20 Questions - Lisa Garforth

1. Who are your intellectual heroes/heroines?

Michel Foucault, Donna Haraway, Karl Marx. And Dorothy L. Sayers.

2. Who are your favourite sociologists/social scientists?

All/none of them, depending on mood and what I’m reading...

3. Can you name a critical moral, political or intellectual issue on which you have changed your mind?

The right to assisted suicide – I don’t question the principle, but current practices (eg at Dignitas) make me deeply uncomfortable about letting it happen.

4. What is the last piece of music you’ve bought or downloaded?

Bill Callahan, Apocalypse; Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues.

5. Who are your political heroes/heroines?

Most recently, the student activists (from schools as well as universities), who with only a few sad exceptions found creative and peaceful ways of opposing current higher education policies.

6. What are your favourite movies?

I generally find films easy to admire but hard to love. But I do have a soft spot for Serpico – who could resist Al Pacino as a hippy NYC cop campaigning against corruption?

7. What sociological idea do you think every sociology graduate should understand?

Whatever they make of it politically, Marx’s proposition that in capitalism some people are poor because some people are rich. And given the pressing issue of climate change right now, they should understand something about the ways in which logics of environmental damage are deeply entangled with post/industrial and consumer capitalism.

8. Who are your cultural heroes/heroines?

Barbara Hepworth: big hands, big ideas, perfect sculptures. The Raincoats: wobbly feminist post-punk reinvention of rock, heard by hardly anyone.

9. What was the last novel (s) you recommended to a friend?

Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing.

10. What philosophical thesis do you think it is most important to disseminate?

‘Be realistic: demand the impossible’ (Situationist International slogan).

11. What philosophical thesis do you think it is most important to combat?

Various versions of the ‘end of history’ thesis – that there are ultimately no real alternatives to liberal capitalism.

12. If you could have three guests over for dinner who would they be?

Absent friends.

13. Is there a work in the social sciences which has had a profound effect on how you view the world?

Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization. Bourdieu’s work on cultural capital gave me ways of thinking about my own biography in terms of class and education that I can’t imagine doing without. Latour’s Science in Action (among many) fundamentally reshaped my ideas and feelings about the natural sciences.

14. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I’ve just got back from a very peaceful holiday on the north Norfolk coast, so maybe there. Or Paris, which lacks that edge of the world feel, but has much better patisserie.

15. What was the last piece of art/theatre/music/etc that gave you goose bumps?

Sufjan Stevens at the Sage, Gateshead.

16. What is your favourite example of architecture in the world?

Guggenheim museum Bilbao; York Minster.

17. What is your favourite sound?

The Big Huffer, my coffee pot, brewing up in the morning.

18. What talent would you most like to have?

The full complement of my very, very modest ability to play the violin.

19. If you could alleviate one social problem in the world, what would it be?

Where would I start?

20. If time travel were possible, which historical period would you choose to visit?

The French Revolution as fictionalised by Hilary Mantel in A Place of Greater Safety. Ursula K Le Guin’s green utopian future in her novel Always Coming Home.