Victoria Carty, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology
Wilkinson Review 2013
In 2004 the President of the American Sociological Association, Michael Burawoy, challenged sociologists to break out of the ivory tower and return to the roots of sociology, one that takes a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to societal concerns. On March 16, 2012 the first public sociology conference to be held at Chapman University began. The conference was titled, “Faceless Latino/a immigrants: Pathways to Resistance” and was organized by Sociology Professors Dr. Victoria Carty and Dr. Tekle Woldemikael with Dr. Rafael Luevano from the Department of Religious Studies. The central theme of the conference was immigration reform and it’s theoretical, practical, and policy significance. The goal of the conference was to build a bridge between the University and the local community in line with the definition of Public Sociology, which encourages scholars to engage a wider audience over both political and public issues.
The idea for the conference emerged from discussions about the growing and important role of public sociology within the discipline over the past few years. Public sociology is in part a response to the perception of the academy, among many citizens, as elitist and irrelevant when it comes to community issues, or worse looked upon with suspicion and contempt.
This type of public sociology creates partnerships between scholars and community organizations to work toward social justice. It seeks to cultivate strong roots within the community to address social issues and struggles as experienced by local citizens, and create a community that recognizes the capacity of all citizens to contribute to the intellectual pursuit of solving social problems. It gets away from what sociologist C. Wright Mills called “sociological bookkeepers” who refuse their role of public intellectuals, and moves toward what theorist Antonio Gramsci called the “organic intellectual,” a scholar viewed as a resource for knowledge and guidance by citizens due to their active role and assistance in local affairs.