Sociology

Our growing Sociology list has a global outlook featuring high-quality research across emerging and established areas in the field, such as digital sociology, migration, gender, race and ethnicity, public sociology, and children and families.

Our series include Gender and Sociology, Global Migration and Social ChangeSociology of Children and FamiliesSociology of Diversity and Public Sociology.

We publish leading journals in the field, including Emotions and Society in association with the European Sociological Association's (ESA) Research Network on Sociology of Emotions (RN11) as well as Families, Relationships and Societies and the Journal of Gender-Based Violence.

Sociology

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This paper reflects on a pilot study exploring the loneliness experiences of stroke survivors living in remote rural communities in Scotland. Empirical evidence gathered at the time of establishing this study demonstrated that there were no studies published around the subjective experiences of stroke survivors living alone in remote rural Scottish communities. Yet, stroke survivors in rural settings in other parts of the world report a longing for social contact as well as the experience of a reduction in participation in shared activities, suggestive of potential loneliness and isolation. This paper focuses on our experience interviewing one participant recruited in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the study had to be terminated, but we were left with data gathered from this one conversation which revealed a rich narrative centred around past and present occupations. At no point was there any sense of loneliness expressed, despite the context within which this participant lived: alone, in a remote community, experiencing a degree of communication difficulties and unable to leave the house independently. All commonly hallmark ‘warning signs’ of a person at risk of loneliness. In this reflection we offer perspectives on assumptions and expectations of loneliness that are problematically constructed by the dominant narratives and theories at the time.

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Family life is permanently and irrevocably changed by death, requiring those bereaved to adopt new ways of ‘doing’ family. Drawing on data from a qualitative study of sibling bereavement experiences, this article demonstrates that death can retain a powerful presence for the living, shaping the way that family members relate to one another. It is argued that bereavement can influence the establishment, and enactment, of family practices, thus highlighting that family practices can be subtly couched in the context of bereavement. This article expands Morgan’s concept of family practices in a direction that has yet to be explored. It will conclude that sociologists can learn more about the dynamic intricacies of family life by recognising the potential influence of death and bereavement on the way that relationships are navigated and negotiated over time.

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Predictive analytics is seen as a way of identifying the risk of future problems in families. Integral to such automated predictive analysis is a shift in time frames that redraws the relationship between families and the state, to potentially intervene on an anticipatory basis of ‘what hasn’t happened but might’. In the process, human subjects are reformulated as disembodied objects of data-driven futures. The article explains this process and fills a significant gap in knowledge about parents’ views of this development. We draw on group and individual discussions with parents across Great Britain to consider their understanding of predictive analytics and how comfortable they are with it. Parents’ concerns focused on inaccuracies in the data used for prediction, the unfair risk of false positives and false negatives, the deterministic implications of the past predicting the future, and the disturbing potential of being positioned in what was a pre-problem space. We conclude with policy implications.

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The rapid spread of conversational AI, as well as the potential for personal conversations with chatbots, makes it relevant to examine what norms and values underlie chatbot responses. This article examines the feeling rules for anger implicitly communicated by a recent chatbot (ChatGPT). Querying the chatbot about appropriate and inappropriate anger, the study shows how specific feeling rules are articulated by AI. The chatbot communicates norms of productive, respectful, constructive, controlled and calm expression of anger through talk and, as such, relies on communication as a pervasive cultural repertoire. Based on a rereading of economies of worth focusing on feeling rules, it is argued that different moral repertoires have implications for feeling rules. Using this theoretical framework to analyse the responses of the chatbot, it is evident that it primarily relies on both the industrial and the domestic orders of worth to assess anger. The chatbot articulates the problem of anger as unproductiveness and disrespect. The feeling rules implied in the responses of the chatbot reflect a neoliberal conception of self as individually responsible, productive, self-regulating, emotionally competent and able to find solutions. The seemingly neutral advice of the chatbot potentially depoliticises anger, disciplines people to remain productive and respectful and narrows the scope of anger expressions that are deemed acceptable.

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Unsustainable patterns of consumption in affluent societies are at the heart of global climate and environmental challenges and seemingly highly resistant to change. While decades of research have revealed how consumption is deeply embedded in society, recently calls have been made for (re-)engaging with the systemic conditioning of consumption in studies of everyday practices. In this paper, we analyse the ways in which eco-conscious households in Norway (N=20) perform and negotiate sustainability in everyday life. With theories of practice as a point of departure, we combine Bente Halkier’s work on social interaction with Sherry B. Ortner’s conceptualisation of agency as power (dominance and resistance) and agency through ‘projects’ to study how sustainability is negotiated in the everyday. Through this framework we explore how consumers perform ‘sustainability projects’ and how these are defined through, constrained by and negotiated against everyday normativity and dominant socio-material arrangements. Our findings demonstrate the compromises, trade-offs and negotiations that participants engage in when balancing their sustainability projects against other social roles, expectations and goals, often carried out within socio-material arrangements that are scripted towards less sustainable options. Hence, they provide detailed insight into the boundedness of consumer agency, being both socially and materially negotiated and contextualised. While often undertaken as mundane actions, the challenges our participants experienced is ultimately part of negotiating consumer society, often experienced as a constant pressure towards more consumption as expansive consumption is embedded in, and embodied and habituated through, a wide range of social practices.

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Sufficiency has gained increased attention within sustainable consumption research in recent years. Often presented in opposition to guiding principles like efficiency, which discuss sustainability issues alongside ideas of economic growth, sufficiency offers alternative sustainability pathways that highlight the need to reduce consumption. This paper discusses the interrelation between sufficiency principles and consumption patterns of low-income groups, exploring how sufficiency could support the needs of vulnerable groups in society. Low-income groups use fewer material resources than high-income groups due to their comparatively limited economic resources. However, low-income groups at risk of relative poverty are also vulnerable to various factors that can significantly impact their health and wellbeing. Studying low-income groups offers possibilities for understanding the work that goes into establishing sufficiency-oriented practices and the potential pitfalls of the sufficiency discourse. Through our qualitative study of low-income groups in Norway based on focus groups and interviews, we identify three different characteristics relating to sufficiency. First, sufficiency as a necessity, pointing to situations where lack of economic resources forces low-income groups to consume frugally; second, sufficiency as opposition, where low-income groups pursue sufficiency goals because they do not identify themselves with mainstream growth narratives and consumption patterns; and, third, sufficiency as reframing sustainability, where sufficiency arguments give value to low-consumption patterns positioned against technology-centred and green consumerist narratives about sustainability.

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