Author: Lucy Towers

Rain on the body: Bodies as mere objects

Bodies are inscribed with meaning in and through a web of social and power relations. Bodies are not neutral and object matter; rather, they (re)produce themselves when alone and when with others. The digital world can create bodies from afar and the offline world can do so, too. For example, one interacts with others online through digital platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, shaping how the body is (un)seen and (un)heard; one can also interact with others offline, whereby a...

Drawing a line in the sand: diagnosing autism spectrum conditions in the UK

If we think about it diagnostically, somewhere there is a line drawn in the sand . . . and where that line is changes really, historically. Consultant Clinical Psychiatrist A sociology of diagnosis approach considers the place of diagnosis in the institution of medicine and the social framing of disease definitions. Considering diagnosis as a social process rather than a ‘moment of clinical purity’ allows investigation into the social forces that may shape diagnosis and the cultural discourses drawn upon....

The Uneven Adjustment to Homeworking Among UK Sex Workers

The shift to homeworking under lockdown raises important concerns for those whose work involves physical and emotional connection, not least forms of work which have been undertaken in a shroud of secrecy. Here, I highlight the work of sex workers, in particular, who negotiate a sexual and emotional experience with clients through physical touch and emotional conversation. Of course, while some aspects of the experience can be – and are – undertaken remotely through online technologies in a burgeoning online...

Coronavirus reflections: Face masks, Islamic dress and colonial differentiation.

Like many countries across the world, France is currently negotiating the coronavirus pandemic and has recently begun to emerge from lockdown by circulating a slogan not dissimilar to the UK government ‘Sauvez des vies, restez prudent’ (Save lives, stay alert). What then is so notable about the French plan to tackle coronavirus and be free from lockdown? Aside from the bureaucratic plan developed in France, the significant and noteworthy method of returning to some sense of ‘normalcy’ is to mandate...

Identity Theory, Emotions, and the “Victim”—“Survivor” Binary

Sociological identity theory concerns itself with the concept of the self: what it is, how societal structures influence it, and how we navigate it. According to the symbolic interactionist tradition, heavily influenced by the work of George Herbert Mead, one’s sense of self or identity is built in and through social interactions with others. As such, there is a reciprocal relationship between the self and the external social world; society impacts the self, and in turn, the self impacts our...

Housing Associations as Third Sector anchor institutions: examples from England and Austria

Housing associations are well-known actors in the provision of affordable housing, not only in England but also in a number of other European countries. Whilst typically being classed as actors of the Third Sector, that is, neither state-owned nor profit-driven, their institutional and regulatory set-up differs widely in different countries. In recent years, there is increasing interest as to the role of housing associations, not just as housing providers but as actors who are influencing and shaping local communities. This...

Distance as a social vocation

In this article, I explore the habitus of social distancing to critically engage with the different human conditions that grips us amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I also briefly discuss different kinds of distances we practice in our everyday life before I go on to show how distance is turned into a vocation upon which our survival and hope rests.  The foundation of society is also based on distance as much as it is on closeness. Distances complete us. Let me take you...

The Sociology of Medical Guidelines

Allen Frances, M.D, is an American psychiatrist who chaired the DSM-IV taskforce, and later criticized the DSM-5 and American psychiatry for their roles in manufacturing mental illnesses and the epidemic of overdiagnosis. In this blog post he makes a well-founded plea for sociologic contributions to medicine. Before the Flexner report in 1909, medical education and practice in America were chaotic and of low quality. After the report, both were quickly and dramatically reformed in ways that seemed completely wonderful at...

‘If there were doctors who could understand our problems, I would already be better’: dissatisfactory health care and marginalisation in superdiverse neighbourhoods

In the 2007 film, originally entitled ‘Allotment’, the inimitable Omid Djalili plays a refugee doctor called Ali who consults in his allotment shed. Ali reviews the numerous medications taken by allotmenteer Charlie (played by John Henshaw). Ali indicates one packet of pills: ‘This one here is for women problems! Do you have women problems?’ Charlie looks annoyed, puzzled and then embarrassed. Why is Charlie taking drugs for a gynecological condition? Given Charlie’s dislike of visiting the health centre, his wife...

The lack of common sense in disorder thinking

Disorder thinking has been popular and dominant in recent decennia, with a rising number of behaviors and emotions being medicalized into a psychiatric disease. More people today than ever before in history are being diagnosed and treated for ever lighter quirks, drawing professional attention away from those who need treatment most. One recent example of medicalizing a problem that someone might have is Misophonia. Misophonia In 2013, a research group led by the Chair of the Dutch Psychiatry Association introduced...

“If it’s not on Strava it doesn’t matter”. The collective shaping of running via self-tracking social interactions

“If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen”, I have often been told as I explain my research to runners and cyclists familiar with the social fitness platform. Self-tracking has become an everyday activity, and not just for athletes (and ‘wannabe’ athletes). Wearable devices for self-tracking of sleep, food intake, physical activity and even sex are readily available, and smart phones gather data on steps, heart rate and sleep without you even knowing. The ethics and power issues associated with...

Upholding Equity Across Different Campuses

In the past decade the United States has witnessed an influx of conversations regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Cases like Brock Turner and Chanel Miller or Emma Sulkowicz became national examples of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses as well as universities’ failures to protect survivors and seek justice. While there is much work left to be done, there seems to be a more concrete understanding of the frequency of sexual assault and the injustice done…

ADHD and brain anatomy: First do no harm!

ADHD is kind of like a cancer disease but you’re not going to die from it Sylvia, US, on medication, age 11 This quote originates from Ilina Singh’s groundbreaking VOICES study that interviews children about ADHD and medication. Sylvia’s account of ADHD is one of a physical and serious disease like cancer -although not lethal. However, ADHD is not a disease like cancer, but a concept from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), currently in its fifth...

Ethnicity in Dementia Research: Are Social Scientists Complicit in Neuropsychiatric Imperialism?

During the early-21st century, social dementia research has experienced something of an ethnic turn. This trajectory is rooted in 1990s psychosocial accounts of dementia that newly championed the perspectives of people with dementia, and the subsequent realisation that these early perspectives were rather white. In response, researchers have increasingly sought to access the dementias of minority ethnicity groups living in high-income countries. Unfortunately, rather than meaningfully engaging with a greater diversity of dementias, much of this movement toward minority ethnicity...

What are women’s experiences like during and after disasters?

Although gaining attention, gender remains under-researched in disaster risk reduction protocols and response and recovery efforts. Many research gaps are due to sexist biases and a lack of inclusion of women’s experiences1. In fact, much early social science research was blind to gender and used men as the default for analysis2. Since then, the effects of gender stratification and women’s experiences have slowly been integrated into disaster research and social vulnerability analyses3. It is important to continue gender-based research to...