Posts Tagged graduates

Andreas Pöllmann (2004,MA;2008,PhD)

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

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

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

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

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23 more names for the Essex Sociology Roll Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Some snapshots from my time at Essex:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rie Debabrata Tamas

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

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

Rie and Miriam

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Judith Okely ( Lectured 1981-1989)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judith Okely

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

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

Karen O’Reilly


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a privilege.

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

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

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

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

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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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The Essex Sociology Roll Call

The Essex Sociology Roll CallThis month we start a new feature:

The Essex Sociology Roll Call

We guess that at least some 6,000 students, staff and others  have been in, around and through the department over its 50 years.

We can never hope to locate most of them.

But here for the record,  we start to build  a little listing  of some of them.  

Starting with this first entry in February 2014, we hope to add about twenty new names each month.

You can send your short entry direct to us  and of course you can still continue to write longer entries for the blog.

Also let us have corrections and amendments (see how…..)

This is an ongoing saga: so here are the first twenty.


Graham ALLEN (1967-70,BA; 1970-6 PhD )  taught in the Sociology Departments at Exeter University, University of Southampton (1975) and became Professor of Social Relations/ Sociology at Keele University in 2000

 Liz BEATTIE (1974-7, BA) became an educationalist and recently retired as Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Cumbria

 Annie BIELECKA  (1977-8 MASSP ) became a social work tutor at North London. She is now a textile artist living in Wivenhoe

 Virginia BOTTOMLEY (1960’s BA) became the Conservative Secretary of State for Health under John Major (1992-5), Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone in 2005 and Chancellor of the University of Hull in 2006  (see Wikipedia entry)

Joanna BORNAT (    ) is Emeritus Professor at the Open University. She has for many years been a committee member of the Oral History Society and joint editor of the journal Oral History. She is a founder member of the Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies

 David BOUCHIER (1968-1986:BA, PhD, Staff) taught at Essex for a decade and then at SUNY. He left academia in the 1980’s to become a writer and broadcaster.

 Keith BRADLEY was Professor of Business and Business Management at the Open University and Cass Business School. He is a Director of Integra.

 Kerman CALVO ( dates at Essex?  is in the Department of Sociology and Communication in 2010 and a Member of the Juan March Institute at Universidad de Salmanca. He previously worked as a researcher and lecturer at the Universities of Essex (‘Human Rights Centre’), UOC, Carlos III and Pompeu Fabra and the Centre for Political and Constitutional Studies (as researcher ‘García Pelayo’).

 Liz CARTER (1999-2009, BA, MA, PhD) is Senior Lecture in Criminology at Buckinghamshire New University. Her book Analyzing Police Interviews won the Criminology Award in 2012 for the British Society of Criminology.

Rohhss CHAPMAN (1980-3,BA; 83-5,MA) now lectures in Disability Studies at Manchester University

 Chantanee CHAROENSRI   (2001 PhD) is currently a lecturer in Sociology at Thammasat University, Bangkok.

Wycliffe CHILOWA   (   )  was last located as Director of the Centre for Social Research at the University of Malawi

 Simon CLARKE (1967-75, PhD, 1971 lecturer) became Professor of Sociology at Warwick University where he is now Emeritus Professor.

Stephen CLAYTON  is a Lecturer on the Masters in Public Health and Research Fellow in the Department of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool. He has more recently been involved in comparative studies of the impacts of active labour market policies aimed at people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

 Deborah COLES  ( )  is Director of Inquest, a charity which deals with bereaved people facing and inquest, with a focus on deaths in custody.

 Ben CREWE (  …..) is  Director of Penology and Deputy Director of Prisons Research  Centre at the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge. He is the author of  The Prisoner Society.

 Matt DAWSON ( 2003-7, BA , MA) completed his PhD at Sussex in 2011 and am now a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow

Graham CROW (1978-82, MA, PhD) was for many years at Southampton University and is now at Edinburgh University as Director of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, and Professor of Sociology and Methodology (since 2013); Deputy Director, ESRC National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) (since 2006)

 John DAVIS  (197xxx?    is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Portsmouth University and about to retire!

Fernando DE MAIO  (    )  is Associate Professor of Sociology at DePaul University. He was previously an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University. He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology

For the growing list, go to Roll Call


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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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The Critical Realism ‘moment’ in Essex Sociology

0485006170 The Critical Realism Research Group and Seminar Series emerged gradually in the Winter Term of 1997. It came into existence for the usual reason such theory oriented academic groups do: a number of Ph.D students took note of their academic discipline’s increasing interest in a relatively new academic discourse/theorist /intellectual fashion and they decided they needed to know more about it.  This group of Essex Ph.D students already knew all about the varieties of poststructuralist and postmodernist theory but had thus far only caught the scent of Critical Realism (CR). They knew the main figure in the movement was Roy Bhaskar but had found the difficulty of his writing rather daunting and wanted help. Critical Realism was primarily a development in the philosophy of social science and they were aware that a few of the Essex Sociology department professors were experts in this field. One in particular, Ted Benton, was quite connected to the Critical Realism movement and very knowledgeable about it. Garry Potter, one of the co-authors of this piece and a contract tutor in the department at the time, was also known to be very interested in Critical Realism, so they were approached and asked if they could give a tutorial/lecture/seminar on the subject.  Both of them did, pretty much just outlining the basic tenets of the subject and the debates around which Critical Realism was still in the process of emerging from. This could have simply been the end but for four equally important and mutually reinforcing factors.

These initial seminars had whetted people’s appetite rather than satiating their interest; the students became aware that other lecturers in the department had their own levels of knowledge about and points of agreement/disagreement about CR; it seemed to the Ph.D students quite possible that CR could be used in someway to help frame their own Ph.D research; and last but not least, the group of people who came to these first events found that they got on with one another socially quite well. The research and discussion group was to some extent a drinking and socializing group as well.

The Critical Realism Group was not in any way a line up of disciples of Roy Bhaskar or people who self-identified with the CR label. Indeed, most did not. Critical Realism is primarily a meta-theoretical perspective and the discussions tended to focus upon ontology and epistemology; but many brought to the table their own particular theoretical perspectives. Rob Stones, for example, explained to us his own theory of “past modernism”.

Tony Woodiwiss produced one of the most interesting theoretical moments of our CR Group. He argued his quite unflinching structuralist position: covering Saussure, Durkheim, Althusser and Foucault. Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism evolved out of the natural science realism of Rom Harré, with Harré arguing for the existence of natural structures but not social ones. Harré argued that the latter were a purely discursive phenomenon existentially dependent upon people and having no real existence of their own, holding a position (somewhat) similar to that of Weber. Bhaskar propounded an argument for the reality of social structures as well. Tony Woodiwiss took this on board and then some under the rubric of his ordinary as opposed to critical realism. His steadfast refusal to accept any distinction between the ontological status of natural structures and social structures, in the context of a lengthy debate with Ted Benton concerning Lacan’s proposition that “theory thinks us”, managed to shock many.

A different kind of shock was produced by Ph.D student Fethi Açikel when in a discussion he casually referred to Marx’s eleventh thesis; we were shocked at our own ignorance because none of us knew what it was. . . until he told us that it was actually inscribed upon his tomb in Highgate Cemetery: “hitherto philosophers have only tried to interpret the world; the point is to change it”.

A different kind of “moment’’ occurred when Roy Bhaskar came to Essex to debate Ernesto Laclau. The latter’s Center for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences had both a longer and more institutionalized moment at Essex. The debate seemed to pit not only Bhaskar against Laclau but also two armies of Ph.D students against one another. We (almost) all agreed that ‘we’ won.

Finally, the three most academically significant things that came out of the Critical Realism Group were the following. First, the 2nd annual Critical Realism Conference – After Postmodernism: Critical Realism? – took place at Essex in the fall of 1998 (organized by Garry Potter and José López the co-authors of this piece) during which both the International Association of Critical Realists and the journal The Journal of Critical Realism were born. Both still thrive today.

Secondly, the book After Postmodernism: an Introduction to Critical Realism  (López and Potter eds.) came out of this conference. Many Essex people both lecturers and students gave papers at the conference and/or wrote chapters for this volume including John Scott, Ian Craib, Ted Benton, Tony Woodiwiss, Rob Stones, Pam Highham and David Ford.

Thirdly and probably most importantly, while as said earlier, certainly not all the students in this group felt they were card carrying Critical Realists or produced Ph.Ds explicitly framed by this school of thought, the philosophical discussions and related readings very likely directly or indirectly found their way into the work of all of them: Andrea Zhouri, Pam Highham, David Ford, Damian White, Fethi Açikel, Leslie Cooper, Oonagh Corrigan, Tabitha Freeman and José López, to name just a few.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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