Sociology Staff Profile: Hilde Stephansen

Dr Hilde Stephansen is next up in our ongoing series of staff profiles which give an insight into your lecturers’ interests and aspirations. Hilde joined our department in September, and writes on democracy, digital culture and media activism.

What first interested you in sociology?

hildeI had been involved in various kinds of political activism before starting university, and had therefore read a little bit of Marxist and feminist theory. I was intrigued, and wanted to find out more. I was particularly interested in understanding how social change happens, the relationship between ‘structure’ and ‘agency’, and the conditions that make it possible for people to take collective action to change an area of social life.

What areas of sociology most interest you today?

My current research is situated at the intersection of political sociology and media & communication studies. I am particularly interested in the relationship between social movement activism and media: how activists use media and communication, but also activism that is about media, such as campaigns for media democratisation and efforts to create alternative media.

What makes for a good sociologist?

Curiosity about the social world, the ability to think critically and look beyond common-sense explanations of social problems, and a genuine interest in, and the ability to empathise with, people whose lives may be very different from your own.

What challenges does sociology face in the twenty-first century?

Sociologists are increasingly called upon to demonstrate the impact of their work in terms of narrow instrumentalist criteria such as their contribution to the national economy. A key challenge is therefore to find ways to demonstrate the public value of sociology that takes account of its broader contribution to social, political and cultural life. I also think sociology as a discipline needs to become more global in its outlook; the most important social issues of our time cannot be explained by theoretical frameworks that equate ‘society’ with the nation-state.

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