Thinking Allowed

Thinking Allowed

United Kingdom

New research on how society works


House of Commons - Voting and Inequality  

The House of Commons - an anthropologist's guide to the political 'tribe'. Emma Crewe, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, spent two years doing interviews in the Palace of Westminster and MPs constituencies. She talks to Laurie Taylor about her study, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the hidden mechanisms of parliamentary democracy. She's joined by Lord Daniel Finkelstein, political commentator and associate editor at The Times. Also, Anne Phillips, Graham Wallas Professor of Political Science, asks if inequality impacts on rates of voting in general elections. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Rentier capitalism - Protest camps  

The Corruption of Capitalism & the rise of the rentiers. Laurie Taylor talks to Guy Standing, Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, who claims we're living through a Second Gilded Age, one which mirrors the vast inequality and concentration of wealth in the hands of the few which characterised late 19th century America. The difference now is that it's global and its beneficiaries are mainly the owners of property. So is capitalism now rigged in favour of a rentier class? They're joined by David Smith, the Economics Editor of The Times. Also, Protest camps: Anna Feigenbaum, Senior Lecturer in Digital Storytelling at Bournemouth University, charts the transnational history of tents pitched for political change.

Political polarisation, An anthropologist's guide to naming  

Political polarisation in America. Laurie Taylor talks to Marc Hetherington, Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, about why distrust of the opposite party is now so common in the US. Is the same pattern emerging in Britain? They're joined by Robert Ford, Professor of Political Science at the University of Manchester. Also, an anthropologist's guide to names and naming with Barbara Bodenhorn, Emeritus Fellow, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Higher Education - Crisis or Change?  

Higher education - crisis or change? A special programme exploring the role, meaning and future of a university education in a globalised world. It was once assumed that university graduates, particularly those from working class backgrounds, had a route to social mobility via a degree. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University, tells Laurie Taylor why her new study suggests the end of the American dream of self improvement. Half the students, in her sample of 3,000 disadvantaged young adults, dropped out of college due to a lack of financial resources. Lorenza Antonucci, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Teeside University, compared the lives of students in England, Italy and Sweden and found that, contrary to what is assumed by HE policies, participating in university education now exacerbates inequality. Thomas Docherty, Professor of English and of Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick, joins the discussion, placing these developments in the context of an increasing marketisation of education which, he argues, has turned the university into the servant of the economy. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Shyness - Names  

Shyness: Laurie Taylor talks to Joe Moran, Professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University and the author of study of the 'shrinking violet' in history and sociology. Also, a sociology of naming. Jane Pilcher, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Leicester, explores the relationship between names and our sense of identity. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Men dressing up - The male 'suit'  

The male 'suit': Christopher Breward, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Edinburgh, talks to Laurie Taylor about the myriad forms and meanings of a garment which has dominated men's wardrobes for 400 years. From Saville Row to Wall St; in times of crisis, as well as celebration; the tailored suit is so ubiquitous that we take it for granted, ignoring its complex history and many varieties, including the Zoot Suit and Le Smoking. Although it embodies ideas of traditional masculinity and respectability, it has also been subverted by women, musicians and revolutionaries Also, men 'dressing up'. Barbara Brownie, a senior lecturer at University of Hertfordshire, explores how, in recent years, the wearing of costumes has become an increasingly masculine pursuit. Through historical re-enactment, superhero 'cosplay', and the personalisation of characters in online games, a new generation of men are taking pleasure in costume. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Airport security, Retiring to Spain  

Airport security: what are the costs of a surveillance regime which turns us all into potential suspects? Laurie Taylor talks to Rachel Hall, Associate Professor in Communications at Syracuse University, New York, about her study into the 'transparent traveller' who must submit their bags and bodies to technologies aimed at countering terrorism. Also, Anya Ahmed, Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Salford, explores the pleasures and pitfalls of retiring to Spain in her research into the lives and times of working class British women who've made this choice. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Food bank Britain, Food poverty in Europe  

Hunger pains: Life inside foodbank Britain. Kayleigh Garthwaite, Leverhulme Trust funded researcher in the Centre for Health and Inequalities Research , Durham University, interviewed hundreds of people who depend on emergency food provision, one of the most controversial by products of the UK government's 'austerity' programme. Critics of these economic policies claim that food poverty has now become a major issue for many citizens - Trussell Trust foodbank use is at a record high with over one million three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in 2015/16. Beyond the statistics, the study focuses on the experience and feelings of users of foodbanks, as well as the volunteers. Stewart Lansley, Economist and visiting fellow at the School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol, joins the discussion, providing a historical perspective on hunger in Britain. Also, food poverty in Europe. Owen Davis, Doctoral Candidate in Social Policy at the University of Kent, places hunger in Britain in a wider context. How do we compare to other countries? Producer: Jayne Egerton.

The English Defence League; 'Real' immigrants  

The English Defence League: A study of the individuals who comprise this far right movement. Hilary Pilkington, Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester, provides fresh and timely insights into a politics built on English identity and opposition to 'Islamism'. They're joined by Nasar Meer, Professor of Comparative Citizenship and Social Policy at Strathclyde University, Who's a 'real' immigrant and who's 'not really' an immigrant? Martina Byrne, Lecturer in the School of Social Policy, Social Policy and Social Justice at University College, Dublin, discusses her study into middle class attitudes to immigration. Why do white Irish professionals consider that white Eastern Europeans are immigrants but white French and Australians are not? Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Political women and language, The morality of sleep medication  

Political women, gender and speech: Laurie Taylor talks to Deborah Cameron, Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Oxford, about her analysis of the performances of the three female party leaders who took part in televised debates during the 2015 UK General Election campaign. What were the similarities and differences between the women and their male colleagues, as well as between the women themselves and how was it taken up as an issue in media coverage of the campaign? Also, the morality of sleep medications. Jonathan Gabe, Professor of Sociology at Royal Holloway, University of London, talks about his study into attitudes towards the prescribing and taking of sleeping pills. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Good neighbours, The connection between sport and domestic abuse  

Good Neighbours and the democracy of everyday life. Our neighbours do small favours and greet us on the street. They also, on occasion, startle us with noises at night and even betray us to the authorities. Laurie Taylor talks to Nancy Rosenblum, the Senator Joseph Clark Professor of Ethics in Politics and Government at Harvard University, about her study into our many and varied encounters with the people 'next door' - from suburbia to popular culture; in peaceful times & during disasters and across time and culture. They're joined by Graham Crow, Professor of Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. Also, the connection between sporting events and violence against women. Jodie Swallow, Post Graduate Research Student at Chester University, discusses her research into women's experience of domestic abuse in the context of the FIFA World Cup and the Six Nations Rugby Union Tournament. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

A special programme on Pierre Bourdieu  

A special programme on Pierre Bourdieu: Laurie Taylor explores the ideas and legacy of the French sociologist, best known for establishing the concepts of cultural, social, and symbolic forms of capital (as opposed to traditional economic forms of capital). His book 'Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste' was judged the sixth most important sociological work of the twentieth century by the International Sociological Association. His work is credited with enhancing the understanding of the ways in which the social order and power are transferred across generations. Laurie is joined by Diane Reay, Professor of Education at Cambridge University, Derron Wallace, Post Doctoral Fellow at Brandeis University and Kirsty Morrin, Phd Student at the University of Manchester and co-convenor for the Bourdieu Study Group. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Secrecy at Work, Drugs and Employment  

Secrecy at Work: the hidden architecture within our organisations. Laurie Taylor talks to Christopher Grey, Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, about his study into the secrecy which is woven into the fabric of our lives at work - from formal secrecy, as we see in the case of trade and state secrets based on law and regulation; informal secrecy based on networks and trust; and public or open secrecy, where what is known goes undiscussed. Also, drug taking and employment: how does the UK anti drugs policy shape our concept of 'employable citizens'? Charlotte Smith, Lecturer in Management at the University of Leicester, argues that drug consumption, in neo liberal times, is positioned as the antithesis of economic potential. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Engineers of Jihad, Orange Jumpsuits  

Engineers of Jihad: Laurie Taylor asks why so many Islamist extremists come from an engineering background. He talks to Steffen Hertog, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, about a new study which finds that Islamist and right-wing extremism have more in common than either does with left-wing extremism, in which engineers are absent while social scientists and humanities students are prominent. Is there a mindset susceptible to certain types of extremism? They're joined by Raffaello Pantucci, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. Orange prison jumpsuits: Elspeth Van Veeren, Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Bristol, discusses the US prisoner uniform which took on a transnational political life due to the Global War on Terror. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Ale drinkers, Northern accents  

Northern accents at work: Trainee teachers are under pressure to speak the Queen's English. Laurie Taylor talks to Alex Barrata, lecturer in Linguistics at the University of Manchester, & author of a study which finds that certain regional accents are frowned upon in a profession that would normally oppose discrimination. They're joined by Paul Kerswill, Professor in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York. Sensible drinkers: the drinking discourses of real ale enthusiasts. Thomas Thurnell-Read, Lecturer in Cultural Sociology at the University of Loughborough, explores the way in which some drinkers construct themselves as sociable and self controlled, in contrast to their hedonistic and unruly counterparts Producer: Jayne Egerton.

'Queer' wars, Nigerian beauty pageants  

'Queer' Wars: The claim that LGBT rights are human rights meets fierce, sometimes deadly opposition in many parts of the world. Politicians and religious leaders invoke tradition to deflect such universal claims, accusing Western activists of neo colonial interference. Laurie Taylor talks to Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security at La Trobe University, Melbourne, who has examined the international polarisation over sexual rights. He asks how best we can advocate for change in contexts where people face violence and imprisonment for their sexuality and gender. They're joined by Lama Abu- Odeh, Professor in Law at Georgetown University, Washington. Also, Nigerian Beauty Pageants. Juliet Gilbert, Teaching Fellow in African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham, reflects on the popularity of such spectacles in a country where crowned winners use pageantry as a 'platform' for success, hoping to overcome the double bind of gender and generation in a deeply religious and patriarchal society. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Glasgow gangs - Russian gangs  

Glasgow & Russian gangs: Laurie Taylor explores their origins, organisation and meaning in two strikingly different cultures. He talks to Alistair Fraser, Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology at the University of Glasgow, whose fieldwork with young Glaswegian men, demonstrates that gangland life is inextricably bound together with perceptions of masculinity and identity and the quest to find a place in the community. They're joined by Svetlana Stephenson, a Reader in Sociology at London Metropolitan University, who found that Russian gangs, which saw a spectacular rise in the post Soviet, market economy in the 1990s, are substantially incorporated into their communities, with bonds and identities that bridge the worlds of illegal enterprise and legal respectability. Alistair Fraser was in the final shortlist of six for this year's BSA/Thinking Allowed Ethnography Award. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

TV in prison - Live music in prison  

Prison TV: Laurie Taylor considers the therapeutic role of television in the modern day jail. He talks to Victoria Knight, Senior Research Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester, and author of a new study examining the way in which TVs in cells manage the everyday life and emotions of prisoners; helping deliver both care and control. In addition, she offers insights into how technology in prison is evolving globally. They're joined by David Wilson, Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University. Also, prison 'blues': BB King, the African American Blues musician, died on 14 May 2015. One year on, Les Back, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, London, focuses on his performances in prisons. Over a 25-year period, B.B. King performed for free in 47 different jails across America. Situating his concerts within a wider political context in which a crisis was unfolding in US prisons, Back explores the implications of King's prison 'blues' and interrogates the meaning of music behind bars. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

Migrant women, Wedding paradoxes  

Migrant women in Britain: Laurie Taylor talks to Linda McDowell, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Oxford and author of a sweeping study of generations of immigrant working women in Britain. From textile mill workers in the 1940s to shopkeepers in the 50s, nannies of the 90s and software developers of today, these first and second generation migrants have been in the vanguard of a social revolution in women's contribution to the economy in the second half of the 20th century. In factories and hospitals, care homes and universities they've played a lasting role in British society, in spite of recurrent discrimination. But what do they have to say about their work and experience? Also, Julia Carter, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Canterbury Christ Church University, considers the reasons why, in an era when weddings have never been more liberated from cultural norms and official control, couples still choose to follow the same assumed traditions. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

The Flaneur - Walking in the City  

Walking in the city: The flaneur and flaneuse. Laurie Taylor presents a themed programme which explores the history and meaning of the urban stroller, past and present. Keith Tester, Adjunct Professor at the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, charts the origins of the 'Flaneur'; the "man of the crowd" of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Baudelaire, and one of the heroes of Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project. Matthew Beamont, co-director of University College London's Urban Lab, contends that the city idler isn't simply a by product of modernism, illuminating London's past via the nocturnal wanderings of poets, novelists and thinkers. And Lauren Elkin, lecturer in the department of English and Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris, counters the implicit assumption that the city belongs to a figure of masculine privilege and leisure. She introduces us to the transgressive 'flaneuse' who claims the right to city space. Producer: Jayne Egerton.

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