Michael Burawoy, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Public Sociology, Live! was a seminar for Berkeley undergraduates organized and conducted by myself and PhD candidate Laleh Behbehanian. It involved a weekly skype conversation between a group of 20 Berkeley undergraduates and celebrated sociologists from different countries (Colombia, India, China, France, Spain, South Africa, Lebanon, Philippines and the US), talking about the form and dilemmas of engaging with their societies. Students prepared for each conversation by reading materials written by their guests. The conversation was video-recorded and posted on the International Sociological Association website and a facebook page. Six sociology seminars around the world (Tehran, Barcelona, Oslo, Kyiv, Johannesburg and Sao Paulo) watched and then discussed the videos, posting summaries of their discussions on Facebook, whereupon further debate and discussion took place.
Since the videos were open access — it was possible for anyone in the world to join in the conversation about how sociology can engage with challenging social issues — environmental issues in Latin America, labor rights in China, indigenous rights in India, racial and anti-semitic prejudice in France, institution building in Postapartheid South Africa, employment rights of refugees in Lebanon, social movements in the US, destabilizing dictatorship in the Philippines, the marginalization of the Roma people in Europe. We all learned about the possibilities and limits of sociological interventions as well as their different methodologies.
The course was evaluated regularly throughout the semester through discussions with the students. The most important limitation was its organization from Berkeley. However, sociologists in other countries are now organizing their own courses with their own public sociologists. The seminars are now available to anyone interested in engaging with major global social issues of our time. Students had a unique experience, in direct conversation with great sociologists around the world, inconceivable without digital technologies.
Public Sociology Live! Videos
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