Posts Tagged graduates
I 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: http://unam.academia.edu/AndreasPöllmann
Memories of Essex in the late 1980s to early 90s: social theory and qualitative methods
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.
REFLECTIONS ON MY TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX
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.
Professor of Sociology and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences,
University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria
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.
WHAT ABOUT ADDING YOUR NAME TO THE LIST?
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
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.
I 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.