The Identities, Lifestyles and Culture research group is located at the quadruple intersections in the School of the disciplines of Sociology, Criminology, Social Policy and Social Work. It emphasizes theory (particularly orientation to action) and method.
The conceptual orientations of the group 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 group’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.
The main methodological orientations of the group are qualitative, and this has enabled us to be very successful in recent years in forging interdisciplinary links.
While we recognize that groups working together on a focused theme have the potential to attain more than the ‘sum of their parts’, we do not subscribe to the corporatist point of view and are determined that the group will continue to recognize, protect and promote the individual and scholarly conceptual perspectives and substantive interests that lead to true innovation. Paradoxically, it is new ideas rather than management-determined ‘priorities’ that produce the biggest pay-offs both in terms of large research earnings and, ultimately, the University’s reputation. Consequently, while the group’s activities have been organised under the umbrella of developing concerns, particularly qualitative/methodological, and will maintain this, we presently are orienting ourselves towards consciously exploring genuinely new and evolving theoretical and conceptual developments in social science. To that end, we are promoting a series of seminars given both by internal members and external guest speakers who are active at the frontiers of what will be social science in the 21st century.
Reflecting our eclecticism at the time of writing, the substantive interests of the group’s members include:
- embodiment and the construction of identity in virtual realities;
- biotechnology and bioethics;
- social movements;
- ‘Q2’ mixed methods of researching poverty in sub-Saharan Africa;
- emotion, social roles, normative change and family life;
- state ‘punitiveness’ or harshness (particularly new ways of conceptualising and measuring this and cross-disciplinary perspectives on the issue);
- experiential knowledge and participatory research.