Department of Sociology and Criminology

Previous Sociology Seminars

The Dark Net - 29 Oct 2014

Date: Wednesday 29th October 2014

Speaker: Jamie Bartlett

Seminar Title: ‘The Dark Net’

Seminar Topic: Jamie will talk about his new book The Dark Net, an exploration of some of the net's most shocking and unexplored subcultures. This includes the worlds of uncensored drugs markets; internet trolling; neo-Nazis, child pornography, bitcoin and crypto-anarchy. He will examine how people behave under the conditions of real or perceived anonymity online, and what it means for society today.

Role: Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, DEMOS

Biography: Jamie Bartlett is the Director of The Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, a collaboration between Demos and the University of Sussex. His work focuses on the ways in which social media and modern communications and technology are changing political and social movements, with a special emphasis on terrorism and radical political movements. Jamie's recent book 'The Dark Net' about internet subcultures was published in August 2014 by Random House. He is also a writer for the Daily Telegraph on technology.

A Transgender Story - 03 Dec 2014

Date: Wednesday 03rd December 2014

Speaker: Juliet Jacques

Seminar Title: ‘A Transgender Journey’

Seminar Topic: Between 2010 and 2012, Juliet Jacques wrote a rolling blog about her gender reassignment for The Guardian - the first time that this process had been documented from beginning to end for a national newspaper. Moving from her childhood gender dysphoria to sex reassignment surgery and her physical and psychological recovery, she discussed the effects of hormone therapy, her anxieties about 'passing', her mental health and her relationship with the media, trying to challenge conservative and 'radical' feminist stereotypes about trans people simultaneously. Here, Juliet will talk about how and why she came to write the series, and the effect it had on her life and how mainstream media portrayals of trans people are changing.

Role: Freelance Writer/Journalist

Biography: Juliet Jacques is a freelance writer whose journalism has appeared in The Guardian, New Statesman, London Review of Books, TimeOut and elsewhere, with short fiction featuring in Five Dials, The London Magazine, Berfrois, 3:AM and other publications. She covers gender, sexuality, literature, film, art, politics and sport, and her ‘Transgender Journey’ series for The Guardian was longlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2011. She has also spoken on numerous panels across Europe about LGBTQI issues, and recently wrote the foreword for Brighton Transformed, covering the lives of trans people in Brighton and Hove.

Asexual Lives: Everyday experiences of intimacy and identity - 04 Feb 2015

Date: Wednesday 04th February 2015

Speaker: Susie Scott and Elizabeth McDonnell

Seminar Title: ‘Asexual Lives: everyday experiences of intimacy and identity’

Seminar Topic: The “Asexual Lives: everyday experiences, relationships and stories of becoming” project has produced a rich data set that we have analysed in varied ways.  This presentation focuses on patterns in the narrative styles or ‘storylines’ generated by our 50 participant interviews.  Guided by our twin foci of identity and intimacy, we grouped together participants’ stories within a typology that showed various intersections of identity and intimacy. In other words, stories of becoming asexual were interweaved with stories of romantic attraction and/or sexual desire, or their absence. We have identified five different storylines or types of storyteller (Resolved, Pioneering, Negotiating, Seeking and Questioning), which we shall discuss with case examples.

Biography: Liz McDonnell is a Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology, working on this Leverhulme-funded asexuality project. Liz has worked as a qualitative researcher for a number of years across a range of areas e.g. health, family/parenting, education and disability. Her PhD explored fertility decision making using narrative research methods. She also teaches data analysis using NVivo 10.


Susie Scott is a Reader in Sociology with research interests in Symbolic Interactionism and Goffman’s dramaturgical theory, social identity and everyday life. She is the author of Shyness and Society, Making Sense of Everyday Life and Total Institutions and Reinvented Identities. Susie teaches modules on Identity and Interaction, the sociology of Everyday Life, and the Sociology Project.

Left Realist Criminology: is it still relevant? - 25 Feb 2015

Date: Wednesday 25th February 2015 In association with the Criminal Law, Criminal Justice and Criminology (CCC) research group

Speaker: John Lea

Seminar Title: ‘Left Realist Criminology: is it still relevant?’

Seminar Topic: With Jock Young’s recent untimely death and Roger Matthews' new book ‘Realist Criminology’, Left Realism seems to be a focus of critical discussion once again. John Lea will attempt to critically evaluate the tradition and its relevance for the current period.

Biography: John Lea was among the founders of Left Realism in Britain and worked closely with Jock Young during the 1980s. His book ‘Crime and Modernity’ (Sage 2002) was an attempt to further develop key themes in that tradition. Now retired, he holds Honorary professorships at the universities of Brighton and Leicester.

Progress: a reconstruction - 11 Mar 2015

Date: Wednesday 11th March 2015

Speaker: Peter Wagner

Seminar Title: ‘Progress: a reconstruction’

Seminar Topic: We witness today a weakening or even the disappearance of the strong concept of progress that had guided much of social and political action during the past two centuries. From the Enlightenment and the French Revolution onwards, the belief was widespread that it was possible for the condition of humankind to be radically improved, even for history having already embarked on an unstoppable forward trajectory, realizing the promise of freedom and reason. Today, in contrast, it often appears as if the wide horizon of future possibilities has closed.

At the face of it, there are two possible reasons for this loss of meaning. Maybe everything that could be achieved historically – and that had formed the horizon of progress for those two centuries – has been achieved. This is what Francis Fukuyama suggested in his essay on “the end of history”; and Richard Rorty's dictum that humanity may already have had “the last conceptual revolution” that it needed expressed a similar view. Or, in contrast, the disappearance of this horizon could be due to the fact that the world has closed upon us and we can no longer look beyond our space of experience. All we can expect is a continuation of wars and violence, poverty and inequality, exploitation and oppression, interrupted only by spatially and temporally limited periods in which relative peace, well-being, equality and freedom can be obtained. One of these views leads to complacency, the other to despair and/or withdrawal from public engagement. Should we bid farewell to progress in one of these two ways, in triumph or in resignation? Or is there another option?

This presentation will provide some elements necessary to answer this question. It will do so by a double historical review: investigating the conceptual history of progress from the revolutionary period of the late eighteenth century to the present, on the one hand, and reviewing the socio-political experiences with actual progress over the same period, but focusing on the past half century, on the other. The result will be that, in our time, progress remains both possible and necessary, but that we need to considerably redefine the meaning of the concept of progress and rethink our ways of achieving it.

Biography: Peter Wagner is ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona and currently Principal Investigator of the European Research Council-funded project "Trajectories of modernity: comparing non-European and European varieties". His research interests are in social and political theory and in historical-comparative sociology, with particular concern for diagnosing the recent social transformations that brought the current global constellation about. His most recent book publications are: African, American and European trajectories of modernity (ed., Edinburgh UP, 2015); The Greek polis and the invention of democracy (co-ed., Blackwell, 2013); and Modernity: understanding the present (Polity, 2012). He is currently working on a book addressing the theme of the seminar and to be published by Polity Press in English and La Découverte in French in 2015.

Violent extremism: A former foreign fighter's journey - 01 Apr 2015

Date: Wednesday 01st April 2015

Speaker: Hanif Qadir

Seminar Title: ‘Violent extremism – a former foreign fighter’s journey: the reality, it's causes, consequences, challenges & prevention’

Seminar Topic: Hanif joined a group with links to al-Qaeda in early 2002 and by the end of that year he travelled abroad to join the struggle with the Taliban.

From his experience and what he witnessed on his journey into Afghanistan as a foreign fighter, Hanif realized that young men and women were being used as cannon fodder in a war that many people knew little about. Not many people knew what was actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan that individuals were senselessly losing their lives for.

Hanif returned to the UK to safeguard young men and women from similar experiences, losing their lives and harming their communities. Hanif has since worked with some of the UK's high risk terrorist/violent extremist cases and has challenged many known figureheads who lead violently extreme groups both at home and abroad. He has a unique understanding and hard won experience of the mindset & modus operandi of ISIS, A.Q & Al Shabab inspired groups and individuals.  He has effectively prevented a number of individuals from participating in terrorist activities. In so doing, he has also prevented those individuals from being killed, killing others or being locked away for many years.

He has been working closely with a wide range of UK governmental institutions, most of the UK’s Police Authorities including the Metropolitan Police SO15 CT Command and research academics across the globe, with a view to applying a more sensitive and sensible approach in counter terrorism strategies.

Hanif is now recognised as arguably the best violent extremist and de-radicalisation expert across the globe and he is called upon by many countries to advise on effective strategies to counter violent extremism. 

He is also perhaps the only intervention provider who has personal experience as being a foreign fighter and is now focusing his attention on the ISIS, Syrian & Yemen conflicts with a view to preventing young men & women from travelling abroad as foreign fighters.

Hanif continues his work as an intervention provider for both CHANNEL & TACT cases.

Biography: Hanif Qadir is the CEO and Co-Founder of ACF which was started in 2003. Hanif is recognised as one of the world’s leading specialists in positively transforming violent extremists. He is actively involved in advising and assisting senior policy makers in reforming key aspects of the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) agenda. He has continued to advise the Home Office OSCT/RICU unit & SO15 Command on how best to address the growing problem of violent extremism in the UK.

Black Box Policing: Patrolling by algorith and its consequences - 04 Nov 2015

Date: Wednesday 04th November 2015

Speaker: Professor Dean Wilson (University of Sussex)

Seminar Title: Black Box Policing: Patrolling by algorithm and its consequences

Seminar Topic: ‘Predictive Policing’ has fast emerged as one of the buzz terms of contemporary Anglo-American policing. It was recently defined in a Rand Corporation report as ‘the application of analytical techniques—particularly quantitative techniques—to identify likely targets for police intervention and prevent crime or solve past crimes by making statistical predictions’ (Perry et al 2013: xiii). Using algorithms drawn from techniques of prediction used in such diverse domains as disaster prediction and marketing, predictive policing has been heralded as a major advance in policing. To some extent, predictive policing appears to be simply an extension of existent techniques such as crime mapping and ‘hot-spot’ policing, which have endeavoured to focus policing operations on geographic locations exhibiting statistical patterns of offending. Nevertheless, for the commercial concerns marketing these techniques and their attendant software packages, predictive policing extends the promise of much more. Marketing materials are replete with strident claims of future crimes that are calculable, knowable and targetable before they transpire. Additionally, predictive policing is promoted as the ideal policing technology for a climate of fiscal austerity, with the capacity to direct police operations in a cost-effective fashion – removing the necessity for ‘costly’ measures such as community engagement and routine patrols. This talk will investigate the various technologies and enterprises currently promoting ‘predictive policing’ and critically interrogate their claims. It suggests that predictive policing represents the migration of forms of pre-emptive policing more commonly associated with counter-terrorism policing into the domains of everyday police practice. Moreover, predictive policing potentially creates disturbing spirals of criminalization, in which the well-documented concentration of policing activity on the ‘usual suspects’ is technologically magnified to an unprecedented extent. Consequently patterns of discriminatory policing and their attendant militaristic logics escalate while remaining concealed underneath the techno-gloss of algorithmic calculation.

Biography: Professor Wilson completed his undergraduate and initial postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His Masters thesis was an historical study of violence, the law and local community in a colonial settlement. Dean continued postgraduate study in Australia, gaining a scholarship to Monash University where he undertook the first major historical study of urban policing in Australia. Having completed his PhD in 2001, Dean has subsequently concentrated on contemporary criminological research, including research into surveillance, technology and security, policing and victims of crime and border militarization and policing. Dean's research and teaching engage interdisciplinary methodologies that traverse the fields of criminology, sociology, media, law, history and politics. Dean was a lecturer and then senior lecturer in criminology at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia between 2003 and 2010 and a Reader in Criminology at the University of Plymouth prior to joining the Department of Sociology at the University of Sussex in 2015.

Looking for Homer in the microbiology laboratory - 02 Dec 2015

Date: Wednesday 02nd December 2015

Speaker: Dr Mark Erickson (University of Brighton)

Seminar Title: Looking for Homer in the microbiology laboratory: an experiment in the sociology of knowledge.

Seminar Topic: Examining science from a social scientific perspective is hampered by social science’s ambivalent and contradictory relationship to science itself. However interdisciplinary we aim to be, science deeply infiltrates the objects that we use to make sense of science: we cannot get outside our ‘science-tainted’ vision. The privileged position of scientific knowledge in our society is comparatively recent, dating back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. However, the bifurcation of humanist knowledge into two cultures can be traced further back even than to the Enlightenment, to the time of Plato and the origins of Western philosophy. For philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, an outcome of the Plato-led victory of philosophers over poets is the ‘conquest of abundance’ where abstraction replaces the ‘richness of being’ (1999; 2011). This poignant motif is visible in the project of the social sciences, where theory describes classificatory schemas that can be imposed upon the social world to categorise and, subsequently, explain it. However, Homer’s writings (which predate Plato) provide a completely different frame of reference. By reimagining ourselves within this work we may be able to rethink and reconfigure our understanding of science, and even the practice of science. This seminar reports on an experiment in the sociology of knowledge which attempts to write contemporary scientific production from the frame of reference of Homer. Using a wholly new methodology the result is a provocation to and a disruption of more conventional sociology of science and STS and their ways of making sense of science in society.

Biography: Mark Erickson is Reader in Sociology at the University of Brighton. He is the author of Science, Culture and Society (2nd ed. Polity 2015), co-author (with Harriet Bradley and Steve Williams) of Myths at Work (Polity 2000), Business in Society (Polity 2009) and Globalization and Work (Polity 2013), and co-author (with Charles Turner) of The Sociology of Wilhelm Baldamus: paradox and inference (Ashgate 2010). Before working at Brighton he taught at Aston Business School, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (University of Birmingham), University of Sunderland, and University of Durham.

Sociology of Fun - 24 Feb 2016

Date: Wednesday 24th February 2016

Speaker: Dr Ben Fincham (University of Sussex)

Seminar Title: Sociology of Fun

Seminar Topic: Ben will provide an overview of his new book ‘The Sociology of Fun’. He will discuss some of the key elements, including ‘what is fun?’, ‘how is it distinct from happiness or pleasure?’, and ‘how do we know when we are having it?’

Role: Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Biography: Ben Fincham trained as an FE teacher at Cardiff University, where he subsequently completed a PhD and an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship. He then worked as a research associate with Qualiti, a part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. He lectured at Brighton University before joining University of Sussex in 2009. He has been involved with developing projects on 'mobilities', qualitative approaches to studying work in unstable employment environments and the relationship between work and mental health. He has worked and on gendered aspects of suicide and death as well as gender and research methods. He has just finished a book for Palgrave Macmillan entitled 'Sociology of Fun'.

Luxus: Luxury, Capitalism, Ecology - 09 Mar 2016

Date: Wednesday 09th March 2016

Speaker: Dr Mark Featherstone (Keele University)

Seminar Title: Luxus: Luxury, Capitalism, Ecology

Seminar Topic: In this paper Dr Featherstone will explore the phenomenon of luxury consumption in late capitalism and seek to understand the significance of extravagance, exorbitance, and excess in the context of a global economy characterised by ever widening inequality and unsustainable natural exploitation. In the first part of the paper, he will examine the extent of luxury consumption and extreme wealth under conditions of global capitalism, before exploring the roots of the valorization of excess in the modern thought of Mandeville and Smith. Following discussion of this work, which seeks economic justification for excess and exorbitance, in the second part of his paper he develops a psycho-social theory of the luxurious through reference to Freud’s classic paper, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Here, he offers a psycho-social explanation for the pursuit of excess that looks beyond the absurdity of luxury things towards a kind of metaphysical or, in Freud’s words, oceanic space. Finally, he will extend the discussion of Freud through reference to perhaps the theorist of excess, Georges Bataille, in order to try to capture the contemporary significance of luxurious consumption, and most importantly suggest ways in which this practice may open out onto a new ecology where conflicts between self, other, and world collapse towards a more sustainable red-green future.

Role: Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Biography: Mark Featherstone is senior lecturer in Sociology at Keele University. He works in Social and Cultural Theory and Psychoanalysis and specialises in the study of utopias. He is author of ‘Tocqueville’s Virus: Utopia and Dystopia in Western Social and Political Thought’ (Routledge, 2008) and ‘Planet Utopia’ (Routledge, 2016) and various articles in journals in Sociology and Cultural Studies. He is currently working on projects concerned with the globalisation of psychoanalysis and environment and indebtedness.

Institutional Scandal and the Regulatory State - 06 Apr 2016

Date: Wednesday 06th April 2016

Speaker: Professor Chris Greer (City University London)

Seminar Title: Institutional Scandal and the Regulatory State

Seminar Topic: Chris will talk about his current research on institutional scandal and the transforming state reaction to the proliferation of child sex abuse scandals across the UK public sector. One by one, UK public institutions are being scandalised for corruption, immorality or incompetence and subjected to trial by media and criminal prosecution. In a new regulatory context, the state’s historically characteristic reaction to public sector scandal – denial and neutralisation – has been replaced with the constitutionally and technologically re-vamped public inquiry. Yet the state’s attempts to distance itself from its residual public institutions whilst extending its regulatory control is inherently risky. In attempting to manage the scandal machine, both the state and public inquiries may be subjected to trial by media and become part of the scandal they are seeking to regulate.

Role: Professor of Criminology, Head of Department of Sociology and Co-Director of the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism, City University London

Biography: Chris’ current research examines scandal and institutional failure, specifically in relation to allegations of historic child sexual abuse (CSA). In recent years, he has developed (with Eugene McLaughlin) the concepts of 'trial by media' and 'media justice' to examine the shifting relations between news reporting, institutional power and civil society in a context of media proliferation, changing (not always declining) deference to authority, blurred moral boundaries, and a rapidly transforming communication marketplace. This work has evolved into an ongoing analysis of the multi-dimensional processes through which institutional CSA scandals are activated and amplified - often after decades of silence, denial and/or cover-up - and the impact of these scandals on public policy and trust in public institutions.

Citizenship versus Human Rights: the refugee crisis in Europe - 14 Apr 2016

Date: Thursday 14th April 2016

Speaker: Professor Bryan S. Turner

Lecture Title: Citizenship versus Human Rights: the refugee crisis in Europe

Lecture Topic: The lecture examines two systems of rights. Citizenship is an exclusive and narrow form of membership of a political system based on reciprocal rights and duties. Its origins are secular and bound up with state systems and national sovereignty. Human rights have their origins in Christian values and is a system of rights without duties typically provided for persons who are the victims of war, genocide and statelessness. Both systems have difficulties. Citizenship is not suited to changes brought about by globalization. The typical criticisms of human rights are well known: who pays for them; who enforces them? These problems are illustrated by the current refugee crisis in Europe. The first duty of a state is to provide security for citizens, but states are also bound by human rights obligations. The contradictions between these two systems are examined by reference to different state responses to the crisis.

Biography: Bryan S. Turner is the Presidential Professor of Sociology and Director of the Mellon Committee for the Study of Religion, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York and Director of the Institute for Religion Politics and Society at  the Australian Catholic University (Melbourne). He was the Alona Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor at Wellesley College (2009-10). His most recent publications are Religion and Modern Society (Cambridge 2011) and The Religious and the Political (Cambridge 2013). He won the Max Planck Award in 2015 on the theme ‘Secularization and Modernity: social and religious pluralism’ and is a guest professor at Potsdam University Germany.