Saf Ali's Blog

Blogging about society, religion, identity, social issue and personal problems.

Living in Postmodernity

This blog will aim to to engage and inform members of the public about not only areas of scholarly interest, but of real social issues and concerns that exist in everyday life which play on the minds of the ordinary individual.

My own research interests include sociological theory, music, race, identity, culture, religion, globalisation and the aspect of everyday life, which will feature heavily throughout this blog. This work is an attempt to spread the gospel of, not only the knowledge and practice of sociology, but how other disciplines, which cannot be ignored, can also play an interrelated prominent role within sociology, in not only contributing to social policy, but to enhancing the quality of life.

I hope this blog, with the illustration of short essays, in-depth research, and my own biographical fragments, (hence, the name Sociology Diaries) will attempt to highlight that sociology, and the social sciences as a whole, from a critical approach, still are of immense importance in deconstructing our everyday lives, as they were in the past, with the current of shaping human life for the better.

Finally, i must make aware to all the readers, that this work is of an ongoing experimental nature, i will attempt to adhere to the conventional social science ethical norms, to uphold codes of conducts, to promote confidentiality and privacy, to reference external sources, when required to. I will also attempt to take note of any elaborations of thought/feedback from the reader, attempting to balance not only a objective role as an author, but also in the true nature of a blog, express my own subjectivity on matters of importance, hence allowing to facilitate a dialogue with my readers.

A Short Biography: Why Sociology?
Ever since I stumbled upon Sociology, as a discipline, in college in 1990, I have relentlessly encountered wide range of criticism from friends and family, arguing that I was wasting my time and resources by studying such a ‘fairy, non productive’ discipline, that it would not get me anywhere, apart from social work, generally stigmatised as a ‘women’s job’ in some quarters, mediated as such. Unfortunately if your like me, and come from a South Asian background, which prides on masculinity, familial connectivity, cultural traditional values and religious beliefs as being the roots of the community, you can then imagine your uncle, that you see once in a year, (Aunty or Uncle does not wholly refer to kinship ties in the asian community, rather these terms are also used by the young, as a form of relating to elders in the community, as a form of giving respect) unashamedly poking fun and subjecting you to the lowest denomitator!

Why? Simple, you did not conform to the local sub cultural social rules or expectations. Expectations of asian parents, has been; my son is studying to become a doctor, solicitor, engineer… areas of secured employment. So you can imagine what my father, a hard working, working class, labour supporter, first generation immigrant, had to say, ‘what?’, ‘you don’t want to be a doctor?’ Then he would go into character, and emulate Mr Khan from the film ‘East is East’ (1999), ‘Bloody hell mrs (my mum) you tell him (me) to stop smoking those funny cigarettes (cannabis joints) and come back to earth, or I show him….he usually refrained from further saying like Mr Khan would say ‘You bastard bitch. You bring shame on the family’, these harsh words usually led me to question my own agency, and lead to further in loss of confidence. For the record, apart from the frequent outbursts and anger, my father invested heavily in my education, always encouraging me to not to put the books down, even at times of low, he would always ‘have my back’. A wise, generous, loving and caring man, even though semi illiterate, he displayed alarming social historical knowledge. It was probably my own father who in some sense or another, more than any other influenced my early thoughts.

For a 16 year old boy in the early 1990s, even in the face of the collapse of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe, Karl Marx was single handedly the most important figure that influenced my interest in sociology. For me through mediation, literature, television, Marx’s portrait symbolised hope and struggle. Posters of Marx and Che Guevara decorated student bedrooms all over the world in the 20th Century, and still do in some quarters of the world, spurred leftist movements to speak up on behalf of the working class, demanding their rights. In the name of ‘Marx’ historically working class social movements engaged in political discourse, attempted to win power either through the electoral voting system, or through unfortunately violent means, on a mandate or manifesto for a more fairer and just society. And it was this, the promise of an egalitarian society (even though it ended up as failed experiment) a form of a utopia, where peace prevailed, all colours, religions, sexes and classes were treated the same, which really grasped my attention. It was this dream mediated through language, image, text which become synonyms with not only Karl Marx and Frederick Engels (Marx’s long life friend and collaborator) but through their successsors in popular culture, e.g. Malcolm X, Che Guevra, Mahatmah Ghandi, the late Nelson Mandela and others, which really spurred my interest in the social sciences, especially sociology.

The social world that i entered and grew up was on the one side a harsh cold individualised world and on the other side a society promising equality, diversity and opportunity. I may not have been a mature age to fully experience and understand the social and political occurrence that was happening in 1980s Britain. But what i evaluated and perceived from the mediated text and images of the everyday 9 o’clock news, a ritual event in my house every night, where the television in a sense fulfilled the structures and routines of everyday life, a domestic medium, mediating text and images, was of a society characterised by visible social and economic inequalities and opportunities.

The 1980s was a time of intense social change, where deindustrialization, not only shaped the new economy, social institutions, but further it left the reserved army of labour, the redundant, on the wayside. The ones on the front firing line were mediated as being the ‘enemy of the so called new Britain, the miners. I believe my earliest memory, and this goes back to 1981, apart from a 6 year old, watching ‘Top of the Pops’, encapsulated by the sound and the image of the new synth wave British pop band Visage, with Steve Strange performing ‘Fade to Grey’ on stage, more importantly it was the major social upheavals (Brixton riot in 1981 and other pockets of social unrest around the country that year) and the miners strike (1984-1985), violent and bloodied images of the miners vs the police clashes, the struggle between the old establishment (the post war 1945 consensus) and the new regime, and on the other side the era of ‘plentiness’, (1987) the yuppie era, famously portrayed by the film ‘Wall Street’, (1987) which me and my best friend, watched over and over again, we even imitated the dress sense (flip back gelled hair with braces holding our pants) that really got me started asking questions of ‘what kind of a world is this?’ and ‘why is it like this’? It was social issues such as inequality, the philosophy of “Greed is good”, identity (what it means to be British Asian in Thatcher’s Britain) coupled with the personal experiences of racism, (getting chased, spat on, verbally abused) on our way back to school, in the backdrop of the rise and and popularity of the far right extreme (NF), where there was fear of being petrol bombed whilst in bed, that really propagated me to ask, why is there so much good in the world but yet there exists a dark layer of hate and selfishness.

Ironically, into the 21st Century, the beginning of 2015, some of these questions still remain unanswered. Issues of inequality, race and identity, may have been dormant throughout the 1990s, but these social issues have awoken from their deep sleep, ruddy awakened by two major events, 9/11 and the financial crash in 2008. Issues of religion, race, identity, inequality are at the centre of public and political discourse, and are still perhaps more relevant today, spurred by globalisation, as it was over 30 years ago. I believe i was drawn to sociology, in helping me to understand the world that i lived in. An attempt to as a means of understanding and attempting to address social problems and inequalities in society. To look beyond the picture.

I believe that we all have a part to play towards achieving a more fair and just society. As in Karl Marx’s words ‘ The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it’.

Finally, i want to say, thank you to my family, friends, for helping me to where i am now. This blog, is more importantly dedicated to my father, who as a role model, best friend, someone that i could confine to, has helped me to achieve my dreams, and in a sense i believe that i have fulfilled his dreams. ‘Thank you dad for everything, you’re the best, I will always love you’.

 

 

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