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A Backstage Sociologist: Autoethnography and a Populist Vision

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Abstract

The first part is an autoethnographer’s account of a madcap journey through America's disciplinary institutions, ranging from a Mennonite colony and prison to the counterculture and mental hospitals, and on to political organizations and universities. Using Goffman’s distinction between front stage and backstage as a metaphor, the author is an embodied and embedded eyewitness—covertly conducting institutional ethnographies (Merleau-Ponty 2012 [1945]). With a backstage perspective, this rogue researcher pierces the front-stage veneer of social-control institutions. The second part is an audacious revisionist history of American sociology, a confounding counter-narrative that demystifies mainstream sociology’s hegemonic tale of self-congratulation. The author narrates and deciphers the successive sociological generations of the founders, scientific professionals, Sixties' insurgents, and the new, poseur public sociologists. The article concludes with a renewed vision of a populist sociology.​

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Acknowledgments

Tom O’Connell, Nancy Black, Janet Enke, Steve Buechler, Thomas Schmid, Tim Pippert, Doug Hartmann, Chris Uggen, Jon Smajda, Steven P. Dandaneau, Ken Peterson, Michael Burawoy, Alan Wolfe, Jimmer Gillespie, Steve Schanback, and Sid Farrar.

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Correspondence to Monte Bute.

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Bute, M. A Backstage Sociologist: Autoethnography and a Populist Vision. Am Soc 47, 499–515 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-016-9307-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-016-9307-z

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