The Contradictions of Public Sociology: A View from a Graduate Student at Berkeley
- 169 Downloads
Reflecting on my experiences as a graduate student, I argue that the terminology of public sociology should be dropped. The public sociology rhetoric is at odds with the fundamental professional reality in the discipline. Sociology, as a “hyper-professionalized” endeavor, primarily values abstract, explanatory theories, even if those theories make the world less descriptively comprehensible to people seeking to act in the world. Moreover, I question whether sociologists, as a professional class, should or can take on the public position as the partisan representatives of civil society and marginalized peoples. Instead, I argue for a greater openness within professional sociology to descriptive work, as well as more departmental supports for graduate students to pursue careers outside of sociology. Sociologists interested in public engagement should focus primarily on cataloguing and practical evaluation of engaged research tactics and community oriented teaching strategies, rather than theoretical discussions of what sociology can or should be.
KeywordsPublic sociology Sociological training
I would like to express my special appreciation to Laura Enriquez and Neil Fligstein who supported and encouraged me so selflessly and professionally throughout my graduate studies. Numerous colleagues have commented on this piece including Siri Colom, Shannon Gleeson, Basak Kus, Ruha Benjamin, reviewers and the editor. Their input has added immensely to this article, while the faults and errors are my own.
- ASA_Task_Force. (2007). Standards of public sociology: guidelines for use by academic departments in personnel reviews, Retrieved 2007 (http://pubsoc.wisc.edu/e107_files/public/pandt.html).
- BOSS. (2008). Wellness and empowerment service model guidebook. Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency.Google Scholar
- Burawoy, M. (2004). The world needs public sociology. Norway: Journal of Sociology. 3.Google Scholar
- Burawoy, M. (2005b). 2004 presidential address: for public sociology. American Sociological Review, 70, 4–28.Google Scholar
- COHSF. (2004). Hidden voices: The realities of homeless families and homeless immigrants. San Francisco: Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco.Google Scholar
- Deflem, M. (2004). Letter to the editor: the proper role of sociology in the world at large. The Chronicle Review, October 1, 2004, pp. p. B17.Google Scholar
- Deflem, M. (2007). Public sociology, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. The Journal of Public and Professional Sociology, Retrieved 2007 (http://www.gsajournal.com/Deflem.pdf).
- DOL. (2006). Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2006–07 Edition, Retrieved 2007. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (http://www.bls.gov/oco/).
- Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International.Google Scholar
- Hausknecht, M. (2002). Models of public sociology. ASA Footnotes 30.Google Scholar
- Miller, J., & Robert, Perrucci. (2004). Editors’ note: publics and sociologies. Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 33, ix–xii.Google Scholar
- Nichols, L. (2005a). Editor’s introduction: “reflections on graduate training in sociology.”. The American Sociologist, 36, 3–4.Google Scholar
- Nichols, L. (2005b). Editor’s introduction: a conversation about “public sociology”. The American Sociologist, 36, 3–4.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2003). Homelessness in San Francisco: Understanding a common vision that will build a homeless policy that works. CA: San Francisco.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2004). The politics of homelessness in San Francisco. In: An invitation to public sociology. Washington, DC: American Sociological Association.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2008a). Happiness and global justice: contrasts, convergences, overlaps, and complementarities of the world social forum and the gross national happiness movements. Humanity & Society, 32, 24–44.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2008c). The sociological contexts of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings. Human Architecture, 6, 67–72.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2009a). Progressive welfare reform? Ending general assistance cash grants for homeless people in San Francisco. Journal of Poverty, 13, 55–73.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2009b). The systemic inadequacy of Bush’s homelessness policy. Journal of Progressive Human Services.Google Scholar
- Noy, D. (2009c). When framing fails: ideas, influence, and resources in the San Francisco homeless policy field. Social Problems, 56, 223–242.Google Scholar
- Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
- Rinalducci, N. (2007) Sociological accessibility: the importance of public in professional sociology. The Journal of Public and Professional Sociology, Retrieved 2007 (http://www.gsajournal.com/RinalducciArticle.pdf).
- WRAP. (2006). Without housing: Decades of federal housing cutbacks, massive homelessness, and policy failures.. San Francisco: Western Regional Advocacy Project.Google Scholar
- WRAP. (2008a). Business improvement districts overview. Western Regional Advocacy Project.Google Scholar
- WRAP. (2008b). Without housing, Without rights. The Race, Poverty, and Environment: A journal for social and environmental justice, 15, 50–52.Google Scholar