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Showing posts from 2012

Standing nude (c.1912).

Standing nude (c.1912) by Amedeo Modigliani.

'Vladimir Nabokov: Life and Works'

An engaging documentary on the life and work of Vladimir Nabokov. It contains a lot of archival footage of interviews with the man himself and covers topics from lepidoptery to Lolita.The narrator Stephen Smith interviews Martin Amis and contemporary literary critics to identify the character of the man and the underlying moral message of his Magnum opus.  Though I enjoyed it, I'm not quite sure if Nabokov would have approved: there is a heavy strain of criticism as psychoanalysis, art as didacticism throughout the film.

Thesis Complete.

 In short, he so busied himself in his books
that he spent the nights reading from twilight till daybreak
and the days from dawn till dark;
and so from little sleep and much reading his brain dried up
and he lost his wits.  

-  Miguel De Cervantes.

Desk and Papers.

'The Virtual Revolution'

BBC documentary that gives an overview of "two decades of profound change since the invention of the World Wide Web, weighing up the huge benefits and the unforeseen downsides."

The Sun Room.

'There is no wealth but life'  -  John Ruskin.

The 'Public Sphere' and Public Life.

The notion of a ‘public sphere’, developed in the work of Jürgen Habermas (1974), is an important touchstone for social theorists of democracy and public life.   It has given rise to a critical literature that engages with the concept of a ‘public sphere’ and seeks to assess its historical validity and contemporary relevance. This discussion has developed parallel to wider debates on the public/private distinction, the interrelationship between the public realm and private life , and the organization of public and private spaces.  The present review will group the literature in terms of approach and delineate common points of analysis and areas of contestation, moving onto a detailed analysis of selected texts that can offer guidance for future research on the contemporary utility of the concept of the ‘public sphere’.

Coffee and Black Label

Or, how to deal with writing the literature review chapter of your thesis.

Social Capital, Civic Engagement and The Internet.

 “[T]he United States also has undergone a less sanguine transformation: its citizens have become remarkably less civic, less politically engaged, less socially connected, less trusting, and less committed to the common good.  At the dawn of the millennium Americans are fast becoming a loose aggregation of disengaged observers, rather than a community of connected participants.” 
 -Robert D. Putnam, ‘Civic Disengagement in Contemporary America’.
Putnam’s thesis is that American society has undergone a decline in social capital and civic engagement, caused by a declining rate of generational replacement, technological innovations, spatial reorganization of cities and the growth of suburban developments. Social capital refers to the networks and social resources people draw upon in their quotidian lives for support, and it has been positively correlated with better health, wealth and political outcomes for individuals and communities.  Despite recognised benefits, Putman argues, since th…


- Allen Ginsberg

Post-Positivism and Social Science.

In the social sciences, the selection of research design and its constituent elements is an important phase of the research process.  The choice of research design is subject to a number of theoretical and methodological considerations.  Within the discipline of sociology, there exists a high level of theoretical and methodological pluralism with competing approaches to the study of society being pursued simultaneously which often gives rise to contention and contestation over the relative value of approaches. While quantitative research has relatively well-established principles of evaluation, appraisal of qualitative research is highly contentious. Carter and Little (2007) have suggested that consistency of research design is an important criterion via which to evaluate qualitative research:  epistemology, methodology and methods have to be internally consistent in order to form a solid research design. Adoption of a particular epistemological stance can affect researcher’s methodo…

Logics of Familial Solidarity: Structural Functionalism and the Individualization thesis.

In contemporary Western societies, since the mid to late 20th century, there have been considerable debates around the status of the family, its perceived decline or transformation into a new historical form. Talcott Parsons’ original formulation of the nuclear family has fallen out of fashion, outmoded by contemporary social trends and criticised for teleological biases that preference one model of family and designate all other forms as deviant and dysfunctional. Ulrich Beck and Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim have put forth their “‘individualization thesis”’ to explain shifts in contemporary society and the institution of the ‘family’ that elevate individuals to the forefront of discussion. The individualization thesis has been widely discussed and misunderstood. Jennifer Mason criticised the individuation thesis on the basis that it “creates a sense of individuals floating free of family ties and commitments”. However, Beck-Gernsheim has stressed that individualization: “does not …

The Chomsky-Foucault Debate.

Guitar on Wall.

Migration and the British Empire: an Empire of White Settlement, an Empire of The Conquered.

The role and importance of migration within the British Empire throughout the 19th century cannot be overstated.Migration during this period fell into two major categories: white settlement and tropical migration.Emigration from the British Isles sustained and powered the expansion of settler colonies, from Canada to Australia and New Zealand.Whilst, tropical migration allowed the Empire to maintain and expand its plantation colonies after the abolition of the slave trade in 1834. Both forms of migration informed British engagement with the world and helped to shape Imperial policy.In the Oxford History of the British Empire, Andrew Porter argued that the British Empire could be divided into three categories; the Empire of White Settlement, the Empire of India and the Empire of the Conquered.The category of Empire that a colony fell under determined the form of government that London imposed or accepted, somewhere between responsible self-government and autocracy, and these categories…

Colonial Administration in British Ceylon.

In the 1832 Report of the Colebrooke Commission, Mr. C.H. Cameron outlined his view that Ceylon represented: “the fittest spot in our Eastern Dominions in which to plant the germ of European Civilization”. Ceylon had been unified under British control between 1796 and 1815, and remained relatively stable throughout its occupation, bar the Kandyan rebellions of 1817-1818 and 1848. Unlike India and the rebellion of 1857, maintenance of British control of Ceylon did not pose a significant headache for the Colonial Office beyond the initial invasion of Kandy. The later instability of 1848 was quickly remedied and provided important lessons for the administration of Ceylon. However, the administrative apparatus of the Island was largely in place by the first decade of the 19th century and further reforms were carried on through the 1830s to the 1840s, remaining the purview of the Ceylon Civil Service throughout British Occupation. Though expanded in the late 1830s, the Ceylon Civil Servic…