Category Archives: sociology

The world is your Oyster card …..

Funny how its often easier to walk from place to place in London rather than get on the tube and how travelling underground can distort your senses in terms of time distance and places. Yet as I made my way to St Paul’s from Euston, which requires taking the northern line then the central, I gazed around and started to wonder what the link was between the people on the different underground line was to the class of people who live above. Thinking about where they are coming from what they are doing where they are going – looking around people watching – one of my favourite pastimes. The unsmiling faces, gender balance, mix of cultures and comparing this to traveling around on buses and trains in Liverpool. Thinking of all the classic stereotypical representations and the north south divide. Then it occurred to me that this all links to micro-sociology, to the performances and presentations we all make on a daily basis. What assumptions would people make of me ? And how different travel is in different countries.

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This got me to to thinking about how I’m looking forward to the field trips we are running this year in sociology and sociological criminology at LJMU – one to Brussels and one to London and how you could as a student incorporate your observations back to the theories you have come across in your degree ….. One thing that is really important when making sense of field trip experiences is to write them down, have a clear approach and talk to others about what you observe, the assumptions you make and talk to each other to see how your experiences and perceptions are the same or different and how your positionality has an impact on your understanding of the world we live in. Hence this blog to show how my random thoughts led to a conversation with my friend who reminded me of a map of class and poverty linking the tube to income and wealth – so I googled it and found

http://spatial.ly/2012.com.com/07/lives-on-the-line

Definitely worth checking out that link – and looking at the mapping London site – here’s a taster …..

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http://life.mappinglondon.co.uk

I’d rather walk above the ground, breath the ‘fresh’ air, and make my observations in cafes and parks – but interesting to think how you can link transport to class – and it reminded me of the first lecture Liz James gives on social perspective in the first year when she talks about the meanings and learning we can do from simply people watching on the bus. The key thing is to write down your thoughts and ideas to create a record, maybe use photography to capture your feelings and to use these as a basis for analysis at a later date

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Other things you can do is note and compare the feel of the actual tube stations – what is being advertsied where and what state are they in – what does this tell you about the society that we live in

Check out Goffman as well it you want to know more and maybe read an article or two on observation as a method and see where it takes you …. Remember the world is your oyster šŸ™‚

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Padma Kanya, Pashupathinath, Patan Dhokami and … Paint !

Traveling to Padma Kanya Campus the next morning by rickshaw meant that we all arrived in time for our interaction session where staff and students from both PK and LJMU shared presentations on their research interests and took the opportunity to meet new people.

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Talks ranged from the topics being studied on gender education as women’s right to child maternal mortality and uterine prolapse. It was excellent to see everyone present their ideas so clearly and thanks is due to all the staff and students at PK who,attending making the morning a great success.

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Whilst visiting the Hindu temple and cremation site at Pashnupathi Nath some of the students took the opportunity to visit the Bidra Ashram – Old People’s Home close by. Whilst a peaceful location the home is in need of having the rooms and facilities upgraded but the activity and energy of the residents the gave the students food for thought as they compared them to those back at home.

The peace museum at Patan dhoka, established by Kundan Dixit, was a sobering reminder of the conflict and its impact Nepal and serves as a reminder as one of the books by Kunda is aplenty named .. Never again. http://www.apeoplewar.com.np

Following in from this an impromptu visit to Sattaya Arts collective and the amazing graffiti gave us the opportunity to experience the Kolor Kathmandu project in action details of which are found here and on facebook http://kolorkathmandu.sattya.org/

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In keeping with a peaceful end to our hectic day a sunset visit to Swayambu was squeezed in before once again heading back to Thamel.

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Krazy Kathmandu

Starting the day off meeting Indira from Prisoners Assistance Nepal was an excellent induction to the challenges faced by women in prison in Nepal. Indira shared her stories of fighting for women’s rights and her work in supporting their families to reduce the impact that prison sentences in Nepal have on society here in Kathmandu. Walking to PAN with her gave everyone an opportunity to see Nepal through the eyes of a truly inspirational activist.

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Following on from this we were taken to the Organic Farm and new location of Bike Zone which provides an excellent community centre on the outskirts of Kathmandu as well as being a social enterprise with all profits going back to support PAN. Students returned later in the week to go on a bike tour and can recommend it as an experience not to be missed if you have them on your hands whilst in Kathmandu and want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city. The ridiculous size of our bus meant we had to walk to get there which showed yet another side of Nepal to the tourist centre that is Thamel.

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Lunch was provided for us at the Women’s Foundation and an excellent, though somewhat depressing talk, on the challenges facing many women in Nepal today. The work being done by staff at the women’s foundation though gave us all some hope that a new Nepal is possible, where women’s rights are upheld, where gender based violence is challenged and eradicated and where the world as envisaged by the women’s foundation is achievable.

The day ended with a much needed rest stop at Boudnath Stupa before heading back to the Kathmandu Guest House and the charms of Thamel awaited!

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Geography Sociology … same same but different

Geography sociology what is the difference ? Something I have pondered over the past year and the one thing that stands out is the tradition and value placed on field trips within Geography as an essential benchmarked skill. With the redeployment of myself and my colleagues into Sociology and Criminology we have taken with us our passion for Geography into our new positions. My colleague Dr Giles Barrett won an award for innovative teaching based on his development of a field work module for criminology students paving the way for further work in this area.

Whilst I have brought students to Nepal over the years who have been studying Geography this is my first time leading a trip of sociology and criminology students. All of them have developed research proposals and conducted background research into topics which interest them, which in this group of 13 range from women in prisons, education and disabilities, community police and gender and policing to the role of cooperatives in routing development and the aspirations of women in higher education.

From the minute the students landed it was full steam ahead. For many of them it was their first time traveling to Asia and the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu was a surprise. After settling into the Kathmandu Guest House they all went out into Thamel on an orientation task to familiarise themselves with the environment. This included taking photos, seeking recommendations for places to eat and noting down their observations in their diaries. It was to the the start of an intense journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara to Chitwan and back …. one that I hoped would have a lasting impact …. I’ll post my blogs on my journey and look forward to reading their reports to read about theirs! Maybe they will even comment here ?

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Was glad I met the students at the airport !

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Studying society … Studying what matters.

Dr Lee Crookes, from Sheffield University, gave an excellent guest lecture at the Studying Society Student conference in March just before i headed off to Nepal – been meaning to blog about it ever since but just not had time to reflect – so here is a summary of the things i wanted to say.

The student conference ran in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool with the main aim of giving first year students at my University an opportunity to present their research projects as part the assessment for the tutorial module.

Lee spoke with passion and commitment about his experiences of growing up in South Yorkshire and the impact that this had had on him not only as person but on his interest as an academic in his interest in researching the underlying causes of inequality and injustice. He talked about the miners strike, growing up in Thatcherite Britain and how this has influenced his research interests that he pursues today http://www.shef.ac.uk/trp/staff/leecrookes

Lee reflected on his own name, influence by the popularity of the tv programme the Six million dollar man in the 1970’s, and pointed out there are very few academics named Lee. According to one study if you are called Lee you are most likely to be …… in prison ! My favourite heading though from his excellent slides was the one where he reflected on conference papers that had been on offer at the America Association of Geographers Conference – you could choose from session titled … Dogs on holiday – the geography of toothbrushes or the sociology of shoes !! He wasn’t surprised but was some what disheartened to find that these sessions were better attended than the sessions held on poverty and inequality that he went to.

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Lee’s work on housing market renewal and the threat that is facing working class people and marginalised disenfranchised communities proved a timely reflection given the bedroom tax currently being implemented within the UK which is going to have a massive impact on society and will undoubtably lead to an increase in poverty on our own door steps. These are the types of issues students will study at LJMU noodles such as critical policy and protest and resistance as well as modules on housing and society.

The commitment Lee has to his research and exposing the inequalities and stigmatisation that government policies have on the everyday person was clear from his presentation – I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to hear Lee speak at future events and also read his work in this area. He shared the stories of local people who have fought and resisted compulsory purchase orders and exposed the impact of ill thought out policies.

Whilst Lee noted it is very difficult to get ‘evidence’ to show the impacts of these policies on people’s health and well being as stories can often be dismissed as anecdotal – Lees talk highlighted the need to listen to local people, gather and share their stories to not dismiss the dismissible but to take the time to listen to voices to share good practice and too use your social science skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world – not only in the wider world but in the local works in which you live here and now.

I hope students rise to Lee’s call and make the most of the opportunities they have whilst studying at LJMU to get involved, research real world issues, to protest and take action and to realise their full potential.

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To Boldly go…

Great opportunity for students on Monday 4th March to actually test out some of the methods that we cover in the sociology methods module at my university by setting up interview, observation and photography tasks for second years in and around the Bold Street area. Surprised that more students didn’t take up the opportunity to get out and about and put the theory into practice – the ones that did however will have gained valuable insight into the challenges and opportunities presented by using a variety of techniques.

Students took the opportunity to interview Oli and David from Independent Liverpool over a coffee in Leaf about their work and the need for people to support independent retailers in Liverpool – worth checking out their reviews on Facebook and a great source of ideas for dissertations take a look at their web site http://www.independent-liverpool.co.uk and like them on Facebook to spread the word !

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Others students undertook observation tasks and an opportunity to interview Sam who runs Bold Street Coffee hopefully shedding light on the opportunities and challenges that independent coffee shops in Liverpool face. Will be interesting to hear the students feedback next week on the differences between Starbucks and other coffee shops along Bold Street.

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Another group engaged in a visual activity, capturing images of Bold Street and the surrounding area with the aim of comparing it to images of the past. Looking forward to the feedback session in the class on Monday. Taking the time to do the activity helped them see the city through different eyes and led to discussions on the impact changes in society has upon yeh urban environment and the different views that people have on graffiti in the city. Janette Porter was also interviewed by a group of students about her work on a number of projects in Liverpool working with a diverse range of people through the Crass Routes organisation – see http://crassroutes.org/ for more details. Netty also spoke to her work with Genie in the Gutter and the ‘Out of the Bag’ project which is showcasing in Liverpool on March 22nd.

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The morning was rounded off with a presentation and Q&A session with the CEO of FACT Mike Stubbs, who shared his knowledge on the changes in and around the Bold Street area, the role of FACT in the community and FACTs vision for the future as well as discussing the challenges and opportunities that the development of Liverpool One poses!
For what’s on at FACT check out http://www.fact.co.uk

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Thanks to all who participated both students and interviewees – looking forward to the feedback session on Monday morning next week and keep a look out for an exciting initiative that may result from the meeting of people with similar minds related to the use it post from Brussels ! Watch this space….

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Leuven or Sikles !!!

What an amazing day I had in Leuven – started off by meeting lotte who works from UNDP and having a really good chat about development, governance and lots of interesting things especially good to catch up with her and exchange ideas about the aleevee8 concept (www.aleevee8.com) and talk about the importance of business ideas to help development in Nepal.

And then on to the most wonderful Sikles Parche welcoming part for me and my two students who are here with me in Belgium. It was quite emotional in many ways as I have been meaning to come here and visit them for so long but with work, research, family and nepal commitments it has been hard to find the time and funds to do this – so I make the most of my opportunity of being in Belgium and came to see the sikeshi community here in Leuven. As oh my life Leuven is a beautiful place to be – though not as nice as Sikles maybe…

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So many familiar faces and people who I had taught all the way back in 1992 now living and working here and all wanting to share ideas and think about how best to support their family and friends who still live in Sikles and surrounding villages. It’s probably worth saying here when I talk about Sikles I am also talking about Parche as well as I said yesterday – Sikles Parche ustei ustei same same not different ! And in many ways it also includes other villages that are the same in so many ways like Khilang, Taprang, Thak, Sonda, Tanting – the thing that makes these places special is the heart of the people that live their and their love of their own homes communities and cultures even when they are living overseas they remain a tight community and celebrate their background and heritage. Lauren and Selina really enjoyed meeting so many wonderful people and appreciated everyone sharing their thoughts and ideas with them – and especially they loved the beautiful children who were so playful and cute they were made to feel very welcome !

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I had taken with me some old photos and the book of course – that goes without saying – but I also found a survey I had done in the school with every child from class 6 to 10 on their family structures icon during who was in their family where they lived what they did what they liked and didn’t like at school and even how many animals they had as well as what they wanted to do and where they wanted to live in the future. Sharing this information with the people who had come to the event and hearing all their amazing lives connections and stories made me relative I need to come back and do some properly reach on this and link it to how best to suport the people who live in your birth place !

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I was welcomed by everyone, and was happy to meet Yuba Rajs elder brother and sad to not see Yuba who I haven’t seen since 1998 šŸ˜¦ Seeing so many faces made me miss Sikles , remember all the time I have spent there and especially made me miss and say a prayer for grandma and Bir Kumari – I’m sure they were with us in spirit yesterday.

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Sharing ideas and being welcomed by so many people was lovely – and I have a new name – Dr Sara Gurung – thank you Om Raj ha ha – hope my husband doesn’t mind too much ! Anyway that’s all I’ve got time for now and a big thank you to the owner of the restaurant for the snacks and drinks and the food was amazing – Dheri Dheri dhanyabad mero Siklesko saathlai – Sikles mero maiti Ho !! And now Leuven can be my third home maybe – pheri betaunla are ramro sangha bonus – Sara didi (nani)

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Filed under Brussels, field trip, nepal, Sikles, sociology, Uncategorized

Brussels and blogging

Well here I am in Brussels with two sociology students on a field trip – which is a new experience for me as many of you will know I don’t know Brussels so much so was a bit worried at how it would all work out! My main reflection so far is to have more faith in myself as despite a lack of contacts I think it’s going really well and we are making the most if the contacts we have! Lauren and Selina are mature responsible students who are a pleasure to be with (and I’m not just saying that because they will read it!) and have fully immersed themselves in the tasks I have set them. On the plane I made too use of a great map Lauren had managed to find when that morning I had declared ‘Oh my life I haven’t evern prepared an urban trail !’ The map she gave me was full of great suggestions .. But more on that later.

The first visit we made was to visit the fair trade advocacy group here in Brussels and hijack the first 20mins of an interviewing that Bob had set up – some really interesting insights into the important role of advocacy and forthcoming events followed by a mega long chat about education, which is the focus of the research being done her by Lauren and Selina. Lots of questions for us to think about such as the role of mayors in today’s society, why is the UK so conservative and in today’s recession is it easier for males to get a place on PGCErt courses and why.

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We then did a massive urban walk taking covering most if the south side of the city having a lunch stop along the way as we headed to the British Council then European Parliament. The BC was not so much use given they don’t let anyone in but the European Parliament had an interactive exhibition which was interesting to reflect on. The best bit for me was the maps and globes – reminding me of my geographical routes !

Then coffee an cake in a great little organic fair trade cafe – lots of these about in Brussels.

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Met the girls for breakfast and had briefing session on diaries and set them a task for the day ready to meet up later tonight – I had some time to catch up on work and plan my trip to Leuven tomorrow. Being away and travelling makes you realise the value of having on your own time as you really can step back and reflect – my problem now as I am posting my ideas onto Facebook and blogs and generating more and more work for myself – note to self plan in some chill time !

Using the great map mentioned before I planned out a self guided tour on my own to check out others area of the city and set of on tram and a metro to check out the ‘exotic’ international sector in the north – which turned out to be no so exciting and rather dull. The most exciting thing a I saw was lots of tubs of olives – but to the north of the area was in interesting looking Art project on gender what ill have to check out.

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However I did come across the offices of use it who are the people, behind the map and ended up with the most brilliant discussion with the two volunteers who were in the office that day on a whole range of top is from how the projects work, how the maps and are made and possibilities of how we can engage young people in Liverpool in the initiative – I’m sitting in the cafe next to the offices now just buzzing with ideas and hope that it leads to something practical in Liverpool but only time will tell … If you are interested in what use it do – engaging and empowering young people to make maps for other young people – then check out http://www.use-it.info. Also came away with ideas for where to go tonight so all in all a good days work.

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And finally about to head back but having great Moroccan soup and cappuccino in Via Via which is the nearest type of bar cafe I have found to the pass by bar in Beijing – and very similar to cafes in Kathmandu – very laid back and chilled – alternative – off for one more coffee

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