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Thinking Allowed 2018
Thinking Allowed explores how society works, with leading social science experts.
Laurie Taylor presents a special edition of Thinking Allowed which was recorded at The Open University in Milton Keynes. He was joined by Sophie Watson, Professor of Sociology at the Open University, Oliver Zanetti, Visiting Fellow at the Open University and Gillian Rose, Professor of Human Geography at Oxford University.
To what extent are our ideas about physical perfection culturally and socially constructed? Laurie Taylor talks to Gretchen Henderson, Lecturer in English at Georgetown University & author of a study of perceptions of ugliness throughout history and to Heather Widdows, Professor of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, whose latest book explores the radical transformation of the status of beauty and the increasing emergence of a global ideal.
Has it ceased to be a place of leafy affluence as poverty has migrated from the city? New research suggests the decline of an American 'golden age' of white picket fences and two garage homes. Laurie Taylor explores the origin, myth and reality of the suburban dream, in Britain as well as the US. Is the suburbanisation of poverty a widespread phenomenon? He's joined by Mark Clapson, Professor of Social and Urban History at the University of Westminster, Scott Allard, Professor of Social Policy at the University of Washington and Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics.
Will China rule the world? Laurie Taylor talks to Yuen Yuen Ang, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, and author of a study which explores China's unusual route out of poverty. They're joined by David Tyfield, Co-Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University, and author of a new book examining the prospects for an alternative global power regime.
Illumination and darkness: Laurie Taylor is joined by Tim Edensor, Reader in Cultural Geography at Manchester Metropolitan University, and author of a study into the ways in which light and dark produce everyday life and the stories we tell about ourselves. In examining the modern city as a space of fantasy through electric illumination, he considers how we are seeking-and should seek new forms of darkness in reaction to the perpetual glow of urban lighting. They're joined by Robert Shaw., lecturer in geography at Newcastle University, who has studied the relationship between night and society in contemporary cities. He claims that the economic activity of the 'daytime' city has so advanced into the night, that other uses of the night as a time for play, for sleep or for escaping oppression have come increasingly under threat.
Laurie Taylor examines the role of business schools in the UK and abroad.
Martin Parker joins him in the studio to discuss the arguments in his book Shut Down the Business School - What's Wrong with Management Education. Laurie is joined on the line from New York by the author of The Golden Passport - Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite, Duff McDonald. Are there similarities between the American business school model and its British counterpart?
With some MBAs costing in excess of £75,000 in the UK, what is the lure for prospective students and is the qualification worth the money? Or should we be thinking beyond the monetary value of MBAs and focus instead on what MBA graduates could be giving back to society and the importance of corporate responsibility? Maeve Cohen is the Director of Rethinking Economics, an organisation which argues for a change in the way that economics is taught and calls for more diversity and historical context in the economics curriculum, and she also joins the discussion.
GF Newman's quartet of plays, Law & Order, provoked calls from MPs for the author to be arrested for sedition and the summoning of the director-general of the BBC to the Home Office to explain himself. The dramas explored the role of the Metropolitan Police, the criminal, the solicitor and the prison system around one central story. They provided a savage and uncompromising assessment of the criminal justice system, one in which corruption and stitch-ups were common. Laurie Taylor considers the impact of those plays and the extent to which they created a public and political debate which produced positive reform. Four decades later, have we any cause for complacency? He's joined by the writer, GF Newman, Tim Newburn, Professor of Criminology at the LSE and Charlotte Brunsden, Professor of Film & Television Studies at the University of Warwick.
May 2018 sees the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx's birth. Laurie Taylor explores the philosopher's ideas and legacy.
Laurie Taylor analyses the social and political consequences of our digitised world. In light of recent data breach scandals around companies like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, what does that mean for democracy? Why has the Internet failed to set us free? He's joined by Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media for Demos, in conjunction with The University of Sussex; Monica Horton, Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science and Will Davies, Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmiths College.
This year's winning entries explored complex lives and worlds. How did Dalits, member of India's lowest caste, shake the political establishment in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu? What's the impact on the health of people living in a heavily polluted area in rural China? How do Liberian refugees earn a living in a refugee camp in Ghana? Laurie discusses this year's shortlist with two of his fellow judges - Hilary Pilkington, winner of the 2017 award and Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester and Nayanika Mookherjee, shortlisted for the 2015 award and Associate Professor (Reader) in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at Durham University.
'Mixed-race' is the fastest growing ethnic group in the UK. But how do multiracial parents identify their own children? When is a mixed-race heritage passed down to the next generation and when is it not? Miri Song, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent tackles these questions in her new book, Multiracial Parents: Mixed Families, Generational Change, and the Future of Race (2017).
Joining the discussion is socio-linguist Marta Wilczek-Watson whose work on trans-national relationships finds there has traditionally been too great a focus on the apparent difficulties faced by couples who come from different countries.
And we hear from one of those tasked with recording the UK's shifting demographics in the British Census, Pete Benton, Director of Population and Public Policy Operations at the Office of National Statistics.
'Hook up' culture - Laurie explores a new sexual culture on American campuses and asks if it has a British counterpart. Casual sex in higher education has a long history but Lisa Wade, Professor of Sociology at Occidental College Los Angeles, suggests a significant shift in the culture - one which benefits some students at the expense of others. They're joined by Zoe Strimpel, a researcher and historian from Sussex University, who has analysed the changing nature of dating.
Also, Josue Ortega, lecturer in economics at the University of Essex, analyses the impact of online dating. Tinder and other such apps are often thought to be routes to temporary hookups. But this new study suggests that these tools may actually be helping more people to get together in new ways, and for good.
Laurie Taylor explores the many meanings of the term. Terry Eagleton, Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of Lancaster, argues that sacrifice has a bad press in the modern age. The notion of giving anything up fails to appeal in a world devoted to self-fulfilment. But is there more to sacrifice than burnt offerings and self-denial? Can it ever be radical? Also, Chetan Bhatt, Director for the Centre on Human Rights at the LSE, examines the idea of sacrifice as invoked by Salafi-Jihadist suicide bombers. Does the inherently de secular nature of sacrifice inevitably pose the risk of promoting political violence?
Mixed race families: Around 50% of Black Caribbean men have white partners and the figure is just under a third for Black women. Inter-racial unions are now an unremarkable feature of British life. Miri Song, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, talks to Laurie Taylor about the meanings that these parents attach to their racial identity. Also, Nasar Meer, Professor of Race, Identity and Citizenship at the University of Edinburgh asks why racial and ethnic disparities continue to be fundamental to our society.
Drude Dahlerup, Professor of Political Science at Stockholm University asks why women still under-represented in politics. Can we speak of democracy when women are not fully included in political decision-making? Some argue that we are on the right track to full gender equality in politics, while others talk about women hitting the glass ceiling or being included in institutions with shrinking power, not least as a result of neo-liberalism. Also, how the words we use—and don’t use—reinforce dominant cultural norms. Why is the term "openly gay" so widely used but "openly straight" is not? What are the unspoken assumptions behind terms like "male nurse," and "working mom,"? . Eviatar Zerubavel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, explores the word choices we make every day without even realizing it and exposes the subtly encoded ways we talk about race, gender, sexual orientation and more.
The white working class - are they the left behind? Noam Gidron, a Fellow at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University, asks if the right-wing, populist vote is a reflection of the declining social status of this group. He's joined by Gurminder Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex, who argues that a concern with economic disadvantage, when talking about the election of Trump, as well as Brexit, has led to a new 'identity politics' of race - one where class takes second place to 'whiteness'. The writer and broadcaster, Kenan Malik, joins the discussion.
The politics and meaning of 'alternative' foods: Laura Miller, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University, discusses her study of 'Natural Foods'. How did what was once a culturally marginal set of ideas evolve from associations with spirituality and bohemian lifestyles to being a mainstream consumer choice? She's joined by Ton Hayward, food writer and broadcaster. Also, Harry West, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Exeter, considers the 'authenticity' of artisanal and heritage foods.
A Valentine Day's Special. Laurie Taylor explores changing attitudes to infidelity and considers a cross-cultural history of rings. Wendy Doniger, Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago, asks why this piece of circular jewellery keeps re-occurring in myths and stories about seduction, love, sex and betrayal. What can it tell us about the shifting nature of power relations between men and women? She's joined by Adam Kuper, Visiting Professor in Anthropology at Boston University. Also, have attitudes hardened towards adultery? The visibility of non-monogamy suggests a challenge to dominant assumptions about the feasibility of lifelong sexual fidelity. However, infidelity remains the lone area of adult sexual practice that is disapproved of under any circumstances. Dr Jenny van Hooff, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, examines claims about the extent to which relationships have been de-traditionalised.
Laurie Taylor explores the origins, meaning and rise of populist politics, across the Left as well as the Right. He's joined by Mukulika Banerjee, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, LSE; Luke March, Deputy Head of Politics and International Relations at Edinburgh University and Thomas Osborne, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Liberalism & Political Ethics and Prof of Social & Political Theory at the University of Bristol.
Laurie Taylor asks if it's the answer to an increasingly precarious job landscape. Could it bring greater financial freedom for women, tackle the issue of unpaid but essential work, cut poverty and promote greater choice? Or is it a dead-end utopian ideal that distracts from more practical and cost-effective solutions? He's joined by Stewart Lansley, Visiting Fellow at the School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol and editor of a new book which shares research and insights from a variety of nations including India and Finland; John Rentoul, Visiting Professor at King's College, London and Ursula Huws, Professor of Labour and Globalisation at the University of Hertfordshire Business School.
A sociological concept which is finding new life in contemporary Britain. Laurie talks to Graham Scambler, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at University College, London, Lisa Morris, Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Birmingham and Joanna Latimer, Professor of Sociology at the University of York.
Laurie Taylor talks to Anna Lora-Wainwright, Associate Professor in the Human Geography of China at the University of Oxford, and author of 'Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China'. Her study revealed the health consequences of drinking tainted water and breathing visibly dirty air in villages affected by phosphorous mining & fertiliser production, lead and zinc mining and electronic waste production. Residents suffered a range of ailments, from arthritis to nosebleeds, in areas with a high incidence of cancer. Her extensive fieldwork found that villagers often felt powerless to challenge the 'slow violence' and human costs of rapid industrialisation - their activism was tempered by resignation. Isabel Hilton, international journalist and broadcaster joins the discussion. Isabel is the founder and editor of chinadialogue.net, an online publication that focuses on the environment and climate change. She was awarded the OBE for her work in raising environmental awareness in China.
The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
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The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
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Professor Sophie Watson is a lecturer in Sociology, in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at The Open University. She is the Principal Investigator on the 2018 joint research programme, 'Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe'.
Prior to joining The Open University, she held several high-profile academic positions at leading institutions including University College London, University of New South Wales, and the University of Bristol.
Professor Watson's current research areas include Everyday life and the Digital Society and Street markets as Transcultural/Transnational Spaces.