coming days.  Barbara was a wonderful person who possessed not only a remarkable intellect but also a wonderful sense of compassion and understanding for others.  She will be greatly missed by very many people.


European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control

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Stanley Cohen, Professor 1974-1981. Died January 2013.

Stan Cohen,Professor of Sociology, University of Essex 1972-1981

Stan Cohen,
Professor of Sociology, University of Essex 1972-1981

Stan Cohen arrived at Essex in 1972 – and became the 4th Professor of Sociology between 1974 and 1981. He chaired the department between 1974 and 1978, and after this he spent most of his time on leave at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He was a kind and influential figure in the  in the formative yeas of the department – not least in bringing the sociology of  deviance as  a critique of criminology to the department.  Years later, it was reinstated as ‘criminology’ and now it attracts the largest group of students in the department.

He also was  a pioneer in the field of human rights.

Stan left Essex over thirty years ago but he will always be remembered as an intellectual giant and an inspirational force: he changed lives.

There have been many obituaries to Stan.

We have downloaded The Guardian obituary on our obituaries page.

Y0u can also connect up with the oration given when he was awarded an honorary degree at Essex in 2004.

Here is the statement issue from the London School of Economics where he went in 1996 and was Emeritus on his death:

Professor Bridget Hutter, Head of the Department of Sociology, expressed the sorrow of colleagues from the Department upon learning the very sad news that Stan Cohen, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at LSE, passed away on the morning of Monday 7 January 2013 after a long illness.

Stan had a long and distinguished career. He grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and was an undergraduate sociology student at the University of Witwatersrand. He left in 1963 for London where he completed his doctorate at the London School of Economics while working as a social worker. He lectured in sociology at the University of Durham and then the University of Essex, where he was Professor of Sociology from 1974.

In 1980, Stan and his family left Britain to live in Israel. He was Director of the Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and also became active in human rights work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He returned to LSE as a visiting centennial professor in 1994 and in 1996 was appointed Martin White Professor of Sociology. He has received the Sellin-Glueck award from the American Society of Criminology and in 1998 was elected as a fellow of the British Academy.

Stan Cohen has written about criminological theory, prisons, social control, criminal justice policy, juvenile delinquency, mass media, political crime and human rights violations. His books include:

  • Images of Deviance (1971);
  • Folk Devils and Moral Panics: the making of the mods and rockers (1972);
  • Psychological Survival: the experience of long-term imprisonment (with Laurie Taylor) 1973;
  • Escape Attempts (with Laurie Taylor), 1977;
  • The Manufacture of News (with Jock Young) 1977;
  • Social Control and the State (with Andrew Scull) 1983; and
  • Visions of Social Control (1985); and Against Criminology (1988).

His most recent book, States of Denial: knowing about atrocities and suffering (Polity Press, 2001), dealt with personal and political reactions to information, images and appeals about inhumanities, cruelty and social suffering. States of Denial was chosen as Outstanding Publication of 2001 by the International Division of the American Society of Criminology and was awarded the 2002 British Academy Book Prize.

The 30th anniversary edition of Cohen’s classic Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Routledge) came out in 2002. In the introduction, he reviewed the uses of the concept of ‘moral panics’ in the 30 years since 1972.

Stan was awarded Honorary Doctorates by the University of Essex (2004) and Middlesex (2008) and in 2010 was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the LSE. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Achievement Award of the British Society of Criminology.

Bridget Hutter adds: “The Department was so fortunate in having Stan join us in 1996. His health was by then ailing but his intellectual vitality was ever present. He came to us as one of the world’s leading criminologists and his criminological work and theories of social control remain highly influential. Some of us were very privileged to work with Stan, in my case on MSc Criminology in the late 1990s, and also later sharing our experiences of setting up interdisciplinary research centres in the School. We will all miss him and send our condolences and fond memories to his family.”

While in the Department Stan was also absolutely fundamental to the establishment of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at LSE in 2000 and establishing a central sociological presence in the human rights field. Stan was a wonderful and generous human being. In many ways, he was the heart of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights. He will be deeply missed even as his vision and his work continue to influence and shape the Centre.

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Karim Murji, BA1983





When Ken Plummer invited me to contribute to this site my first thought was to describe my somewhat accidental journey into sociology, and to a lesser extent, into academia. Then I read Toby Miller’s account of his academic career in The Times Higher. Like. David Bouchier’s contribution to this site, it made me think that perhaps the unplanned and the accidental may actually be rather common. Maybe we should look for people who have a straightforward path into sociology! Indeed, the Sociology department at the Open University where I have worked since 2000 contains few people who actually have a first degree in sociology. There are many distinguished sociologists who come from ‘somewhere else’. But, like at least one of those people, my own tale contains a little twist to add to the mix.

When I arrived at Essex I was registered for a degree in biochemistry. This lasted less than a term and half as it finally dawned on me that science was not my future. I’m not sure who suggested I go and speak with Paul Thompson, but I think and hope it was the lovely, and sadly late, Pat Ready, who worked in the Students Union. Paul, then the head of department, was kind and asked why I would be interested in sociology (I had done it at A level). Once he felt I was genuine he was very helpful in easing the way for me to do so. Although I had not thought about leaving, that meeting became one of the main reasons I stayed at Essex rather than starting a Sociology degree elsewhere.

In retrospect, I realise the department was then in some kind of transition. Stan Cohen was still nominally a member of staff but was away in Israel and left before I got to take his deviance course. Peter Townsend taught his social structure course but also left in that time. In those days Sociological Analysis I and II (Can they still be going? When were they replaced?) were the cornerstone of the Sociology degree I can still recall the tutorial like system with Joan Busfield and three other students as we ploughed through Giddens’ (which spell checkers read as giddiness as Tony Woodiwiss memorably pointed out) Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. I can also recall being taught by Ian Craib, Dennis Marsden, Nicky Hart, and Michael Harloe. And in Ken’s deviance course I first came across Michel Foucault, probably the first sign of the break with the classical tradition we had been learning. Years before the RAE/REF and ‘research intensive’ universities, Essex sociology was an intellectually vibrant place full of academics doing fascinating and cutting edge research.

The deviance course was one of the reasons I opted to go on to LSE (rather than Kent where I was offered a studentship) and from there the tale changes from an accidental journey into one of Essex connections after Essex. At LSE I took a social theory course with Michael Mann. A few years later my second job, in drugs and criminological and social policy research, I worked with Nigel South (and I wish I could then have predicted where he would end up!). At that time, Nigel, another colleague and I were invited to provide some sessions for an MA Deviance, Stigma and Control course, my first reacquaintance with Essex and the initially odd experience of finding myself on the other side of the seminar room. And a decade or so later while I was on the BSA executive committee I found myself coming across Joan Busfield (who was the president of the BSA at the time).

The early expansion of criminology provided opportunities for jobs in academia and I taught that for most of the 1990s, mainly at Roehampton. In that decade I even tried to get a job at Essex. While I was waiting in the common room, Tony Woodwisss (then head of department) charmingly introduced himself by asking if I remembered him (rather than the other way round as it should have been)! Although that was not be, it was a pleasure to meet the department again, including the redoubtable Mary Girling who had been helpful to me and so many other students in our time there.

In recent years, research on policing and race and racism has led me to other Essex connections of people from subsequent decades such as Aisha Gill and Nasar Meer. Nowadays in the age of Facebook that is the main route to connections with my peer group and their varied careers – from youth work to law, academia, teaching and social work – and the many interesting other things they do outside of that. As the University approaches its 50th anniversary I know we all look back fondly on Essex as a key moment in our lives, the influence of which lives on.


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Sad News: The deaths of Stan Cohen and Mary McIntosh

Mary McIntosh c.1971We have sadly learned over the past few days of the death of two former members of staff who played a significant role in the life of the department.

Stan Cohen and Mary McIntosh

Stan Cohen was the fourth appointed Professor in the department and was chair in the mid 1970’s.

Mary McIntosh came to the department in the mid 1970’s and retired in the mid 1990’s. She was the first woman Chair of the department between 1996-1999.

They have both played a major role in their fields and will be much missed. We will honour them in detail on these pages in a little while.

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Liz Carter, PhD 2009

Image of Liz Carter, who completed her PhD in 2009

I studied for 10 years at Essex, completing a BA Psycholinguistics (2002), MA Criminology (2004), MA Criminological Research (2005) and finally PhD in Sociology in 2009.

I work full time as a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Buckinghamshire New University, I am an active member of the Forensic Linguist community and I also take on criminological and forensic linguistic consultancy and deliver police training in interviewing techniques. I’ve recently published a book – Carter, E. (2011)’Analysing police interviews: Laughter, confessions and the tape’. London: Continuum, which was awarded the ‘Criminology Book Prize 2012’ from the British Society of Criminology.

I enjoy an active life to balance out all those hours I spend transcribing and analysing data! I rock climb, run (all distances, but prefer mid and long distance races), and have started taking up the silks and trapeze in circus skills training. I also like to bake and have started a small business called Little Little to sell my cakey goodies.

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Alumna of the Year 2012, Aisha Gill

Alumna of the year 2012, Dr Aisha Gill,Alumna of the year 2012, Dr Aisha Gill, celebrating her award, together with fellow former students (immediately adjacent: Oonagh Corrigan and Tabitha Freeman) and staff members Miriam Glucksman (far left) and Lydia Morris (far right)

In 2012 former student Dr. Aisha Gill, who completed her BA, MA and PhD within the department over a period of 10 years (1993-2002), was awarded Alumna of the Year for her academic work and activism in the field of gender-based violence against black, minority ethnic and refugee (BMER) women in the UK, Iraqi Kurdistan and India.

Oration by Professor Nigel South

Aisha Gill studied for her BA, MA and PhD degrees here in the Department of Sociology at Essex – and was awarded her doctorate in 2002.

Today Aisha is a senior lecturer in Criminology at Roehampton University and a respected academic and activist in the areas of health and criminal justice responses to violence against black, minority ethnic, and refugee women in the UK.

Her work has been recognised by many awards. In 2011 she was named “Professional of the Year” at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards – which recognise professionals who have become leading practitioners in their chosen field, setting an example to other women and having their contributions recognised by their peers.

She has also received the Hind Rattan Award in the field of education in January 2011; a United Nations, Division for the Advancement of Women, Award to enable attendance at an Expert Group Summit on ‘Legislation to Address Harmful Practices’, in Ethiopia in 2009; and Research Council Scholarships and the Fuller Bequest Project prize while a student here at Essex. And, in addition, an award of some significance at the time, from the Home Office Police Research Innovation Scheme in 1997 marked at the end of the project by a meeting with the Home Secretary of the day.

Aisha has served on numerous government working parties on “honour” killings and forced marriage, and written about how the civil and criminal justice systems of the UK, India and Iraqi Kurdistan respond to victims in these cases.

She has been involved in addressing the problem of Violence Against Women at the grassroots level for the past thirteen years. She is a board member of the ‘End Violence Against Women’ Coalition; an elected member of the Women’s National Commission, United Nations Advisory Group; invited advisor to the Independent Police Complaints Commission strategic support group; a member of Liberty’s Project Advisory Group; a member of Kurdish Women’s Rights Watch; a past chair of Newham Asian Women’s Project; and a board member of ROSA, the UK Fund for women and girls.

She has been a frequent provider of expert advice on legal and policy issues related to ‘honour’ killings and forced marriage to Government departments including the Ministry of Justice, to Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service and to the voluntary sector, and has challenged politicians to be more inclusive of Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee voices in policy-making on issues of gender-based violence and human rights.

Her current research interests include rights, law and forced marriage; ‘honour’ killings and violence in the South Asian/Kurdish Diaspora and femicide in Iraqi Kurdistan and India. She has published widely in academic journals and books and is often in the news as a commentator or contributor to mainstream popular media.

That I think is the background to the award – but if I may I would like to add a few personal comments as I was Aisha’s academic supervisor throughout her years here at Essex.

In this capacity I was privileged to see a young scholar undertaking a journey through difficult and new areas of research and politics – from tentative but brave steps in an undergraduate dissertation to the pioneering work of her PhD thesis. It is important to recognise that when Aisha started her work on the subject of honour killings and violence it did not attract much serious attention from academics, the media or from policy makers or public services.

Whenever opportunities arose to enter the ‘Lion’s Den’ of sceptics or the unsympathetic – in order to present her findings and make her case – Aisha always rose to the challenge. And though the proverbial Lions might have been fierce beasts – my money was always on Aisha.

And she has continued in this vein – campaigning, challenging and changing – and, in terms of what the Government would like to see social science research doing – she has been making an impact and a difference to the world we live in.

We are proud of her achievements.

Response from Aisha Gill

I arrived at Essex University in 1993 and never looked back.

Growing up in the 1980s in an inner-city area in the East Midlands meant dealing with racism, poverty, social exclusion and various other inequalities on a day-to-day basis. Having five siblings didn’t help. Neither did the fact that I was not expected to do well educationally. When I got suspended from school at age 14 for clowning around in the playground, my father’s belief that I was a hopeless case was cemented.

A few years later, in order to assert my independence I had to leave home. At the time, 17-year-old Asian women did not go against their family’s wishes and make their own choices. But I did… and was subsequently disowned by my immediate family. I had no contact with them for over a decade. This rejection stirred my anger and I channelled all rage into my education.

Living in bedsit-land for 3 years in Bedford, I put myself through evening classes, passed my GCSES and started studying for my A-levels thank to support from charities and my local education authority. When I applied to Essex University, Dr Colin Samson interviewed me and I was offered a place on the condition that I got a C in Sociology. Of course I accepted, but I was determined to get an A – which I did.

I remember my first term being quite scary as I found it hard to settle into such a different lifestyle among so many students from different corners of the world. As the end of the first term approached, I began feeling increasingly anxious as I was one of the very few ‘home’ students who did not have a home to go to at Christmas.

Instead, I made Essex my home. To take my mind off my troubles, I undertook my first stint of charity work that December with a Colchester-based homeless charity. I used this experience as the foundation for my first year research project and got a 1st. Although this mark of success was hugely rewarding, more important was the fact that I’d discovered a passion for something that made a real, practical difference to other people’s lives.

I soon started working in the violence against women sector… and never stopped. I remained at Essex for my MA and then my PhD as I was lucky enough to receive scholarships to get me my through my studies. During this time, I decided to devote my research work to changing society’s responses to violence against women: my mother’s generation never had the support and so had suffered in silence.

By this time my close friends Tabz, Winks and Oonagh had become my surrogate family at Essex. Like a true family, they supported my passion for this work and, in 2002, together we raised £2,000 for a domestic violence charity. This was partly thanks to a generous donation from another friend who, although initially keen to sell his car before he left for Saudi Arabia, was persuaded to give it to me for free to be raffled off at the summer ball ‘in a good cause’.

Essex University gave me a fantastic foundation for a career as an academic, a teacher, and as an activist, together centred on the desire to throw light on difficult social problems in order to nurture change. Since leaving in 2002 and joining the University of Roehampton, I’ve continually challenged misconceptions about violence against women and encouraged politicians to listen to the views of black, minority ethnic and refugee women when developing policy. My research has also helped to expose some of the many ways in which women around the world are victimised through violence, including in the UK, India and Iraqi Kurdistan, where I was involved in a two year project investigating the murder of women in the name of ‘honour’. I have also been instructed as an expert witness in a number of so-called honour killing murder trials in recent years and have contributed to drafting legislation on VAW for the United Nations and the UK government. In September 2011 I was promoted to Reader in Criminology at the University of Roehampton where I teach a wide range of modules in criminology and supervise undergraduate and graduate dissertations. I remember Essex as a great place to learn. And I pay tribute to some of the intellectual ‘giants’ in the Department of Sociology – Colin Samson, Ken Plummer, Catherine Hall, Miriam Glucksmann and Nigel South. I could not have asked for better academic training, so it is wonderful to be acknowledged in this way. It is an absolute honour to receive this recognition.

For those of you graduating today who are interested in research and want to make a difference in the world, I urge you to remain steadfast. Getting a degree is only the beginning. Enjoy this special day. Celebrate with your loved ones and make the most of the opportunities cultivated here with your friends and lecturers to go for it. Education is power and opens so many doors. You just have to believe in yourself.

So, from the bottom of my heart – the only way is Essex!


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