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The Politics of Knowledge: Sociology and the World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Ian Sanjay Patel
  • Assessment: a 2500-word essay (100%)

Module description

In this module we introduce you to the political dimensions of knowledge and the debates about how knowledge is created.

  • What counts as knowledge, and who gets to produce it?
  • Can knowledge be considered to be universal, or is it limited by the geographical location and culture that produced it?

You will approach knowledge as something that is often contested and subject to an array of social and political forces. You will explore issues and debates related to epistemology, political claims-making and social research methods. You will also consider the differences, trends and connections in knowledge produced in the Global South as opposed to the Global North.

Indicative syllabus

  • Key debates in epistemology and political claims-making
  • Social research methods
  • The political content of epistemological claims
  • North-South dynamics in the production of knowledge
  • Universalism and relativism in sociology and in political philosophy
  • Case studies of knowledge production
  • Sociology of elites versus subaltern groups
  • Sociology ‘from below’

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of key debates within epistemology and methodology in sociology and related disciplines, universalism and cultural relativism, and the politics of knowledge production
  • demonstrate knowledge of case studies that contrast knowledge produced in the Global North from knowledge produced in the Global South
  • think critically about the ways in which knowledge is produced, including the disciplinary history of sociology.