Social Inequalities and Social Ordering

This research theme is concerned with the nature and extent of class, age, place, gender, ethnic, and generation based inequalities and the ways in which these are managed through formal and informal processes of social ordering.



This is integral to the Department's research focus and can be seen in the work on social differentiation, migration and mobility, social exclusion, crime and surveillance, social change and conflict, responsibilisation and governance.

Some broad examples of questions we seek to explore within the research theme:

  • How does class, age, ethnicity and gender shape the way we live and the ways in which society is ordered?
  • How do we respond to societal ‘emergencies’ and ‘crises’?
  • How do factors such as agency and structure impact different areas of social life?
  • How do we conceptualise ‘vulnerability’ and what are the impacts of this?
  • What are the most pressing contemporary challenges for children and young people?
  • How might we work most appropriately alongside the State to improve the lives of those deemed vulnerable?

The research theme’s interests deliberately seek to cut across a vast range of sociological interests and may include the following disciplinary backgrounds:

  • Social work
  • Criminology and criminal justice
  • Surveillance studies
  • Children and young people
  • Social exclusion and vulnerabilities
  • Ageing studies
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Sexuality and gender studies
  • Social class
  • Social research methods

For more info on our work, please contact the Research Theme leader Dr Xavier L'Hoiry:

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The Social Inequalities and Social Ordering blog

Keep up with news and events from the Social Inequalities and Social Ordering theme via the Sociological Studies Research Themes blog.

Social Inequalities and Social Ordering blog

Upcoming workshops, lectures and events

This section will be updated as and when future events are confirmed.

All events are open for all and are free to attend.

Past workshops, lectures and events

Minorities, Public Labels and Multiculturalism

28 October 2020, 2pm - 3.30pm

An online talk with Professor Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy and founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, hosted by the Social Inequalities & Social Ordering research theme in Sociological Studies.

To watch Professor Modood's presentation, click here.

Brexit as newly bordering: the British in France and European belongings

With Dr Michaela Benson, Goldsmiths

4 November 2019

In this paper Michaela draws on empirical research with British citizens living in France to reveal how Brexit has variously refracted the privileges previously held by these Britons. Within this, Michaela shifts focus from the pending transformations of the legal status of British citizens living in the EU-26 that have been at the heart of the citizens’ rights negotiations, to the emotional and material impacts that uncertainties about their futures have had on their lives. The paper documents the measures they take (or anticipate) in their bids to secure their future rights to stay put in France and to displace the impacts of Brexit uncertainty on their lives. However, as their efforts reveal, not everyone is well-placed to secure their own future, the scrutiny over their right to live in France as European citizens resulting in some being found lacking. Through a conceptual framework that foregrounds Brexit as bordering—the social and political process through which judgements are made about who is deserving and undeserving of the privilege of (European) belonging— Michaela opens up questions about who among these Britons is bordered through Brexit and with what impacts for their lives? As Michaela argues, Brexit is unevenly experienced, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and generating new fault lines of belonging among the British in France as they are repositioned in relation to hierarchies of European belonging.

Brexit and Questions of ‘National Inheritance’: The Colonial Conditions of our Present Crises

With Professor Gurminder K Bhambra, University of Sussex

28 October 2019

The last few years have seen an intensification in the debates around reclaiming our ‘national sovereignty’ and identifying those who are deemed to have a ‘legitimate’ claim to the benefits of British citizenship. These debates are predicated on the idea of Britain having been a nation and that national assets have been built up endogenously to be passed on as an ‘inheritance’ to future citizens. The boundaries of who should have access to these assets – particularly in terms of welfare and citizenship – are increasingly policed. Indeed, in broader debates on migration, many scholars argue that if migration is to be allowed then those who come should not have access to full citizenship as this would be viewed as unfair by local citizens. This is because, as Branko Milanovic argues, rich countries accumulate wealth and transmit it, along with other advantages, to subsequent generations of citizens and, specifically, for the enjoyment of its national citizens. But, if, as Gurminder has long argued, Britain has always been an imperial state, not a national one – collecting taxes from across the empire and not just the nation – then questions both of ‘national sovereignty’ and ‘national inheritance’ require further interrogation. Brexit, Gurminder suggests, has illuminated unresolved issues of who constitutes the body politic and whose concerns should legitimately constitute the basis for public policy initiatives. 

The End of Aspiration? Social Mobility and Our Children’s Fading Prospects

With Duncan Exley

18 September 2019

Duncan Exley is the author of the recently published book The End of Aspiration? Social Mobility and Our Children’s Fading Prospects with Policy Press. Duncan has a background in the third sector and took a break from his career as the Director of The Equality Trust to write the book. The book asks why families — and not just ‘deprived’ but also the majority of us in the ‘broadmiddle’ of the social and economic spectrum — are now more likely to 'do worse' than previous generations (in terms of occupational status, housing and financial security), despite being better educated, and what can be done to reverse this decline. It also asks why — despite the demonstrable electoral consequences of the discontent of those who have worked hard but been denied the rewards they believed had been promised — mainstream politicians’ attempts to harness the anger and aspiration have not succeeded, and what a more-successful narrative (and programme of policies) might include. The End of Aspiration? draws on the work of experts and practitioners, and follows the life-stories of people who have experienced ‘social mobility’ (an actor, a politician, a billionaire entrepreneur, a surgeon and others) through each of seven life-stages.

How to secure a research grant

With Dr Daniel Holman and Dr Ysabel Gerrard

5 December 2018

This session presents the reflections of two Departmental staff who have recently enjoyed success in securing research grants. Each speaker will present reflections on their experiences of the process of applying for grants and offer advice on the key factors in their success. Dr Dan Holman has recently been awarded £195,280.00 by the ESRC Transformative Research grant for a project concerned with ‘Chronic disease and health ageing at the intersections’. Dr Ysabel Gerrard has recently been awarded £6,998 by the BA/Leverhulme Small Grants for a project investigating ‘Secrets on social media: Exploring young people’s perspectives of anonymous secret-telling apps’.

In conversation with Hannah Lewis and Calum Webb

31 October 2018

Hannah Lewis is Vice Chancellor's Fellow. She has researched different aspects of how immigration policies affect the daily lives of people who migrate in academic and non-academic research since 2002. She is currently PI of the ESRC project 'Understanding the roles of faith based organisations’. Calum Webb is a Research Associate and PhD student in the Department. His research is about the definition and measurement of poverty and the use of advanced quantitative methods to untangle complex trends and develop more holistic metrics. He is currently developing an anti-poverty practice guide with the British Association of Social Workers.
We would like to invite you to an open conversation about the themes that connect the two bodies of research on child welfare and anti-trafficking in relation to structures, agency, and individualisation; narratives of ‘rescue’ and the ‘deserving rescuee’; and, how these result in policies of emergency that often tackle acute crises rather than root causes. Hannah and Calum will introduce their independent research and these shared themes before opening the conversation further to other attendees to contribute.

The broader purpose of the session is to identity and discuss points of convergence between research within the department. Identifying these hidden connections will allow us to connect one another's research more effectively, potentially leading to more collaborative research within the department."

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