Year 13 Sociology students enjoyed a really fruitful visit to the University of Sussex. After a quick pit stop for drinks and snacks, the day started with a talk by an ex-student giving introduction to student life. We learnt about the ‘dos and don’ts’ of writing UCAS personal statements, the myriad of societies on offer, degree types, scholarships, accommodation and much, much more.
Dr. Paul McGuinness then delivered a really interesting lecture examining the differences between classic and positivist approaches to criminology. For example, we learnt about the enlightenment period and the influence of social contract theory upon neo-liberalism. The lecture was not ‘dumbed down’ at all for our students and whilst some found the language and style quite daunting and very different to A-level lessons, it gave them a valuable insight into the teaching at universities. Moreover, much of the lecture content is directly applicable to the A-level specification so the lecture should give our students a real advantage when they are trying to access the higher grades.
After a tour of the campus and canteen lunch, students attended their second lecture of the day with Dr. Jamie Barnes who deconstructed culture and gender by applying some of the key arguments of Marcel Mauss, Pierre Bourdieu and Iris Marion Young to help challenge conventional thinking about these social factors. The highlight of the lecture was when Dr Barnes asked the students and teachers to model gendered behaviour, whilst slightly embarrassing, it was a fun way to help emphasise how gender is ‘embodied’ and whilst our behaviour appears natural, it is far from it.
Hopefully everyone will agree that the trip to the University of Sussex gave you all a taste of university life but most importantly, two fantastic sociology lectures. Personally, I was particularly riveted by the first lecture by Dr Ben Fincham. Using Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and in particular, Iris Marion Young (who he claimed is a “genius”), he really broke down gender to highlight how masculinity offers males an advantage in life and conversely femininity imposes limits on what most women can achieve. For Young the example of how many girls throw is the perfect example of how females are socialised into acting in an inferior way – throwing a ball badly. There is nothing genetically predisposed that means a female should throw a ball like a shot put but this is something that is taught.
Another good example of this is how males and females sit. Many males stretch out or sit with a wide posture, they effectively own the space around them. On the other hand, females often sit with their legs crossed or together, so unlike the men, they are inhibited and are filling as little space as possible. Again, this is an example of gendered learnt behaviour and cleverly encapsulates the limitations of femininity.
Here is the Vice magazine article that Ben (The Professor of Fun!) mentioned: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-spent-a-day-with-the-professor-of-fun-how-to-have-fun-as-a-young-person-hannah-ewens
The second lecture delivered by Dr Paul McGuiness was also very interesting. Discussing Bentham’s panopticon prison he utilised Michel Foucault to help him consider how these ideas could be applied to contemporary society. For example, it could be argued that with greater governmental powers to monitor internet usage many British modify their behaviour for fear of being watched. This is crucial to Bentham’s panopticon prison idea with the central guard station being positioned in the centre of the prison with very small slits for the guards to look out of. Thus the prisoners could not know for sure if they are being watched, therefore they would have to regulate their behaviour just in case they were.
Also, remember that Jaques Donzelot applied the ideas of Foucault to the family. He argued that government policy could be considered a form of state control over families because surveillance is taking place. For Donzelot, a policing of families is taking place because doctors, teachers and social workers are all implementing these policies and to control and change families.
Dr McGuinnness also considered the role of prison. Is it there to punish or rehabilitate inmates or does it exist to deter the public at large. Interestingly, using a Marxist perspective he argued that if capitalism was replaced by socialism perhaps prison would be unnecessary…