Power, Inequality, and Difference: Contemporary Themes in Sociology

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Professor Fran Tonkiss STC.S205


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Language, Culture and Society and BSc in Sociology. This course is available on the BA in Geography, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course has a limited number of places (it is capped). Students who have this course as a compulsory course are guaranteed a place. Places for all other students are allocated on a first come first served basis.

Course content

The course provides an introduction to key areas of theory and analysis in contemporary sociology. Students will gain an understanding of critical research and debates within the discipline, and of how sociology engages with topical real-world issues. The course centres on the ways in which power relations, social and economic inequalities, forms of identity and difference are shaped in contemporary societies – focusing on both formal political and socio-economic structures and everyday experiences and identities. These issues include: class, capitals and social mobility; race, ethnicity and multi-culturalism; gender and sexual identities; politics, social movements and the nation-state.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures, online materials and classes totalling a minimum of 40 hours across MT and LT, with revision sessions in ST.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6 and LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Two formative essays in MT, one formative essay in LT. 

Indicative reading

M. Savage (2015) Social Class in the 21st Century; B. Skeggs (1997) Formations of Class and Gender; L Back and J Solomos (Eds) (2000) Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader; A Gutmann (Ed) (1994) Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition; S Jackson & S Scott (Eds) (2002) Gender: A Sociological Reader; K Woodward (Ed) (2004) Questioning Identity: Gender, Class and Ethnicity; G Bhattacharyya (2002) Sexuality and Society; D Bell and J Binnie (2000) The Sexual Citizen: Queer Politics and Beyond; B Anderson (1983) Imagined Communities; E Gellner (1983) Nations and Nationalism; M. Flinders (2012) Defending Politics: Why Democracy Matters in the Twenty-First Century.


Exam (70%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
Essay (30%, 3000 words) in the ST.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Tuesday of Summer Term. 

Attendance at all classes is required and submission of all set coursework is compulsory.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
First 14.2
2:1 69.7
2:2 14.8
Third 0.6
Fail 0.6

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2020/21: 88

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Capped 2020/21: Yes (75)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication