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SOC2087 : Identity and Difference in Multicultural Britain

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jan Dobbernack
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The aim of this module is to explore the re-making of majority and minority identities that accompanies Britain’s multicultural drift. It investigates the sociological and political circumstances of ethno-religious and “racial” diversity in the United Kingdom. It familiarizes students with empirical and theoretical models that account for the British experience of pluralism. A particular focus is on the contestations, mobilizations and counter-movements that constitute the politics of identity and difference in contemporary Britain.

Specific module aims:
-       to consider increasing levels of diversity in British society and to trace its “multicultural drift”;
-       to investigate descriptive and normative models that account for the British experience;
-       to examine the success and failure of political models for the governance and regulation of diversity;
-       to explore political movements for equality and the recognition of “difference”, both historically and with an interest in current mobilizations;
-       to analyse counter-movements and various forms of anti-pluralist “backlash politics”.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module begins with an overview of pluralism in British society, exploring its historical development and contemporary social dynamics. It then examines analytical and normative models that bring different dimensions of diversity into view and investigates their potentials and blind spots. In a third part, the module considers a number of key concepts, such as “citizenship”, “secularism” and “integration”, that play a role in the governance of diversity and that present themselves as a focus of political claims-making and social movement activity. Finally, it examines mobilizations for equality and respect with an interest in historical and contemporary forms and the dynamics that underpin today’s anti-pluralist backlash.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion1100:00100:00Assessment preparation and reading for lectures
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading164:0064:00Seminar Preparation
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops22:004:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures familiarize students with ideas and concepts that are relevant for understanding ethno-religious diversity in Britain and the social and political transformations that are part of Britain’s “multicultural drift”. Seminars consolidate knowledge and provide students with structured tasks and readings. They also provide a forum for discussion and the application of theories to empirical case material. Seminar questions and tasks in preparation for the seminars will be listed for each seminar topic in advance. Private study includes preparation for lectures and seminars and preparation for completing the assignments.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M50Essay of 2,000 words
Report2M50Report of 2,000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Report2MOptional outline plan of max. one page for the case study report
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessed essay (50%) encourages students to read widely around a topic and critically engage with the literature. It gives students the opportunity to evaluate and compare different theoretical perspectives by applying them to empirical case material. It evaluates students’ ability to think creatively and draw connections between sociological and political circumstances of ethno-religious pluralism.

The assessed report (50%) asks students to explore a specific instance where ethno-religious diversity occasions political contestation. It gives students considerable freedom in choosing a case that allows for an exploration of local issues in their wider socio-political context. This assessment is accompanied by guidance and research training as part of the module workshops. Students also have the opportunity to submit a formative piece of work in the form of research plan to obtain feedback prior to the production of the assessed report.

Reading Lists