Ask a Sociologist: Who Are You?

From our mailbag:

What Kind of Sociologist Are You?


Editor Gillian Niebrugge-Brantley responds:

That is, of course, a very legitimate inquiry—and one that in a way sheds much light on the particular history of sociology, which in turn speaks to the kind of sociologist I am. My specializations have been in the history of sociology and in sociological theory, and both of these experiences have tended to make me an eclectic sociologist. I am the co-founder with Patricia Lengermann of the American Sociological Association’s Section on the History of Sociology and Social Thought, and I think it would be hard to work in that history without being impressed by the range of ways sociology has been (and is) practiced. For me, the formative statement of this general principle was George Ritzer’s 1974 book, Sociology: A Multiple Paradigm Science. But I suppose I do have a particular affinity for works that deal with the history of sociology—particularly as that history connects to social change in US society—and for works offering a clear theoretical vision.

Editor Patrick Healey responds:

I’m still early in my sociology journey, so it’s hard to say. Among other interests, I’ve put some time and energy into the links between personal and structural constructions of gender and sexuality in the context of power; the way sociology produces and measures marginalized subjects, and why this is morally fraught; and the potential utility of art and aesthetic knowledge to the political projects of public sociology.

The throughline there is, I think, feeling out the relationship between the problems sociology can perceive, and the help sociology can provide. For me, the discipline is first and foremost a method of materially improving the world. I’m currently involved in quantitative research on race and gender disparities among university faculty outcomes, and qualitative research on the processes of political mobilization among university students and employees, which I think speaks to my sensibilities.

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