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Dr Joe Rigby

Former Research Student

Joe Rigby


Sociology is an essentially clinical discipline. It proceeds inductively, rather than deductively, by way of careful observation and under the constraints of the situation at hand. As in medicine the objective is never simply the treatment of symptoms, but the clarification of problems or conditions, the formation of diagnoses that might help better administer a cure. It is this 'diagnostic’ dimension of sociology that interests me. The capacity not simply to find solutions to social problems - and it is certainly debatable just how successful or indeed harmful sociology has been in this respect, but to re-evaluate problems themselves.

I obtained my first degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University in 2005 before coming to Lancaster in 2006 to study an MA in Sociological Research, part of a (1+3) Economic and Social Research Council funded studentship. Since then I have developed an interest in the relationship between social theory and philosophy, with a particular interest in contemporary continental philosophy, political thought inspired by a reassessment of Marxism, and post-Cartesian theories of political subjectivity.

My PhD thesis is titled 'The excess of migration.’ I draw on case studies taken from the British and European contexts to develop a critique of the so-called 'problem of immigration.’ I offer an analysis of some of the political and sociological dynamics through which, at both institutional and popular levels, certain forms of migration become objects of resentment and subject to strategies of normalisation and control. Adopting a diagnostic approach I aim to displace common sense and Statist constructions of the excess of migration, developing an alternative problematic structured around the themes of racism and emancipation, sovereignty, ethics, freedom, and equality. My supervisors are Bülent Diken and John Urry.

In 2008-2009 I also co-organised, together with Michaela Spencer, the Sociology Departmental Seminar Series. In 2011-2012 I worked with a collective of PhD students from across Lancaster University to organise a year-long seminar series on The University in Crisis.

I have been a seminar tutor for the first-year undergraduate courses 'Introduction to Sociology’ and the third year module 'Terror.’ In the academic year 2010-2011 I held a temporary lectureship with the responsibility for running the final-year sociology module 'Terror.’ I enjoy teaching and am interested in developing my thinking and practice of critical and emancipatory pedagogy.

I have co-authored (with Raphael Schlembach) an article on 'noborder’ activism and the struggles of undocumented migrants in the French port of Calais. Titled 'Impossible protest: noborders in Calais’ it has been accepted for publication in the journal Citizenship Studies as part of a special edition on ‘Immigrant Protest,’ out in early 2013.

The article is informed by work I have done with the UK noborders network. I was interviewed by Shift Magazine on the situation in Calais in 2009. You can read my short commentary here: http://shiftmag.co.uk/?p=315