edited by Gerard Delanty
has just been published.
It contains some 50 wide ranging original essays. I have a small contribution on
I have been interviewed by Charlotte Morris for this new and exciting book. See
We are excited to announce that the call for papers for our Storytelling Conference is now open. We invite papers that theoretically and empirically engage with a broad range of disciplines reflecting the diverse nature of storytelling and stories substantively and methodologically.
Yiannis Gabriel – day one
Ken Plummer – day two
The conference aims to bring together established academics, early career researchers, PhD candidates and students. Topics covered by this call could include but are not limited to:
The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI) and European SSSI
Lancaster University 4 , 5 and 6 July 2018
‘Whose side are we on?’ Power, Stigma, Transgression and Exclusion in Everyday Life.
Some Notes for:
“Whose Side Are We On?” Revisited: On Narrative Power, Inequality and The Struggle for Human Value
‘To have values or not to have values: the question is always with us’. And so Howard S. Becker opened his celebrated Presidential Address, Whose Side are we on?at the American Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1967. Today, a half-century later, this conference returns to this puzzle – and Becker, with his key idea of the ‘hierarchy of credibility’.
My talk will fall into three parts. I start by briefly reviewing Becker and some key developments in our understanding of values and ideology since that time. The body of my talk will turn to my new book Narrative Power, and introduce some key ideas about narrative power, narrative inequalities and narrative exclusion, sketching out a basic model of intersectional and locational power which highlights Domination, Exclusion, Negotiation and Resistance. I highlight the dynamics of the subordinated standpointand narrative othering, drawing out a wide range of examples where these processes are featured and suggest many of us tacitly work with this in our studies. I end with a discussion of the importance of trying to understand the struggle for human valuethroughout history, one that is grounded upon our embodied and emotional humanity. I suggest what some of these values might look like. Knowing our values helps us to understand better whose side we are on.
If you click here , HANDOUT you will get ny conference notes:
For more info: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/sssi2018/
“Whose Side Are We On?” Revisited: On Narrative Power, Inequality and Hope
‘To have values or not to have values: the question is always with us’. And so Howard S. Becker opened his celebrated Presidential Address, Whose Side are we on? at the American Society for the Study of Social Problems in 1967. Today, a half-century later, this conference returns to this puzzle – and Becker, with his key idea of the ‘hierarchy of credibility’. My talk will briefly review Becker and some key developments since that time, before introducing some current thinking about narrative power, narrative inequalities and narrative injustice, sketching out a basic model of intersectional and locational power which highlights Domination, Exclusion, Negotiation and Resistance. I will look at a wide range of examples where these processes are featured and suggest many of us tacitly work with this in our studies. I end with a discussion of narrative hope – built up from five key positive political practices: narrative recognition, narrative dialogic belonging, narrative justice, narrative citizenship and narrative flourishing.
To mark the 50th Anniversary Changes in the law……
a recent little piece written for the British Sociological Association Web site at:
On 27th July 1967, the Sexual Offences Act, ‘an act to amend the law of England and Wales relating to homosexual acts’, was passed – starting the long journey to decriminalize homosexuality, foster equality, become liberated. Just one year before that I had ‘come out’ as gay to self, friends, family and the gay world. And one year after that I embarked on a PhD on gay life, and became an ‘out’ sociology lecturer. Then, in 1970, at the London School of Economics, I sat in an inspiring room with 12 others at the start of the Gay Liberation Front, coming our politically. These were intoxicating times.
The 1970s brought exhilarating changes as new gay scenes, activisms, and ideas emerged along with tremendous possibilities for studying gay life. (A BSA Homosexuality Study group was set up). The 1980s brought darker times with the ubiquitous fear of HIV and AIDS everywhere, as well as in Thatcher’s nasty Clause 28. Yet both of these events did help in mobilization, and a challenging industry of research on AIDS emerged. By the 1990s, a real take off point had happened – theoretically with queer theory, and practically with the development of stronger mainstream movements like Stonewall. The controversial assimilationist battle over queer marriage dominated the politics of this next period, along with growing global concerns for gay rights. And here we are now, celebrating progress and the 50th anniversary of the changes in the law. It is good to do so: in dark times, the successes of the past fifty years are real markers of advance. And yet…
Changes have been slow, piecemeal and often grudging. Indeed, as Peter Tatchell has shown on his website, “Gay sex ceased to be a crime in the UK only four years ago. Unbelievable but true!”. It has indeed taken many years to remove all the cautionary restrictive clauses. And despite many positive trends, we must be careful about this cheerful cheering. Stonewall has kept documenting problems in schools (with bullying, for example), in the workplace and more generally in their 2013 study they could, notoriously, can still document “one in six lesbian, gay and bisexual people experiencing a homophobic hate crime or incident over the last three years”. And world wide, there are still some 72 countries that still criminalise same –sex relationships (I see an image of a world map with two thirds of the world hostile).
But let’s come a little closer home. As a gay sociologist for fifty years I have rarely experienced the discriminations and hostilities that I have written about; and have found sociology, and my department at Essex, to be a welcoming discipline in which to be gay. But that said I have not found the discipline that hospitable in taking seriously the intellectual issues of queer or LGBT in its overall project. I have been allowed my own little space, but work in this field is not encouraged and does not flow into mainstream sociology at all.
I could give many examples but here are two, merely illustrative. First, back in 1995, the BSA organized its pivotal conference around ‘Sexualities in Social Context’ and several of is organizers were certainly gay and lesbian. Yet, in the three volumes of papers finally published in 1996 (some 34 articles selected from 250), only two were gay linked, and they were about HIV! Jump forward twenty years to John Holmwood and John Scott’s important recent Palgrave Handbook of Sociology in Britain (2014): over 600 pages there is no significant mention anywhere of homosexuality! How is this possible in an age of so called intersectionality? There may be a liberal acceptability of LGBT today, as indeed there was in my circles in the 1970s, but it happens in a tiny controlled space on its own: it is absolutely not allowed to enter the mainstream of anything. Look at key sociological works on class, power, ethnicity, social movements, digitalism, human rights, gender, the body etc: it is queer indeed that LGBT/Queer issues will rarely if ever be found – you have to look a little outside of sociology to find them, but rarely within sociology! The same of course wickedly applies to theory: queer theory is still, unbelievably after 30 years, noticeably absent from most books on social theory (I looked at twenty texts to hand, and found queer theory briefly mentioned in only two).
This is not really good news. Why is this? I suspect a deep disciplinary and institutional bias: as any one who studies racism and sexism will know, these processes have deep and complex historical roots. We may now be legal, but I am reminded of Sumner’s pithy clichéd dictum: legislation cannot make the mores. Despite legal changes, there is still a very long way to go.
Ken Plummer’s first books were Sexual Stigma (1975) and The Making of the Modern Homosexual (1981). His most recent writings include: ‘Afterword: Liberating Generations: Continuities And Change in The Radical Queer Western Era’ in David Paternotte and Manon Tremblay, eds (2015) Ashgate Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism; ‘On the Infinitude of Life Stories: Still Puzzling Queer Tales After All These Years’ QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking 4.1 (2017) p189-197; and Cosmopolitan Sexualities: Hope and the Humanist Imagination (2015). Ken is Emeritus Professor in Sociology at the University of Essex.
I have just published a new short article.
This is an extract of an article published in QED: A Journal in GLBTQWorldmaking 4.1 (2017) p189-197.
Tony Adams and Derek Bolen eds
‘Queer Auto/ethnographies” Forum for
QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking.
Over the years I have told many sexual stories. It started with having to grapple with these issues at a young age as I dealt with my own (now very traditional) coming out story, back in the late 50s and 60s: a time when being queer was shrouded in stigma, secrecy, shame and sickness. Not to mention illegality. A little later, as I went to graduate college, I turned to asking the more research-oriented questions of how to get others to tell their sexual stories. I interviewed other gay people initially – on their relationships, their communities and their coming out as the law was changing in England. As I became more politically aware through the early GLF movement, I was challenged to think about the conditions under which people get a voice and how are they silenced. What can be said and what cannot be said? By the late 1970s I had taken an academic life route into a much wider funded program of research into sexual diversities, which eventually broadened into an even wider concern: what are the social conditions under which different kinds of stories can be negotiated and get told? And all the time I had a nagging doubt: about the complexities, multiplicities, contingencies of what people say about their lives, as I moved into the even grander questions of epistemology and ontology. What indeed is a life, can it indeed ever be told, what is the status of what someone says about their life? In all this, I was never alone: I joined a vast conversation on all such matters and the chorus grew almost deafening. And now, as I enter the later stages of an ageing – and ultimately dying – life, the autobiographical puzzles of generation and time, illness and death are becoming ever more prominent and pervasive. The questions for life story tellings keep rolling on.
As I became more involved with these stories, so I was also becoming increasingly aware of their problems: of the fragility of storytelling. I have known, almost from the start, way back in the 1970s, that there can never ever be any simple or straight telling. Call this queer if you like. This has also raised a serious doubt about the entire nature of a social science enterprise that seems to rely, overwhelmingly, on people giving information about their lives to interviewers: material which is always and inextricably, indelibly, inevitably problematic. There simply are no ‘pure’ stories to be told. I balk at the current trend for Big Data that bypasses even the most elementary problems of humanistic story telling data.
I learnt all this in my earliest work as I followed the well-known research rules for interviewing people and gathering data. I wrote a few early papers based on the stories told to me. But I was not really satisfied with this, even from the start. And so my thesis became more theoretical, cutting a lot of the basic data out. Then, following the usual career path, I needed to get a grant and do ‘real post doc research’. And this I also duly did; gathering a great deal of data on a wide range of the sexually different. I did this side by side with settling into my new university, which was to be my home for the next thirty years. But the research was messy, chaotic, and served as an apprenticeship in doubting. It led me to find the data I had gathered as deeply worrying. What kind of truth was I getting at here? Audiences were certainly more interested in the stories I had than any abstractions, but all the time I was wondering about just what was the status of these stories, including my own. I started to talk more and more about the methods of research, leading me to the writing of Documents of Life 1 in the late 1970s. Ethics and reflexivity became key issues.
Moving on and looking back I can see I have always been writing on the edge of the autobiographical. Involvement in social research always impinges on your life…..
This is a great summer for the musical revivals in London: An American in Paris, 42nd Street, Carousel, On the Town. They have all been wonderful productions. And Oklahoma still to come in August in the Proms.
But off centre a bit, a marvellous new production of Working has opened at the Southwark Playhouse ( till July 2nd). It is outstanding and a must see. Based on Studs Terkel’s masterpiece oral history WORKING – published in 1974, this is the revised and updated version.
It has new songs along with some classic songs from the original – every one is a dramatic delight with a on the ball young and older cast. Dynamic dance abounds. Really is something special..