Sociology Talk Series

Members of the public and staff and students from across the University are invited to come and join us for a series of conversations, to share and brew ideas, to discuss social, cultural, and political issues in an informal manner across disciplines.

The Sociology Public Talks are an open ‘exchange space’ for everyone and this spring, Sociology@Plymouth will welcome new, fascinating guest speakers. Invited guest speakers represent a range of disciplinary backgrounds, and from across the University and other institutions, we search for connections and open dialogue in the inter- and transdisciplinary ethos.

No booking is required - just pop in! Wine, soft drinks and nibbles are available to help the conversations flow. We look forward to seeing you!

Any questions? Please contact for further information.

Upcoming sociology talks

A line-up of guest speakers and new, fascinating presentations will appear here in the Autumn term of the upcoming 2020/21 academic year.

Previous sociology talks


What a year it was! As so many other plans, our Sociology Talks series has also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemics and ensuing changes to the academic life. 

Of the planned meetings only one took place:

The Critique of Progress - Professor Rob Mears, Bath Spa University.

In his 2018 book 'Enlightenment Now', Steven Pinker writes, ‘Intellectuals hate progress. Intellectuals who call themselves “progressive” really hate progress’ (39). In this seminar I am interested in exploring the extent to which this charge is justified and, if so, what might account for the deep suspicion in our discipline (and others) of anything that might be deemed ‘progress’. In particular I want to look at how sociology attempts to make sense of violence, both at the inter-state and inter-personal levels. The classic ‘civilisation thesis’ associated with Norbert Elias is central to linking the developing western state systems to a reduction in inter-personal violence. Pinker (following Elias) offers robust evidence of growing thresholds of repugnance towards violence associated with modernity. On the other hand, critics have questioned the tensions between an apparent decline in inter-personal violence with greater threats of violence at State level. The paper concludes with a restatement of the ‘civilising process’ thesis and its main critics.

We hope to guest our speakers whose talks had to be cancelled in the next academic year. 

Dr Rutvica Andrijasevic, University of Bristol

Rutvica's area of expertise is labour migration and her interest is in how cross-border mobility came to occupy a vital place in political struggle over citizenship and labour market access. She is the author of Agency, Migration and Citizenship in Sex Trafficking (Palgrave, 2010) a research monograph that explores the informal recruitment and work practices such as those in human trafficking and interrogates the link between migration, gendered organisation of the labour markets and citizenship. She is the co-editor of the volume Flexible workforces and low profit margins: electronics assembly between Europe and China (ETUI, 2016) and of several special issues such as 'Foreign Workers: On the Other Side of Sexual, Gendered, Political and Ethical Borders' with Organization (2019); 'Digital Labour' with Feminist Review (2019).

Comparative Colonialisms for Queer Analysis - Dr Matthew Waites, University of Glasgow.

Colonialisms are of critical importance for global queer politics. This presentation will outline a new transnational research agenda for comparative analysis of colonialisms in historical sociology with respect to regulation of same-sex sexualities and gender diversity, then proceed to discuss implications of the emerging findings for the present. I will first present a systematic comparison between British colonialism in Kenya and Portuguese colonialism in Mozambique, identifying different forms of legal regulation, and of wider social regulation. This comparison draws on new archival sources including colonial reviews of customary law that represent voices of colonised peoples, and crime statistics on sex offences from the ‘blue books’ through which colonies were required to report annually – revealing aspects of the race/sexuality/gender nexus. Decolonising approaches are essential to analysis, yet seem insufficient, and global historical sociology can also help to grasp some of the complexities. After demonstrating significant differences in the periodisation and forms of regulation between British and Portuguese empires, I will move forward by discussing the legacies for contemporary colonialities in these contexts and by focusing on implications for contemporary transnational LGBTI politics.


This year we have had a slightly reduced a line-up of guest presentations due to the last-minute cancelations. We hosted:

Graduate employment and class differences in a time of precarity – Professor Harriet Bradley, UWE Bristol.

Harriet's research interests are broad and varied. She has a general interest in work and change and structures of inequality. She has written and researched on a variety of topics: women's work in the labour market and the household; women and reproduction; gender and ethnicity in Trade Unions; young people's life histories and employment; intersections of class, ethnicity and gender. She has held a number of grants from a variety of funders: ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, Joseph Rowntree Fund, ESF and the EOC. Her current two projects are qualitative studies of class inequalities, one focusing on families, the other on higher education. She has a current strong interest in the impact of the recession on women and young people. View Harriet's UWE profile to find out more.

Transnational movements, transnational lives? Polish LGBT activism and activists in a transnational perspective - Dr Agnès Chetaille, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

Since its very emergence, the Polish LGBT movement has been embedded in diverse transnational networks, which deeply influenced its composition, actions repertoire and strategies. The analysis of transnational cooperation in support of Polish LGBT activism reveals, beyond the tension between local and transnational levels, existing tensions between Polish activists and Western European ones along the lines of a remaining “East/West divide”. The biographical method and analysis of individual careers of Polish activists with transnational lives should help explore these tensions and the creative responses invented by individuals circulating between contexts and movements.


In the 2017/18 academic year we have focused on exploring the diversity of meanings given to the concept of ‘the social’ across a range of various academic disciplines beyond sociology. We have hosted the following talks from colleagues from other Faculties and other universities: 

i. Social networks and the impact of friendships on colleague feedback assessments for doctors - Sebastian Stevens, Health, University of Plymouth.

ii. Architecture, spatial violence, and social control at the intersections of urbanism and technology - Dr Nikolina Bobic, Architecture, University of Plymouth.

iii. Critical software studies, art, and the notion of ‘contemporaneity’ in social-cultural practices - Dr Geoff Cox, Arts, University of Plymouth.

iv. Visual cultures, consumerism, and the grammar of glamour – Ines Rae, Arts, University of Plymouth.

v. Public perceptions of microplastic pollution and the role of the media - Professor Alison Anderson, Sociology, University of Plymouth.

vi. Protection or control? Migrant sex workers and sexual humanitarian structures - Dr Calogero Giametta, Aix-Marseille Université, France.

vii. Exploring the implications of digital patient activism through four case studies: HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, neuro & degenerative conditions and compassionate use - Dr Allegra Schermuly, Monash University, Australia.

viii. Environmental literacy and new media audiences - Professor Pat Brereton, Dublin City University, Ireland.


In the academic year 2016/17 Sociology Talks were focused on presenting the research projects from our team, with a guest speaker Dr Michael Skey from Loughborough University.

Why do nations matter? The struggle for belonging and security in an uncertain world (speaker: Dr Michael Skey, Loughborough University).

This presentation explores the reasons why national forms of identification and organisation (might) matter in the contemporary era. In the first part, recent research on everyday nationalism is combined with insights from micro-sociology and discursive psychology to highlight the importance of routine practices, institutional arrangements and symbolic systems in contributing to a relatively settled sense of identity, place and community. In the second, I use data from my own qualitative research among the ethnic majority in England (alongside insights from other regions) to explore the hierarchies of belonging that operate within a given national setting. Here, there is a particular focus on how members of the majority position themselves as the arbiters of national space and culture and, as a result, lay claim to key material and psychological benefits. In articulating such views, they also point to the (perceived) threats that certain minority groups represent to both their own status and the nation, which are often articulated in relation to the most banal incidents and objects. 

In conclusion, it is argued that these insights may be used to offer a fresh perspective on current policy debates around national belonging, multiculturalism and community cohesion. At present, an undue emphasis on minorities (what they do, don't do or should do) has meant that little or no attention has been focused on the status of the majority; where are they situated? What are their interests and how are they articulated and justified? In foregrounding the discomfort and insecurity that many members of this group seem to feel, we can begin to unravel what is at stake for them at the current time. In unmasking the significance of different identity formations, we are also in a better position to understand how and why different social groups mobilise and, as a result, offer more practical solutions to some of the most entrenched social conflicts. 

Michael Skey is a lecturer in communication and media at Loughborough University. He was previously a lecturer in media and cultural studies at University of East Anglia and has also taught sociology at UEL and University of Leicester. His research interests are in the areas of; national belonging, globalisation, sociology of everyday life, media events and rituals, mediatisation, sport and discourse theory. His monograph National Belonging & Everyday Life was the winner of the 2012 BSA/Philip Abrams Memorial Prize.