Critically Engaged Sociology at SWOP : Four decades of South/North concept formation

Presented by Karl von Holdt

Monday, 12 October, 2020 - 16:00

Much of the literature on the political engagements of sociologists has been framed by Michael Burawoy’s concept of ‘public sociology’. The aim of this chapter is to develop a critique of this concept, drawing from the writings and practices of a group of sociologists at SWOP in Johannesburg, South Africa, and replace it with the concept of ‘critically engaged sociology’ – ‘engaged sociology’ for short – which emerges through interaction between sociologists and movements in the struggle for change, and which captures more clearly than ‘public sociology’ the richness and complexity of this kind of engagement. Doing this entails the simultaneous critique of the North Atlantic domination of global sociology and the production of a southern theory that provides a better concept of our world – and this is done by retracing a four decade process of concept formation and dialogue between Burawoy and, notably, Eddie Webster, one of South Africa’s most eminent sociologists and SWOP founder, as well as others at SWOP.

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