My work examines the social effects of infectious epidemic outbreaks in both historical and contemporary settings as well as the global mechanisms that produce responses to outbreak. My book project, Epidemics and Modernity: A Social History of International Disease Response explores the historical roots of international responses to epidemic threats. My work demonstrates a number of troubling bifurcations (Go 2020) in how we as sociologists apprehend infectious disease-namely we are far too quick to distinguish histories of epidemics in the west as distinct from the those occurring elsewhere around the globe. Postcolonial sociologists (Bhambra 2011; Go 2016; Magubane 2005) and scholars of Southern Theory (Connell 1997, 2007) have advocated for the troubling, transformation or abolition of the western canon. Pandemics should also be moments to trouble our assumptions of whose experiences, where and whose voices constitute sociological evidence and can produce theory.
“This used to be the parking lot,” Jesús laughed, as we piled out of his car. He and his friend Marcos pulled me into the large field of prairie grass and scrawny trees that I had been driving by, oblivious, for months while conducting fieldwork in the southeastern most neighborhood of Chicago. “There’s the dock,” Marcos said, guiding us to the edge of a watery parking spot for ships that for nearly a century delivered iron ore pellets from sources across the Great Lakes. Jesús picked up a taconite iron pellet from the edge of the dock and handed it to me. “I remember my father, when he would hear the ore boats in the [dock], he would always say, ‘That’s the sound of money.’”
In the United States, about half of the 1.3 to 1.8 million people who currently inject drugs (Brady et al. 2008) give or receive injection assistance, in which one person injects another person with illicit drugs. People receiving injection assistance are at increased risk of venous damage and are more than twice as likely than other people who inject drugs to be infected with Hepatitis C and HIV. Further, overdose risk for assisted injection recipients is twice that of other people who inject drugs, for whom it is the leading cause of death.
Lately, this challenge has become a more daunting one. The canon is now under assault in a way that requires those of us who have oriented our teaching careers to transmitting these works to new generations of students to pause and take a step back. Graduate students have become increasingly skeptical – and in some cases, totally dismissive – that works written by “dead white men” (namely, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim) could have produced insights that are in any way relevant to the contemporary practice of sociology. My own syllabus is particularly vulnerable to these critiques since it begins not with classical sociological theory per se, but with the utilitarian/liberal tradition in political thought against which Marx and Durkheim in particular reacted in constituting a nascent sociological approach. (If you think that it is difficult to convince skeptical graduate students that there is any utility in reading Marx, try convincing them to read Locke!)
In their article “Meaning and Modularity: The Multivalence of ‘Mechanism’ in Sociological Explanation” (2019, Sociological Theory), Knight and Reed disentangle and explore contradictions between “modular” and “meaningful” mechanistic models. The disjuncture, they argue, is grounded in “incompatible causal foundations and entails mechanistic models with distinct and conflicting evidentiary standards.” Below is a conversation with the authors on their provocative article.
We asked members to share their favorite works of fiction that illustrate sociological theory in particularly evocative ways. Below are the submissions of Soc-Fi we received.
A group of scholars gathered at the Social Science History Association meetings in Chicago to discuss Professor Gil Eyal’s most recent book. That discussion and Prof. Eyal’s response are published below.
Letter From the Chair
ASA Virtual Sessions
COVID Should Make us Rethink...
Junior Theorist Symposium Schedule
JTS Preview - Panel 1
JTS Preview - Panel 2
JTS Preview - Panel 3