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Conferences and events

The Department of Sociological Studies hosts conferences and events for researchers, students and the wider academic and professional community, both across the UK and internationally.

Our forthcoming events are listed below. Click through to find out more.

You may also like to view our Research Seminars, which are open to academics, researchers and postgraduate research students from across the University, and postgraduate taught students in the Department. They provide an informal setting for intellectual debate, sharing ideas and collaboration.

Forthcoming Events for 2018

Fear and anxiety: affects, emotions and care practices in the memory clinic

Guest research seminar with Dr Julia Swallow, Research Fellow, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

Tuesday 23 January 2018
4pm - 5pm
Room 109, Elmfield Building, Northumberland Road, S10 2TU

A nosological categorisation of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is highly contested and despite increased investment in scientific research on curing and more recently developing strategies for preventing the disease, it remains difficult to diagnose in the clinic. Concurrently, as Alzheimer's disease is increasingly medicalised the disease remains highly stigmatised and feared (Beard and Neary 2013: Beard 2016). This paper is subsequently concerned with the relationship between the fear and anxiety associated with developing AD, and the processes of diagnosing AD in the clinic. Drawing on qualitative ethnographic data gathered across memory clinics in the UK, this paper highlights the ways in which care practices are performed by clinicians to manage the affective consequences associated with diagnosing AD and accomplishing patient disposals. Feelings of fear and anxiety associated with dementia not only shape people's experiences and responses to a diagnosis, but also shape the practices and processes through which assessments and diagnoses are accomplished. What also emerges from the analysis is the relationship between the uncertainties that pervade the diagnosis of memory problems and the various strategies and practices employed to care for, divert, restrict or manage affective relations. This paper illustrates the implications of this relationship: on the one hand, it provides opportunities for care work through 'tinkering' with diagnostic technologies and extending and opening out diagnostic categories, while on the other, it can form part of clinicians' disposal work, restricting opportunities for alternative meanings of dementia to endure.

Register here

Image of students volunteering in the communityMaking the unseen visible: How can 'practice theory' help us talk about the work we do in the voluntary and community sector?

Thursday 1 February 2018
1pm – 4pm
Venue: Room M2, Grand Parade, University of Brighton

You are warmly invited to the launch of a book, New Practices for New Publics: theories of social practice and the community and voluntary sector.

The event is FREE but please register for catering purposes. There will be a FREE LUNCH provided by one of our community partners, Real Junk Food. There are also BURSARIES available to support attendance by individuals from the community and voluntary sector, and TRAVEL EXPENSES can be paid to all participants if claims are submitted promptly.

Over the last two years, university academics and voluntary and community sector workers have met through a series of events funded by the Economic and Social Research Council that explored whether and how new academic theories might help understand the everyday work that the sector does. We found that some of these theories were valuable in drawing attention to activities and approaches that are common place in the sector, but often 'unseen' or not recognised by policy makers and funders - in particular the things people do related to ideas of care.

During an intense five-day ‘book sprint’ in July 2017 we worked together to put our thoughts into a co-written book: New Practices for New Publics: theories of social practice and the community and voluntary sector. This is available to download for free from our website here . Limited printed copies will be available on the day.

At the book launch, we want to share what we learned during our events and why we think it's important. We will also reflect on the experience of co-authorship in a ‘book sprint’.

The event will include presentations from community partners including Community Works and the Community University Partnership Programme on the themes of the series/ the book; reflections by Vicky Singleton from Lancaster University, who contributed to our launch event in May 2016; thoughts about co-authorship models and challenges; a chance to engage in more depth with the arguments in the book and how they might apply to community and voluntary work practices.

To register please: click here.

Visit our project website

If you require a bursary or travel expenses to attend, please contact Kat Smatova to discuss: ks251@brighton.ac.uk.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Economic and Social Research Council in making this event possible.

Image of Kathy EvansRedesigning the Welfare State for Children
With Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England

Wednesday 7 February 2018
5pm - 6pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, Elmfield Building, Northumberland Road, S10 2TU

Kathy will take a historical look over the last 75 years of children’s social care, since both the creation of Children England and the publication of the Beveridge Report in 1942, as a basis to reflect on the major challenges for children’s rights and care in 2017, including: the social contract between society and its children; the ‘marketplace’ and ‘business modelling’ of caring professions; and, the case for redesigning the welfare state for children.

Find out more and book tickets

Researching Society, New HorizonsDepartment of Sociological Studies postgraduate research (PGR) conference 2018: Researching Society, New Horizons

13 June 2018
9.30am - 4pm
Department of Sociological Studies, Elmfield Building, Northumberland Road, S10 2TU

Contemporary society offers new opportunities and challenges for social scientists. From accelerated processes of globalisation, to the proliferation of the digital, to the vote for Brexit and Trump, society is in continuous flux. Nevertheless, many aspects of our lives remain constant with social scientists utilising innovative methods to gain new insights in these areas. It is by undertaking research in the contemporary world that we can help create new research horizons.

This one-day conference invites all researchers with an interest in the workings of twenty-first century society. The organising committee welcomes submissions of abstracts from postgraduate students within this theme. Presentations will be 15 minutes with 5 minutes following for Q&A. Abstracts should be no longer than 250 words. Please submit your abstracts to: pgr-conf.scs@sheffield.ac.uk

Abstracts on the following sub-themes are especially encouraged:

  • Globalisation and migration;
  • Digital society;
  • Rising social inequalities;
  • Ageing society;
  • Health and illness;
  • Changing family relationships and structures;
  • Shifting understandings of gender;
  • Using innovative research methods;
  • Sociological theory;
  • Creating social policy for the twenty-first century.

Submission of abstract deadline: 2 March 2018 at 5pm.

Application outcome: 20 April 2018.

The conference is free to attend. Refreshments and lunch will be provided. Places are limited. More information about conference attendance will be released in April 2018.

Previous 2017 events

Image of students volunteering in the communityNew Practices for New Publics - ESRC Seminar Series
Seminar 5: New Publics and Practice Approaches

31 January 2017

New Practices for New Publics is an innovative series of events designed to bring together cutting edge thinking in social science with the experiences of civil society organisations, especially those in the community and voluntary sector.

This fifth seminar, New Publics and Practice Approaches, considered the contribution of practice theory to thinking about civil society organisations’ work of campaigning, fundraising and advocacy. In these processes, civil society organisations often try to create particular notions of ‘publics’ as a focus for their activities, for different purposes and in different ways. Meanwhile, these groups increasingly operate in a ‘neoliberal’ context where the boundaries between private and public services are being redrawn, and the distinctive space of ‘civil society’ or even ‘community’ action is narrowed. The seminar explored what practice-based approaches can teach us about these activities and this context, considering where, if and when practice theories might bring new understanding for the sector.

Image of Professor Helen KennedyHow do data make us feel? Everyday life in times of datafication
Inaugural lecture by Professor Helen Kennedy

15 February 2017

Datafication (or the quantification of aspects of life previously experienced in qualitative, non-numeric form which are then tabulated, visualised and analysed) is increasingly ubiquitous. But how do ever-more-commonplace data make us feel? Helen focused on this question in this talk.

To put it another way, what happens when data of all kinds become ordinary? Helen argues that as social media and other data, and their mining, become more and more commonplace, new data relations emerge, and that these are characterised as much by emotions and desires as they are by the types of cognitive rationalities that the predominance of metrics, data and numbers are said to evoke.

In the first part of the talk, Helen drew on some of her recent research to provide some answers to the question of how data make us feel. One emotional response to datafication, she proposed, is desire, a desire for numbers. To talk about a desire for numbers, rather than a ‘trust in numbers’, a concept that Ted Porter (1996) wrote about in the mid-1990s, makes it possible to account for some of the contradictions that accompany the becoming-ordinary of data. Another form of emotional engaging with data can be seen in the fact that the main way that most people get access to data is through their visualisation, or visual representation in charts, graphs and other visual forms. Here again emotions play an important role in engagements with ever-more-commonplace data.

In social scientific studies of data in society, as in data policies and data practices, little attention has been paid to how people live with data, to whether, how and why data matter to people. The second part of the talk was therefore a manifesto for studying living with data ‘from the bottom up’ and for more understanding of the emotional character of engaging with data. This, Helen proposed, will enhance understanding of the new roles of data in society and of whether and how data condition our existence.

University of Sheffield logoThe State of Regulation: Professional, ethical and personal dilemmas - Half-day symposium

8 March 2017
12pm - 4pm

This symposium shared the findings from a recent study of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) regulation and heard the experiences of two registrants who have been through the Fitness to Practise (FtP) Process. The session considered the professional, ethical and personal dilemmas that emerge when registrants are subject to the current FtP model and also explored a new way of approaching conduct issues in social work practice.

Social Policy & Society Annual Lecture

22 March 2017
5pm - 6pm

The first Annual Lecture lecture of the Journal Social Policy & Society, sponsored by Cambridge University Press in association with the University of Sheffield Social Policy Research Cluster, focused on 'troubled families', the subject of a themed section in the January 2017 issue of Social Policy & Society, and was delivered by Dr Stephen Crossley and Dr Michael Lambert, the themed section editors. The lecture was followed by a wine reception in the exhibition space at the same venue from 6pm to 7 pm to celebrate the first year of Social Policy & Society under the editorship of Liam Foster and Majella Kilkey at the University of Sheffield.

Read more from the event

Belonging in a post-Brexit-vote Britain: researching race, ethnicity and migration in a changing landscape

9 May 2017
Elmfield Building, The University of Sheffield

A one-day conference hosted by the Department of Sociological Studies (in collaboration with the British Sociological Association and Migration Research at Sheffield Group) will be held at The University of Sheffield.

This event seeks to bring together early career and established academics, to share knowledge and experiences in the unique research environment resulting from the UK electorate’s decision to leave the EU. According to the UN, campaigns advocating a leave vote presented a ‘divisive, anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric’ (Stone, 2016) and in the three weeks following the vote there was a 20% increase in reported race related hate crime in the UK (BBC, 2016). As Brexit campaigners stated that leaving the EU would make ‘Britain Great Again’, anti-migrant and xenophobic narratives conflated, implying that migration threatens Britishness. Sociologically, in this context, the boundary between historically distinct fields (migration research and race and ethnicity research) becomes blurred. This event provides a timely opportunity to examine the interface between these fields and consider directions for future research.

Find out more...

Disrupting Transitions: Young people, education and employment

23 May 2017
Department of Sociological Studies, Elmfield Building, The University of Sheffield

This academic symposium brings together leading scholars in the field to explore new research and share ideas and concepts. The symposium arises from a large FP7 project on young people at risk of early school leaving (RESL.eu).

Speakers include Prof Kate Morris (University of Sheffield), Ingrid Schoon (University College London), Louise Ryan (University of Sheffield) and William Maloney (University of Newcastle).

The Orphan Industrial Complex: Charitable Commodification and its Consequences for Child Protection

Guest lecture with Kristen Cheney, Associate Professor, International Institute of Social Studies, The Netherlands

7 June 2017
Conference Room, Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences(ICOSS), The University of Sheffield, 219 Portobello, Sheffield S1 4DP


The misidentification of “orphans” as a category for development and humanitarian intervention has subsequently been misappropriated by many Western individuals and charitable organizations, resulting in an ‘orphan industrial complex’ that problematically commoditizes children as targets for charitable intervention—particularly in the global south. The discourse and

practice of “orphan rescue” drives the “production” of orphans as objects for particular kinds of intervention that are counter to established international standards of child protection. In this presentation, Cheney will explain the concept of the orphan industrial complex, how it works and what its consequences are for children, families, and child protection systems.


Kristen Cheney is Associate Professor in Children & Youth Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands. Her current research interests centre on issues of AIDS orphanhood, the political economy of intercountry adoption and surrogacy, child protection and deinstitutionalization, and the impact of young people’s sexually explicit media exposure/usage on sexuality education and SRHR in developing-country contexts. She specialises in child- and youth-centred and participatory qualitative research methods primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. She is the author of Crying for Our Elders: African Orphanhood in the Age of HIV and AIDS (2017) and of Pillars of the Nation: Child Citizens and Ugandan National Development (2007).

This event was supported and hosted by The Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID).

Image of the PGR conference 2016Department of Sociological Studies postgraduate research (PGR) conference 2017: Branching out in research

13 June 2017
Department of Sociological Studies, Elmfield Building, The University of Sheffield

The focus of the conference for this year was ‘Branching out in Research’ which aimed to explore how we can look beyond the usual realms of social research, in terms of topic areas, social groups and methodology. This included the following areas:

  • Under researched topics;
  • Working with ‘hard to reach’ groups;
  • Innovative research methods;
  • Interdisciplinary research;
  • Collaboration and engagement.

This one-day conference brought together postgraduate research students and early career researchers from social science and related disciplines to present their research and ideas, build networks and develop presentation skills.

Image of the CIRCLE logoCaring & Ageing: international perspectives on family and workplace challenges
2nd Annual CIRCLE International Seminar

23 June 2017
Elmfield Building, The University of Sheffield, S10 2TU

At this year’s annual seminar we hosted leading international speakers Professor Norah Keating (Alberta, Swansea and North West [S Africa] Universities) and Professor Kate O’Loughlin (University of Sydney). This year our seminar also celebrated our collaboration, with international partners, on Sustainable Care: connecting people and systems, funded by the Worldwide Universities Network, and publication of the inaugural volume of the International Journal of Care and Caring, new from the Policy Press in 2017, and based at the University of Sheffield. Our programme for the afternoon featured two guest lectures, opportunities for Q&A / discussion, and a brief introduction to the journal and its distinctive features.

AAPoRG logoAfrica in the Era of Sustainable Development Goals

22 June 2017
Workrooms 3 and 4, 38 Mappin Street, University of Sheffield, S1 3JD.

The University of Sheffield All African Postgraduate Research Group (AAPoRG) and Africa@Sheffield hosted its first postgraduate conference.

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Graham Harrison, University of Sheffield
  • Dr Admos Chimhowu, University of Manchester

The expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) ushered in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the current global development policy. Given the problems of the attainment of the MDGs in Africa, this one-day conference aims to provide a forum for postgraduate and early career researchers with special interest in African affairs, to showcase, discuss and share their current research on sustainable development in Africa. Submission of abstracts is invited from all disciplines that engage with the theoretical, policy and practical issues of attaining sustainable development in Africa.

Find out more...

SiP logoScience, Technology and Humanity: The 11th Annual Science in Public Conference

10 - 12 July 2017
The Edge, The University of Sheffield, S10 3ED

Science and technology are essential ingredients of our humanity. The emergence of fruitful and diverse scholarly perspectives on the history, practice, communication, governance and impacts of scientific knowledge reflects this fact. Yet rapid scientific and technological change has also unsettled the idea of what it means to be human; for example, through new frontiers in physical and cognitive enhancement, shift to knowledge economies, and potential threats to employment from mass automation. These changes take place in a context of broader challenges to expertise and evidence, dramatically illustrated by the EU referendum and the election of Donald Trump.

Taking these matters seriously calls for a renewed focus on compassion, benevolence and civilization. This year at Science in Public, we asked: How do science and technology affect what it means to be human?

Keynote speakers:

  • Sarah Whatmore (University of Oxford)
  • Steven Shapin (Harvard University)
  • Dan Sarewitz (Arizona State University)

Find out more...

Image of Dr Shakuntala BanajiDigital Society Network Annual Lecture: New media, old inequalities: Approaching youth, creative politics and digital media across social class, gender and geography

With Dr Shakuntala Banaji, London School of Economics

Monday 9th October 2017
4.15pm – 5.30pm (followed by book launch and drinks reception)
Venue: Lecture Theatre 4, The Diamond

Over the past seventeen years, Dr Shakuntala Banaji's research around young people, politics and creativity has interrogated the role and affordances of new and emerging digital media in processes of social change. From refugee children connecting with their peers across Europe through ICQ chat in 2002, through youth activists in Europe and India deploying social media in politically progressive or retrograde ways, to young female gamers in the MENA region selectively hiding and revealing their gender via avatars and play talk during MMOGs, one common thread has been the ways in which digital media creates spaces for new politics and new agencies whilst also hiding or entrenching structural inequalities. But to what extent are we simply doing the digital wrong? Could its technical affordances be used to overcome systematic hierarchies, at least online? Do its social affordances simply enhance the agency of particular social classes in the global south? And are there ways in which the narrative of the digital in liberation politics has become yet another enemy of those seeking deeper social structural transformation? Shakuntala's lecture attempted to answer these questions in the context of findings from several major comparative research projects in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa over the past decade.

Image of Professor Mike SavageThe First Annual John Westergaard Lecture: The Costs of Inequality: Escalating Inequality, Racism and Nationalism in the UK

With Professor Mike Savage, London School of Economics

Thursday 9 November 2017
Welcome refreshments from 5.30pm
Lecture: 6pm – 7pm
Venue: Lecture Theatre 1, The Diamond

Mike Savage reflected on how trends towards intensified inequality in the UK have led into increasing political volatility and the rise of populism. Drawing on research he has undertaken from the National Child Development Study on the dynamics of racist views, he showed how class, race and gender divisions intersect in new and powerful ways in the current context.

The declining centrality of the divide between middle and working class, and the growing polarisation of economic inequality between elite and precariat creates new insecurities which drive political alignments. Mike argued against the view that the 'white working class' are part of a racist populist backlash against immigration, and showed how the economic elite's espousal of 'imperial nationalism' plays a large role in driving xenophobic politics.

The lecture was chaired by Professor Alan Walker, Professor of Social Policy and Social Gerontology in the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield.

Previous 2016 events

University of Sheffield logoResearch symposium: In the wake of Japan’s nuclear tsunami: reflections on the nature of disaster in the 21st Century

21 April 2016

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Widening the circle: Re-thinking family support in safeguarding

28 April 2016

Event poster

Image of the CIRCLE logo1st annual CIRCLE international seminar: Care, caring and carers: international perspectives

17 May 2016

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University of Sheffield logoDepartment of Sociological Studies postgraduate research (PGR) conference 2016: Breaking boundaries

19 May 2016

Event poster

New practices for new publics seminar series - Seminar 2

22 June 2016

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Centre for Social Work Practice logoSpeaking out for social work - Crossing divides and building relationships

6 July 2016

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University of Sheffield logoThe social reproductive worlds of migrants - 3rd ISA forum of sociology

10 to 14 July 2016

Vienna, Austria

‘The social reproductive worlds of migrants’, session was organised by Dr Majella Kilkey and colleagues, that will take place during the 3rd ISA Forum of Sociology.

While research highlights the role inward migration plays in meeting the social reproductive needs of migrant-receiving societies, less attention is paid to the social reproductive aspects of migrants’ lives. In the context of the increasing volume in international migration and its feminisation, and the increasingly instrumentalist and economistic approach to migration-entry regimes, it is critical that migration and family policies begin to acknowledge that a production system cannot operate without a reproduction system (Truong, 1996).

Sheffield Death Group event: 'Improvising ritual: How to commemorate the death of the modern soldier?'

5 September 2016

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Image of Jean BurgessDigital Society Network Annual Lecture: Doing digital media research over time and across platforms: Lessons from studies of YouTube, Twitter and games culture

Thursday 29 September 2016

With Professor Jean Burgess, Director of the Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) at Queensland University of Technology, Australia.

Culture and politics of data visualisation: A one-day conference

10 October 2016

This one-day conference addressed the culture and politics of data visualisation, bringing critical thought into dialogue with the practice and potential of visualising data and considering how they might inform each other.

Find out more... 

Isabella event imageMuseum Piece: Isabella

19 October 2016

This session included a short performance by artist-researcher Kirsty Surgey, a WRoCAH supported PhD student at the University of Sheffield.

Taking as its starting point objects found when emptying a house that had been bought by her great-great grandfather in 1903, this performance sought to uncover the story of Kirsty's great-great grandmother, ‘Isabella’. As a farmer’s wife in Cumberland at the start of the twentieth century, Isabella left few records. The fragments that are left behind can be connected into narratives, but the voice that emerges questions what can be known and what is unknowable about one’s ancestors.

The performance was followed by a short workshop in which participants were invited to explore their own stories through creative practice and an opportunity to discuss any questions that arose from the performance.

BSA Social Aspects of Death, Dying and Bereavement Study Group Annual Symposium

2 December 2016

For decades now, technological advances in specialist fields such as medicine have changed attitudes and expectations about death and the experience of dying. However, as technologies have become more ubiquitous in our everyday social and domestic lives, the ways in which death, dying and bereavement can be technologically mediated are increasing and becoming more diverse. From online memorials to apps that self- monitor physiological health and/or decline, the ways in which bodies, persons, and technology intersect are raising questions about mortality - what death is, what it means, and how it is experienced in the 21st Century. This is a diverse field and we welcome abstracts which interpret the theme and the notion of ‘technology’ broadly – including more ‘mundane’ technologies that shape the experience of ‘end of life’. The purpose of this day is to highlight research and practice that contributes to and extends our thinking on this topic.

To view the full programme, click here.

Image of students volunteering in the communityNew Practices for New Publics - ESRC Seminar Series

Seminar 4: Using practice theory for social change

14 December 2016

Alfred Denny Conference Room, Alfred Denny Building, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN - view map

New Practices for New Publics is an innovative series of events designed to bring together cutting edge thinking in social science with the experiences of civil society organisations, especially those in the community and voluntary sector.

The event will consider how to use practice theory for social change. Practice-based approaches aim to help effect positive social change and to provide a more encompassing and grounded conceptualisation of change processes than a focus on attitudes, values and behaviours. To what extent does practice theory help understand how and why practices recruit people, how new practices emerge, thrive and travel and why others fail to ‘catch on’?

We are very pleased to welcome three speakers – Matt Watson, David Evans and Margit Keller - who will discuss their experiences of practice theory in relation to efforts and programmes to bring about social change. These talks will be followed by a workshop, led by Margit Keller and Peter Jackson, which will allow us to work through how to draw on practice theory when trying to develop and implement changes, drawing on local examples – the provisional programme is available here.

We have (limited) funds to contribute towards costs of travel and accommodation for participants – please get in touch if you will need support in this way.

To book your place please email: newpractices@brighton.ac.uk.

Previous 2015 events

Picture of the Recode logoImprove the impact and visibility of your research - Early career researcher workshop on open access to research data

14 and 15 May 2015

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YASN logoYorkshire African Studies Network Conference 2015
Family, community and livelihoods: Perspectives from Africa

19 May 2015

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Visual data wordleVisual Studies - Visual methods: A half-day workshop

8 June 2015

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Picture of data on a screenData Power Conference 2015

22 and 23 June 2015

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Picture of SI for Age logoPolicy in active and healthy ageing: A mutual learning platform

30 July 2015 (9.45am-12pm)

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The University of Sheffield logoOpen forum event for the children and families social work community

With Chief Social Worker Isabelle Trowler and Sir Martin Narey

25 November 2015

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