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Thinking Allowed

Thinking Allowed

New research on how society works


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Intersections - Laurie Taylor talks to world-renowned, Black feminist scholar, Patricia Hill Collins, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Maryland and author of a new study looking at how violence differentially affects people according to their sex, class, sexuality, nationality, and ethnicity. These invisible workings of overlapping power relations give rise to what she terms 'lethal intersections,' where the risk of death is much greater for some than others. Drawing on a rich tapestry of cases she asks us to think about what counts as violence today and what can be done about it. They?re joined by Joyce Jiang, Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management at the University of York, whose latest research examines abuses against female migrant domestic workers in the UK which include long working hours, harsh working conditions, but also verbal, physical and sexual abuses. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The Grave - Memorial Benches

THE GRAVE AND MEMORIAL BENCHES: Laurie Taylor talks to Allison C. Meier, New York based researcher, about how burial sites have transformed over time. Whilst the grave may be a final destination, it is not the great leveller, and permanency is always a privilege with the indigent and unidentified frequently being interred in mass graves. So what is the future of burial with the rise of cremation, green burial, and new practices like human composting? Can existing spaces of death be returned to community life? Also, Anne Karpf, Professor of Life Writing and Culture at London Metropolitan University, explores the phenomenon of the memorial bench. Despite the proliferation of online spaces for memorialising a person who has died, there is a growing demand for physical commemorations in places that were meaningful to them, as evidenced by the waiting-lists for memorial benches in sought-after spots. Do such memorials constitute a ?living obituary?, a celebration of seemingly undistinguished lives, beyond the grave? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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PETS: Laurie Taylor talks to Jane Hamlett, Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at Royal Holloway, University of London, about her study of the British love affair with pets over the last two century. She found that the kinds of pets we keep, as well as how we relate to and care for them, has changed radically. Most importantly, pets have played a powerful emotional role in families across all social classes, creating new kinds of relationships and home lives. Also Jessica Amberson, Lecturer in Adult and Continuing Education at University College, Cork, takes us on a dog walk and explores what this mundane daily activity means for a canine owner and how it helps shapes the identity of a ?dog person?? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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SUGAR: Laurie Taylor explores the ways in which the sweet stuff has transformed our politics, health, history and even family relationships. He?s joined by Ulbe Bosma, Professor of International Comparative Social History at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and author of a tour de force global history of sugar and its human costs, from its little-known origins as a luxury good in Asia to transatlantic slavery and the obesity pandemic. Also, Imogen Bevan, Research Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, considers the bittersweet nature of sugar consumption and kinship in Scotland. During extensive fieldwork in primary schools, homes and community groups, she traced the values and meanings attributed to sugar ? its role in cementing social bonding, marking out special occasions and offering rewards to children, in particular. Far from being a simple and pleasurable choice, she found it often had a fraught, morally ambivalent presence in family life. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Woke: Laurie Taylor talks to Susan Neiman, philosopher and director of the Einstein Forum about her analysis of the concept of ?woke?. Contrary to popular assumption, she argues, it is not a set of attitudes which belong on the left of the political spectrum, but is rather an attack on progressive, universal values and the Enlightenment. They're joined by Huw Davies, lecturer in digital education at the University of Edinburgh, who offers a dissection of the British ?war on woke?, suggesting that it is an intensive ideological campaign that is mobilising reactionary tropes within mainstream British political discourse. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Guns: Laurie Taylor talks to Jennifer Carlson, Professor of Sociology at Arizona State University and author of an in depth study of gun sellers in the US. In 2020 they were on the front line of an unprecedented surge in gun purchasing against a backdrop of pandemic insecurities and political polarisation. Interviewing 50 sellers from four states, 84% of whom were on the right of the political spectrum, she found they were not simply selling guns, but also a conservative vision. How then did they react to a new wave of gun buyers which included women and sexual minorities, some of whom were liberal? Did this vindicate or challenge their gun centric world view? And what are the possibilities for a positive transformation in America's harmful gun culture when only one third of the population are opposed to the personal ownership of hand guns? They're joined by Andrew Nahum, historian & Keeper Emeritus at The Science Museum whose latest work considers the impact of the gun on progress, both intellectual and industrial, from the Enlightenment to the American West, the Cold War and contemporary gun culture. How did so many rifles come to be held in private hands and what does the ongoing preoccupation with the creation of ever more effective firearms tell us about human creativity? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Water Ways

Water Ways: Laurie Taylor wades into the deep end with an exploration of human relationships with water. He talks to Veronica Strang, Professor of Anthropology, affiliated to Oxford University, whose latest study takes us from nature worship to the environmental crisis. Early human societies worshipped ?nature beings?, including water serpent deities who manifested the elemental and generative powers of water. Such beliefs supported collaborative co-existence with the non-human world. How might an understanding of the role and symbolism of water serpents help us turn back the tide of ecological disaster? They?re joined by Anna Mdee, Professor in the Politics of Global Development at the University of Leeds, who argues that water poverty isn't confined to the Global South, but takes a different form in the western societies, impacting around 20% of households in England and Wales. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Boxing and Kickboxing

BOXING AND KICKBOXING: Can they transform lives? Boxing has long been cited as a potential cure for a range of social ills, including criminal justice failures, poor mental health and childhood trauma, yet little research has been carried out into how and why such claims exist. Laurie Taylor talks to Deborah Jump, Reader in Criminology at the Manchester Metropolitan University, about the potential of boxing as a mechanism for change among vulnerable groups. Also, Amit Singh, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Sociology Department at the University of Manchester discusses his study of a kickboxing gym in East London where people struggle to gain an identity as a ?fighter?, one that transcends race, class, sexuality and gender. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The Petite Bourgeoisie

The Petite Bourgeoisie - Laurie Taylor talks to Daniel Evans, Research Assistant at Cardiff University and author of a new study which explores the unstoppable rise of the lower middle class. Marx predicted that this insecure class, sandwiched between the working class and the bourgeoisie, would be absorbed into the proletariat as artisans died out during the industrial revolution. In fact, it has grown exponentially and is now a significant player within global politics, courted by the right and the left. Far from losing influence, the individualist values associated with it have been popularised by a society which some say fetishizes ?aspiration? and entrepreneurship. They're joined by Nicola Bishop, cultural historian and Senior Teaching Fellow at Loughborough University, whose latest book analyses white collar workers in British popular culture, from the novels of Charles Dickens to comedy TV sitcoms. Why have lower middle class, suburban values become such a staple of our cultural consumption and what can this tell us about national British identity? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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High Finance

HIGH FINANCE: Laurie Taylor talks to Brett Christophers, Professor in the Department of Human Geography at Uppsala University, Sweden, whose latest book argues that banks have taken a backseat since the global financial crisis . Today, our new economic masters are asset managers who don?t just own financial assets, they also own the roads we drive on; the pipes that supply our drinking water; the farmland that provides our food; energy systems for electricity and heat; hospitals, schools, and even the homes in which many of us live?these all now swell asset managers? bulging investment portfolios. They?re joined by Megan Tobias Neely, Assistant Professor in the Department of Organization at Copenhagen Business School and author of a study which takes us behind the designer suits and helicopter commutes to provide a glimpse of the lives and times of the mainly white men who dominate the hedge fund industry where about 10,000 firms manage $4 trillion in assets and the average earnings are $1.4 mm a year - which can rise to several billion. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Fashion Re-imagined

FASHION RE-IMAGINED: Laurie Taylor talks to Angela McRobbie, Emeritus Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London about the working lives of independent designers in London, Berlin and Milan, at a time when fashion is under the spotlight due to concerns about the environment and exploitation in the industry. How might we create a more equitable and inclusive fashion future? Also, Kat Jungnickel, Reader in Sociology at Goldsmiths, uncovers the lesser-known clothing inventions which enabled women to access the male preserve of sports, move in new ways and expand female mobility and freedom. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Digital intimacy

Digital intimacy - Laurie Taylor asks how the algorithms embedded in digital technologies are transforming our relationships. He's joined by Anthony Elliott, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of South Australia and author of a new book which suggests that that machine intelligence is changing the nature of human bonds, from sexual partners to friendship and therapy. Also, Carolina Bandinelli, Associate Professor in Media and Creative Industries at the University of Warwick, discusses her study of Tinder, and other dating apps, and the surprising finding that sex and love are not at the core of how people use them. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Prison Abolition

PRISON ABOLITION: Laurie Taylor talks to Tommie Shelby, Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, about a new study which considers the case for ending imprisonment. Mass incarceration and its devastating impact on black communities have been widely condemned as neoslavery or ?the new Jim Crow.? Can the practice of imprisonment be reformed, or does justice require it to be ended altogether? They?re joined by Clare McGlynn, Professor of Law at Durham University, who questions 'anti carceral' approaches from a feminist perspective ? do they serve the interests of survivors of male violence against women and girls? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Taste and Lifestyle

Taste and Lifestyle: Laurie Taylor talks to Ben Highmore, Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, whose latest study explores the ways in which consumer culture remade the tastes of an emerging middle class ? from pine kitchen tables to Mediterranean cuisine. Did this world of symbolic goods create new feelings and attitudes? Also, Michael McMillan, Associate Lecturer for Cultural and Historical Studies at the London College of Fashion, discusses the migrant experience of African-Caribbean families setting up home in the UK in the mid-20th century. How did the artefacts and objects which dressed the West Indian front room provide an outlet for feelings of displacement and alienation in a society where they weren't always made to feel 'at home'? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Dance Culture

Dance Culture: Laurie Taylor takes a journey through the dancefloor with the music writer, Emma Warren, whose latest research combines social history and memoir to answer the question 'why do we dance together?' Also, Melin Levent Yuna, a sociologist and anthropologist at Acibaden University, explains why Istanbul has become the Tango capital of the world, after Buenos Aires, in spite of its conservative government. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Democracy: Quinn Slobodian, Professor of the History of Ideas at Wellesley College, takes Laurie Taylor on the journey of radical libertarians who search for the perfect home, free from the burden of democratic oversight, from Hong Kong to Canary Wharf and the Honduras. What accounts for the explosion of new legal entities, including free ports, gated enclaves, city states and special economic zones? They're joined by Mukulika Banerjee, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, whose latest study into the lives of West Bengal villagers finds that they promote democratic values in everyday acts of citizenship at a time when Indian democracy is under threat. How do their creative practices around kinship, farming and religion promote republican virtues of cooperation, civility, solidarity and vigilance? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Poverty in the UK & US: Laurie Taylor talks to Matthew Desmond, Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, whose latest study asks why the richest country on earth has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Also Elizabeth Jane Richards, Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences at Edge Hill University, explores the way in which understandings of poverty have changed over time. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Elite Universities - Working Class Students

CLASS AND EDUCATION Laurie Taylor talks to Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social Justice at the University of Birmingham, about her research into the inner workings of elite universities and the making of privilege. They're joined by Iona Burnell Reilly, Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Education at the University of East London, whose latest study presents a collection of autoethnographies, written by working class academics in higher education, and considers how have they become who they are in an industry steeped in elitism. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Asylum and 'Home'

Asylum and 'home' - the impact of asylum dispersal and Syrian refugees' quest for home. Laurie Taylor talks to Jonathan Darling, Associate Professor in Human Geography at Durham University, about the system of housing and support for asylum seekers and refugees in Britain, from the first outsourced asylum accommodation contracts in 2012 to the renewed wave of outsourcing pursued by the Home Office today. Drawing on six years of research into Britain's dispersal system, and foregrounding the voices and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, he argues that dispersal has caused suffering and played a central role in the erasure of asylum from public concern. Also, Vicki Squire, Professor of International Politics at the University of Warwick, discusses the narrative recollections of people who have survived the current Syrian War, only to confront the challenges of forced displacement and relocation, from the West Midlands to London, Canada. What is the meaning of home to those who are subjected to complex migratory journeys and carry memories of extended family, community and homeland in a conflict which has displaced half the population? How do refugees create home ?away? from home? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Museums - Laurie Taylor talks to Adam Kuper, most recently Centennial Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economic, about their history and future. Originally created as colonial enterprises, what is the purpose of these places now? How do we regard the ways in which foreign and prehistoric peoples were represented in museums of anthropology? What should be done with the artefacts and human remains in their custodianship and how can they help us to understand and appreciate other cultures? Kerry Wilson, Reader in Cultural Policy at Liverpool John Moores University, discusses House of Memories, a multiple award-winning dementia awareness programme, led by National Museums Liverpool. The programme promotes the use of social history collections and museum objects to inspire communication and connection between carers and people with dementia, via dedicated museum-based events. Is this an example of how museums can offer social value to local communities today? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Religion of Work and Welfare

The religion of work and welfare: Laurie Taylor explores the way in which our understanding of jobs and joblessness has become entangled with religious ideologies. He's joined by Tom Boland, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University College, Cork, who argues that Western culture has ?faith? in the labour market as a test of the worth of each individual. For those who are out of work, welfare is now less a means of support than a means of purification and redemption where job seeking becomes a form of pilgrimage. Also, Carolyn Chen, Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, explores how the restructuring of work is transforming religious and spiritual experience in late capitalism. She spent five years conducting an ethnographic study in Silicon Valley and found that tech companies have brought religion into the workplace, in ways that replace churches, temples, and synagogues in workers? lives and satisfy needs for belonging, identity, purpose, and transcendence. What happens when work replaces religion and are there wider lessons for workers beyond the niche world of high tech? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Parenting - Laurie Taylor explores its cultural history and the shift towards intensive parenting. Andrew Bomback, Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, investigates the emergence of an immersive, all-in approach to raising children that has made parenting a competitive sport. Drawing on ?how-to? parenting books and historical accounts of parental duties he charts the way in which being a parent became a skill to be mastered. They're joined by Benedetta Cappellini, who considers the impact of these social transformations on Grandmothers. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Dirty Work

Dirty work - Laurie Taylor explores the invisible labour we choose not to see. The writer and sociologist, Eyal Press, considers the morally dubious, even dangerous jobs, which sustain modern society but which are concealed from view, from the prison guards who patrol the wards of America's most violent and abusive prisons to the migrants who work in industrial slaughterhouses. What are the ethical, as well as physical costs of doing this kind of labour? Why do those individuals carry the stigma and shame of doing 'dirty work', rather than the society which condones it? Ellie Johnson, Research Fellow in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, discusses the treatment of older people in two English residential care homes, sketching out the workers' attitudes and practices concerning hygiene and bodily waste and the ways in which they do, or don't, offer dignity and respect to those receiving care. Is the mistreatment of older people simply an outcome of a deeply inequitable market for care provision or can it also tell us something about the way in which marginalised groups, such as elderly and disabled people, can be dehumanised? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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SELF IMPROVEMENT: Laurie Taylor explores the 'wellness' and 'confidence' cultures that injunct us to be better versions of ourselves. He talks to Shani Orgad, a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE and co-author of a new study arguing that imperatives directed at women to ?love your body? and ?believe in yourself? imply that psychological blocks rather than entrenched social injustices hold women back. Why is there now such an emphasis on confidence in contemporary discourse about body image, workplace, relationships, motherhood, and even international development? They?re joined by Stephanie Alice Baker, a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at City, University of London, whose latest work traces the emergence of 'wellness culture' from a fringe countercultural pursuit to a trillion-dollar industry. Wellness has become synonymous with yoga, meditation, and other forms of self-care and is no longer simply an alternative to mainstream medicine. As it's coalesced with consumer culture, it's become synonymous with an industry of exclusive products and services. In addition, in the Covid moment, it's become associated with harmful conspiracy theories. So is 'wellness' culture delivering on its myriad promises, or does it have a darker side? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The football pools - mass investment

Betting and Investment: Laurie Taylor explores the connections and the differences between two apparently very different phenomena - the football pools and the stock market. He's joined by Keith Laybourn, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Huddersfield, who charts the rise and fall of the football pools over the 20th century. In its heyday, millions of working class people hoped for a life-changing jackpot cheque presented by a sporting personality and stories of big wins punctuated the news. So what led to a flutter on the pools falling out of favour? And Amy Edwards, lecturer of Modern British History at the University of Bristol, asks ?are we rich yet?? in a study which considers the way in which a growing number of British people engaged in stock market investment as financial markets became part of daily life from the 1980s following the privatisation of British Telecom. Did this development take investment away from the oak-panelled world of the City and give the wider public a genuine stake in popular capitalism? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The Internet - how it shapes the past and the future

The Internet and time ? how the World Wide Web has transformed our understanding of history as well as the future. Laurie Taylor talks to Jason Steinhauer, public historian and Global Fellow at the Wilson Centre, Washington, DC, whose latest study argues that the tangled complexity of history that we see via Instagram and Twitter is leading to an impoverished, even a distorted knowledge of the past. Algorithms play in a big role in determining the versions of history which we are seeing. Content does not rise to the top of news feeds based on its scholarly or factual merits. Political agendas and commercial agendas are almost always at play. So how can we become more discerning consumers of historical knowledge? They're joined by Helga Nowotny, Professor Emerita of Social Studies of Science a ETH Zurich, whose research suggests that our dependence on predictive algorithms might be closing down the horizon of our future, giving us a feeling of control whilst narrowing our choices. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The NHS and the 'sick note': Laurie Taylor talks to Gareth Millward, Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) in Odense, and author of a new study which explores the history of the British welfare state via the story of the ?sick note?. It turns out that the question of ?who is really sick? was never straightforward. At various times, it was understood that a signed note from a doctor was not enough to 'prove' whether someone was really sick, yet with no better alternative on offer, the sick note survived in practice and in the popular imagination - just like the welfare state itself. They?re joined by Sally Sheard, Professor of History at the University of Liverpool, who charts the cultural history and changing understandings of healthcare and the NHS in Britain. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Protests: from Occupy to MeToo and the current situation in Iran. Laurie Taylor is joined by Sara Burke, Senior Policy Analyst at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung political foundation in New York, and co-author of a recent study which analyses the myriad protests which have shaken the world since 2010. She explores their main causes, which include the perceived failures of democracies, as well as the oppression of women and economic inequality. Which protests are likeliest to achieve success and how do we measure success, in the first place? They're joined by Maryam Alemzadeh, Associate Professor in the History and Politics of Iran at the University of Oxford, who discusses the characteristics and trajectory of the women-led protests in Iran. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Gender and Alcohol

Gender and Alcohol: Laurie Taylor talks to Thomas Thurnell-Read, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Loughborough University, about the masculine domain of craft drinks, an area of the alcohol industry associated with liberal and progressive values but where assumptions about tastes are still informed by gender stereotypes, the marketing of products may draw heavily on sexist imagery and men are seen as the gatekeepers of expertise. They?re joined by Kath Hennell, Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studies, who explores the key ingredients of a 'proper night out' for young women and men. What are the hidden, gendered rules which inform a ritual involving extreme intoxication? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Futilitarianism - Extreme Pessimists

Futilitarianism & Extreme Pessimists: Laurie Taylor talks to Neil Vallelly, Researcher at Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA) at the University of Otago, New Zealand about a new study which argues that the current moment is characterised by feelings of futility and uselessness. If maximising utility leads to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people, as utilitarianism has always proposed, then why is it that as many of us currently maximise our utility?by working endlessly, undertaking further education and relentlessly marketing ourselves?we are met with the steady worsening of collective social and economic conditions? They're joined by Monika Mühlböck, Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies, whose research finds that expected downward mobility is impacting the political attitudes & voting behaviour of young people. Drawing on data from a survey among young adults aged 18?35 in eleven European countries, she asks to what extent that young adults who expect to do worse than their parents in the future are more likely to locate themselves at the extreme ends of the ideological scale. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Rules and Order

Rules & Order: Laurie Taylor talks to Tim Newburn, Professor of Criminology and Social Policy at the LSE, about the social history of ?orderly Britain? ? the way in which we?ve resolved everyday problems, from dog fouling to smoking and queuing. They?re joined by Lorraine Daston, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, who traces the development of rules in the Western tradition, ones which have set out work hours, dictated how we set the table, told us whether to offer an extended hand or cheek in greeting, and organised the rituals of life. Why do we need such rules and could we live without them? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Gentrification revisited

Gentrification revisited: Laurie Taylor talks to Leslie Kern, Associate Professor of Geography and Environment at Mount Allison University, Canada and author of a new study unpacking the meaning and impact of gentrification six decades after the term was first coined. She travelled from Toronto to New York, London, Paris and San Francisco, scrutinising the myth and reality that surround this highly contested phenomenon. Beyond the yoga studio, farmer's market and retro cafe, she argues that this is not a 'natural' process, but one which impacts the most vulnerable. They?re joined by Dr Charmaine Brown, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Education and Cultural Studies at the University of Greenwich, whose research in Peckham, South East London, finds contrasting perspectives amongst different residents. Beautiful shop fronts, fewer police sirens and new street furniture appeal to incomers but Dr Brown sees a loss of social capital, opportunity and support for the original mainly Black communities. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The Sea

The Sea ? Laurie Taylor explores the privatisation of our oceans and the threat of plastic pollution. He gets into deep waters with Guy Standing, Professorial Research Associate at SOAS University of London, and author of new study which argues that exploitation and extraction now drive all aspects of the ocean economy, destroying communities, intensifying inequalities, and driving fish populations and other ocean life towards extinction. How can we rescue the economy of the sea? Alice Mah, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick discusses her recent work on the escalating plastics crisis. Even as public outrage has been prompted by viral imagines of choking marine wildlife, the demand for plastics continues to rise. Is it unstoppable? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Survival of the city

Survival of the City: Laurie Taylor talks to Edward Glaeser, Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics at Harvard University and author of a study examining the future of urban life at a time when the pandemic has exposed failures of governance. Whilst cities have been engines for creativity and wealth, they have also, of late, exposed deep inequities in health care and education and advances in technology mean many can opt out of city life as never before. So are we moving to a post urban world? Or will the city continue to thrive and re-invent itself? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Package holidays and 'authentic' travel

Package holidays and ?authentic? travel: Michael John Law, retired research fellow in History at the University of Westminster, investigates the origin of budget tourism and how the package deal opened up a previously unaffordable world to working class holidaymakers. Also, Kaylan Schwarz, assistant professor in the School of Liberal Education at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, explores the experience of international volunteers who insist on experiencing ?authenticity? and claim superiority to every day tourists. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Shopping: Laurie Taylor talks to Rachel Bowlby, Professor of Comparative Literature at University College London, about the history of shops & shopping, from pedlars to chain stores, markets to home delivery. Shops have occupied radically different places in political arguments and in our everyday lives, over time. They are sites of purchase but also of community. What?s their future in the age of Covid? Also, Robin Sheriff, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, explores young American women's dreams of shopping. What can dreams tell us about cultural change and consumption? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Ballroom dancing

Ballroom dancing: Laurie Taylor explores its social history and sexual politics with Hilary French, Professor of Design Studies at Bath Spa University and author of a new book which charts the evolution of a form of dance which originated in upper class, private balls but became a mass, working class pastime in the early 20th century. From Hollywood movies to Mecca dance halls. What explains its rise and fall and rise again, in the current moment? They're joined by Vicki Harman, Reader in Sociology at University of Surrey, who unpacks the intriguing appeal of ballroom in the light of changing gender norms which question the notion that a man should 'lead'. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Wealth - Plutocratic London

Plutocratic London and dynastic wealth. Caroline Knowles, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, takes Laurie Taylor on a tour of plutocratic London, a city with more resident billionaires than New York, Hong Kong or Moscow. How have the fabulously rich re-made London in their own image and what is the cost to ordinary Londoners? They?re joined by Katie Higgins, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sociology of Elites at the University of Oxford, and author of a study exploring the inheritance practices of the ultra wealthy. How do they maintain a belief in the value of work whilst preserving inheritance for the generation to come? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Covid and change

Covid: Laurie Taylor explores the impact of the pandemic on our working and home lives. Will Davies, Professor in Political Economy at Goldsmiths, University of London, suggests it has revealed the politics of our economy, offering prosperity to some and hardships to others. He?s joined by Heejung Chung, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Kent, whose research explores the impact of Covid on flexible working . Has it led to a more equal division of labour for heterosexual couples or entrenched existing inequalities? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Workplace Misbehaviour

Workplace Misbehaviour: Laurie Taylor talks to Paul Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Employment Studies at the University of Stirling, about workers behaving badly, from pilferage and absenteeism to the deployment of satirical humour and dissent on social media. In what ways has the modern workplace facilitated new kinds of recalcitrance? Also, Rebecca Scott, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Cardiff, explores bullying and aggressive behaviour among chefs employed in fine dining restaurants. Does the isolation of the work itself, combined with the geography of elite kitchens, lead to outrageous conduct that would be condemned elsewhere? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Psychiatry: a social history

Psychiatry: Laurie Taylor explores the social history of modern psychiatric practice. He's joined by Andrew Scull, Emeritus Professor in Sociology at the University of California and author of a magisterial study which asks if we are any closer to solving serious mental illness than we were a century ago. He traces the history of psychiatry's attempts to analyse and mitigate mental disorders: from the era of the asylum and psychosurgery to the rise and fall of psychoanalysis and the drugs revolution. Why is this history littered with examples of 'care' which so often resulted in dire consequences for the patient? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Prison Protest

Prison protest: Laurie Taylor explores the way in which prisoners have sought to transform the conditions of their imprisonment and have their voices heard. Nayan Shah, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California, considers the global history of hunger strikes from suffragists in the US and UK to Republican prisoners in Northern Ireland and anti apartheid campaigners in South Africa. What is the meaning and impact of the refusal to eat? They?re joined by Philippa Tomczak, Director of the Prisons, Health and Societies Research Group at the University of Nottingham, and author of a study which examines the way in which the 1990 riots at HMP Strangeways helped to re-shape imprisonment. Was the change lasting or significant? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Footwear - the ?magic? & the material reality. Laurie Taylor talks to Claudio Benzecry, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Sociology at Northwestern University, about the people and places involved in the global manufacture of women?s shoes. They?re joined by Elizabeth Ezra, Professor of Cinema and Culture at the University of Stirling, and author of a study about magic shoes, from Wizard of Oz to Cinderella, which finds that 'the perfect fit' relates to more than size and that our culture invests footwear with symbolic meanings beyond their status as mere commodities. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Strongmen ? what accounts for the global rise of authoritarian leaders? Laurie Taylor talks to Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, and analyst of the blueprint which autocratic demagogues, from Mussolini to Putin, have followed over the past 100 years. What lessons might be learned to prevent disastrous rule in the future? They're joined by Christophe Jaffrelot, Professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King's College, London, whose recent study of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, examines how a popularly elected leader has pursued Hindu nationalist policies, steering the world's largest democracy towards further ethnic strife and intolerance, according to many observers. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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The Underclass

The ?Underclass?: Laurie Taylor explored a vexed concept which has engaged social scientists, philanthropists, journalists, policy makers and politicians. He?s joined by Loic Wacquant, Professor of Sociology at the University of California Berkeley, and author of a magisterial study which traces the rise and fall of a scarecrow category which, he argues, had a lemming effect on a generation of scholars of race and poverty, obscuring more than it illuminated. They're joined by Baroness Ruth Lister, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Loughborough University, who charts the way in which the notion of an underclass travelled to the UK, via the New Right sociologist, Charles Murray. She describes its impact on the debate about 'welfare' dependency, across the political spectrum, and argues for a 'politics of renaming' one which accords respect and recognition to people who experience poverty. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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SKILL: Laurie Taylor explores the social construction of skilled and unskilled work. Far from being objective categories, Chris Warhurst, Professor & Director of the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick, suggests a more complex history, one which has favoured male workers. They're joined by Natasha Iskander, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service at NYU, whose new study takes us into Qatar?s booming construction industry in the lead-up to the 2022 World Cup. She argues that the experiences of migrant workers reveals the way in which the distinction between the ?skilled? and ?unskilled? is used to limit freedom and personhood. Does skill make us human? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Extremism: Laurie Taylor talks to Julia Ebner, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, about her experience of going undercover amongst political extremists, including neo Nazis, Islamic jihadists and anti feminists. Also, Daniel Koehler, founding Director of the German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies (GIRDS) discusses the side-switchers and defectors who migrate across extremist groups and ideologies. Ray Hill is a positive example of a former British fascist, turned informant on the far right. Unlike Sascha Lemanski, a German far right activist who crossed over into Islamic jihadism. Can an understanding of the phenomenon of side-switching help us understand the way in which people become radicalised and help combat terrorist violence? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Why Sociology Matters

Laurie Taylor explores the meaning and purpose of public sociology with Michael Burawoy, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and author of a new book which describes his own contribution to reshaping the theory and practice of sociology across the Western world. He argues that social scientists should engage with the world they inhabit, rather than refusing to take positions on the most pressing issues of the twenty-first century. They're joined by Celine-Marie Pascale, Professor of Sociology at the American University, Washington, whose research advocates for, as well as describes, the daily lives of people in communities marked by poverty, racism, violence and misogyny. From Appalachia to the Standing Rock and Wind River Reservations and Oakland, California, she spoke to the self described 'struggling class'. She suggests that their stories can't be reduced to individual experience but illustrate a nation's deep economic and moral crisis and the collusion between governments and corporations that prioritise profits over people and the environment. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Strangers: Laurie Taylor explores Xenophobia, the fear or hatred of those we do not know. Evolutionary psychologists often describe it as a natural and timeless phenomenon rooted in ancient history. But how accurate is that bleak assessment? George Makari, historian and Director of the DeWitt Wallace Institute, has authored a new study sparked by the resurgence of Xenophobia in 2016. He set out to explore the origins of the concept: Coined by late nineteenth-century medics and political commentators, it emerged alongside Western nationalism, colonialism, mass migration, and genocide. Can an understanding of its complex history offer a more hopeful vision of human co-operation in the future? They're joined by Jonathan Purkis, an independent academic and lifelong aficionado of hitchhiking culture. His history of hitchhiking argues that 'driving with strangers' can offer unique opportunities for cooperation, friendship and an openness to the feared 'other'. Producer: Jayne Egerton
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Food, Identity & Nation

FOOD, IDENTITY AND NATION - At a time when many of us are feeling overstuffed by festive eating, Laurie Taylor asks why food matters. He?s joined by Paul Freedman, Chester D. Tripp Professor of History at Yale University, who explores food?s relationship to our sense of self, as well as to inequality and the environment. Joy Fraser, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, also joins the conversation. She asks why Scottishness has so often been signified, in a derogatory way, through food - from haggis to the deep-fried Mars bar. Does it say something about the relationship between England and Scotland? Producer: Jayne Egerton
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