Topics in Contemporary Social Theory

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
26 May 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA L30112 Sociological Research Methods,
MA L30012 Sociology,
MA L31812 Sociology and Criminology

Module description

We will engage with a broad range of questions, such as: How did modernity shape the idea of the social? How do contemporary theoretical and empirical developments challenge the modern notion of the social and gender, power, bodies, and identities? Is there a way to critically analyze global modernities without reproducing structural inequalities of European modernity? The module provides a critical toolset to engage with the contemporary world. It considers the possibility of being 'modern 'in unique ways and points out voices and practices that have been historically marginalized. The module introduces postcolonial and global thinkers to make the module inclusive and relevant.

The course is structured around a number of 'challenges.' At the first lecture, we will do a 'recap' of the idea of modernity along with the modern approach to social theory, reviewing once established, but by now almost forgotten, notions of gender, power, and identity. In weeks 1 through 4, we will discuss a number of contemporary theoretical challenges to these perspectives of yesteryear. After the reading week (week 5), the last part of the course focuses on the transformations of gendered identities and how power and resistance look in contemporary times. The final lecture will look at recent debates in climate change and explore it as the future of social theory.

Module aims

This module aims to give an overview of some of the most important and signifi-cant debates in contemporary social theory, while encouraging students to think analytically about theoretical questions and illustrating ways of doing so.

We will engage with a broad range of questions, such as: How did modernity shape the idea of the social? How do contemporary theoretical and empirical develop-ments challenge the modern idea of the social, as well as of gender, power, bodies and identities? The course is essentially a critical way of examining the world by decolonizing

Module learning outcomes

At the first lecture, we will do a ‘recap’ of the idea of modernity along with the mod-ern approach to social theory, providing a framework through which a critique would be developed in subsequent lectures. The course is geared towards develop-ing strong conceptual groundwork alongside modes of decolonizing key concepts. With this dual emphasis, the course provides a thorough understanding of ‘Europe-an modernity’ as a particular historical epoch but also outlines what has been fun-damentally left out or silenced from the overarching paradigm. Week 2 takes on commons and women as one of the first main omission from European modernity. Week 3 connects European modernity to black histories, and colonialism. Week 4 will analyse postcolonial theory as one of the first theoretical frameworks to critical-ly investigate discrimination, and violence cast by modernity and colonialism. Week 6 will host group discussion based on the 1000 word report on BLM (weaving some of the themes covered in the course to contemporary protests) Week 7 will analyze how modernity problematize the body and can be re-conceptualized in a critical fashion. Week 8 examines modern modalities of power with specific emphasis on governmentality and biopolitics.. Week 9 examines multiple modernities and theory from the Global South as a way to reclaim modernity for the contemporary world. Week 10 connects European modernity to climate change and capitalism as an elaboration of the current crisis. Module outcome is geared towards developing crit-ical thinking, and learning to read key texts. The students are encouraged to devel-op individual point of view at the same time develop skillset for public speaking and participation in a seminar format.

Module information

Before each week's lecture, students will get a host of resources asynchronously on Moodle to prep for seminar. These resources are: (1) PPT of the weekly lecture (2) short format lecture videos on the topic (3) Questions for seminar discussion. The synchronous seminar (that will be timetabled) will start with an introduction and recap of main points of the lecture. The rest of the seminar will focus on students' discussion on the available questions as well as their comments on the key reading(s). Individual students will be allotted about 10 minutes to forward their point of view. This will also be the time for students to bring their ideas to the seminar and what they thought of the resources available on Moodle. There will be extended discussion on how to write a PGT essay and other doubts that students might have about the module.

Learning and teaching methods

Most modules at postgraduate level in Sociology are taught as a 2hr seminar. Most classes, labs and seminars will be taught face-to-face (assuming social distancing al-lows this). There may also be some online activities – either timetabled as a live online session or available on Moodle in the form of pre-recorded videos. You will be expected to watch this material and engage with any suggested activities before your seminar/class each week. Please note that you should be spending up to ten hours per week undertaking your own private study (reading, preparing for classes or assignments, etc.) on each of your modules (e.g. 30 hours in total for three 20--credit modules). This module [SC901] will include a range of activities to help you and your teachers to check your understanding and progress. These are: [individual student discussion (each week based on key reading, group report and discussion (Week 6), and distrib-ute pointers, videos and questions each week to garner feedback and comments on the course material] The module has a blended learning component. The seminars will be f2f but materials---PPTs, videos, forums---will be on Moodle. You are strongly encouraged to attend the classes/seminars as they provide an op-portunity to talk with your class teacher and other students. The classes/seminars will be captured and available via Listen Again. However, if you want to gain the most you can from these seminars/classes it is very important that you attend and engage. Please note that the recording of seminars/classes is at the discretion of the teacher.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Group Report     10% 
Coursework   Essay     90% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Maitrayee Deka, email:
Dr Maitrayee Deka



External examiner

Prof Benjamin Bradford
University College London
Available via Moodle
Of 18 hours, 18 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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