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Thinking Allowed podcast

Thinking Allowed

New research on how society works

New research on how society works

 

#300

Love and Romance

LOVE & ROMANCE – Laurie Taylor unpacks different conceptions of love. He’s joined by Raksha Pande, Senior Lecturer in Social Geography at Newcastle University, whose latest research explores arranged marriages amongst people in the British-Indian diaspora. She finds that they have skilfully adapted cultural norms to carve out an identity narrative that portrays them as modern migrants offering a different take on romantic love. She’s joined by Eva Illouz, Rose Isaac Chair of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who considers the ways in which romantic affairs in Western culture fail to spark or break up. What can ‘the end of love’ tell us about the effects of consumer culture on personal relationships? Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

13 Oct 2021

28 MINS

28:54

13 Oct 2021


#299

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: The lives of Afghans in Britain today and the role of corruption in the return of the Taliban. Laurie Taylor talks to Nichola Khan, Reader in Anthropology and Psychology at the University of Brighton, about her monumental study of Afghan migrants in Sussex, England, at a time when we are seeing a fresh wave of migration from their home country. Also, Sarah Chayes, former Senior Associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explores the role of political corruption in the renewed ascendency of the Taliban. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

06 Oct 2021

28 MINS

28:02

06 Oct 2021


#298

Office Life

Office life: As more people return to the conventional workplace, Laurie Taylor talks to Craig Robertson, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Northeastern University, about a new study which charts the ‘vertical’ history of the filing cabinet and its role in capitalist modernity. Why was it advertised alongside gleaming skyscrapers & how did the logic of the cabinet come to penetrate the domestic sphere? Also, Harriet Shortt, Associate Professor in Organisation Studies at UWE, Bristol, considers the ways in which people deploy private possessions, from toys to photos, to personalise their increasingly sanitised working environments. Has Covid changed our relationship to such objects at work, as Zoom meetings have blurred the private and professional allowing us to enter our colleagues homes? Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

29 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:20

29 Sep 2021


#297

Cool Consumers

Cool Consumers: Laurie Taylor considers how music acquires the social connotations of “cool” & its implicit association with youth and outsider status. He's joined by Jo Haynes, Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Bristol. Also, the way in which racial marketing promoted menthol cigarettes to African Americans, linking them to notions of ‘cool’, with enduringly harmful effect. Keith Wailoo, Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University, unpacks a poignant and intricate story which reveals why 85% of Black smokers prefer menthol brands and how difficult it has been to ban them, not least because of the way that tobacco companies forged deep connections with Black media publishers and civil rights campaigners. He argues that the cry of 'I can't breathe' has multiple meanings in America's painful racial history. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

22 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:22

22 Sep 2021


#296

The Smartphone

The Smartphone: Nearly 90 per cent of British adults now own a smartphone and ownership among those aged 55 and over has soared from 55 per cent in 2019 to 70 per cent in 2020. Laurie Taylor explores the ways in which this ubiquitous object is transforming everyday life, from China to Ireland, & considers its impact on intimate relationships. He's joined by Daniel Miller, Professor of Anthropology at UCL and co-author of a new study involving 11 anthropologists who each spent 16 months living in communities in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, focusing on the take up of smartphones by older people. They found that smartphones are technology for everyone, not just for the young, and are transformed by their users & national context. Also, Mark McCormack, Professor of Sociology at the University of Roehampton, considers the impact of smartphones on relationships in the UK. Are they keeping couples together when apart, and driving them apart when together? Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

15 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:17

15 Sep 2021


#295

Culture & privilege

Culture & privilege: Governments and arts organisations claim that culture brings joy to many lives and unites communities. But a new study signals a note of scepticism. Orian Brook, AHRC Creative and Digital Economy Innovation Leadership Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, talks to Laurie Taylor about the mechanism of exclusion in cultural occupations which ensures that women, people of colour, and those from working class backgrounds experience systematic disadvantage in terms of gaining such jobs, in the first place, or progressing within these industries. In addition, only a very small percentage of people in England & Wales ever go to an art gallery, the theatre or opera. Only 60% go to cinemas, even though this is seen as accessible to all. So why do so few people participate in or produce 'culture'? They’re joined by Dave O’Brien, Chancellor's Fellow in Cultural and Creative Industries at the University of Edinburgh, who asks why people from privileged class backgrounds often misidentify their origins as working class. Drawing on175 interviews with those working in professional and managerial occupations, he finds that such misidentification allows them to tell an upward story of career success ‘against the odds’ that casts their progression as well deserved while erasing the structural privileges that have shaped key moments in their lives. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

08 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:24

08 Sep 2021


#294

The Changing Nature of Crime

The changing nature of crime: What do current day thieves, gangsters and dealers say about their ‘business’ and how its evolved over time? How strict a division is there between the 'respectable' and the 'illicit' world? To what extent are our notions of crime rooted in Hollywood myth making about sharp suited gangsters rather than the more mundane reality? Laurie Taylor explores these questions with Richard Hobbs, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at the University of Essex and author of a new study which analyses the essence of illegal capitalism, from anonymous warehouse thieves to exalted underworld figures such as the Krays. They’re joined by Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, whose research highlights the impact on Covid 19 on the illegal economy. She finds that shortages, lockdowns and public attitudes have brought the underworld and upperworld closer together allowing criminals to taking advantage of the virus, finding new routes for illegal commodities, from narcotics to people. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

01 Sep 2021

28 MINS

28:19

01 Sep 2021


#293

Tourism - Travel

Tourism & travel: Laurie Taylor explores their past, present and future. He's joined by the Italian social theorist, Marco D' Eramo, whose latest book unpacks a global cultural phenomenon at the point at which some of us are considering the possibilities of foreign travel, once again. How did travelling, as an elite pastime, evolve into mass tourism? Why do tourists often despise other tourists? How 'authentic' is the average heritage site? What impact does tourism have on our cities and the environment? Might we find more 'otherness' by staying at home? They're joined by Emily Thomas, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Durham University, whose research has found that philosophers have theorised extensively about the meaning and purpose of travel in a quest to understand the complexity of the world and of ourselves. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

16 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:06

16 Jun 2021


#292

The Handshake - Social Interaction

The handshake & social interaction. Laurie Taylor explores the history and meaning of a commonplace ritual which has played a role in everything from meetings with uncontacted tribes to political assassinations. He's joined by the paleoanthropologist, Ella Al-Shamahi, who asks what this everyday, friendly gesture can tell us about the enduring power of human contact. They're joined by Steven Shapin, Franklin L. Ford Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, & author of a recent article which considers the way in which social distancing and self isolating have put us 'out of touch' with each other. As he says, COVID is a social disease, a pathological experiment on the nature of our social relations. Will it irrevocably change the way we interact with other human beings? Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

09 Jun 2021

29 MINS

29:14

09 Jun 2021


#291

COALMINING - LUDDISM

Coalmining & Luddism: Laurie explores the meaning of progress, from the former pit villages of South Wales & Durham to contemporary high tech industry. He's joined by Huw Beynon, Emeritus Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Cardiff, who charts the rise and fall of coalmining. What has happened to those communities in a post industrial era? Those who opposed the closure of the mines were often described as Luddites, trapped in a romanticised version of a lost world, but Gavin Mueller, a Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, suggests that Luddism may not always be regressive. His research provides an innovative rethinking of labour and machines & argues that improvement in people's working lives may depend on subverting or halting some technological changes. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

02 Jun 2021

28 MINS

28:48

02 Jun 2021


#290

Migrants in London

MIGRANTS IN LONDON: how has London been shaped by the history of immigration? Laurie Taylor talks to Panikos Panayi, Professor of European History at De Montfort University, & author of a new study which examines the contribution of immigrants to London’s economic success and status as a global capital - from Jewish & Irish immigrants in the 19th century to the Windrush generation and beyond. They’re joined by Esther Saraga, a retired social scientist, whose recent book charts the emotional journeys of her parents, two German Jewish refugees, reconstructing their story from a substantial collection of family material, archives and secondary historical sources. She argues that their contradictory experiences of welcome and restriction challenge simple views of Britain's liberal tradition of welcoming refugees. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

26 May 2021

29 MINS

29:17

26 May 2021


#289

Fitness & fatness

Fitness & fatness: Laurie Taylor asks if they are two sides of the same coin. He's joined by Jürgen Martschukat, Professor of North American History at the University of Erfurt and author of a new book which looks at the history of self-optimisation from the Enlightenment to the present. What’s the relationship between neoliberalism and phenomena like Viagra & aerobics? How did the body come to symbolise success and achievement? Also, Sarah Trainer, medical anthropologist at Seattle University, discusses her study on extreme weight loss, via bariatric surgery. Her in depth interviews with patients reveal, in painstaking detail, how the journey to drastic weight - often half a person's body weight - can be at once painful and liberating, revealing which bodies are treated as though they don't belong in modern societies. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

19 May 2021

29 MINS

29:15

19 May 2021


#288

Blackface - Minstrelsy

BLACKFACE & MINSTRELSY - At its most basic level, 'blackface' is the application of any prosthetic to imitate the complexion of another race. In theory, it's a performance available to all, yet 'whiteface' is relatively unknown. Laurie Taylor talks to Ayanna Thompson, Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, about the painful history of ‘blackface’, an ancient European theatrical device that the Europeans brought with them to America. What connects it to Blackface minstrelsy, a specific comedic performance tradition rooted in slavery, and why does this racist practice endure today? Also, Christine Grandy, Associate Professor in History at the University of Lincoln, discusses the origins of the British Black and White Minstrel Show, a prime time, BBC variety programme which lasted for 20 years, from 1958-1978. She uncovers a little known history in which broadcasters, the press, and audience members collectively argued that the show had nothing to do with race whilst the complaints and anger of Black people were dismissed. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

12 May 2021

29 MINS

29:14

12 May 2021


#287

Perfume

PERFUME: What’s the connection between perfume & politics in the 20th century and how do scents become invested with meaning? Laurie Taylor talks to Professor Karl Schloegel, Chair of East European History at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt, and author of a new study which examines contemporary history through the prism of two scents – Moscow Red and Chanel No 5. They’re joined by Karen Cerulo, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, who asks how individuals make sense of certain fragrances and correctly decode perfume manufacturers’ intended message and target users. To what extent do our every day readings of scent produce a world bound by class and race? Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

05 May 2021

29 MINS

29:09

05 May 2021


#286

The Rural Idyll?

The Rural Idyll? Last year the National Trust produced a controversial report which revealed that 93 of its properties have direct links to colonialism and slavery. In this programme, Laurie Taylor talks to Corinne Fowler, Professor of Post Colonial Literature at the University of Leicester, whose new study engages directly with this painful history, uncovering the countryside’s repressed colonial past and its relationship to notions of Englishness. How have pastoral mythologies in English literature served to erase the story of Empire? In what ways do contemporary writers of colour offer a challenge to uncritical celebrations of our 'green and pleasant' land? They’re joined by Paul Readman, Professor of Modern British History at King's College London, whose recent research considers the relationship between landscape and English national identity, from the rural to the urban. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

28 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:21

28 Apr 2021


#285

Life Imprisonment

Life imprisonment - Why is it that such sentences were almost unheard of a generation ago and what is their impact on prisoners, as well as society? Ben Crewe, Deputy Director of the Prison Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, talks to Laurie Taylor about the largest ever sociological study of long term imprisonment conducted in Europe. Focusing on prisoners convicted of murder & serving life sentences of 15 years or more from young adulthood, it asks how they manage time, think about the future, and deal with existential issues of identity and the meaning of their lives. They’re joined by Elaine Player, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Kings College, London, who discusses the different needs and experiences of the much smaller number of female ‘lifers’, many of whom are victims of multiple trauma & male violence, drawing on research conducted in a democratic therapeutic community in a women’s prison. Thinking Allowed is produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

21 Apr 2021

28 MINS

28:55

21 Apr 2021


#284

The Orange Order

The Orange Order in Northern Ireland and Scotland: Its origins, practices and principles, from the Battle of the Boyne to the Good Friday Agreement.. Laurie Taylor talks to Joseph Webster, Lecturer in the Study of Religion at the University of Cambridge, and author of a new book about the Orange Order in Scotland which explores the politics of anti Catholic sectarianism and ultra Britishness, as well as the tensions between grassroots Orangemen and a hierarchy wishing to cultivate a respectable image beyond controversial parades and football hooliganism. Also, Karine Bigand, Senior Lecturer in Irish Studies at Aix-Marseille University, considers the history of Orange politics in Northern Ireland and current attempts to memorialise the Orange Order and contribute positively to reconciliation between divided communities post the GFA in 1998. Produced in partnership with the Open University. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

14 Apr 2021

27 MINS

27:51

14 Apr 2021


#283

Community & Social Capital

Community & social capital. Laurie Taylor talks to Robert D Putnam, Malkin Research Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and co-author of a new study which revisits some of the themes of 'Bowling Alone' his 20 year old, groundbreaking book, which argued that Americans were losing their connections with one another. His latest research takes a look at trends over the last century which have brought us from an “I” society to a “We” society and then back again. What lessons can be drawn from the past, especially at a time of increased economic inequality, political polarisation and loss of social capital and trust, all of which are playing out against the backdrop of a global pandemic? Is it, as he suggests, time for an 'upswing', more focused on our responsibilities to each other and one which, for the first time, must properly account for the way in which racism has shaped America? They’re joined by Emily Falconer, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Westminster, who considers the extent to which Robert Putnam's arguments apply to the UK. She also discusses her own research, which focuses on collective singing as a manifestation of social capital and community, in action. Her study of an Online Zoom community choir - at a time when so many face-to-face activity have disappeared - suggests that virtual, group singing has afforded deep connections between people in a landscape in which the future of social gatherings remains uncertain. Producer: Jayne Egerton Produced in partnership with The Open University ... Read more

07 Apr 2021

29 MINS

29:01

07 Apr 2021


#282

THE BED

THE BED: Laurie Taylor talks to Nadia Durrani, writer on archaeology and co-author of a study which explores 'what we did in bed', offering a social history of an often taken-for-granted object. In a story spanning millennia, she illuminates the role of the bed through time, reminding us that it was not always simply a private space for sleep, sex and relaxation; it's also been a place for sharing with strangers, issueing decrees, even taking us to the afterlife. Also, the rise and fall of twin beds for couples. Hilary Hinds, Professor of English Literature at Lancaster University , charts shifting attitudes towards separate sleeping. Whereas it was once seen as the sign of a modern, hygiene conscious and forward thinking relationship, it came to be regarded as the enemy of intimacy. Why did so many couples abandon a sleeping arrangement which used to be regarded as one of the keys to re-imagining domestic relations, promoting equality between the sexes and personal autonomy? This is the last of our current series, as Thinking Allowed heads for a long 'lie in' until April 2021. Producer: Jayne Egerton ... Read more

30 Dec 2020

28 MINS

28:19

30 Dec 2020


#281

Disinformation

Laurie Taylor talks to Annie Kelly, a researcher of the Digital Far Right, about the QAnon conspiracy theory and why it has attracted a striking number of female followers, many of whom are mothers. She argues that their rhetoric and slogans have cleverly smuggled legitimate concerns about the welfare of children into a baseless and dangerous set of entirely false claims about the nature of child trafficking. What role have social media sites dominated by women played in the circulation of QAnon theories and how can they be challenged? Also, Nina Jankowitz, Global Disinformation Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, examines Russia’s role in the spread of disinformation, not only in the USA but also in Eastern and Central Europe. What lessons can be learned from these experiences? She argues that the best types of disinformation are able to amplify and exploit the already existing divisions in society, including racism and inequality in the US context. ... Read more

23 Dec 2020

28 MINS

28:16

23 Dec 2020