The Identities, Lifestyles and Culture research cluster is located at the treble intersections in the School of Sociology, Social Policy & Social Work of discipline, theory (particularly orientation to action) and method. The conceptual orientations of the cluster centre on constructions of social meaning – such as the ‘sociologies’ of: identity and culture; gender and sexuality; risk, stigma and deviance. The way that the cluster’s members approach these conceptualizations are varied but have in common a view that ‘the social’ is janus-faced – an unfolding of the personal that is constrained, and enabled, by parameters of structure and governance. These processes are seen as developmental with the potential to alter or even transform social structure as well as to reproduce it. Reflecting this structure/action tension, the main methodological orientations of the cluster are qualitative, and this has enabled us to be very successful in recent years in forging interdisciplinary links. For instance, in 2010 the cluster had a strong presence at the Association of Social Anthropologists’ national conference held in Belfast, ‘The Interview – theory, practice, society’ in which the cluster organized two sessions and contributed many papers and a semi-plenary talk.
While the cluster’s activities have been organized under the umbrella of developing concerns, particularly qualitative/methodological, and will maintain this orientation (e.g., running an in-depth interview analysis group of Kenyan material), we envision that the cluster will evolve towards dealing more directly with new theoretical and conceptual developments. While we recognize that small groups working together on a focused theme have the potential to attain more than the ‘sum of their parts’, we do not subscribe to a corporatist point of view and are determined that the cluster will continue to recognize, protect and promote the individualized conceptual perspectives and substantive interests that can lead to true innovation. Reflecting our eclecticism at the time of writing, the substantive interests of the cluster’s members include: European identity; citizenship and human rights; disability; drug use; prisons; religion; race and ethnicity; migration; biotechnology and bioethics; biography, life course; relationships and the transmission of capital between generations; virtual and ‘meta’realities. However, intellectual activities during the current year have been curtailed by the University’s instrumental priorities, requiring an emphasis upon REF preparation instead.
Julie Evelyn Harris