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Sociology: Events


New Directions 2009

New Directions 2009
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
21st May 2009 - 22nd May 2009

Our annual postgraduate 'work in progress' conference was held on the 21st and 22nd May 2009.

The conference was held in Seminar rooms 1 and 2 of the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

This year the conference showcases the work of our current postgraduate students at various stages in their research. Conference themes include the body and sexuality, technology and society, the family and fertility, work and money, the military and national identity, government and power, culture and place and sessions on tackling theory.

The conference abstracts are available here

The conference programme is available here

Roberts Prize winners 2009

We are pleased to announce that the winners of the Roberts Prize for Best Presentation and Paper 2009 are Amy Chandler, Sam Friedman and Kanykey Jailobaeva.

Amy Chandler 'Does it hurt? Contradictory understandings of pain in narratives of self-injury.'

Paper abstract:

This paper will utilise theoretical developments in the sociology of pain (Williams & Bendelow 1995) to discuss the ways that concepts of pain and hurt are used in the narratives of people who self-injure. These narratives are complex and inconsistent, reflecting the problematic nature of verbalising embodied matters.
The presentation draws on interviews with 12 (7 female; 5 male) people who have self-injured. Each person was interviewed twice. The method of data collection was designed to explore the social contexts in which self-injury took place, as well as the ways that self-injury was understood by a relatively diverse group of people.
There are conflicting understandings of the importance and position of pain in narratives about self-injury. While one dominant explanation for self-injury is that it ‘transforms’ emotional pain into physical pain, clinical work has limited itself to biological studies attempting to discover why some people claim to feel no pain during self-injury. My own research suggests that there are important sociological explanations for these contradictory views. The meanings individuals give to concepts of pain and hurt reflect wider socio-cultural (and often gendered) understandings. I also suggest that, as in other areas of social life, ‘expert views’ about self-injury and pain may feed back into individual understandings and even experiences of self-injury.
The paper will add to existing debates regarding mind/body dualism, demonstrating that this construct is indeed inadequate in explaining embodied experiences such as pain, but that this dualism remains an important resource for people talking about such experiences.


Sam Friedman 'Legitimating A Discredited Art Form: The Changing Field Of British Comedy' 

Paper abstract:

At the Edinburgh Festivals, which together constitute the largest arts festival in the world, the Bourdieusian homology between class and cultural taste has been particularly enduring. Traditionally showcasing only the ‘high’ performing arts, Festival attendance has been synonymous with the upper and middle classes. However, in recent years, this arena of distinction has been disrupted. Although audiences remain predominantly drawn from the cultural elite, there has been a significant rise in the production of “low-brow” comedy.  While in 1980 there were only 14 comedy shows at the Festivals, this number had risen to 649 by 2008, more than any other art form. Following other trends in elite consumption of popular culture, the leading sociological explanation for this phenomenon is the ‘cultural omnivore thesis’. This theory posits that symbolic hierarchies underpinning cultural consumption have largely collapsed and dominant groups now have expansive cultural portfolios which incorporate both high and low culture. This paper is based on preliminary research that seeks to critique the ‘cultural omnivore thesis’, arguing that its quantitative bias fails to examine both the specific practice of elite culture consumers and how popular arts such as comedy may have changed over time. Traditionally denigrated in the ‘academy’, British comedy has undergone a significant transformation since the 1980s ‘alternative comedy’ movement. New ‘high art’ genres of critical, intellectual and surrealist comedy now dominate the Edinburgh Festivals and have subsequently been appropriated and consecrated by dominant groups. Such elite consumers of comedy are also rarefying their consumption by transposing their distinctly ‘disinterested’ aesthetic style to consume comedy in a manner inaccessible to those with less cultural capital. By examining the contemporary rise of comedy, this paper therefore suggests that an updated version of Bourdieu’s distinction may still be relevant.

Kanykey Jailobaeva 'The Professionalisation of NGOs: A New Stage of NGO Development in Kyrgyzstan?'

Paper abstract:

The Kyrgyz non-governmental sector is known as the most vibrant, pluralistic, and numerous in Central Asia and has been one of the key indicators of nascent democracy in Kyrgyzstan. Over the last three years it has encountered a number of challenges due to changes in a political situation and donor activities. Since 2005 Kyrgyzstan has experienced political turmoil having gone through a revolution, with the replacement of the government and a constitutional reform. This political instability has drawn NGOs into the political domain to advocate for reforms.
This paper argues that NGOs in Kyrgyzstan have had to professionalize both individually and collectively. This occurred for a number of reasons. Donors started supporting NGOs in an advocacy role because of their new focus on government capacity building, simultaneously the provision of budget support under the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, adopted in 2005, had financial implications.  In brief, these changes meant NGOs in Kyrgyzstan had: 1) more interaction with the government; 2) more involvement in advocacy; and 3) less donor funding.
Professionalization is a turning point for Kyrgyz NGOs suggesting that they have entered a new development stage. Until the early 2000s NGOs were just emergent. Most came into being to take an advantage of lavish donor funding, and did not have either an organizational structure or an issue based agenda. The situation is now different. It is argued that NGOs have professionalized individually through formalization and institutionalization. Most NGOs are now registered entities with a) an organizational structure and rules, b) a technically equipped office, c) stringent financial procedures, and d) qualified staff.
Two main factors are behind this: 1) the effective interaction of NGOs with the government requires that NGOs have adequate expertise in their particular field, and have adequate organizational management in terms of transparency and accountability; and 2) NGOs are required to meet the eligibility criteria of donor grants, the main source of NGO funding source, which are themselves being reduced because of budget cuts. Further, the paper argues that great efforts have been made by NGOs collectively to establish control over their sector, to foster a sense of responsibility among themselves, to develop standards of excellence, and to position their sector as a legitimate actor in society.
Finally, the paper argues that a potential pitfall of NGO professionalization can be the dominance of the NGO sector by institutionally strong NGOs with qualified staff, which work as professional organizations rather than civic voluntary institutions. The research has indicated that NGO professionalization concerns large, city based NGOs, which have gained great experience and strong professional and technical capacity. Meanwhile, small and new NGOs, particularly in the regions, face the reverse situation. Since they lack the necessary capacity and skills to secure donor funding, many have ceased functioning.
The paper is based on data from 81 interviews with 48 local NGOs and 24 development agencies conducted within doctoral research from September 2007 to May 2008.


Pile of old wooden structures