Westminster Sociology Open Talks 2016-17: Perspectives on Migration


Date: Thursday 2nd February

Time: 5pm

Location: Regent Street room 412

Westminster Sociology Open Talks in 2016-17  bring together Sociology staff with external speakers to explore a shared topic of interest. In the third talk of the academic year, Dorrie Chetty is joined by Dr Clifton Evers from Newcastle University. Clifton will be discussing his ethnographic work on Australian expats in China, exploring how straight white masculinity travels and mutates with transnational mobility. Dorrie will draw on interviews with migrants and migrant organisations to consider the impacts of ‘crisis talk’.

This event is open to academics, students and anyone else who’s interested in this important topic. External attendees should email h.stephansen@westminster.ac.uk in advance. As usual, refreshments will be provided.


Clifton Evers: Transnational mutating masculinities and mobile media

In the past few decades increasing numbers of people work and live across countries in an effort to stay employed and improve their lives. For some, there is ‘transnational’ mobility. Research to-date about transnational mobility, masculinity, and Australia tend to focus on those moving to this country and how the new arrivals negotiate the hegemony of white straight Australian masculinity and the associated values, tropes, and practices. What has been found is that the hegemony is remaining rock solid. However, what happens when the white straight Australian men engage in transnational mobility as they take up privileged employment opportunities and expatriate life around the world? How does their version of masculinity travel and mutate? Reflecting on ethnographic work conducted over a five-year period in China I show how powerful privileges are tightly clung to, as well as how the men respond when their privileges are challenged and the privileges slip through their fingers or are taken. The presentation includes discussion of these men’s use of ‘mobile media’ – social media and smartphones – to negotiate the dynamics of transnational mutating masculinities.

Dorrie Chetty:  ‘Crisis talk’ in Migration discourses: Impact on UK migrants and migrant NGOs

The main aim of the research is to gain an understanding of how ‘crisis talk’ has structured migrant discourses and in the process affected migrants and migrant organisations. It has two main objectives: The first is to explore the ways in which a focus on ‘crisis talk’ when referring to migrants and migration has impacted on migrants’ lives, and the second to examine how migrant organisations have responded to the ‘crisis talk’.  Referring to migration as a humanitarian crisis can evoke feelings of pity and the need for urgent action to rescue migrants, but when narratives of migration focus on numbers and linked to economic crisis, then migrants can be perceived mainly as a drain to resources, evoking sentiments of self-protection and the need for increasing control of national borders – feelings that are reinforced by the fear of terrorists being potentially amongst migrants.   A 2008 study highlighted the importance of understanding the relationship between recent immigration and social cohesion within the context of other social and economic transformations that affect everyday life for UK citizens (Hickman et al 2008).  A recent Joseph Rowntree report on poverty has indicated a strong correlation between poverty and insecurity (Tinson et al 2016:11).

Based on interviews with migrants and migrant organisations this research highlights the impact of ‘crisis talk’ on migrants and migrant organisations.  The paper argues that the association of ‘crisis talk’ with migration has served to obfuscate the links between deprivation and insecurity.  Furthermore, this association has resulted in exploiting people’s feelings of insecurity, thereby playing a significant role in evoking sentiments of protection based on ‘fear of the Other’, with the potential of serious implications for social cohesion.  The study therefore seeks an understanding of the reported rise in xenophobia and racial violence, in relation to economic inequalities, deprivation and insecurity.



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Alternative Families and Donor Conception: Stories Across the Life-course

Westminster Sociology Open Talks in 2016 bring together Sociology staff with external speakers to explore a shared topic of interest. In the second Open Talk of 2016, Dr Emily Falconer is joined by Dr Susanna Graham, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge to discuss stories of complex kinships and alterative families across the life-course, from donor conception through to adulthood. Refreshments will be provided.


Date: 10 November 2016

Time: 5pm

Location: The Boardroom, 1st Floor, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster, W1B 2HW

Stories of an absent father: single women negotiating relatedness through sperm donation

 Dr Susanna Graham, Centre for Family Research, University of Cambridge

 This talk will present findings from an in-depth, qualitative study exploring the experiences of single heterosexual women in the UK embarking upon solo motherhood through sperm donation. Focusing upon the process by which the participants choose a sperm donor, this talk will elucidate the complex and ambivalent meanings that are attributed to both solo motherhood and sperm donation. By paying particular attention to the women’s decision-making regarding the level and type of information sought about their donor, the power for a sperm donor to become a visible actor, albeit symbolically, in this family form will be explored.


Complex Kinships across the life-course

Dr Emily Falconer, Department of History, Sociology and Criminology, University of Westminster

 This discussion explores the familial relationships of adult children who were themselves raised in ‘queerer’, alternative family structures. Whilst there is now a greater acceptance of same-sex parenting within both public and private services that work with families (fertility clinics, social work, adoption and fostering) U.K public services still struggle to relate to ‘queerer’ families whose lifestyles feel less familiar then the two-parent family. This is especially the case where there are multiple parental figures involved in child rearing. Whilst current U.K law only recognises two legal parents at one time in practice ‘queerer’ families often have more than two recognised parents. There are many combinations of extended queer family formations that include genetic and non-genetic parenting, and ongoing relationships with known sperm donors, but little research that as yet look into the impacts of multiple parenting on the families involved and ongoing networks of care over time. This is especially pertinent where there is a lack of legal recognition beyond two parents, and how this impacts upon care and kinship throughout changes in the life course and potential relationship breakdown.

This event is open to academics, students and anyone else who’s interested in this important topic. External attendees should email h.stephansen@westminster.ac.uk in advance.




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Announcing the first event in the Westminster Sociology Open Talks Series 2016: Val Gillies and Naomi Rudoe on Early Childhood and Social Policy

National College of Ireland

Westminster Sociology Open Talks in 2016 bring together Sociology staff with external speakers to explore a shared topic of interest. In the first Open Talk of 2016, Dr Naomi Rudoe is joined by our newly arrived Professor Val Gillies to talk on early childhood and social policy. Refreshments will be provided.

Date: 20 October 2016

Time: 5pm

Location: The Boardroom, 1st Floor, 309 Regent Street

This event is open to academics, students and anyone else who’s interested in this important topic. External attendees should email h.stephansen@westminster.ac.uk in advance.


Val Gillies

The Politics of Early Years Intervention: Hopeful Ethos or Cruel Optimism

Few policy ideas unite contemporary politicians as unanimously as the logic of ‘early intervention’. The notion that family based risks can be identified in early childhood and managed to transform children’s lifechances enjoys a cross party consensus and features heavily in strategies for tackling poverty and increasing social mobility. It is hailed by left and right as a progressive, forward thinking approach. In this paper I examine the political and economic presumptions driving this ‘stitch in time’ rationale. Drawing on my co-authored book on the subject I set out some key objections to what has become an unquestioned policy trope. In particular I highlight the negative connotations that flow from a preoccupation with prevention.

Naomi Rudoe

Nursery schools, ‘quality’, and early years education policy in England

Early years education policy in England involves a ‘story of quality and high returns’ (Moss, 2014) whereby investing in ‘quality’ early years education provides high returns in the form of better achievement and social outcomes for children. Education and childcare for 0-5-year-olds involves a messy and confusing patchwork of provision, much of which can be described as a childcare market that includes a significant amount of private provision. The ‘second story’ of early education, argues Moss, is ‘the story of markets’. Moss dislikes both of these stories in relation to early years, proposing instead a different vocabulary of potentialities, possibilities, wonder and meaning-making. In this paper I interrogate the story of ‘quality’ in the nursery school, a fast-disappearing form of state provision in England that ‘ticks the box’ in terms of structure and process quality – two common ways of measuring quality in early years education (Mathers et al, 2012). Through analysis of nursery school head teachers’ understandings and narratives of ‘quality’ in their schools, I will discuss whether ‘quality’ can or should hold any sort of objective or common meaning here, and whether it can be leveraged to re-focus on new ways of thinking about the purpose and value of education and care for the youngest children in the school system.

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Westminster Sociology Anthology 2016

The Sociology team at Westminster celebrated with all the students graduating today at the Royal Festival Hall.

Course leader Francis Ray White awarded the students who were included in this year’s Westminster Sociology Anthology.

The aim of the anthology is to reward good dissertations, to provide an example of quality work for future dissertation students, and to promote more widely the achievements of our students in Sociology at Westminster.

Dissertation Anthology 2016

Westminster Sociology Anthology 2016

This year’s anthology includes the work of Nayyar Hussain, who has produced a fascinating study of class, race and gentrification in South Kilburn. Mashudah Farzana’s work explores the experiences of Muslim students at the University of Westminster in the wake of press stories about ‘Jihadi John’. Dhruvee Masters addresses the cultural management of pre-adolescent sexuality, analysing how powerful social institutions enforce a narrative of pre-adolescent innocence. Nile Sobers-Bennett challenges prevalent discourses about cosmetic surgery, refuting the idea that women are ‘cultural dopes’ in the feminine beauty system. Victoria Priegan’s project explores the health experiences of African-Caribbean men and how masculinity influences help-seeking behaviours.

While these five topics are incredibly diverse, they all have qualities that make them distinctive of the kind of work our students produce in Sociology at Westminster: they engage creatively and passionately with contemporary social and cultural life, they challenge dominant ideas and develop new perspectives, and they are centrally concerned with issues of equality and social justice.

Download a free copy in PDF here: Westminster Sociology Anthology 2016





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Sociology Open Research Event: Time and The Body: Stories From the Diasporic Deathbed

In this fascinating contribution to our Open Research Talk series, Dr Yasmin Gunaratnam (Sociology, Goldsmiths) draws on narrative and ethnographic research with migrants and refugees who have settled in Britain and are facing the end of their lives. With the help of ideas from postcolonial, feminist, palliative care, crip theory and neuroscience research, she argues that pain at the end of life for some migrants and refugees is not easily locatable within chrononormative time frames. She draws upon examples from her British Academy funded ‘Case Stories’ project on social pain and transnational dying in the UK. The project used stories, poems and visual images to encourage dialogue with care practitioners and diverse audiences.


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Dorrie on Vanessa


Our very own Dorrie Chetty was interviewed on the Vanessa Feltz radio show this week, where she talked about the representation of migrants, drawing on her own experiences as a fourteen year-old student travelling from her family home in Mauritius to study in Colchester.

For the next month, you can listen to Dorrie here (She’s on at 2hrs, 11mins 30).


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Breaking the binary

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 13.28.22Our very own Dr Francis Ray White features on this week’s cover of London gay magazine QX. They are interviewed as part of a feature on ‘Genderqueer & Breaking the Binary’. Francis writes:

I definitely think that in the last year or two there’s been so much more visibility of non-binary people, at least in certain circles. Part of that is down to figures like Jack Monroe coming out publicly, but it’s also the result of a much longer history of trans activism. When people talk about trans issues now non-binary people get mentioned more often and I feel like that has really come on recently. The ideas circulating about what trans is are broadening out, and that’s really good.

But then, last September, there was the government’s response to an online petition asking for transgender people to be able to self-determine their legal gender. The Ministry of Justice’s response to non-binary people was basically to say that they had no intention of legally recognising people who define as a gender that’s not male or female, and that they were not aware of “any specific detriment” experienced by non-binary people! So it feels like things are starting to be discussed, but it’s still not at a point where you can legally define yourself as something other than male or female.

I’m not sure if legal change is the only thing we need. You are erased in other ways. It’s not overt, but it’s just the world is set up for two genders and if you try to be anything else it sometimes feels impossible. Society just needs to be less gendered in general – like often you get asked for a title or a gender when there’s really no need for it.

There’s just a chronic lack of awareness and a lack of knowledge about other gender identities. Like in that petition response, it’s just generally assumed there aren’t many or even any people to whom this applies and therefore it’s not really an issue. So the progress is uneven, but starting to move in the right direction. I came out as non-binary about four years ago and I feel like even in that time there’s been so much change and people are more aware of what it is.

My queer friends are amazing so they get it and that was fine. I’m out to my family, they took a bit longer to understand it, as did people at work. Working in a university is a relatively accepting atmosphere. Not completely, you’d be surprised, but it’s a lot better than some other places. My students are great. I do talk to them about it but it’s difficult. When I changed my name they got used to it pretty quickly, but it’s harder with pronouns. I am asking them to use ‘they’ now and some of them do and some of them don’t.

The hardest thing is keeping hold of that sense that you are what you know you are, even though you rarely get acknowledged as such. Sometimes you have to exist in the face of the confident assumption that you don’t. But you are legitimate; remember that.


 You can read the whole feature here 


francis 1

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