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I think Sociology is a lot like how the writer and director of The Incredibles describes cartoons:
The reason to do animation is caricature. Good caricature picks out the essense of the statement and removes everything else. It's not simply about reproducing reality; It's about bumping it up.
Good research and teaching by sociologists should likewise attempt to find the essence of a statement and remove everything else. Of course I am not naive enough to think that "essence"="TRUTH", or that all of the external forces and pressures individuals confront, especially in marginalized communities, can somehow be magically removed or held constant. I consider what Bird calls essence more a reflection of the process of sense making in which people engage everyday in order to bring some modicum of rationality to a seemingly hyper-irrational set of social contexts and interactions.

In sociology, we often call this the "definition of the situation". It could be extended perhaps to also capture the spirit of what Mills called the "Sociological Imagination". No matter what moniker we give it, it is with this "essence" that I believe sociologists must concern themselves, not as rigid actuaries or impartial "scientists", but rather to approach their task much like the artist--with expression, grace, humility, as well as a good dose of criticism.

When an artist visualizes a painting they are working on, they have in their minds-eye an image of how it will look. Even when the "reality" of what they are actually looking at may simply be a block of stone or a blank canvas and table full of paints to mix. They can shape the creative process, but they do not control it completely. What shape their work will finally achieve is largely due to how they urge their clay, stone, paint or musical notation to find its expression in the face of significant constraints, i.e., time, temperature, temper and even a little bit of luck. Their final product may not look "identical" to what they had in mind, but their ability to "bump it up" can have breathtaking results. Take Michelangelo's masterpiece "Il Davido". Considered virtually perfect by many in the art world, the marble from which this sublime form was born was was rejected as flawed by others:

Michelangelo took a rejected piece of marble that had numerous veins running through it and carved it into this Goliath-sized sculpture that was originally commissioned by Opera del Duomo

Michelangelo was young when he completed The David, yet you can see his talent and genius in this sculpture. He was 25 years old when he began the statue in 1501. No other sculptor wanted this piece of marble because it could be prone to shatter, but Michelangelo created a masterpiece with it...




The gallery that houses this masterpiece is entered through a good sized hallway lined on both sides with the guardians of David--a group of unfinished works called "The Captives", aptly named because they look like bodies frozen in the cold hard marble yearning to break out. Michelangelo abandoned them because they were too far from his vision. However, when I visited the museum, I was really taken by these figures--I could see on the one hand how they were not "perfect", but there was something quite spectacular in their imperfection. It all boiled down to a matter of interpretation and vision.



Sociologists face the same dilemma. I think we have a great chance to work with diverse communities to address important social problems. We must remain aware, however, that our goal is not to "reproduce reality" or impose solutions on communities that are external and coercive of their needs. Our job is to use all of the tools in our kit to "bump it up" and encourage individuals to appreciate the beauty of community involvement and the satisfaction of (cultural) self-determination.

Friday, March 20, 2009

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN CRIMINOLOGY & THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

Calls for Papers: "CONTEMPORARY ISSUES IN CRIMINOLOGY & THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

Contemporary Issues in Criminology and the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal that includes research and/or policy papers from a broad range of disciplines. Disciplines that are specifically earmarked as appropriate for this journal include Criminology & Criminal Justice, Psychology, Sociology, Counseling, and Social Work. The primary area of focus for this journal is criminal and antisocial behavior. Social issues that are corollary to crime and justice are also welcomed topics for this journal.

Both quantitative and qualitative manuscripts are welcomed. Evaluative studies of agency programs and/or interventions, theoretical applications, analyses of organizational behavior, and qualitative critiques of different social issues are all appropriate for submission to CICSS. In addition, CICSS seeks to provide a multinational perspective to the study of criminal behavior and welcomes cross-national comparisons of social issues around the world. It is expected the future issues of CICSS will include comparative social science themes as their primary foci.

CICSS comes in both the traditional hardcopy format and in the form of an online journal. All subscribers have access to the on-line version and also receive a typical hardcopy version. CICSS is officially affiliated with the Cardean Learning Group, with that program’s staff providing logistic and technological support.

CICSS has an established group of reviewers and we are currently seeking submissions for this journal. If you know of anyone interested in submitting a manuscript to this journal, please have them indicate interest and have them send their potential submission to Robert D. Hanser at rhanser@cardean.com. The submission will be forwarded to the associate editors so that the submission can be placed under review. Potential authors should allow 4 to 6 weeks for the review process to be completed before making further inquiries as to acceptance of a particular manuscript. From November 1st, 2007 onward, the official website for CICSS will be cicssjournal.org. All potential authors are encouraged to check this website once it is fully operational.

Please note that all papers should be submitted in current APA format. Manuscripts must not exceed 25 pages in length, including title page, abstract, and references. Prospective authors should provide their name, title, agency or university affiliation, mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address when submitting manuscripts to CICSS.

Please direct all inquiries to:

Robert D. Hanser, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, (CICSS)
Ellis College &
University of Louisiana at Monroe
111 N. Canal, Suite 455
Chicago, IL 60606
Ph# 318-791-2633
E-mail: RHanser@cardean.com"

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