The events of 11 September 2001 and their aftermath, and more recently 7/7 and 21/7, throw into sharp relief the core concerns of this module. How can individual and collective forms of social agency create a more inclusive society, indeed world society? Or, in Alain Touraine’s words: Can we live together? Needless to say, the module will not provide definitive answers, even where they exist in theory. Nor will it be possible to deal with all the appropriate questions.
It aims rather to deal with some of the key issues facing multicultural and polyethnic societies. What are the nature and roots of tensions between different putative groups based on ‘race’, ethnicity, culture and religion, and how may these be addressed? How do additional forms of social ‘difference’ as reflected by (say) age, gender and class complicate the picture? By the end of the module you will have a good insight into the problems inherent in the balancing of competing interests created by multiple social divisions.
Following the opening session, which aims to provide a broad overview of the module, we begin to explore the meaning of social inclusivity in respect of those conventionally defined as ‘minorities’; here essentially seen in terms of ‘race’, ethnicity and/or faith.
The module is divided into four parts. The first explores the social significance of ‘difference’. In particular, this means a detailed appraisal of the ontological status of the concept of ‘race’. We question its scientific status and look at its relation to the concept of ethnicity. This is part of a much broader analysis of ‘difference’ within society; involving factors such as age, gender, disability and class, as noted earlier. Whilst focusing on ‘race’ and ethnicity, the module nevertheless carries through this much wider conception of identity.
Part II focuses on sites of exclusion. The lecture programme here covers immigration control, refugees and asylum seekers, housing and residential segregation, education and the labour market, and the policing of urban communities.
Combating these exclusionary forces is the focus of Part III. A number of distinct forms of agency are considered here, varying from grass roots community involvement, to major Civil Rights movements, to legislative programmes geared to controlling the actions of those individuals and groups who discriminate on grounds of ‘race’, ethnicity, culture and religion.
The final part of the module reflects on the prospects of/for an inclusive society/world, and on the role of sociologists in promoting (or not promoting?) such a future. More specifically, it reflects on some of the contemporary debates in the UK about ‘integration and cohesion’. These will be seen to raise some extremely important questions about the tensions between ‘community cohesion’ as a policy paradigm and the quest for equality and inclusivity.