Posts Tagged culture

Mahmood SHAHABI (1994 -1998, Ph.D)

Mahmood SHAHABI (1994 -1998, Ph.D) is an assistant professor in sociology and cultural studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Allameh Tabatabai’ University, Tehran, Iran. He obtained his Ph.D. from Sociology Department of Essex University, England in 1998. He has pioneered cultural studies in Iran and recent publications include three book chapters: Rap music and youth cultures in Iran: Serious or light? Co-authored by Golpoush-Nezhad, Elham (Brill-Den Haag and New York, (Forthcoming, 2014), and The Iranian moral panic over video: A brief history and policy analysis (Routledge, 2008), and Youth subcultures in post-revolution Iran: An alternative reading (Routledge, 2006). His research interests include cultural theory, youth cultures, media studies, gender studies, globalization, intercultural communication and diaspora.

He writes:

C5C6D4A7-1F18-4DBC-9349-67E25D655DCAI was so delighted when Professor Ken Plummer asked me to have an entry on the department’s 50th anniversary web site. I would like to say a little about my experience during and after my time at Essex.

For a young Ph.D. candidate who had received a full scholarship with a guaranteed future academic position at Allameh Tabatabai’ University in Tehran, getting an admission from a six star sociology department (Essex) seemed rather a dream.

I still remember the first day of my arrival in Essex on January 18th, 1994. I met the then head of Department, Professor Tony Woodiwiss who introduced me to Professor Ken Plummer who agreed to become my supervisor. I soon realized that I was privileged to be taught by Professor Ken Plummer during my five years stay at Essex. To be honest it is only in more recent years that I have come to appreciate the influence that Ken Plummer and the wider department has had on my thinking and work. For instance, although Prof. Stanley Cohen had already left the department, and I had no chance to meet him (who sadly died on January 7, 2013), his books and papers on ‘moral panics and folk devils’ inspired and guided my thesis on video and youth cultures in Iran. I was also privileged to have Professor Tony Coxon (who sadly died on February 7, 2012) and Professor Catherine Hall as members of my supervisory board.

My fieldwork was conducted in Tehran, where I administered a survey of 450 video users amongst high school students. Theoretically, I adopted a combination of the constructionist, gratificationist, subculturalist, and hybridist perspectives into my study. They were employed to explain the Iranian moral panic over video, the popular uses of video, the consequences of video use for the power relationship between youth subcultures and the mainstream culture, and the consequences of video uses and youth subcultural life for Iranian culture, respectively. From this research I gained my PhD – examined by Prof. Nigel South (my internal examiner) and Prof. Ali Mohammadi (my external examiner); and published as two book chapters:  The Iranian moral panic over video: A brief history and policy analysis (Routledge, 2008), and Youth subcultures in post-revolution Iran: An alternative reading (Routledge, 2006).

My Ph.D. thesis and what I learnt at Essex made an enormous contribution to my entire subsequent career in Iran: I moved over to cultural studies. I have been teaching cultural theory since 2000 and contributed to the founding of the first Department of cultural studies in Iran, at Allameh Tabatabai’ University in Tehran. About 150 MA students have graduated from our department so far. I and my colleagues have founded many research traditions in the field of cultural studies in Iran and contributed to the emergence of the Iranian cultural studies. I myself am the first and perhaps the only Iranian academic who has applied moral panics theory to the Iranian socio-cultural context. I owe all these achievements to my Essex experiences in 1994-98.

Essex was a very friendly and welcoming department while I was there. Although there was not really a typical day in Essex for me and it was always changing, but there were some rituals which characterized my campus lifestyle: visiting the sociology common room not only for coffee, but also for checking my pigeonhole and meeting my friends; visiting the university gallery and also  the second hand bookshop on campus; visiting the library, the computer lab, and finally staying at my office to work out for about 8 hours a day. I remember I and my Iranian friends (about 24 Ph.D. students in different departments), including Dr. Hossein Serajzadeh, another graduate of Essex sociology department, usually got together on Fridays and played some football on campus. I also remember we had some informal seminars on a regular basis (monthly) among ourselves to present an academic lecture followed by debate and discussion. I remember my presentation was related to the sociology of political communication in Iran. At that time I was influenced by James Scott’s book entitled ‘Dominance and the art of resistance’!

My major activities in recent years have included teaching such courses as cultural theory, intercultural communication, media sociology, youth cultures, sociology of sports; attending many International conferences in a number of European countries (Spain, Finland, Norway, England, Sweden, Poland and Turkey), supervising MA and Ph.D. dissertations; conducting some quantitative and qualitative researches for the Iranian government ministries and organizations; performing as a member of research councils in some ministries and organizations; and acting as a member of the managing board in the Iranian Association for cultural studies and communication.

Overall, I am proud to be a graduate of the Essex Sociology Department. I will do my best to attend the Department’s 50th   anniversary celebration on September 9, 2014 to refresh my old but unforgettable memories at Essex. Being an Essex graduate will remain part of my identity forever.

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Ioan Davies (Essex: 1965-1970) Born 1936; died 2000

Ioan Davies was born in 1936 in the Belgian Congo.

He was one of the earliest lecturers and PhD students at Essex, from 1965 to 1970, when he gained his PhD.

Sadly he died February 15, 2000 in  Cuba.

FRANK PEARCE, who taught at Essex in 1978-9 and gained his Ph D a few years later, has written an obituary. He writes:

I remember well when and where I first met Ioan Davies. It was in 1968 at a Sociology Department seminar at the University of Kent at Canterbury. The word from Essex University, one of the most radical campuses in England, was that he was politically and academically well respected and was known to have a significantly international orientation. This strikingly tall and lyrical Welshman certainly made a strong impression on those of us attending the seminar not only because of the impressive quality of his talk but but also because he was so willing to seriously engage with our quite heterogeneous intellectual and political concerns. He presented a version of his important paper on “The Management of Knowledge: a critique of the use of Typologies in the Sociology of Education.” This was to be subsequently published in Sociology and reprinted in Michael Young’s influential reader, Knowledge and Control, a book which, incidentally, also included a paper by Alan Blum who was to become a close friend and colleague at York University. In the paper, Ioan, effectively challenged the then dominant functionalist approaches to the Sociology of Education and thus played a role in the general demolition then occurring of functionalism’s peculiar fusion of theoreticism and abstract empiricism. He did this in a quite original way by eschewing both the neo-Weberian subjectivism of so much anti-functionalist sociology and also the economistic reductionism often then characteristic of the Marxist alternative. Anybody familiar with his writings will not be surprised that his critique was grounded in Gramsci’s analyses and worked with rich comparative and historical materials — including articles by Edward Thompson and Perry Anderson, fellow members of the New Left Clubs — and that he also made confident use of the essays of the poet Octavio Paz. There was a similar breadth to the last paper he intended to deliver, “The New Internationalism,” for the conference, which he had helped organise, on “Marxism Today: A Renewed Left View” at the Instituto Superior de Arte, in Havana. Tragically, while in Cuba, he died of a heart attack before he could deliver it.

For more: see In Memoriam: Ioan Davies


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David Rowe, 1978-1981: PhD 1986

David Rowe, University of West SydneyI was in the Essex Sociology Department as a PhD student and Part-Time Tutor between late 1978 and mid 1981, when I left for Australia and where I’ve been resident ever since.  After some eventful years getting established there, I finally received my doctorate on the post-punk British independent music industry in 1986.  I still vividly remember walking through knee-deep snow at Wivenhoe Park to my viva voce with Tony Woodiwiss and Simon Frith!  I’ve visited the Department occasionally since, most notably as a Visiting Research Fellow (late 1989 to early 1990), and maintained an interest in its activities over the years, and am currently collaborating with Professor Dick Hobbs, who also has a fractional employment at my University.  I remain a member of the British Sociological Association and sometimes get to BSA conferences (the last time being Cardiff in 2009), and was an Associate Board Member of Sociology (2008-10).  So I still count myself among the ranks of Essex Sociology alumni, and am still in contact with contemporaries such as Jon Stratton and Graham Crow.

After many years at The University of Newcastle in New South Wales, I moved in 2006 to the University of Western Sydney (UWS), where I am currently a Professor of Cultural Research in the Institute for Culture and Society.  At UWS (with varying levels of ‘residency’) there are sociologists who will be well known to people associated with the Department at Essex, including Professors Tony Bennett, Jack Barbalet and Bryan Turner.  Journal of Sociology (published, like Sociology, by Sage) will be run out of UWS from 2013-2015, and we would be happy to receive submissions (scrupulously refereed, of course) from Essex sociologists of any era!

My principal intellectual interest is in the area of media and popular culture, with most of my current work on mediated sport culture, cultural and media policy, urban leisure, and journalism.  While I still identify sociology as my bedrock discipline, most of my work has been fairly interdisciplinary in nature.  There are good academic reasons for this trajectory, but pragmatic ones too – much of my university teaching has been in vocationally-oriented, applied or interdisciplinary ‘studies’ areas.  In terms of wider interests, including leisure and professional, I find that being a sociologist indissolubly connects everything that I’m interested in, and over which I can claim some critical-analytical competency.  So sociology has taken care of the work-life balance conundrum – but perhaps not in an entirely healthy way!

My links

Here is my University web page:


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