Sociology in Britain in 2001 is very different from 1968. It is much big­ger: far more staff, students and departments, and far more sociologists teaching medical students, dental students, nurses, social workers, and other professions. Whole new areas of empirical research have been opened up, which I have discussed in Chapter 3. There is, however, a wonderful contrast between the gritty, smelly, practicality of research on, for example, hospital cleaners, and, to quote Rosemary Deem: ‘the increasing malestream sociological obsession with the Internet, Los Angeles and various facets of the hyper-real’ (1996: 16).

To emphasise the changes, let us return to Burminster.

vignette 2.2

Burminster has changed. There are now over 200 students doing vari­ous undergraduate degrees, including ‘joints’ with subjects, such as media studies, peace studies and gender studies, unknown and undreamed of, in 1968. The department now has 16 full-time staff, and a penumbra of eight part-time ‘tutors’. The department now runs cours­es for the medical and dental students, and a masters’ course in gay and lesbian studies. There are now seven professors, four men and three women including Tamzin Wrankester, none of whom is head of depart­ment. Mr Whaddon, a senior lecturer, now 60, is head of department.

Tom Twisdon is still on the staff, still a lecturer at 62: he has never recovered from his shock at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Miss Glynde retired in 1975, very disturbed by feminism: she sometimes comes in to departmental events: usually retirement parties and reunions. There are four women lecturers, all under 40. Professor Tamzin Wrankester teaches the level three theory, the methods course includes a compulso­ry essay on either feminist or queer methods, and all reading lists are required to include at least one-third of items authored by women. There is a compulsory course on gender in Year Two, and a final year option on sexuality. Miss Glynde’s worst fears have come true: no course on marriage. If Professor Westwater were to return from the grave, he would find Burminster sociology unrecognisable.