The Californian Department of Transportation in the USA has a cultural studies team. It’s led by an anthropologist and it includes anthropologists, archaeologists and historians. They conduct research on the city’s landscape and they analyse potential architectural sites for artefacts. They are also tasked with unearthing the city’s cultural heritage.
The President of the International Sociological Association (ISA), Professor Margaret Abraham, has addressed the Executive Order by USA President Donald Trump. The Order suspends visas to people born in seven Muslim-majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. Professor Abraham writes in the ISA newsletter:
This ban is discriminatory, stigmatizing communities and people, and exacerbating forms of social exclusion of specific groups. Further, the ban adversely impacts knowledge production, prevents the free flow of academic exchanges and limits participation of sociologists in national and international conferences. Civil society members, individual academics, professional associations and communities nationally and internationally are responding by voicing their concern, opposing the ban, bringing legal challenges and supporting those affected.
Professor Abraham has a call to arms to sociologists to revive hope, inclusion and justice.
The quote below comes from a great book with lots of useful case studies of applied sociology in action. In Public Sociology: Research, Action, and Change, Philip Nyden, Leslie Hossfeld and Gwendolyn Nyden, argue:
“In their active engagement with various publics, sociologists become more aware of emerging issues and responding to those issues in their research. This elevates the field of sociology in the eyes of the 99.99% of the world outside of our field…. Because of their direct and immediate proximity, collaborative partners often raise questions and concerns based on local knowledge that the researchers may not even know about. Making these adjustments strengthens the research by making it more relevant to the publics involved.”
Here’s a fun read by E. W. Burgess, who was writing in 1916 about the importance of social surveys as a “constructive service by departments of sociology”:
“Indeed a case might well be made for the statement that the social survey was an invention of the sociologist. In every department of sociology in the country beginners in the science have been initiated into this method of community study.”
Dear colleagues: if you’re celebrating the new year – do you have resolutions? Here are some ideas for enhancing our collective sociological practice!
We’re on our way with the first one… number six is a bit tricky to say the least. (We have our work cut out for us with the rise of ultra conservative politics in many parts of the world.)
What else should we work towards?
[Image: text card with 6 goals: 1) Exercise sociological imagination. 2) Practice intersectionality daily. 3) Celebrate little wins in client work. 4) Make self-care a priority. 5) Share our unique stories. 6) Overthrow imperialist White supremacist capitalist patriarchy.*]
*”Imperialist…patriarchy” quote by bell hooks.
Dear colleagues – happy new year to those celebrating and to all applied sociologists: stay inspired and keep working for social change!
Best wishes for 2017.
[Image: text card with megaphone icon and new year message]
By Susan Pitt 
I have finally come to the realisation that I am a sociologist, but some times I have felt like a ship without a rudder. I have drifted off course without the benefit of others around me to steer me back, and I have had to work hard to stay headed in the right direction. I have in the last year completed an Honours degree in Sociology and left the protective bosom of University to find my place in a working world. I no longer have the privilege of being surrounded by people that share my view point on the occurrences that arise continually around me. Here is my story about the discovery of my sociological imagination, and how never having worked inside the realm of academia, my conviction that I am a sociologist has been challenged.
By Anna Bennett
Sociology not only offers us the tools to analyse and assess the society around us but, in addition, it allows us to consider our own experiences and assumptions. Because of its wide focus on the relational dynamics within society, sociology provides the opportunity for a broad range of app roaches to understanding life, promoting inquisitiveness and innovation by integrating both “theory” and “practice”. Sociology not only studies dynamics, it is dynamic. Thus, sociology is often delivered by engaged teachers who ask their students to analyse the society around them and (re)consider their assumptions: promoting analytical thought that is creative and meaningful. The following discussion outlines the context of teaching sociology “outside” academia. It considers the benefits for both students—in terms of fostering the development of analytical skills and opportunities for achievement—and for teachers, in providing a rewarding and enriching environment. This work takes my recent experience of teaching within an enabling course as a case in point.