What is Public Sociology?
‘Sociology must define, promote and inform public debate about deepening class and racial inequalities, now gender regimes, environmental degradation, marked fundamentalism, state, and non-state violence. I believe that the world needs public sociology – a sociology that transcends the academy…’
Public Sociology is largely concerned with expanding the boundaries of the discipline. To bring research, and perspectives to a non-academic crowd. This can be done via documentaries, lecturers, interviews, or blogs.
Burawoy (2005) distinguished between two types of public sociology. Traditional and Organic.
Organic: through human rights associations, activists, labour movements, etc.
Traditional: journalism, podcasts, etc.
Whilst Herbert Gans has been praised with making the term mainstream. It is widely believed that Public Sociology was being practiced long before his 1988 speech.
Is there a need for Public Sociology?
Information is inevitably powerful. It wouldn’t be right to privilege access to students and academics. Therefore, Sociology does have a duty to provide access to its findings. It is generally striking, that a subject which advocates changing society is so willing to keep findings known by only a select few or not widely published.
Advocates such as Buraway are of the opinion that society is diminished without its contributions from the Social Sciences. Craig Calhoun as the President of the Social Science Research Council encouraged social scientists to continue with research recognising their fields relied upon it.
As a student of Sociology at Loughborough University, we had a module on Public Sociology. It examined media techniques to engage a greater audience, usually to push your research findings. It still seemed too caged in for me, it wasn’t innovative enough. Where was the engagement with arts, crafts, theatre, really bringing Sociology to the public. Hopefully, the conversation doesn’t move in that direction but manifests itself.
By Shaneka Knight
Facebook: Shaneka Knight
Burawoy, M. (2004). American Sociological Association Presidential address: For public sociology. American Sociological Review, Vol. 70(1), 4-28.
Calhoun, C. (2004). The promise of public sociology. The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 56, 355-363.