January 31, 2017, by James Pattison

The 9th ENQUIRE Conference: Inequalities and Social Research

The ENQUIRE conference is an annual event run by postgraduates in the School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham. Now in its 9th year, the ENQUIRE conference has a track record
of showcasing and supporting postgraduate and early career research in a positive and encouraging environment, and from a wide range of social scienc
e disciplines and academic institutions. This year, the conference will be held from 9am to 5pm on Saturday 25th February 2017 at Highfields House, University Park, University of Nottingham.

The conference theme this year is Inequalities and Social Research. We intentionally elected for such a broad focus so that the conference theme would speak to as many researchers’ work as possible, hoping that this would maximise the number of abstract submissions we received. The plan worked! We were overwhelmed by both the quality and quantity of abstracts we received. After much deliberation, we were able to narrow the submissions down to 20 excellent abstracts which will be organised into six streams on the day, on a wide range of topics, including squatting, indigenous groups in Chile, and the British monarchy. Along with the three excellent keynote speakers, this promises to be an exciting and stimulating day.

Inequalities have long been a central concern of social science research. In the opening of her book Stratification, Wendy Bottero describes how we are located within a structure of unequal relations of power, status, and material resources with lasting consequences. These unequal relations enable or constrain the choices and opportunities available to us. Social science’s concern is the lived experience of these inequalities, how they reproduce, and how they persist and endure. Whilst inequalities were once only understood as a concern for economics and politics, there is now a broader understanding that recognises inequalities in symbolic representations of cultural difference, which are often used to legitimise and enable the reproduction of material inequality. Some of the most influential social science publications of recent years have been concerned with inequalities, such as Wilkinson and Pickett’s, The Spirit Level; and Tomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century. The concern with inequalities has however ascended the academy toward a renewed public concern with the concentration of wealth amongst a small group of powerful elites, exemplified by the global Occupy movement. In addition, there have been large protests against gender inequality recently in response to the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.

We are excited and privileged to have three great keynotes speakers at this year’s conference who have all researched and written extensively on the issue of inequalities. First, we have Professor Tracey Warren from the School of Sociology and Social Policy here at Nottingham, with her paper: ‘Class and gender: Reflections on living, studying and researching social inequalities’. Her research interests are in sociology of work and employment and are concerned with social divisions along the axes of gender and class. Much of her work has focussed on inequalities in work time, job quality, work-life balance/reconciliation, time poverty, financial hardship and domestic work. 2016 was a great year for Tracey; she was shortlisted for the Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for excellence in work-family research, for her 2015 article in the British Journal of Sociology, ‘Work-life balance/imbalance: the dominance of the middle class and the neglect of the working class’. Tracy was also nominated for the Sage Prize for Innovation and/or Excellence for her 2015 paper in Work, Employment and Society, ‘Work-time underemployment and financial hardship: class inequalities and recession in the UK’.

Our second keynote speaker is Tracy Shildrick, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds, whose paper is titled: ‘Poverty inequality and the new politics of class’. Her research interests lie in young people, worklessness, poverty and social exclusion. Tracy has recently carried out research projects looking at the idea of intergenerational cultures of worklessness and the ‘low pay, no pay cycle’, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Both studies provide important counternarratives to those which argue for the existence of cultures of worklessness as a cause of poverty, and the claim that three generations of some families have never worked. The studies found no evidence of the existence of intergenerational worklessness, and that despite regular engagement and enduring commitment to work, people in the study regularly found themselves cycling in and out of poor quality work, unemployment and poverty.

Our final keynote speaker is Anoop Nayak, Professor in Social and Cultural Geography at Newcastle University with a paper titled: ‘Young people, poverty and place: Re-scripting social class stigma in an age austerity’. His research interests are in race, ethnicity and migration; youth studies; masculinities, gender and culture; whiteness; and new theories of social class. His current work focusses in Bangladeshi youth and their experiences of racism, resistance and mobility, as well as exploring issues of education, aspirations and employment. His previous work as focussed the significance of place, deindustrialisation and class on the lives of young people in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, and he is the author of the critically acclaimed book Race, Place and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World.

Registration for the conference is open until 9th February: We hope to see you there, for what will surely be a timely and important day of discussion.

James Pattison is a doctoral researcher in sociology at the University of Nottingham.  You can contact James on twitter or via email: James.Pattison@nottingham.ac.uk

Image courtesy of Antony Theobald.

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