Sunday, 30 June 2013

A2 Religion - An Introduction (for Interview 3/7/13)


Religious beliefs of one sort or another are present in every known society. I am sure as you read this, you are able to think of a lots of examples. The variety of religions seems to be rather endless. If we are going to try and define religion (as we know Sociologists like to label and define almost everything!) then we must try to encompass this enormous variety within our definition(s). 

But the problem of defining religion is fairly obvious. There are some belief systems that work as religions- but are not ordinarily classed as religions. So how can we label these ‘beliefs’?
For example The Church of SCIENTOLOGY is considered a religion by some countries like the USA - but it is not considered a religion in the United Kingdom. It is because of this difficulty in defining religions, that sociologists have come up with two definitions and ways in which religions and belief systems can be dissected and studied sociologically. 
Definitions of religion seem to fall into one of two categories. Some categories define what religion does while others try to describe what religion is?


Definitions of religion seem to fall into one of two categories. Some categories define what religion does while others try to describe what religion is

Those definitions that focus on what religion does are classified as functionalist; that is, they seek to explain how religion functions within the life of an individual or society. 
Milton Yinger offers a functionalist definition of religion: "Religion can be defined as a system of beliefs and practices by means of which a group of people struggles with the ultimate problems of human life." 
The prominent sociologist Emile Durkheim defines religion: "Religion is the glue that holds society together." The primary focus of both of these definitions is on what religion does.

On the other hand, those definitions that primarily focus on what religion is can be described as substantive; that is, they seek to isolate the essence or substance of religion. E.B. Tylor's definition of religion as "belief in Spiritual Beings" is a substantive definition. 
Another substantive definition from our list is "Belief in invisible superhuman power together with feelings and practices that flow from such a belief." Notice that neither of these definitions really tell us what religion does; rather, they focus only on what religion is.

Now please watch the clip below from the film Le Amistad (1997)

Now please read the following from Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852 :

Extract below taken from Chapter 12:
Select Incident of Lawful Trade
"Now's your time," said Haley, taking the sleeping child up, and handing him to the stranger. "Don't wake him up, and set him to crying, now; it would make a devil of a fuss with the gal." The man took the bundle carefully, and was soon lost in the crowd that went up the wharf.
When the boat, creaking, and groaning, and puffing, had loosed from the wharf, and was beginning slowly to strain herself along, the woman returned to her old seat. The trader was sitting there, - the child was gone!
"Why, why, - where?" she began, in bewildered surprise.
"Lucy," said the trader, "your child's gone; you may as well know it first as last. You see, I know'd you couldn't take him down south; and I got a chance to sell him to a first-rate family, that'll raise him better than you can." [...]
[...] The woman did not scream. The shot had passed too straight and direct through the heart, for cry or tear.
Dizzily she sat down. Her slack hands fell lifeless by her side. Her eyes looked straight forward, but she saw nothing. All the noise and hum of the boat, the groaning of the machinery, mingled dreamily to her bewildered ear; and the poor, dumb-stricken heart had neither cry not tear to show for its utter misery. She was quite calm [...]
Tom drew near, and tried to say something; but she only groaned. Honestly, and with tears running down his own cheeks, he spoke of a heart of love in the skies, of a pitying Jesus, and an eternal home; but the ear was deaf with anguish, and the palsied heart could not feel.
Night came on, - night calm, unmoved, and glorious, shining down with her innumerable and solemn angel eyes, twinkling, beautiful, but silent. There was no speech nor language, no pitying voice or helping hand, from that distant sky. One after another, the voices of business or pleasure died away; all on the boat were sleeping, and the ripples at the prow were plainly heard. Tom stretched himself out on a box, and there, as he lay, he heard, ever and anon, a smothered sob or cry from the prostrate creature, - "O! what shall I do? O Lord! O good Lord, do help me!" and so, ever and anon, until the murmur died away in silence.
At midnight, Tom waked, with a sudden start. Something black passed quickly by him to the side of the boat, and he heard a splash in the water. No one else saw or heard anything. He raised his head, - the woman's place was vacant! He got up, and sought about him in vain. 
The poor bleeding heart was still, at last, and the river rippled and dimpled just as brightly as if it had not closed above it.
Patience! patience! ye whose hearts swell indignant at wrongs like these. Not one throb of anguish, not one tear of the oppressed, is forgotten by the Man of Sorrows, the Lord of Glory. In his patient, generous bosom he bears the anguish of a world. Bear thou, like him, in patience, and labor in love; for sure as he is God, "the year of his redeemed shall come."


  • At the beginning of the clip from LE AMISTAD who do we see? How does this clip that depicts the utter horror of slavery - have anything to do with religion? How do you think that religion was used by the slave owners?

  • What does the extract from Uncle Tom's Cabin tell us about how Christianity was a 'functional' element in the lives of the slaves in American homes and plantations?

These examples I have utilised are extreme. But I feel that they show the ways in which religion has been used to 'unite', 'calm' and 'control' a race for the benefit of the colonial slave masters. As YINGER describes, Christianity in this instance helps the slaves to 'cope with the ultimate problems of human life'. Christianity brought huge 'relief' for the slaves and was adopted by slaves throughout America and Europe.

  • Thinking a little further... How do you think MARXISTS would describe the 'FUNCTION' of Christianity for the slaves and their owners?

Post by Mrs R. Agnihotri 

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


Feral children are children who have spent much of their formative years in the wild, without any contact with other humans for a significant period of their lives. They are important to sociology because they illustrate the importance of socialization and are important evidence in the nature/nurture debate. Cases of feral children are thankfully rare, but are of immense interest from a sociological point of view by showing what happens when children are deprived of human contact.

Case 1: Oxana Malaya, the Ukrainian Dog Girl


Oxana is not really either a feral child or a confined child, but rather a neglected one. She spent much of her childhood between the ages of 3 and 8 living in a kennel in the back garden of the family home in Novaya Blagoveschenka, Ukraine, although she did spend some time in the house with her alcholic and neglectful parents. Her childhood spent in the company of dogs meant that Oxana exhibited many of the characteristics of a dog: she would run about on all fours and bark. When first found in 1991 she could hardly speak. Although Oxana can now talk and behave normally in many respects, she lives in a home for the mentally ill and will never be considered a "normal" person.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Inequalities in Leisure: THE END

Inequalities in Leisure: Aspects of Negative Identity

There have been many developments in leisure and the leisure industry to in the last 50 years. Boundaries between work and leisure have become blurred as new technology has allowed us to read business e-mails in our leisure time, many of us work in the leisure industry is in some of set up businesses as a result of our leisure interests.

In recent years we have witnessed a multi - channel revolution in television. This is indications that the way television programmes are produced and the way that we watch television. The production of programmes has become fragmented with many independent production companies; the audience has become more fragmented as many able to choose from hundreds of channels. There are gardening channels DIY channels, cooking channels, shopping channels, Asian channels, language channels, getting rich channels… the list is endless.

From a postmodern perspective we can interpret fragmentation of television channels and texts in an optimistic way. All texts are ‘polysemic’ and can be interpreted in a range of ways that allow individuals to make sense of experiences and continually create their own sense of identity.

New commodities are continually produced and as consumers we can use these continuously to produce our own new identities.

The Frankfurt School and Adorno were concerned about mass consumption would lead to a passive working class who could not distinguish between what is worthy and what is not. This relates back to Marxist views on culture.

believe that we will have more choice. However one thing that sociologists having not taken into consideration is that some people cannot ‘buy’ into the lifestyles they desire, and therefore they experience negative feelings about themselves and their society as a result of this.

Some critical sociologists also suggest that we still need to recognize and understand that social inequalities such as class, gender, ethnicity and disability, still have profound effects on our daily lives and the choices that we have.

Key term:

Polysemic: literally ‘many signs’. Have several possible meanings.

The Leisure Identity: Globalisation, Leisure and Identity

The Leisure Industry: Globalisation, Leisure and Identity

Through globalisation and our world has become smaller. We have access to the Internet which allows us communication with all parts of the world in an instant.

This mass communications technology also has been central to the process of globalisation and electronic banking and instant communication has made it easier for transnational corporations to conduct their businesses.

New technology has also led to many changes in the leisure industry - for example, travel has become much easier and cheaper as new transport technology has developed. It is now possible for many of us to travel around the world due to the low cost of transport. This means we can see for ourselves how people live in different countries. However, we can also see how people live around the world who the mass media and these images can motivate us to use the services of the travel industries.

The tourism industry is a large sector of the leisure industry. JOHN URRY (1990) has analysed the way that tourism has changed in recent years. A key motivation to tourists is to look at things they would not normally see. URRY calls this the tourist ‘gaze’.

We often visit countries and cities that we have seen images of in the media and take our own images home with us in the form of photographs or videos. URRY identifies two types of gaze: the collective gaze and the romantic gaze.

Collective gaze:
this is when other people are needed to give the atmosphere to a place that we visit; for example, a club in Ibiza needs to be busy so that we can enjoy the experience more. These type of clubs use mass produced entertainment. If you thought about it you could probably list other resorts that have this mass culture. This obviously links to what sociologists may regard as mass culture to be consumed by a large majority of people, this would also be associated with ‘working class culture.’

Romantic gaze: this is when we want to be alone to see the place we are visiting; example, to contemplate the beauty of a mountain in that particular country. These people visit countries in order to appreciate the art, language, literature and atmosphere of a country – these are 'thinking' people with bags (of what Bourdieu would say) 'cultural capital'.

Sociologists would regard ‘middle and upper class’ people to take leisure breaks in this frame of mind. Thus you could link holidays like these to those who appreciate ‘high culture’ and possess the desire to learn and educate themselves in the ways of another country. These people view the country they visit with a romantic gaze!


  1. Explain the importance of the mass media in the process of globalisation

  2. Recognize how the tourist industry has changed as a result of globalisation.

  3. Understand how tourism can be used as a case study to illustrate modernist and postmodernist theories of leisure.

Leisure and ETHNICITY

Leisure and Ethnicity

The influence of the blues, reggae, hip-hop and bhangra show how significant the music of different ethnic groups has been on contemporary popular music. These expressive forms emerged from the experience of minority ethnic groups.

There are many examples of how successful black sports stars, musicians and actors in the media and how these may significantly influence the identity and leisure of minority ethnic group's.

However in some sports such as touring, golf and tennis, ethnic minorities are still underrepresented.

Postmodernists claimed that in contemporary culture a hybridity of cultural forms has emerged that celebrates diversity and is used by people of all social backgrounds as a shared symbol and source of identity.

Ethnicity, according to postmodernists, will become less and less significant in terms of inequality as everyone gains access to the same symbolic universe.

Key term

Hybridity: a common notion of different styles and cultural forms so for example banghra being mixed with hip-hop as a music form.
Evaluate the postmodernist perspective on ethnicity and leisure.

Leisure, GENDER and Identity

Leisure, Gender and Identity

There are gender differences in leisure activities.

Men are more likely to go to the pub and women and are more likely to watch sporting events. Also, the ongoing response abilities of women mean that they are less able to put aside time for pleasure.

Feminists suggest that gender role socialisation has an impact on women's expectations of leisure and that the lack of affordable childcare stops women from accessing the leisure activities of their choice.

Feminists also argue that the leisure opportunities that women have are restricted by men, who expect women to choose home-based activities in their leisure time rather than going out.

Research also suggests that women have less disposable incomes than men.

Women tend to combine their leisure with other obligations, for example looking after children, and are also likely to become involved in leisure activities of the sake of their husbands.

Gender Class and Leisure

There are differences between leisure activities depending on the age and social class and marital status of women.

Middle-class women are more likely to belong to gyms and go to the keep fit classes. Single women are more likely to go out to pubs and nightclubs.


  1. Describe how gender influences leisure activities.
  2. Analyse how hybrid cultural forms have emerged in contemporary culture.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Podcast- Leisure, Class and Identity Part 1

Click on the link below for a cheesy outline of how your class effects your leisure pursuits. If you cut and paste the blogpost in to a word document so have the written 'handout' - read this through first and then listen to the podcast...

I am not a radio presenter - so don't expect Chris Moyles.