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April newsletter

amy_hinterberger_picture.jpgIntroduction to the Technologies and Markets specialism - Amy Hinterberger

What has life been, what has it become, and what futures does it hold? Our world is characterised by transformations in science, technology and biomedicine which redefine how we see ourselves, along with others and the world at large. I work in the Sociology department, teaching and doing research on how changes in medicine and technology impact society. For example, technologies like genetic testing have offered up new ways to understand how our bodies work, but these technologies are also political and ethical. Private companies can hold patents over certain genetics tests making potentially life-saving information accessible to only some people who can afford these tests. Changes in science and technology are of concern to everyone – and bringing a sociological lens to these issues is what I do. It’s also what you will do when you undertake a specialism in 'Technologies and Markets’ in our Sociology Department here at Warwick.

In the 17/18 academic year, I am teaching a course called ‘Bodies, Property and Politics’ where we look at the entanglements of capitalism and biotechnology, such as the patenting of human cells and DNA, the recruitment of humans in clinical trials and markets human organs. Students love this course not just because the topics are often new to them, but also because the course makes these new topics accessible and fascinating to think about from different social and cultural perspectives. In our department you will learn to think globally about the political and ethical stakes of science and technology – and such perspectives are highly valued in today’s face-paced technology driven world.

In order to make change in the world, we need to understand how new forms of technology influence everything from the smallest aspects of our lived daily experiences – such as checking our phones constantly – to the ways in which new technologies promise to solve global problems, such as food shortages and the availability of medications. This is what we offer through our Technologies and Markets specialism.

richard_lampard_jpg.jpgIntroduction to the Research Methods specialism - Richard Lampard

I have a background in social statistics, and I teach undergraduate modules focusing on how relationships and families have changed and on the analysis of large social surveys using sophisticated statistical techniques. Over the years my research interests have also involved the study of social mobility and class-based inequalities, but at present I am mainly looking at how and why people start and end couple relationships. What intrigues me is how relationships, like families, have evolved in some ways and remained the same in others, something which I try to put across in my teaching.

Our BA in Sociology contains core modules on research as an activity and qualitative and quantitative methods, but the Specialism in Research Methods is based on the opportunity that students have to do additional modules that allow them to obtain a more extensive knowledge and understanding of methods and methodology, and how these are applied within research in particular substantive areas. Both students who are motivated to carry out postgraduate research and students who plan careers in social research outside Higher Education have benefitted from developing their skills and awareness in this way, but for many students the appeal of specialising in this way is that it enhances their ability to be creative by generating new findings about the social world, and also their ability to critically evaluate research such as that considered in my relationships and families module.

A number of modules within the BA Sociology with Specialism in Research Methods are taught by members of the University’s Q-Step Centre, which is part of a national programme whose aim is to deliver a step-change in quantitative skills in the UK (and beyond), because of the growing importance of quantitative information in societies, both nationally and globally. However, gaining a broad, evidence-based understanding of such high profile issues as Brexit, stagnating social mobility, and experiences of austerity and social divisions in the contemporary UK requires a range of methods that are covered in depth within the Specialism and its modules, from complex statistical analyses to ethnographic fieldwork.

 

Introduction to the Race and Global Politics specialism

teodora.jpgTeodora Todorova

"Here in the Sociology Department at Warwick you have the flexibility to shape your Sociology degree according to the specific specialism that reflect your interests. We offer a variety of specialisms and today I want to tell you about the specialism in Race and Global Politics. With all the political changes that have happened since 2016, there isn’t a better time to choose this specialism and see how Sociology can help you to understand what has happened and why it might have happened.

One of the current modules that makes up this specialism is Social Movements and Political Action. This module focuses on the evolution and role of contemporary social movements in society. Each week we will focus on one movement as a case study, using such examples to reveal different aspects of political action outside of the state. Topics we cover include The Arab Spring, Occupy, and Black Lives Matter.

Whether we personally take part or not, social movements have played a central role in our lives. Without social movements, many injustices of the past and present would remain unaddressed: from overturning feudal serfdom, to abolishing the legal slave trade, to the extension of the franchise for men and women, to labour rights, to overcoming state-sanctioned apartheids, to post-colonial nationalism, to putting civil rights on the agenda, to the recognition of women’s rights, to addressing environmental destruction, to the popularisation of fairer international trade, to human rights and LGBTQI rights. Whether a march, sit-in, protest camp, squat, street battle, armed insurrection, coup or revolution; global history – and particularly modern history – is a story of social movements and political action."

img_3713.jpgKaty Harsant

"My name is Dr Katy Harsant and I’m a Teaching Fellow in the Sociology Department. I did my undergraduate degree in Sociology before completing a Masters in Social Research and then a PhD which looked at the history of the United Nations and their policies on military intervention. I’m really interested in the ways that history can help us to understand contemporary global society and the way that certain aspects of history are often ‘left out’ – particularly around colonialism.

As part of your degree at Warwick, you are able to choose a specialism that reflects your sociological interests. There are a number of specialisms to choose from and some of the modules that I teach are part of the Race and Global Politics specialism. We’ve seen significant political changes recently both in the UK and elsewhere, for example, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the ongoing #BlackLivesMatter campaign. This is a really good time to choose this specialism if you want to understand how and why these changes might have occurred.

One of the current modules that forms part of the Race and Global Politics specialism is ‘Race and the Making of the Modern World’, which looks at how ideas of race have been central to the structure of the modern world. We look at the historical processes of dispossession, colonisation and appropriation and see how they were significant in laying the foundations for the modern world, as well as thinking about how they shape the present. We build upon these themes in ‘Race, Resistance, and Modernity’, which is available to you in your final year and examines the various ways in which this racialized ordering of the world has been resisted.

Both of these modules were designed in order to address concerns raised by students about the nature of the curriculum and we read really important writers who are present less often in Sociology. We go back into history in order to think about how it can help us to understand contemporary society and very relevant political issues. I love teaching both of these modules as students often find that they provide approaches to understanding the world that they haven’t come across before – some students have even said that they’ve had their minds blown!"