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Thinking Allowed 2021
Thinking Allowed explores how society works, with leading social science experts.
16th June 2021 at 4:00PM
Laurie Taylor talks to Robert Putnam, US political scientist of ‘Bowling Alone’ fame, and author of a new study which takes a historical look at the trends that brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. What lessons can be drawn from the past, especially at a time of increased atomisation brought about by a global pandemic?
They’re joined by the sociologist, Emily Falconer, whose research into an Online Zoom community choir - at a time when so many face-to-face activities have disappeared - suggests that such choirs have afforded deep connections between people in a landscape in which the future of social gatherings remains uncertain.
Laurie Taylor talks to Joseph Webster, anthropologist and author of a new book about the Orange Order in Scotland which explores religious hate, the politics of ultra-Britishness, and sectarian football hooliganism. They’re joined by Karine Bigand, Senior Lecturer in Irish Studies, whose work considers the history of anti-Catholicism in Britain and Ireland and the current attempt to memorialise the Orange Order post the Good Friday agreement.
Life imprisonment - Why is it that such sentences were almost unheard of a generation ago and what is their impact on prisoners, as well as society?
Ben Crewe, Deputy Director of the Prison Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, talks to Laurie Taylor about the largest ever sociological study of long-term imprisonment conducted in Europe. Focusing on prisoners convicted of murder & serving life sentences of 15 years or more from young adulthood, it asks how they manage time, think about the future, and deal with existential issues of identity and the meaning of their lives.
They’re joined by Elaine Player, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Kings College, London, who discusses the different needs and experiences of the much smaller number of female ‘lifers’, many of whom are victims of multiple trauma & male violence, drawing on research conducted in a democratic therapeutic community in a women’s prison.
Last year the National Trust produced a controversial report which revealed that 93 of its properties have direct links to colonialism and slavery.
In this programme, Laurie Taylor talks to Corinne Fowler, Professor of Post Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester, whose new study engages directly with this painful history, uncovering the countryside’s repressed colonial past and its relationship to notions of Englishness. How have pastoral mythologies in English literature served to erase the story of Empire?
In what ways do contemporary writers of colour offer a challenge to uncritical celebrations of our 'green and pleasant' land? They’re joined by Paul Readman, Professor of Modern British History at King's College London, whose recent research considers the relationship between landscape and English national identity, from the rural to the urban.
What’s the connection between perfume & politics in the 20th century and how do scents become invested with meaning?
Laurie Taylor talks to Professor Karl Schloegel, Chair of East European History at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt, and author of a new study which examines contemporary history through the prism of two scents – Moscow Red and Chanel No 5. They’re joined by Karen Cerulo, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, who asks how individuals make sense of certain fragrances and correctly decode perfume manufacturers’ intended message and target users.
To what extent do our every day readings of scent produce a world bound by class and race?
BLACKFACE & MINSTRELSY - At its most basic level, 'blackface' is the application of any prosthetic to imitate the complexion of another race. In theory, it's a performance available to all, yet 'whiteface' is relatively unknown. Laurie Taylor talks to Ayanna Thompson, Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, about the painful history of ‘blackface’, an ancient European theatrical device that the Europeans brought with them to America.
What connects it to Blackface minstrelsy, a specific comedic performance tradition rooted in slavery, and why does this racist practice endure today?
Also, Christine Grandy, Associate Professor in History at the University of Lincoln, discusses the origins of the British Black and White Minstrel Show, a prime-time, BBC variety programme which lasted for 20 years, from 1958-1978. She uncovers a little-known history in which broadcasters, the press, and audience members collectively argued that the show had nothing to do with race whilst the complaints and anger of Black people were dismissed.
Fitness & fatness: Laurie Taylor asks if they are two sides of the same coin. He's joined by Jürgen Martschukat, Professor of North American History at the University of Erfurt and author of a new book that looks at the history of self-optimisation from the Enlightenment to the present.
What’s the relationship between neoliberalism and phenomena like Viagra & aerobics? How did the body come to symbolise success and achievement? Also, Sarah Trainer, a medical anthropologist at Seattle University, discusses her study on extreme weight loss, via bariatric surgery.
Her in-depth interviews with patients reveal, in painstaking detail, how the journey to drastic weight - often half a person's body weight - can be at once painful and liberating, revealing which bodies are treated as though they don't belong in modern societies.
MIGRANTS IN LONDON: how has London been shaped by the history of immigration?
Laurie Taylor talks to Panikos Panayi, Professor of European History at De Montfort University, & author of a new study which examines the contribution of immigrants to London’s economic success and status as a global capital - from Jewish & Irish immigrants in the 19th century to the Windrush generation and beyond.
They’re joined by Esther Saraga, a retired social scientist, whose recent book charts the emotional journeys of her parents, two German Jewish refugees, reconstructing their story from a substantial collection of family material, archives, and secondary historical sources. She argues that their contradictory experiences of welcome and restriction challenge simple views of Britain's liberal tradition of welcoming refugees.
Coalmining & Luddism: Laurie explores the meaning of progress, from the former pit villages of South Wales & Durham to contemporary high-tech industry.
He's joined by Huw Beynon, Emeritus Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Cardiff, who charts the rise and fall of coal mining. What has happened to those communities in a post-industrial era? Those who opposed the closure of the mines were often described as Luddites, trapped in a romanticised version of a lost world, but Gavin Mueller, a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, suggests that Luddism may not always be regressive.
His research provides an innovative rethinking of labour and machines & argues that improvement in people's working lives may depend on subverting or halting some technological changes.
The handshake & social interaction. Laurie Taylor explores the history and meaning of a commonplace ritual which has played a role in everything from meetings with uncontacted tribes to political assassinations. He's joined by the paleoanthropologist, Ella Al-Shamahi, who asks what this everyday, friendly gesture can tell us about the enduring power of human contact.
They're joined by Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, & author of a recent article that considers the way in which social distancing and self-isolating have put us 'out of touch' with each other. As he says, COVID is a social disease, a pathological experiment on the nature of our social relations. Will it irrevocably change the way we interact with other human beings?
Tourism & travel: Laurie Taylor explores their past, present, and future. He's joined by the Italian social theorist, Marco D' Eramo, whose latest book unpacks a global cultural phenomenon at the point at which some of us are considering the possibilities of foreign travel, once again. How did traveling, as an elite pastime, evolve into mass tourism? Why do tourists often despise other tourists? How 'authentic' is the average heritage site?
What impact does tourism have on our cities and the environment? Might we find more 'otherness' by staying at home? They're joined by Emily Thomas, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Durham University, whose research has found that philosophers have theorised extensively about the meaning and purpose of travel in a quest to understand the complexity of the world and of ourselves.
Hearing a particular song can take us back to a certain moment in our lives. In this interactive we're going to take a trip down memory lane, looking at songs from the past and exploring what music means to you.Take part now ❯What are the connections between music and memory?
After the doping and hooligan scandals that have taken the shine off previous events, Vitaly Kazakov explains why Russia is hoping for better this time round.Watch now ❯Why Russia is hoping for a good World Cup
What causes riots? Is commercialisation eroding childhood? Does poverty lead to crime? Social science explores such questions and helps inform others – from police officers to civil servants to business executives – who want to base their decisions on the best evidence. The BA (Honours) Combined Social Science is designed to be very flexible, enabling you to develop a variety of knowledge and skills from a combination of subjects including psychology, sociology, social policy, criminology, geography, politics and economics. You can choose to follow a named specialism by concentrating on one of these areas, or create your own combination of subjects. This degree course will equip you with skills highly valued by employers, such as using IT for the retrieval and effective presentation of information and data; critical evaluation; and concise writing. You’ll have your own specialist, subject-based academic support as well as opportunities to join in online communities of other social sciences students for teaching, learning and peer support.Learn more ❯BA (Honours) Social Sciences
BA (Honours) Criminology and Law
Crime, justice and the workings of the law are matters that affect us all and often dominate the news. This degree takes a critical and analytical view of the role and functions of the legal system, and examines its relationship with criminal behaviour. You’ll explore issues such as anti-social behaviour, poverty, discrimination, hate crimes, child labour, as well as global threats from cyber-crime, terrorism and human rights violations, and their implications for justice.Read more❯BA (Honours) Criminology and Law
Building on the OU's reputation for cutting-edge criminological and sociological teaching and research, this joint degree offers you the chance to study lively, topical and sometimes controversial subject matter. You'll investigate questions of crime, criminalisation and social harm to determine whether society's responses to these questions are adequate and appropriate. You'll also explore how social worlds are made and how we, as individuals, are shaped by the societies in which we live.Learn more ❯BA (Honours) Criminology and Sociology
You’ll explore a wide range of topics which shape the nature of contemporary UK society; from questions of identity, inequalities and differences to consumerism and environment, and issues of social order, disorder and governance.Read more❯Introducing the social sciences
Our Free Learning
This free course will help you to navigate your own path through the complex landscape of smart cities. You’ll hear from smart city innovators and entrepreneurs, city leaders, communities and business, connecting with learners from around the world to reflect on issues facing smart cities of different sizes and situations.Learn more ❯Smart cities
This free course will enable you to understand how arguments are constructed and used in the Social Sciences. Using extracts from a Radio 4 broadcast, you will look at the different viewpoints that are taken by the participants and analyse how the different arguments are being put together.Learn more ❯How arguments are constructed and used in the Social Sciences
This free course, From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?, sets the experience of Brexit in the context of the UK. It first analyses Brexit as a symptom of the political, economic and social geography of the UK, focusing on its uneven development in a country increasingly dominated by London and the South East of England. It then considers how the divisions within the UK (within England as well as between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) were reflected in the voting patterns of the 2016 referendum. Finally, the course reflects on the implications of these short-term and long-term trends for the UK’s future as a multinational state.Learn more ❯From Brexit to the break-up of Britain?
Professor Sophie Watson
Sophie is a Professor in Sociology, in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at The Open University. She is the Principal Investigator on a HERA European grant 'Moving Market Places' looking at the mobilities of street market traders across Europe.
Prior to joining The Open University, she held several high-profile academic positions at leading institutions including University College London, University of Sydney, and the University of Bristol.
Professor Watson's current research areas include urban water cultures, Society, and Street markets as Transcultural/Transnational Spaces and public space. Her recent publications are City Water Matters: Cultures, Practices, and Entanglements of Urban Water. Palgrave Macmillan. 2019. and Spatial Justice in the City Routledge 2019.
Professor Louise Westmarland
Louise’s research interests broadly focus on the police and their occupational culture. This has included studies of gender and policing, homicide investigations, and most recently corruption, integrity, and ethics.
She has published many notable articles from her research on police informers, the way they are regulated, and the effect this has on rights and justice.