Sociology - Doctoral Theses

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    The power of empty places. A re-appraisal of modernity through void experiences
    (University College Cork, 2023) Bollard, Kate; Szakolczai, Arpad; Boland, Tom
    Social media has been established as a central feature of the modern world and a propagator of contemporary culture. The problematic effects of engagement in the social domain have been widely recognised across various disciplines. However, the compelling force and limitless nature of social media have previously gone undetected because they are veiled by its innovativeness and suitability to the fast-paced modern world. This thesis will employ anthropological theories to help understand the modern world. The theory of the void is utilised to examine the destructive features of social media that induce an unreality and provoke users to unfold in alternate ways. Voids can be regarded as brutal traps that promote capturing, limitlessness and disconnectedness. Application of void theory to the realm of social media highlights its vicious qualities such as an entrapping force and transformative power. Classifying the realm of social media as a void illustrates how the intangible non-place is a divisive feature of modernity. To gain comprehension of the pervasive void created by technology, historical phenomena must be considered and evaluated. Comparative analysis of the most varied types of voids offers insight into how voids operate to exert dominance over their respective cultures. The circular formation of stone circles establishes a void, which functions as a representation of the realm of social media. Evaluating tangible characteristics of stone circles, such as their material character, configuration and optical display on the solstice offers insight into how social media operates to lure people into its domain and promote entrapment. Social media and stone circles are analogous void typologies that possess the ability to disrupt an individual’s internal equilibrium and alter reality. Envisaging highly influential facets of society as voids highlights the prevalence of absurdity in the lifeworld.
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    Symptom or Sickness? - A sociological (re)imagination of the high rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm amongst young adults in Ireland as social pathologies through interviews with counsellors
    (University College Cork, 2023) Meyer, Melissa Isabella; Keohane, Kieran; Balfe, Myles
    This multi-disciplinary, qualitative study investigated the high rates of mental illness and distress amongst young adults in Ireland through the perspectives of the counsellors and therapists that they turn to for help. The study explored whether viewing these high rates of pathologies as ‘social pathologies’ might offer new and valuable insight into the problem. This was done by relying on equal parts interdisciplinary literature and interview data in trying to establish what it was about this generation that made them more susceptible to ill-being. Data was collected through the Delphi method with two rounds of in-depth interviews (N = 16) and analysed through reflexive thematic analysis. The participants were counsellors and therapists who self-identified as working with young adults at colleges in Ireland and on the IACP website’s databases. Findings suggest that the most dominant underlying factor was social acceleration, as conceptualised by Hartmut Rosa, and its damaging consequences on the individual’s self-concept and relation to themselves and their world. Interviewees reported that young people today seem to be suffering from a ‘performance anxiety’ as they’re caught between the need to ‘keep up’ at all costs and that perceived failure is experienced as a profoundly distressing personal flaw, which is greatly intensified by social media and the highly competitive nature of contemporary life in educational, occupational, and social spheres. The resulting mental distress young people experience was reconceptualised as ‘strains’ using an adapted model of general strain theory. This enabled us to map out how these strains developed and what can be done to intervene in a way that is more effective and sustainable. The thesis concludes with recommendations on how therapists can be empowered through training that incorporates a more robust socio-political understanding, and efforts to encourage employment in trades for young people instead of conventional higher education.
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    The sociology of unpopular music: permanent liminality in post Celtic Tiger Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2020-05) Corcoran, Robert; Szakolczai, Arpad; Keohane, Kieran; Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
    The central focus of this thesis involves the combined application of reflexive historical genealogy and liminality theory to investigate emergent forms of social networks organized around specific forms of cultural activity, specifically in this instance, the realm of independent alternative music. This liminal borderland of cultural and subcultural activity is characterized in the context of globalized neoliberalism as instantiated in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. These undertakings are achieved by constructing a large theoretical edifice which is periodically supplemented with a wide range of empirical data and hermeneutical analysis invoked illustratively, selectively and strategically throughout. The range of research is spread across four major research chapters which apply this theoretical framework and the concomitant methodology to topics surrounding the emergence and ultimate decline of Ireland’s Celtic Tiger economy, the periodic renegotiation of music and noise over the last century, the emergence of ‘alternative’ as an aesthetic and socio-cultural designation quite distinct from its original meaning as the inverse of mainstream practices. This discussion highlights a variety of social science research initiatives into the relationship between youth groups and popular/fringe music forms to evaluate if any privileged relationship between the two can be established. Once such a framework is advanced in suitable detail, the focus is switched to the manner with which contemporary communications technology has modified such activities, paying particular attention to the conditions which both give rise to such technology and the forms of consumption and communication which they subsequently instantiate. The final section of the research attempts to assess how the major themes and discussion up to this point are discernable within the contemporary context via the incorporation of observational, ethnographic and hermeneutic methods.
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    No ordinary death: the Disappeared of Northern Ireland's conflict
    (University College Cork, 2022-08-31) Peake, Sandra; Lynch, Orla; Windle, James; University College Cork
    This study is set within the context of the Northern Ireland Conflict, also known as the Troubles. The aim is to explore the impact of enforced disappearances on first and second generation family members. The study relates to the families of a group of people abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles. The research considers the influence of disappearances on the interpersonal relationships in the families involved and in the communities in which they lived. The project also examines the historical significance of intra-community deaths and of interactions with other elements of society that make up our society such as the church, health professionals, members of the police and government bodies from the period following the abduction to the present day. Disappearing individuals is a phenomenon that occurs and has occurred outside of NI’s Conflict. The researcher draws on the experiences of families in other conflicts around the world, whose loved ones were also disappeared by paramilitaries, to examine how the context to the violence impact on the individual and family experiences. The study was carried out using a Grounded Theory framework and involved interviewing 40 people (repeat measures) - parents, siblings, children and other family members of those abducted. The researcher is an insider researcher as she worked with and works as an advocate for the interviewees, both nationally and internationally, for a period in excess of twenty years. Analysis of the data gathered produced eight theoretical higher order concepts, underpinned by a number of higher and lower order categories. These concepts have been developed into a new theoretical framework called ‘Orchestrated Loss’, which explains the impact of enforced disappearance within a conflict situation on individuals, families and communities. This new theoretical framework offers an insight into the unique situation in which the families of those disappeared in politically motivated, conflict-related situations find themselves. It also offers a basis and future direction for additional research in an area that has been under researched, and which is complex and conceptually immature.
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    Emile Durkheim: the narrative of a liminal subject
    (University College Cork, 2021) Flannery, Sophia; Szakolczai, Arpad; Balfe, Myles
    Since 1939, Anglo-American biographers have presented a non-political narrative of Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) that has rendered subordinate the political assessments of Edward Tiryakian (1979) and Robert Alun Jones (1986). This is despite evidence existing that corroborates these latter researchers understanding. To elucidate the circumstances behind this disparity this thesis examines these biographies to discover if they display an engagement with rhetorical literary practices. This is to consider if these have caused them to make discursive statements that preclude the valuations of Tiryakian and Alun Jones in the same location from being given full recognition with the effect they limit knowledge formation around Durkheim’s identity. Additionally, it is to explore the situation whereby Tiryakian’s particular offering triggered Durkheim’s identity and this narrative to incur a state of liminality (Van Gennep, Turner) while more modern western biographies on Durkheim activated these to experience a state of permanent liminality (Szakolczai, 2009). To support these efforts, the concepts of liminality and permanent liminality are employed as a conceptual framework while Marie-Laure Ryan’s (2007) view of narrative and Judith Butler’s (1997) understanding of textual silences in conjunction with Foucault’s archaeological method and Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction are utilised as an analytical framework. The objective is to locate points of agreement within Anglo-American biographies on Durkheim that can be analysed to confirm if the statements they make are exclusionary in form. To additionally enable this process these statements are analysed against others presented by more historically directed researchers. The intent is to unveil points of reference within these texts that connect Durkheim with French politics between 1858 and 1917. To broaden this research scope even further an examination of the level of reflexivity (Bourdieu) that underlies the above situations occurs. The aim is to affirm which of the above interpretations of Durkheim holds legitimacy in the contemporary context (Van Leeuwen, 2007). Moreover, it is to establish if beyond the observations of Tiryakian and Alun Jones, the information that biographies on Durkheim present has the capacity to confirm Durkheim as political in the republican sense and a ‘subject’ (Foucault) of the French Third Republic.