Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

In Memoriam: Ioan Davies

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

In Memoriam: Ioan Davies

Article excerpt

Ioan Davies was born in 1936 in the Belgian Congo, died February 15, 2000, Cuba.

I remember well when and where I first met Ioan Davies. It was in 1968 at a Sociology Department seminar at the University of Kent at Canterbury. The word from Essex University, one of the most radical campuses in England, was that he was politically and academically well respected and was known to have a significantly international orientation. This strikingly tall and lyrical Welshman certainly made a strong impression on those of us attending the seminar not only because of the impressive quality of his talk but but also because he was so willing to seriously engage with our quite heterogeneous intellectual and political concerns. He presented a version of his important paper on "The Management of Knowledge: a critique of the use of Typologies in the Sociology of Education." This was to be subsequently published in Sociology and reprinted in Michael Young's influential reader, Knowledge and Control, a book which, incidentally, also included a paper by Alan Blum who was to become a close friend and colleague at York University. In the paper, Ioan, effectively challenged the then dominant functionalist approaches to the Sociology of Education and thus played a role in the general demolition then occurring of functionalism's peculiar fusion of theoreticism and abstract empiricism. He did this in a quite original way by eschewing both the neo-Weberian subjectivism of so much anti-functionalist sociology and also the economistic reductionism often then characteristic of the Marxist alternative. Anybody familiar with his writings will not be surprised that his critique was grounded in Gramsci's analyses and worked with rich comparative and historical materials -- including articles by Edward Thompson and Perry Anderson, fellow members of the New Left Clubs -- and that he also made confident use of the essays of the poet Octavio Paz. There was a similar breadth to the last paper he intended to deliver, "The New Internationalism," for the conference, which he had helped organise, on "Marxism Today: A Renewed Left View" at the Instituto Superior de Arte, in Havana. Tragically, while in Cuba, he died of a heart attack before he could deliver it.

He was born in the Ituri forest in what was then known as the Belgian Congo and there he attended his mother's missionary primary school. Though he was later to go to school in Wales and Scotland and University in England he sustained a lifelong love of Africa. Indeed his first book was the landmark study, African Trade Unions and a subsequent one on Writers in Prison was also in part related to his African experience. He always sustained and was also always developing his international connections and deepening his understanding of already established and emerging cultures. While some of his writing was about more mainstream sociological topics, for example in his book on Social Mobility and Political Change, his major impact has been as a cultural sociologist. For, not only did he write sociological analyses of culture and cultural studies, for example in Cultural Studies and Beyond: Fragments of Empire, but he was also himself active in the production of popular and high culture. He had been a journalist, was on the editorial board of Stand Magazine, Canadian Forum, Topia, a contributing editor to Literary Review of Canada and the managing editor of Borderlines.

These concerns could also be seen in the courses he taught in the Sociology and Social and Political Thought programmes at York -- one of his last was on "Aesthetics and Contemporary Critical Theory" -- , and in his role in the supervision of theses on a staggeringly wide range of topics, from "Art and spectacle" and the "Phenomenology of Dance" to "The Sociology of Knowledge in the Frankfurt School" and "Culture and Social Change in China." He went on to be strongly supportive of the subsequent careers of many of those he supervised. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.