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Congratulations on getting an offer to study with us! We hope we'll get to meet you soon. In the meantime, we wanted to give you a chance to learn more about James Cummings.

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Becoming a sociologist

I came to sociology late, having studied Chinese and Spanish languages as an undergraduate, Chinese studies for my Masters, and sociology for my PhD. But I’ve always been interested in the power of social environments to shape people’s identities.

Growing up gay in a conservative town, attending a Catholic school where ‘boys played football’ and ‘girls played netball’, I felt gender and sexuality norms limit who we can be and how we can live.

It wasn’t until university that I found ways to explore and challenge these limitations. Moving into sociology combined interests in cultural diversity with desires to make a difference. For nearly a decade, I’ve been working with LGBTQ+ organisations in China to understand their issues, thinking about how to bring change.

Making connections

Although my interest in gender and sexuality began in the UK, my degree took me to China, which profoundly shaped my future. My research journey began through making friends in local LGBTQ+ communities. During PhD fieldwork, I became a regional coordinator for True Self, China’s largest LGBTQ+ organisation, and even spent six months working as a dancer in a local gay bar.

At York, you’ll have the opportunity to study or work outside the UK too, and this could turn out to be a life-changing experience. You can also work in social research, policy or other relevant settings in the UK, experiencing the roles your degree can lead to.

This is one of the wonderful things about our discipline: whether it’s engaging with people's lives through research, helping organisations that shape society, or sharing ideas with students and lecturers, sociology is all about making connections. These connections will lead you in exciting directions across and beyond your degree.

What is sociology?

I’m often asked this, and I’m sure you will be, too, whenever you explain what it is you’re studying. It can be difficult to answer. We can say sociology is the study of societies and how they work – but does that really do justice to the diversity and power of our discipline?

To understand what sociology is, it might be better to ask what sociology does: sociology is not only about trying to understand societies, but also trying to change them; it asks not only how societies work, but how they're shaped by power and inequality, and how they might be made more equitable and just.

If sociology is anything, then, it is a home for curious minds motivated to make a better world. This is certainly what sociology is for me, and I hope it's what it'll become for you.

Getting under the surface

Sociology is a broad field. There are limitless social issues to explore, and just as many ways of exploring them. At York, we believe there's no wrong way to look at the world. What we focus on is giving you skills to critically understand the relationships, structures and changes that shape our lives.

In my research, I adopt a ‘phenomenological’ perspective – focusing on our immediate, bodily experience of the world, and everyday relationships with people, places and technologies. For me, this means looking at how we perform gender, understand our sexual desires and identities, and how these are shaped by patterns of power and inequality in our worldly interactions.

This might sound quite abstract, but on this basis, the next step is to think about possibilities for doing things differently, resisting limitations on diverse ways of being and living. This is something I try to action by working with LGBTQ+ organisations.

Expanding horizons

The amazing thing about Sociology at York is that we’ve got people who cover so many topics. We’ve got specialist modules on the paranormal, the sociology of corpses, human and animal interactions, and so much more.

Our range of modules and expertise allows you to expand your knowledge in diverse directions, while also tailoring your studies to focus on what's particularly interesting and important to you.

Getting a degree is a huge achievement, and something to be really proud of – but studying Sociology is also so much more. Studying sociology is transformative; it'll provide new ways of thinking about the world, and tools for challenging power and inequality.

This is the start of an exciting journey. Please get in touch if you want to know more about us – we're always happy to talk to prospective students, and are really looking forward to meeting you!

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Contact us

For any support or guidance on completing your journey to York, we're always close at hand.
+44 (0)1904 324000