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Applied Social Science: Riots and responses: what needs fixing – individuals or society? with Dr Naomi Thompson from Goldsmiths, University of London

26th June 2017 @ 14:00 - 15:00


This session will begin with an introduction to C. Wright Mills’ (1959) concept of the ‘sociological imagination’ and his theory that the individual cannot be viewed separately from the social context they inhabit. In particular, we will explore his idea that problems people face can either be viewed as ‘private troubles’ or ‘public issues’.

Following this introduction, we will hear responses to the pre-question (see below) and explore whether these view the 2011 riots as problems with the individuals (private troubles) or symptomatic of wider social problems (public issues).

I will then consider, through a short lecture, whether politicians and the media frame social problems as private troubles or public issues, particularly in relation to young people. Particular ‘moral panics’ will be considered including ‘broken families’ and ‘teenage parents’ as well as issues such as racism, poverty and disadvantage. This lecture will expose how we may be led to view issues in a certain way that disguises inequalities and limits the ‘sociological imagination’. It will identify how this dominant view affects policy and practice interventions for work with people.

We will then explore discussion questions in small groups and feed back key points to the wider group.

The session will conclude with a challenge to consciously use your ‘sociological imagination’ to critically consider media and policy sources you are exposed to over the next week as to whether they frame social problems as ‘private troubles’ or ‘public issues’.


Lecturer Biography: Dr Naomi Thompson

Suitable for: Year 12s with an interest in Youth and Community Work, Social Sciences, Social Work, Sociology, Criminology, Youth Justice.

Preparation/Pre-Reading: To prepare for the webinar, students are asked to consider the following question: the last major public riots in England took place in 2011 – why did they happen and who was to blame?

The IT Setup: The setup is similar to Skype, using a pc and webcam, although students take part as a group with the image projected on a whiteboard rather than as individuals in front of lots of pcs. Dedicated videoconferencing equipment is also compatible if available to the school. We will work with your IT department to ensure everything is set up and working prior to the event. The sessions are generally limited to 3 or 4 schools to maintain the interactive nature of the experience.

Booking a Place: If you have a group of students that you would like to take part in this event, please contact us via email or via the contact form at the top right of this webpage (or at the bottom if you are on a mobile device). Subject to availability we will book a place for you.


26th June 2017
14:00 - 15:00
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