things we like.

I don’t talk about sociology all that much given that I’m a soc blogger. This is basically for two reasons: (1) talking about my professional ups-and-downs might give away my sub-area and, thereby, my mild-mannered alter ego and, (2) I spend so much of my time writing about my professional work anyway, why on earth would I make it my hobby to write about my professional work? I mean, seriously, I love the… er… dedication of the orgheads, but if I didn’t blog about zombies now and then my work time would be much less productive.

The side effect of all this, however, is that it may sometimes appear like I don’t enjoy my job very much. Nothing, as it happens, could be further from the truth. I love my job. I enjoy going into the office to do it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s just that I don’t talk about what I’m doing that much and, when I do, am more likely to be complaining about something that’s bugging me. Such, I think, is human nature.

So on the hunch that some of you are the same way, I want to pose a little activity: tell us a little about what it is that you love about sociology. What keeps you fired up about the job? I mean, you’re here, you’re still doing it- it’s got to be because you love it, you don’t hate it, or you’re trapped in by simple path dependence. So what’s the deal, scatterbrains and scatterfans?

For anyone who is curious, I’ll start: one of my favorite things about this job- no kidding- is revising papers. I don’t mean revising them before you send them out, I mean revising them with reviewer comments in-hand. I get as many incomprehensibly weird reviews as anyone, and possibly more than most, but there’s something deeply satisfying to me about opening up a paper you thought was finished, reworking big chunks of it, and then closing it back up with the feeling that it’s a stronger and more compelling piece of work than it was before. I love watching a paper that you thought was strong transform into a much more robust version. I love that sense that despite the efforts of a reviewer to kill it,* your paper has emerged more unstoppable than before. Like Dracula. Or a zombie.**

And after that? Eh. I love hanging out with so many people who are geekier than me.

Okay. Your turn.

* For those who haven't heard me expand upon this before, I have a sort of back-of-the-envelope theory that almost every paper will have one reviewer who, for mysterious reasons, wants to kill you just to watch you die. Most reviewers, however, end up being quite helpful and well-intentioned for all we may be angry at them for not recognizing the brilliance of our work. I mean, it's OUR work! How can it not be brilliant, right?

** My papers lend themselves well to zombie comparisons: shambling undead nightmares that seek only to consume the brains of others.

15 thoughts on “things we like.”

  1. Coming out of undergrad with an interdisciplinary degree I applied to grad programs in both Sociology and History. I got in to several places in both, but got the full ride fellowship in History so that’s what I did. Then while I was on the market I used my doctorate in the history of theory to teach Sociology for three years.

    I love my History job because of the autonomy, the pleasant colleagues, the occasional moment of discovery by the students, and the autonomy. I also love what history can tell me about how the world works. But I loved Sociology even more, because like most people I care much more about the present than the past; and so do my students, so History is much harder to get them interested in.


  2. It sounds corny, but it’s utterly true for me: I like working with people. A lot of sociology requires me to interview or do field work. It’s also a field that treats people as people, not (primarily) data for equations. Doesn’t mean you can’t model human behavior, but we take seriously stuff like emotions, identity, etc that are just ignored or minimized in other areas.

    And Drek: Have you seen the ferrets post?


  3. Argh! If only I could articulate this, I’d be prepped for the taping of a 3-5 minute video introducing my Intro to Soc class. I’ll let you know when it comes together.


  4. I like grilled cheese and tomato soup. I like ideas. And data. I like learning cool things about the world. None of this is sociology specific. So why sociology? I liked a sociology teacher once. Not in some creepy predatory way. He just gave me a lot of time and guidance. So I picked this over, say, chemistry. That and I liked that on average my fellow undergrad sociology students weren’t as smart as my chemistry ones. So I seemed better at Sociology. Oh, that and I was political active and sociology fit in well with my life. But I pick the other reasons over this. Particularly grilled cheese and tomato soup. Yum.


  5. A lot of the good things about the job are features of any professor job — as Jeremy says, the autonomy and the autonomy. It is a great privilege to control your day and what you work on. The specifics of sociology are harder, because any academic field has interesting puzzles and I imagine I would have enjoyed myself if I’d wandered into another one. I was actively seeking social science, but sociology per se had to do with the structure of the major. I think teaching sociology has the good thing that we are preparing students for citizenship: it is our job to teach them what they need to know to understand the social world they live in, the forces that affect their lives and the lives of others, and some theory of how they can affect that world. I also like that I have skills that are useful for some non-academic problems.


  6. Among other things:

    I like the fact that I get to read a lot. Like, as my job.

    I like going into dark microfilm rooms and searching through old newspapers.

    I like that I can use my research to get money to go to a place I love to visit (Sweden).

    These all would apply to some fields other than sociology, but sociology seems to “fit” for me, so its a good place to do these things


  7. Okay, I’m working on my talking points for my video taping tomorrow, the purpose of which is to introduce prospective undergrads to the “intro” classes of all the social sciences. So far, the things I like about (intro to) sociology are:

    1. Social problems. I can’t get enough of them.
    2. Evidence. Especially useful for arguing with people about social problems.

    I also want to say something about structure, but I am not up to the task of explaining this in a pithy way, especially in less that one minute. I think I will just talk about clickers instead.


  8. Tina, of all the sociology classes I taught I liked Intro the best, because everything’s in there. Everything. If you can’t find something to get excited about in Intro, some puzzle about why things are the way they are or why people act the way they act or how things might be different, you’re a mahroon.

    Intro is the gateway drug of Sociology. Just try to take a hit and not get the munchies.


  9. Hmm, I see your point. Advocating drug use by proxy is probably also suboptimal. Maybe we can salvage this. How about just saying that intro is great because everything is in there? The insult is still implied, but subtly in that “Oh, I get it but because I do, it doesn’t apply to me” sort of way.

    So, something for everyone, and all that. Like why your boss pays you so little. Why sports are like religion. Why boys need to touch the door on the way through when you open it for them. Why sociologists are automatically standoffish about historians who post on their blogs and claim to know something about sociology. Why said historians come off all snotty, unless they’re elaborately deferential. Why all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria. The sky’s the limit!

    Seriously, good luck with the taping.


  10. I picked sociology over the other undergrad major I most actively considered (cognitive science) because its internal distribution requirements were a lot fewer.

    The puzzle-solving and the academic lifestyle are my favorite things too, but as for things specific to the field, I like sociology’s breadth. I sometimes tell people who ask me what sociology is that you can study anything and call it sociology. That’s also why I love philosophy; it’s just a different “anything.”


  11. Whew! Just finished taping the video. Why on earth was I so nervous talking for 3 minutes into a camera? Don’t I talk twice weekly to auditoriums of hundreds? Freak.

    I did talk about social problems, evidence, and even a little about structure. It may or may not have been pithy, and it will surely be on a website for open mocking soon.


  12. I love seeing the world through sociological eyes. Through seeing a problem not just from how it affects individuals, but from being able to look and see the structural causes that has created and perpetuates the problem. I also, at times, hate this. As a sociological social psychologist, I love being able to see my research everywhere – in my own life, on TV, in books, news stories, EVERYWHERE. And that, because of this ability, I can study important things with actual political implications AND study fun things like wikipedia, tattooiing, or America’s Next Top Model.


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