THE WAY IT ISby William Stafford There’s a thread you follow. It goes amongthings that change. But it doesn’t change.People wonder about what you are pursuing.You have to explain about the thread.But it is hard for others to see.While you hold it you can’t get lost.Tragedies happen; people get hurtor die; and you suffer and…
CONGRATULATIONS SEXUALITIES! Now Twenty Years Old, the 20th Anniversary Edition depicts the enormous range and success of a growing field of research, activism and policy. Its is marvellous issue, bursting with state of the art essays from many on its editorial board. It is a must read for sexualities scholars. In a very dark world right…
This year I start a new monthly series of quotes I like from my little humanist dictionary! January What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other? George Eliot, “Middlemarch” Progress is not an illusion; it happens but it is slow and invariably disappointing. George…
A Poetic for Sociology
The Haunting Of Social Things
We live the social electric
The air we breathe is social.
The tiny things and the major things.
The social haunting of life in vast time and space.
The social is natural and the natural is social.
We do things together, drenched with people,
attuned to others: there is always the other.
And the haunting of social things.
We make social life stuffed full of the possible
yet we dwell in our habits, the patterns and structures,
the predictable positions we trap ourselves in.
The prisons that engulf us, a daily haunting.
Pounding patterns of structure and wobbly worlds of meaning.
We are prisoners, puppets, and people. Always fragile.
World making actions, and resistance, rebellion-
in worlds not of our making that haunt till we die.
Ubiquitous differences, divisions,dominations: the inhumanities of people.
A haunting ‘matrix of inequalities’: generations at war,
gendered classed races, sexy nations disabled.
And the troubled pathways of excluding and exploiting, dehumanizing and disempowering.
At the brink of a change- a world seething with gushing movements.
Pasts, presents and futures collide in the moment.
Where did it come from and where is it headed?
Cyber capitalisms in global ferment haunting the world.
Standing amazed at this chaos and complexity
of the humanly produced social world;
and its joys and its sufferings,
we celebrate it and we critique these hauntings.
Yet the dreadful dullness of professional knowledge.
Its earnest desire for respectability and order,
abstractions to kill you. Standards to die for.
A dark cloak thrown over the mind.
We need ‘the tricks of the trade’ : practical questions with practical answers.
Rich descriptions and explanations of dense social life.
An intimate familiarity through all the senses.
Explore and respect the empirical world. And look for it hauntings.
We dwell in social tensions, conflicts and contradiction.
Observing schisms, thinking paradox,
and struggling with opposing paths: living with the contradictions.
The hard trick of dealing with them in our lives.
The vast multiplicities of social life: Contested. Contingent. Creative.
And thriving. Progressing. Regressing. Sometimes surviving.
Incorrigibly plural. Intransigently vast.
The complex tales how we order our past.
And the blindness of human beings?
The taken for granted need not be taken for granted.
Doubting the familiar;
living with radical doubt.
Yet all we know is incomplete and open,
Necessarily provisional, partial, perspectival.
Reality is inexhaustible, too complex and dense to be fully comprehended
No finality. Or closure.
The dream of a better world haunts sociology.
Empowering lives and imagining utopias.
More justice in each generation?
A flourishing life for all?
A dialogue: being personal, being political?
Passionate knowledge? A garden to cultivate?
A quiet catharsis of comprehension? With the other?
Haunted by doubt, love and hope.
On Thursday February 11 2016, my dear friend, mentor and guru John Gagnon died at the age of 84. He had experienced problems with his leg and his eye, but the final period starting in October brought a terminal pancreatic cancer. He has been an inspiration and will be loved and missed by many.…
Click here for the UN World Aids Day Website The latest news from the United Nations came out on November 24th ( in anticipation of World AIDS Day on December 1st). 1.2m people died from AIDS in 2014, down from 1.3m the previous year and from a peak of 2m in 2005. But the…
I have long been a fan of Stephen Sondheim. I first encountered him back in the 1960’s, but my love affair was sealed with Merrily We Roll Along in the early 80’s. And so we roll on….. And last Sunday I found myself at a rally of Sondheimites at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal to celebrate…
And now: for my 160th blog, something completely different……. The White Feather and The Smallest Show on Earth Last week I had the joy of seeing not one but two brand new British musicals. One was at the tiny Union Theatre in Southwark – a dramatic tale of the First World…
Sociology Department’s 50th Anniversary Conference: 24th June, 2015 NEW DIALOGUES AND DIRECTIONS Ivor Crewe Auditorium 9.15-9.50 Registration and Refreshments 9.50-10.00 Conference Introduction (Nigel South) 10.00-12.30 Past Excitements New Dialogues A panel of distinguished members of the Department reflect on what was thought to be most exciting about Sociology in the past (both as…