Posts Tagged feminism

Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference: 24th June, 2015 PROGRAMME

Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference:
24th June, 2015 Programme

NEW DIALOGUES AND DIRECTIONS

 

Ivor Crewe Auditorium

9.15-9.50 Registration and Refreshments

9.50-10.00 Conference Introduction (Nigel South)

 

10.00-12.30 Past Excitements New Dialogues

A panel of distinguished members of the Department reflect on what was thought to be most exciting about Sociology in the past (both as a discipline and in the way[s] in which it was practiced at Essex) – and how all this has been reflected in their own ideas and research – as well as in ‘new dialogues and directions’ today (Ted Benton; Joan Busfield; Diane Elson; Ken Plummer; John Scott; and Paul Thompson)

 

10.00-11.15:

Chair: Lydia Morris

-Paul Thomson ‘Discovering life stories from first fumbles to our own Pioneers of Social Research’ (30 min)

-Joan Busfield ‘Continuities and Changes in British Sociology’. (15 min)

-Ted Benton ‘Beyond nature/society dualisms (15 min)

Questions (15 min)

11.15-11.30 Break

 

11.30-12.30:

Chair: Michael Roper

-Ken Plummer ‘Dialogues of Hope for a Better World’ (15 min)

-John Scott ‘Stratification and Social Theory: Retrospect and Prospect’ (15 min)

-Diane Elson ‘Challenges to Women’s Rights in a Time of ‘Austerity”? (15 min)

Questions (15 min)

 

12.30-14.00 Lunch break

 

14.00-16.000    Future Challenges New Directions

In three parallel, thematic sessions, colleagues who have joined the Department in more recent years will reflect on the interesting/challenging issues facing Sociology in the 21st century

Room 5S.3.8   Challenging Questions in Social Theory

Chair: Sean Nixon

-Michael Halewood, “Rethinking the Social” (20 min)

-Linsey McGoey, “Theorizing Excess” (20 min)

-Sandya Hewamanne, “Affect, Human Genome, and Dogs and Monkeys” (20 min)

PhD Discussant: Ms Stephanie Nitsche 5 mins

15 minutes question time

Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium

Room 5S.4.9 Civic Challenges, Community Studies and Public Sociology

Chair: Jackie Turton

-Michael Bailey, “Whither Community Studies? Return to Ecclesfield” (20 min)

-Neli Demireva and Isabel Crowhurst, “The Impact of Sociological Research on Social Policy” (20 min)

-Robin West, “Environment: Moral Selves and Civic Responsibilities” (20 min)

PhD Discussant: Ms Sarah Day 5 mins

15 minutes question time

Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium

Room 5N.4.6 New Terrains

Chair: Andrew Canessa

-James Allen-Robertson, ‘Gameplay Capitalism and the Hacker Ethic’. (20 min)

-Darren Thiel, “Countering Austerity and the Logic of Welfare Reform” (20 min)

-Pete Fussey, “Topologies of Urban Security and Surveillance in the Post-Snowden Era” (20 min)

PhD Discussant: Ms Roxana Baltaru 5 mins

15 minutes question time

Following the session please re-convene at the Ivor Crewe Auditorium

 

16.00-17.00 Ivor Crewe Auditorium

 

Closing Comments (Sean Nixon)

and Drinks.

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Leonore Davidoff: An Obituary by Paul Thompson

Leonore Davidoff: An ObituaryLeonore3

by her life long colleague Paul Thompson 

Leonore Davidoff, who died on 19 October 2014 at the age of 82, is internationally recognised as a key pioneer of gender studies in history and sociology. Her book Family Fortunes (1987), written jointly with Catherine Hall, is a brilliant demonstration of the new insights which gender perspectives can yield.

Leonore was born in New York in 1932, but her later childhood was in New Canaan, a small Connecticut community of white Protestants in which a family of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe stood out, despite having become believers in science rather than religion. This was an early lesson in marginality.

Leonorre’s family were striking professional achievers. Her father became a New York surgeon, her brother and her older sister were also doctors, and her younger sister a museum director married to a psychologist. Leonore was the exception, seen in the family as a rebel because she did not want to become a doctor.

Leonore’s father’s father had been a Latvian shoemaker and ritual butcher and the family then lived in an earth-floored hut behind the butchery; and in New York he again set up a tiny cobbler’s shop. Leonore’s father himself started as a factory worker, but won the support of a manager who paid for him to go to medical school at Harvard – where he met Leonore’s mother. He went on to become a distinguished surgeon. However, as a child, Leonore never found him easy to talk to.

By contrast, her mother was a powerful model, touch and energetic, `a towering presence’ as Leonore put it, who had run the Hillel Society at college and hence met her father. She subsequently took motherhood very seriously, insisting that in 1939 they move the family home from New York to the small rural town of New Canaan in Connecticut. She joined the Child Study Association and its Book Committees, so she would get unpublished books, bring them home, and she write reviews on the basis of what the children said. She also became politically active, and worked for the League of Women Voters. Much later, having become increasingly frustrated by being defined simply as a wife, and did eventually break out, becoming a feminist as soon as the Women’s Movement started in around 1970. She started a programme for older women, and founded “Woman’s Place” in Connecticut. But even earlier, she passed on a form of feminist consciousness to Leonore, above all in her belief in the need for women to be well educated.

Music was part of the family culture and was one of Leonore’s lifelong enthusiasms. Rather than learning the piano, she took up the flute. At 17 she broke with the family’s scientific tradition by going to Oberlin College to read music. This proved an important step. She found herself part of a radical culture, living in co-operative housing. She soon switched from music to sociology and carried out her first research project, a community study of Greenbelt, Maryland. She met and became close to the future radical historian of slavery George Rawick. She said, ‘It was a very good experience, getting that far away from the family’.

At 21, partly to keep that family distance and partly because she then saw England as ‘the white hope of socialism’, she decided to go still further away for her graduate studies, to England. She went to LSE to take an MA. She found the social atmosphere ‘intimidating’, and there were few other women there. With David Glass as supervisor, she wrote a substantial thesis on married women’s employment. It was never published. At that time it was hard to related to mainstream sociological or historical thinking, to solve the theoretical issues, or to see where to take it. There was no Feminist Movement to relate to, and she could not see any future in it.

Meanwhile she had met David Lockwood, and in September 1954 they married and set up house together. Leonore worked briefly for Charles Madge on the very male culture of redundant car workers. But then with the births of their three sons from 1956, for some years she lost any research institutional basis and her life revolved almost wholly around her new family.

Theirs was a remarkable marriage. Unlike with so many sociological couples of the following generation, they remained together lifelong, for almost 60 years, with David dying only months before her. More surprisingly, they never took up the sharing of gender roles which became so common with younger colleagues. Except for an American element in Leonore’s cooking, they operated much more in the style of the traditional working class Yorkshire families of David’s childhood, with the mother seeing to the house, cleaning and cooking, and also providing emotional backing for her males. Leonore was a loyal wife and a devoted mother, raising sons who each became an educated professional: Ben an economist, Matthew in development studies and Harold in water management. Later she became close to her partners, Michaela, Sue and Kishti, and developed special relationships with her grandchildren.

Leonore cared deeply for David, handling his sadnesses, providing food for him – even later when she went away travelling. She admired him especially as a celebrated intellectual. But unlike several couples they knew – such as Joe and Olive Banks, or David and Ruth Glass – as a couple they did not form an intellectual partnership. David never found space for gender in his theoretical view of the world – as he put it, ‘That’s not something that’s been a central interest’ So Leonore once again had to create a space for herself as a researcher and intellectual independent of the family.

For several years this seemed a daunting task. They moved to Cambridge in 1961 when David was appointed to a Lectureship. The atmosphere was then hostile to sociology and Leonore was further marginalised as a faculty wife. She describes this as ‘a very difficult time’ in which ‘I was very very isolated’. Nevertheless, at this time she made some important friends – Jean and Frank Bechhofer, and the anthropologist Esther Goody – and through developing a connection with Lucy Cavendish College met some of the older generation of British academic women.

It was only in 1968, when David was appointed a professor in the booming new Department of Sociology at Essex, that she was able to find an understanding circle of colleagues and re-launch her academic career. Essex has always been a wonderful base’. The department from the start had included women staff (including briefly Diana Leonard) and was very quick to respond to the new interest in sexual divisions at the end of the 1960s. Leonore had devised a project on domestic servants and I was able to help her secure a Nuffield Foundation grant for this, so that she became a part-time research officer. She was to remain at Essex for the rest of her career, from 1975 as a lecturer and from 1991 as a Research Professor, and finally after retirement as Professor Emerita.

Leonore was interested in domestic service because it provided a link between work and the family, which was to be one of her continuing research teams. At the same time she was increasingly attracted by historical perspectives. Her enthusiasm fed by reading novels and visiting David’s Yorkshire. Initially while she was writing it was still difficult to find an understanding audience for her work, so she talks of explaining it to the dog on her walks. In her monograph from the project that became The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette and the Season (1973), she wrote to explain why the irrationalities of domestic service proved so long-lasting, and she came to see the explanation as symbolic – in that sense, `quite sociological’: a bridge between sociology and history.

However, by the early 1970s the situation was changing rapidly: partly through the History Workshops, the Women’s Movement had become translated into Women’s History, and from this point onwards there was always a keen audience for her work. Leonore became a feminist activist herself, running a Feminist History Group in London and helping to set up the Women’s Research and Resources Centre which became the Feminist Library – ‘That was a very exciting time’.

The change brought new opportunities at the university too. In 1973-4 she began teaching a course on `Sex Divisions in Society’ in the new MA in Social History, which soon evolved into a course on gender and social history. She and I taught the MA together for some twenty years. Leonore was a wonderful colleague, not only intellectually stimulating but also very caring of the students, a rigorous but generous commentator on their work, with a shrewd understanding of their difficulties. The MA proved particularly successful in attracting talented women students – including Catherine Hall. With many of them, Leonore remained a lasting inspiration, and with several she developed joint projects, helping their careers through co-editing and co-authoring. These include two books, Our Work, Our Lives, Our Words: Women’s History and Women’s Work (1986) with Belinda Westover, and The Family Story: Blood, Contract and Intimacy (1999) with Megan Doolittle, Janet Fink and Katherine Holden.

Her research at this time, mostly published in articles, included work on Arthur Munby relating to the servant theme, and a new perspective on the family, lodgers – again both inside and outside. Then in the late 1970s with Catherine Hall she launched into the fieldwork for Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 (1987). It is founded on looking at the family relationships and businesses of middle class entrepreneurs in Birmingham and East Anglia, Catherine researching Birmingham and Leonore East Anglia. The outcome is a masterpiece, highly readable, interweaving gender and class perspectives, bridging public and private worlds, and alternating theoretical insights with fascinating local family detail. The book transformed understanding of 19th century Britain, showing how the gendered division of labour within families was the basis on which early capitalist enterprise was built. It is a classic which has received worldwide acclaim.

In her retirement years Leonore had time to run a local women’s book group and also a music group. But she continued to research and wrote wrote one last original book, published when she was almost 80. Once again, she looks at the family through a fresh lens, this time brothers and sisters. There is very little historical research on siblings. In Thicker than Water: Siblings and their Relations, 1780-1920 (2012) demonstrates how well-known 19th century families – with complex and subtle analyses of, for example, the Freuds and the Gladstones – used sibling relationships to build networks and so provide the capital and skills essential for the booming commercial expansion of the 19th century. \She also explores sibling intimacy and incest, and some famous brother-sister relationships, with both social and psychological insight. This is yet another pioneering book, whose significance is also likely to be recognised in time.

Leonore’s international influence came not only through her own writings but especially as an editor. She was founding editor of the international journal Gender and History for ten years from 1987. In contrast to rival women’s history journals, she encouraged male authors and articles on masculinity. She built an international network around the journal. She also played a key role in setting up the International Federation for Research in Women’s History, and herself held a series of international visiting professorships, especially in the United States, Scandinavia and Australia.

In short, Leonore Davidoff made an immense contribution to gender history and social history internationally, and a fundamental reshaping of how we think about the past. Many of those she inspired as students or colleagues or friends have become eminent in their turn. Throughout her life Leonore was a woman of imagination, courage – and beauty. But she remained herself personally very modest. We shall deeply miss her presence in our lives – her companionship, her shrewd observation, her subtle originality. At the same time we are thankful for a truly original intellectual life – which she herself greatly enjoyed: ‘So I’ve been, again, been in the right place at the right time, was very very lucky to be in touch with these people who were getting it off the ground. Very very exciting – difficult, hairy, but tremendously rewarding!’

 

Please also look at obituaries

 

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Leonore Davidoff (1932-2014)

 

Leonore2

Leonore Davidoff

1932 -2014

It is with very great sadness  we have learnt of the death of Lee Davidoff.

Leonore Davidoff died on 19th October at the age of 82. She came to Essex with David Lockwood in 1968, was appointed a research officer in 1969, became a lecturer in social history in 1975 and retired in the mid 1990’s. She maintained a long, continuous association with the sociology department through her retirement as a research professor. A few weeks before she died, she was made a Professor Emerita. Her contribution to the study and teaching of gender history was pathbreaking and pioneering; and her work has been recognised across the world. She was also a most loved and appreciated teacher and tutor, and her work has inspired  generations of students from around the world.

A funeral took place on November 3rd  and opened with this poem (which Lee had requested).

The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

 

Leonore3

 

The university held a celebration of Leonore’s  life at Wivenhoe House on November 3rd.

MIriam Glucksmann has written an obituary…..

Leonore was born in New York to Jewish immigrant parents from Eastern Europe, and originally studied music at Oberlin College (breaking with the family tradition of studying medicine) before switching to sociology. At 21 she left the United States to pursue graduate studies at the London School of Economics, writing her MA on `The Employment of Married Women’, a substantial 300 page dissertation by research. Her topic had not previously been studied, nor indeed been considered a serious field for research, but this prescient work broke new ground, signalling a first step in founding the new research field of women’s history.

At LSE also she met her husband, the sociologist David Lockwood (who died earlier this year), and moved with him first to Cambridge and then to Essex, while bringing up their three sons. Leonore was acutely aware of the marginalisation of ‘faculty wives’ at this time and the lack of seriousness accorded to the work of women academics, especially if they were wives or mothers. She greatly valued her membership, as Senior Fellow, of Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge which had been expressly established by marginal women for mature women scholars who were otherwise ignored and isolated….

You can go to the SoES obituary page for more of this obituary and for links to this and the comments from friends.

Leonore1

 

See also: http://blogs.essex.ac.uk/essexdaily/2014/10/23/tributes-to-leonore-davidoff/ 

 

 

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Good reviews for IMAGINATIONS: FIFTY YEARS OF ESSEX SOCIOLOGY

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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 wiven.books@zelnet.co.uk; or web site: www.wivenhoebooks.com

Directly from Ken Plummer through plumk@essex.ac.uk

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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Emma Milne (BA 2007-2010; PhD continuing)

Emma MilneI first arrived at Essex in 2007 to for an undergraduate degree in history and sociology. The degree inspired me to think about why the world works the way it does and how we can work to make it better. This ignited my passion for gender theory and women’s right.

After successfully completing my masters in history, I left Essex in 2011 in pursuit of the “real world”. Eighteen months later, the novelty of the real world had worn off as I realised that my work neither interest me nor gave me the intellectual stimulation I had so enjoyed whilst studying. So, with my determination to make the world a better place once again instilled in my mind, I polished off my PhD application and headed back to Essex.

Returning to the Sociology department has been everything I hoped it would be, and more. The debate; the conundrums which I am attempting to solve through my research; the encouragement from both staff and my fellow students is wonderful; as is feeling like I, once again, have a purpose in life.

My future exploration of sociology is quite simple: to analyse how women are understood and represented within our society, and try to improve, change, develop and broaden those understandings. For me, the limited concept of “woman”, which all of us who have been assigned that gender live within, is too narrow and confining. For all women to demonstrate their abilities, reach their potential, be equal to men and be treated like individuals, we need to change the image of “woman” and irradiate the limits which that image confines us to.

 

This is an entry from the book: Imaginations- 50 Years of Essex Sociology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some snapshots from my time at Essex:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rie Debabrata Tamas

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

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

Rie and Miriam

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Liz Kelly (1980-1986 PhD)

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

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

Some other random and fond memories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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