The courses of the Department attempt to provide students with a basic knowledge of sociological andanthropological concepts theories, and methods, applying these to the empirical study of topics which have some relevance to contemporary Hong Kong. Thus in addition to basic courses in theory and methods, regionally there are courses on Hong Kong itself, China and other Asian societies and topically there are courses on a wide range of sub-fields within sociology.




Sex work, Citizenship and Social Difference

October 9, 2014 (Thursday), 6:45pm
CPD-2.14, Centennial Campus, HKU

Public discourses around migrant sex workers are often more confident about what migrant sex workers signify morally (i.e. vulnerability, criminality) but are less clear about who the ‘migrant’ is. Determining who is or isn’t a migrant is not a simple empirical exercise but a process of social construction that is, in the case of sex work, significantly shaped by ideas about race, class, nationality and gender. Based on 2013-2014 interviews with 65 immigrant, migrant and racialized sex workers in Vancouver, Canada and Melbourne, Australia, this presentation first challenges the ‘migrant sex worker’ category by investigating the experiences of women who are often assumed to be ‘migrant sex workers’ in Australia and Canada, i.e. non-White women who speak English with non-Western accents. Contrary to public assumptions, many ‘migrant sex workers’ in Melbourne and Vancouver are naturalized citizens, whose involvement in the sex industry intersects with diverse ideas and experiences of citizenship in Australia and Canada. Second, this presentation examines how immigrant, migrant and racialized sex workers in Melbourne and Vancouver wield or negotiate ideas of illegality and legality to obtain desired outcomes in their day-to-day work. What emerges is the use of legal or illegal status (as a sex worker rather than as an im/migrant) as a form of continually negotiated social capital for workers to draw upon in interactions with law enforcement, clients and other stakeholders in the industry. The presentation concludes with reflections on the methodological and ethical challenges of researching sex work.

Julie Ham is a doctoral student in criminology at Monash University and an associate of the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW). Her doctoral research explores how the regulation of sex work and migration shapes sex workers’ security, mobility and agency. Since 2003, she has worked with community-based research projects working with and for women in sex work, immigrant and refugee populations, women substance users, low-income populations, and anti-violence organisations. She has published on the impact of anti-trafficking measures on sex workers’ rights, feminist participatory action research, and activist efforts by trafficking survivors, sex workers and domestic workers.


Department of Sociology
Master of Social Sciences in Media, Culture and Creative Cities

Distinguished Lecture Series

Prof. Rob Stones
University of Western Sydney

Date:              7 Oct 2014 (Tuesday)
Time:             7p.m. -9 p.m.
Venue:           11/F, Social Sciences Chamber, The Jockey Club Tower, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
Title:              Why Audiences for News and Current Affairs Need Social Theory

Abstract :
Television news isfrequently disparaged by thoughtful commentators for its preoccupation with drama and spectacle at the expense of serious, in-depth, engagement with the critical issues it covers. These charges possess more than a small dose of truth, and in his recently completed book, Why Current Affairs Needs Social Theory, Rob Stones argues for more emphasis to be placed on strengthening the capacities of audiences. Drawing from major traditions in social thought, and on academic media analysis, he provides the conceptual tools for audiences to bring greater sophistication to their interpretations, developing their capacity to think across items and genres. The lecture will be based around the arguments of the book, and will outline his conception of a social theoretical frame designed to provide audiences with a systematic means of addressing the status and adequacy of individual texts. The argument is that social theoretical frames can reveal the shortcomings of media framing of the ‘contextual fields’ within which news and current affairs events take place. It is necessary to place events within such contextual fields in order to make a genuine effort at understanding. Examples of current affairs texts will be used to illustrate the argument.

Date:              9 Oct 2014 (Thursday)
Time:              7p.m. -9 p.m.
Venue:           CPD-2.19, The Jockey Club Tower, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
Title: A Case Study Approach to Moral Judgment: An Exploration of Women’s Individual Autonomy in Two Asian Contexts
The lecture will introduce two case studies from Asia in order to examine questions about the cultural and contextual specificity of moral questions in contemporary society. Both cases take the moral precept of individual autonomy, central to the tradition of liberalism, as their initial point of reference. This refers to the ability of an individual to choose the way they live their life, and the values by which they will live that life.  The first looks at an example discussed by the political philosopher, Bhikhu Parekh, in his landmark study Rethinking Multiculturalism (2000). This is the case of the now largely defunct practice of Sati in India, in which a widow immolates herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. More specifically, the discussion is focused around an incident in 1987 in which Roop Kanwar, an 18 year-old Rajput woman who had been married for eight months, mounted her husband’s funeral pyre watched by thousands of enthusiastic supporters. The second case is focused around Japanese sociologist, Kaoru Aoyama’s, volume Thai Migrant Sexworkers: From Modernisation to Globalisation (2009). The focus here is on women from the poorer northern and north-eastern areas of Thailand who become sex workers in Bangkok, or in other Thai provinces, or in Tokyo, as was variously the case among Aoyama’s respondents. The paper will explore the extent to which the principle of a woman’s autonomy should be defended in either case, and how thinking deeply about this question needs to involve both social theory and political-moral philosophy: i) the embedding of cases within the relevant contextual field, paying attention to its social, cultural and historical dimensions (social theory); and ii) reflection on the relationship of the principle of autonomy to other deeply embedded moral principles within the relevant culture (political-moral philosophy).

Biographical Profile:
Rob Stones is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney. He is the editor of two book series on social theory, Traditions in Social Theory and Themes in Social Theory, for Palgrave Macmillan, and his own books include Sociological Reasoning (1996), Structuration Theory (2005), and the edited volume Key Sociological Thinkers (3rd edition, 2015). He has recently published ‘Social Theory and Current Affairs: A Framework for Intellectual Engagement’ in The British Journal of Sociology (June, 2014), and his new book, Why Current Affairs Needs Social Theory, is to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in early 2015. Other research includes a team project on ‘Lifestyle Migration in East Asia’ jointly funded by the UK ESRC and the HK RGC, which includes collaboration with Professor Maggy Lee, Department of Sociology, University of Hong Kong. He is currently one of the editors of the Journal of Sociology, the journal of the Australian Sociological Association. 

All are welcome





The 11th Annual Conference of the Hong Kong Sociological Association

The Department of Sociology has hosted the 11th Annual Conference of the Hong Kong Sociological Association (HKSA). [Photo]