Communities and Social Justice
‘Community’ is an enduring theme in public policy and social research. Communities of place, interest and identity are sites of contestation, care and control in an increasingly individualized, yet also inter-connected, world. The Communities and Social Justice (CSJ) research group comprises 18 staff (including 7 Teaching Fellows and RAs) and 12 postgraduate researchers, whose work focuses on community-based action for socially just change. Specialisms in the Department include:
- ‘communities in collaboration’ (community-university research partnerships; participatory action research; communities of practice; community development);
- 'contested communities' (issues of identity, intersectionality, relationships, belonging, space and place, including in faith, ethnic and prison communities; the problematics of renegotiating and reconstructing communities; belonging and exclusion in rural communities; and sustainable communities in late modern society):
- 'communities in crisis' (forced migration; trafficking; sex work; austerity; poverty/debt).
Key questions explored by members of this group include: How is 'community' problematized and used in policy, practice and research? How do communities respond to crisis? What is the role of community-based approaches to promoting social justice locally and globally? How can diverse communities work together for socially just change? What new theoretical and practical approaches to community development/organising are needed?
Researchers in the Department are members of the inter-disciplinary Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, which promotes and supports participatory action research for social justice - you can find out more here: www.dur.ac.uk/socialjustice.
Meetings are Wednesdays, 13.00-14.00 in term time in room 113, 32 Old Elvet, Durham. The programme of activities for April-June 2019 can be found here.
Higher Education and Social Inequality
Mass participation in an increasingly differentiated higher education system has made access to university a key component in the study of social inequality. Gaining a degree, especially from an ‘elite’ university, promises upward social mobility for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but simultaneously reproduces and legitimates the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic advantage. Researchers in the Department are engaged in critically examining prestige differences between universities; exploring the determinants of social class and ethnic group inequalities in access to more prestigious institutions and fields of study; unpacking applied conceptualisations of ‘merit’ and ‘fairness’ in university admissions decision-making; developing evidence-based recommendations for the use of contextual data to significantly widen participation at the point of admission; understanding the causes of disparities in degree classifications awarded to students from different social and ethnic groups; and examining the relationship between degree achievement and social mobility.
Violence and Abuse
As violence and abuse show little sign of reducing, the question of how best to respond remains an important topic requiring interdisciplinary research across the social sciences and beyond. Researchers within the Department are engaged in research on a range of forms of interpersonal violence and abuse including: policing domestic and sexual violence, housing and domestic violence, rethinking justice responses, the role of men and masculinities in responding to violence and abuse, children and young people both in terms of victims of abuse and as users of abusive behaviours, older people’s experiences of gender based violence and responses to older people who perpetrate violence and abuse, and the role of the media in reporting violence and abuse. In addition, researchers are engaged in the application and development of new methodological approaches to the investigation of violence and abuse. We have strong research partnerships with other academics and with statutory and voluntary sector partners and hold events which attract a large number of practitioners, policy makers, and survivors of violence and abuse. Several researchers in the Department are members of the inter-disciplinary Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, which you can find out more about here: www.dur.ac.uk/criva.
Health is a lens to the social. Our approach is multi-level, drawing together expertise around global trends such as climate change adaptation and environmental degradation; national and local health trends and service delivery systems; neighbourhood and community-based health promotion programmes; health professions; and the study of individual health behaviours. Our research combines inter-disciplinary knowledge and expertise around ageing (biology, technology, physical activity, and formal and informal networks of care and support); professions and work (pharmacy, public health, sport and physical activity, social work, social care and governance, policy networks and capacity building); behaviours (young mothers and breast feeding, nutrition, physical activity and weight loss); and community and place (health promotion, health inequalities, place, well-being and community pharmacy). Core concepts include citizenship, the social contract and voice; measurement, self-rated health and evidence; and identity, equity, and equality. The Health and Social Theory Research Group has a website at www.dur.ac.uk/sociology/research/health/, and a blog at: www.durhamhealthresearch.co.uk/blog-1.
The topic of transgressive leisure examines the global theme of how power and deviance structure the ways in which leisure and 'free' time are experienced, regulated and stratified in society. Key strands of this research in the School focus on: 1) the consumption and regulation of drugs, and associated wider policy debates; 2) the night-time economy, festivals and gay and lesbian leisure spaces and how these change in late modernity; 3) sharing, copyright and the management and governance of the failures in policy related to these areas; 4) deviance associated with sport and 5) changing dynamics of sexuality among young people, and how everyday practices of sexual life are experienced by individuals and represented in sociological research and social policy. It is a global theme, advancing social theorising about the way a knowing capitalism permeates and shapes everyday social practices.