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Welcome to the Department of Sociology!

Whether you’re studying BA Sociology, BA Criminology, or any of the various pathways and joint honours, you’re going to meet staff who are eager to meet you and introduce you to the ideas, methods, concepts and problems that will make up your studies over the next three years.

Two things distinguish our Department from most of the other Sociology departments in the UK.

First of all, most of our teaching is research-led – that is to say, you’ll be taught by academics who are actively engaged in conducting research into the areas that you’re working on. So, much of the time you’ll be reading and working on original, innovative and contemporary research into social problems.

Secondly, we apply Sociology in unexpected places. So while you’ll work on crucially important areas like race, gender, class and sexuality, you’ll also consider what other aspects of social life require critical attention. How can we use encounters with ghosts and aliens to investigate gender issues? What can pet-keeping tell us about the criminalisation of particular social groups? What does turn-taking in casual conversation tell us about social status?

In your 2nd and 3rd years, you’ll choose to study a range of modules that will enable you to explore issues like this in some detail. To prepare you for this, your 1st year will consist of four modules, each tailored to give you a sense of the range and rigor of the materials and methods available within the Department.

York Sociology Teaching 2020:


We know that many of you are eager to get started, so we’ve put together a range of resources for you to take a look at. For two reasons, we’ve focused on the module Introduction to Social Theory

First, it’s the one module that’s compulsory for all of the Department’s students, regardless of their degree or pathway. 

Second, it’s the one which often causes most concern. Students who’ve taken Sociology or Criminology at A Level sometimes feel that they’re already familiar with key social theorists, while those who haven’t had these courses are worried that they are lagging behind.

Studying classical social theorists like Marx, Weber, Durkheim (the traditional dead white men with beards) at university is, however, very different from studying it at A Level – not least because you will engage critically and directly with these thinkers. So, rather than just going through what textbook writers have said about Marx or Weber, you’ll actually read The Communist Manifesto, or The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. These texts are important because they continue to influence modern sociological research – but the assumptions underpinning their work also need to be challenged and contextualised.

And you won’t just deal with the ‘holy trinity’: writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Adam Smith and classical theorists are central to the course. Contemporary thinkers will broaden the range of concepts and critiques available to you, as we deal with the work of Frantz Fanon, Mary Douglas, Ruha Benjamin, Cedric Douglas, Doreen Massey, Michel Foucault and others.

Here are some links for you to explore! As you read and listen, ask yourself:

  • Which audiences are these theorists addressing? Who do you think they're talking to, and who do you think they're talking about? Are they the same groups?
  • What aspects of social life are they identifying as crucial if you want to understand issues such as inequality, power or cooperation?


  • Karl Marx and Fredreich EngelsThe Communist Manifesto
  • Emile Durkheim – The Rules of Sociological Method
  • Max Weber – ‘Science as a Vocation’
  • Harriet Martineau  a brief introduction to the woman many regard as the first important British sociologist, who wrote extensively on the relationship between social and economic environments
  • Frantz Fanon – a general introduction to this key post-colonial theorist, with links to some of his major writings


  • Stuart Hall  on policing (an interview from 2012)

Michel Foucault

A discussion of individual subjectivity (1983 – just before his death).

Cedric Robinson

A series of reflections on his own education and his work on BAME representation in film (2004).

Doreen Massey

On space, and how spatial relations are essential to the understanding of power.

Ruha Benjamin

On technology, race and liberation (2019)

If you’re interested in exploring some recent work by department staff members that relate to some of the key issues raised here, take a look at:

  • Anna Strhan explores the relationship between human subjectivity, space and religion
  • Amanda Rees considers how ideas like ‘prediction’ and ‘theory’ differ between the humanities and the natural sciences
  • Katy Sian considers how institutionalised racism shapes British universities

Follow us on twitter @UoYSociology for our latest news and research updates.