The Contradictions of Public Sociology: A View from a Graduate Student at Berkeley
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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
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