Social Suffering - SOCI8850

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
Autumn Term 7 20 (10) Iain Wilkinson checkmark-circle


In summary, ‘social suffering’ calls for a new project of social science. It involves researchers in the attempt to understand how social and cultural conditions moderate the experience of suffering. It also brings a critical focus to the ways in which such experience serves to expose the moral character and structural force of society within people’s lives. Whilst attending to the particular ways in which individuals struggle to make ‘the problem of suffering’ productive for thought and action, it also works to understand how, through to the level of collective experience, this contributes to wider dynamics of social change. This course examines these cross-disciplinary issues and debates with the aim of assessing their sociological significance and political implications.


Contact hours

24 (seminars)



Method of assessment

5,000 word essay (100%)

Indicative reading

Bourdieu. P., et al. (1999) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Life, Cambridge Polity Press

Das, V., Kleinman, A., Ramphele, M., Lock, M. and Reynolds, P. (eds) (2001) Remaking a World: Violence, Social Suffering and Recovery, Berkeley: University of California Press

Kleinman, A. Das, V. and Lock, M. (eds) (1997) Social Suffering, Berkeley: University of California Press

Renault, E. (2009) ‘The Political Philosophy of Social Suffering’, in B. de Bruin and C. Zurn (eds) New Waves in Political Philosophy, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Wilkinson, I. (2005) Suffering: A Sociological Introduction, Cambridge: Polity Press (Introduction and chapter 4)

Wilkinson, I (2006) ‘Health Risk and ‘Social Suffering’, Health Risk & Society, 8(1):1-8

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module successful students will:

1 .Be able to identify and understand the place of 'social suffering' in sociological theory and research

2. Research and access the main sources of information relevant to debate of critical issues in sociology, social policy and cultural anthropology.

3. Identify and evaluate the main theoretical perspectives which are applicable to the study of ‘social suffering’

4. Provide a reasoned and justified opinion on specified issues within sociology, social policy and cultural anthropology with reference to problems of ‘social suffering’.

5. Be aware of the limitations of present knowledge and matters needing to be resolved by further research.
Key Skills:

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to show:

• Gather appropriate library and web-based recourses, make judgements about their merits and use the available evidence to construct an argument to be presented orally or in writing.

• Demonstrate skills in interpreting and analysing research data and official statistics.

• Understand empirical research, assessing its merits and using it to construct an argument.

• Understand the relationship between theoretical analysis and empirical research and able to comment on the uses and limitations of the latter.


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.