What Oscar says about the Master's in Sociology of Law
Oscar from Sweden
Why did you choose this programme?
“I started studying courses in criminology a long time ago and then started the Sociology programme at Linnéuniversitetet in Växjö. I moved to Lund after a year and started studying Sociology of Law at the Bachelor’s level. When I was done with my Bachelor’s, I didn’t really feel done with the subject; I thought there was more to it, so I applied for the Master’s.”
What does your programme entail?
“Put in simple terms, as the name implies, sociology of law is something in between law and sociology. To understand what that means you first have to consider two different conceptions of the law: one reflecting the lawyers’ understanding, which regards the law as a tool to do things with, while the other is the sociologist’s conceptualisation of the law as an integral part of the larger societal processes. However, there is also a third way of looking at the role of law, which takes into account both of these understandings.
Sociology of law concerns the study of law, but unlike legal studies that define it narrowly, it entails a much broader understanding of law and legality. For sociology of law, the law becomes empirical. It is interested in the space between ‘facts’ and ‘norms’, putting the light on juridical experiences of different communities and groups of people.”
What kind of background did the other students have?
“Political science, human rights, sociology, criminology, peace and development studies, law – some of them were lawyers – and so on. It was really a broad mixture of academic backgrounds, which I also think is beneficial for the programme as a whole. The programme is really good if you have studied law and want to develop a more social understanding of how law works, but also if you, in general, wish to gain an understanding of the law, legal institutions and legal behavior in a social context. As such, the students can target an extensive range of issues, at both local, national and international levels.”
Did the programme live up to your expectations?
“Yes, it did! I thought it was really good. The applied courses we had with our professor were excellent and I learned a lot from them. We were a small group of only 25 people, so it was an intimate feel with lots of discussions. As I said, it is also a very broad programme; during the last year you have the chance to take courses on other topics that you can customise to the topic of you Masters’ thesis. There was also the opportunity to do an internship, like I did. The elective courses and the internship opportunity give the programme a flexible dimension. In the early stages they tell you that if you want to study a special topic or problem, you can tailor your programme towards that.”
What did you do your internship in?
“I did my internship in Stockholm at a consultancy firm called Oxford Research that focuses on industrial and regional development, social policy and welfare. I mostly worked with issues related to social policy and welfare.”
What did you think of the teaching style and way of studying here at Lund?
“It was excellent. I would say that there is a healthy internal climate in the department in general – no strict hierarchy system that undermines the student. For instance, you could always go into the professor’s or teacher’s office and ask them things. There is a relaxed and good dialogue between the students and teachers.”
Have you had any opportunities for networking within the department?
“Every second week we had, and still have, research seminars where different researchers or PhD candidates came to present their work. You often have the chance to read papers beforehand, then comment on it. It’s mostly for the people that work within the department, but all the Master’s students are invited too. So, if you wanted to, there was a good opportunity to network.”
What do you think is the best thing about your programme?
“I think the flexibility was the best, as well as the dialogue between the teachers and students.”
Why do you think prospective students should choose the Sociology of Law programme?
"It’s a great programme if you’re interested in how power relations, the law and legal institutions work and how they affect peoples’ everyday lives and vice versa. If there are any specific topics or issues relating to the law that you want to explore, for example, gender, race, class, workplace issues, healthcare, etc., it’s a good programme. It’s also great if you want to pursue a PhD.”
What did you write your thesis on?
“When I applied for the Master’s I was particularly interested in issues of globalisation, discrimination, and racism related to the law´s effects on people’s everyday life and interactions. However, I wrote my Master’s thesis about collaboration processes in Lomma municipality, about 20 minutes from here, so that had nothing to do with globalisation. The focus of my thesis was on how law and legitimacy operate within the collaboration processes in the municipality. I analysed how negotiations between employers and unions shape the struggle for each party to preserve and promote their interests, and specifically looked at how different collaboration groups interpret the collaboration agreement by their cultural and normative environments. I was given an office at the municipality and did an organisational ethnographic study for around 12 weeks, including 22 interviews and ten observations.”
Are you continuing the same topic now for your PhD?
“No, it’s an entirely different topic. I’m studying hate and threats against journalists in a digital context, concerning the enforcement of the democratic rule of law. I’m focusing on legal certainty in particular – the state’s ability to provide legal remedies to protect the freedom of speech for journalists and how journalists apply strategies for self-censorship.”
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your experience in the programme?
“This programme emphasises the relationship between theory and method in a very good way – the theory and method courses, and really all courses in the programme, are of high quality. Also, the relaxed teaching style makes people comfortable in the classroom. You can ask ‘stupid’ questions – it’s ok.”
What is it like to be a student in Lund?
“It’s nice – it really is a student town. If you come from another country and you haven’t experienced Lund, I think it’s a great town to study in! You meet a lot of students and people.”
Do you have any advice for prospective students coming to Lund?
“Take the opportunity to participate in all the social things you can do here that are arranged by different institutions and departments. Join people at different events. We Swedes can be a bit bad at inviting people, but if you arrange something and invite the Swedes, we’ll come along.”