In Praise of Sociology

What’s the relevance of sociology, or more generally, of social science?  The Canadian Review of Sociology has just published a symposium on this question, having kindly invited me to be a contributor.  I called my essay “In Praise of Sociology”, and you will find the text, open access, here:
The citation is: Connell, Raewyn. 2017. In praise of sociology.  Canadian Review of Sociology, vol. 54 no. 3, 280-296.
You will find the printed version here:  but be warned, this version has a paywall.
Basically, I argue that sociology has only a marginal position in a world of tabloid politics and market logic – though it could survive as surveillance of the losers, or a source of entertainment.  But there are other possible futures.  Knowledge of the social world is tremendously important for democratic projects.  And all the tools of current sociology are relevant.  But the way sociological knowledge is organized, including the way it is embedded in a global economy of knowledge, is deeply problematic.  Now read on...

Jessie Bernard Award - returning thanks

Remarks at the American Sociological Association awards ceremony, on receiving the 2017 Jessie Bernard Award for “scholarship that has enlarged the horizons of sociology to encompass the role of women in society”.
I thank you all, and I thank the Association, for your kindness in making this award.  I appreciate the ASA’s commitment to principle, in a time when foreigners from remote places are often suspect, and transsexual women are among the targets in new campaigns of bigotry.
Science is now under threat from post-truth media, corporate greed and authoritarian politics.  Social science is not exempt.  Our critical edge and capacity to document social reality are heartily unwelcome to the powerful and privileged.
Yet a time of trouble is also a time of renewal. Jessie Bernard, for whom this award is named, was one of the pioneers in a feminist insurrection in the 1960s and 1970s that transformed sociology.  As the joke goes, if you can remember the ‘sixties, you weren’t there.  But a lot of strong women were there, and the gender research they launched has grown in sophistication, and increasingly links global North with global South.
Making knowledge is a collective project.  My research on gender depended ultimately on thousands of fellow-workers and students.  Good understanding of society really matters for democratic projects, so it’s vital to sustain that creative workforce. But conditions have changed, and the new generation faces a harder task than my generation did.  I wish you well.
Sociologists, go forth!  You have nothing to lose but your Founding Fathers.  You have a wide world to know.

Green Waste

Each second Monday the Council collects Green Waste
from our bins in the back lane.
I rarely remember which week is the one,
and my Waste’s mostly cockroach brown
or the grey of dead twigs, so I quickly add – to encourage them –
a layer of soft weeds, still fresh.
Green, yes, but waste? Can I trust this cost-cutting Council
to aim its dump truck at a compost heap?
I want my wealth to feed new green, and not
the black waste of oil, the red waste of war.

Jessie Bernard Award

The American Sociological Association has kindly made me the recipient of the Jessie Bernard Award for 2017.  This award, established about forty years ago, recognizes "work that has enlarged the horizons of the discipline of sociology to encompass fully the role of women in society."

The award is named after Jessie Bernard (1903-1996).  Jessie was one of the founders of the Society for the Study of Social Problems in the 1950s.  In the 1960s and 1970s she became an amazingly productive contributor to feminist sociology, continuing her activism, research and mentoring long after retirement.  A model for us all! 
For an evocative account of her life and work, written by Patricia Yancey Martin, see:
I will be travelling to the annual meeting of the ASA in Montréal in August 2017, and hope to meet many colleagues, students and fellow-conspirators there.
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