Policing pregnancy is bad for babies

By Jennie Bristow.

When pregnant women are told about yet another thing that they should avoid doing in case it compromises the health of their fetus, barely an eyebrow is raised. Smoking? Of course not. Blue cheese? Don’t be daft. A glass of wine? Best not to, just in case. Eating anything at all? Well, if you must – but don’t get greedy now. Remember, being pregnant is no excuse for putting on weight.

So Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s first female chief medical officer, demonstrated her sisterly solidarity just before Christmas by claiming that obesity should be treated as a ‘national risk’ alongside terrorism. Women, in particular, are in the frame; because, the Daily Telegraph reports, ‘rising levels of obesity in pregnancy are jeopardising the health of future generations’.

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Theorising medicine, race and knowledges

Over the Michaelmas term of this past academic Dr. Harshad Keval was on sabbatical. While he was missed by staff and students, he has certainly put the time to good use. He’s currently seeing the fruits of his academic labours which, unlike Sisyphus’, are paying off! Harshadhas spent his time writing a manuscript for publication with Palgrave on South Asians, health and constructions of risk amongst diabetes patients and he has also explored these themes his recent peer-reviewed papers.

He has a paper on discursive construction of risk amongst diabetes patients published in New Genetics & Society, arguing that contemporary medical perceptions and patterns of diagnosis demonstrate a radicalised understanding ‘genes’ and racial phenotypes, making South Asians victims of a discourse of belonging to medically ‘risky cultures’. And Harshad has continued to explore this radicalised understanding of health in contemporary medicine in another paper, co-authored with Asesha Morjaria-Keval in Religions, on Sikh spirituality and its alternative knowledges on alcohol recovery.

Alongside these empirically informed and theoretically situated articles on race, medicine and the handling of radicalised experience health services, Harshad has extended his work into the world of policy debate and public polemic, writing a guest editorial on the ‘magical disappearance’  of race from contemporary clinical psychology, published in Diversity and Equality in Health and Care as well as a paper charting the debates around multi-culturalism and inter-culturalism and the absence of race and class, published in New Diversities.

Sociology Summer Internships: research and supporting students

This summer four of the sociology team will be employing a student intern for six to ten weeks to assist with the on-going research projects. The aim will be for the sociology to team to share their research process with the students as well as foster material for publications, research reports and further work in the future.

For our students this is an excellent opportunity for them to gain research experience for their up-coming dissertations or masters studies. We hope that the students will be able to use this to also further their academic interests in fields of sociological inquiry while working with an active researcher in the field.

Harshad Keval will be working on his research in ethnicity and health. His research will be on diabetes within the UK South Asian population. Diabetes is a key priority in national and international government health discourses and policy. Notably, the last 30 years has seen ethnicity as a ‘high priority’. The central aim for this research is to systematically identify and review the literature on this policy discourse and establish the core discourses risk. The result aims to further sociology’s understanding of the intersectionality of race/ethnicity and health in the UK.

Julia Carter will be conducting a pilot study on weddings and decisions surrounding them among young couples. She aims to find out more about why people decide to get married, what influences their decisions about their weddings, and to what extent people are guided by social scripts for behaviour or by individual choice.  Marriage and weddings are assumed to be behaviours that are largely guided by individual choice and yet when asked, people can rarely articulate why they chose to marry – the response most often being ‘why not get married?’ While weddings are supposedly unique and personal to a couple (or individual), the events often look remarkably similar to one another and they follow very prescribed patterns and rituals: this suggests that there is a strong degree of conformity to social norms of practice rather than independent choice in the style of wedding. The fundamental contradiction that the project will aim to explore is that between creative agency and conformity. To what extent are marriages and the wedding guided by free choice and how far do people recognise conformity in their behaviours?

Matthew Ogilvie will be conducting a research project focusing on community mobilisation against proposed fracking (hydraulic fracturing) infrastructure. The project involves analysis of community contention as local citizens seek to resist the building and operation of fracking infrastructure within their localities. A key focus of the project will be a descriptive and explanatory analysis of the collective action frames (interpretive frameworks relating to: grievances, diagnoses of problems, prognoses, motivations for action and collective identities), strategies, tactics, networks and resource use of key stakeholders (local communities, developers, environmental groups, political parties, local planners etc.) involved in conflict over the siting of fracking infrastructure.

Daniel Smith will be working on his research into YouTube video-blogging and filmmaking. The cultural impact of YouTube, with its tagline ‘Broadcast Yourself’, has been considerable. The website has democratised film-making and spawned its own culture of video-making, sharing and collaborating beyond mainstream traditional media outlets. The research sets out to investigate the phenomenon of video-blogging on YouTube. The focus will be around a selection of video-bloggers from the YouTube community and develops a case study of their video-making, content and narratives. Ostensibly a video blog is a diary entry which is logged on the users account and available to view by anyone and everyone. From this simple definition, the cultural and historical context of video-blogging requires more exploration: How is it related to questions of performance of self; cultures of story-telling, authenticity, authority and representations; points of view and truth? The case studies of video-bloggers allow the researchers to identify the elements of video-blogging in relation to YouTube’s tagline ‘Broadcast Yourself’ and answer the question: how are people broadcasting themselves?