Ideology and the Social Sciences

By Graham C. Kinloch; Raj P. Mohan | Go to book overview

petitive, professional sociology I regained my earlier excitement for sociology's potential to address this society's racial oppression effectively.

When my leave ended in 1988, I joined a sociology department in a southern university and became director of a small, interdisciplinary black studies program there. The city's population is very diverse with extremely high levels of potential intergroup conflict. Central issues include major barriers to black political, educational, and economic progress in the area. Although African Americans represent approximately 20 percent of the population, they lag far behind whites and most Hispanics in resources and power. These issues are further compounded by continuing refugee immigration from the Caribbean and Central America. This offers the researcher a major setting in which to analyze contemporary issues such as prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping. My own interest in such issues led to an analysis of a communitywide economic boycott staged by black leaders and its impact on their economic status specifically and local race relations generally. The sociology department here has only recently developed a sustained focus on such phenomena--its doctoral race and ethnic relations concentration was established only seven years ago. While some of its faculty remain concerned primarily with personal, professional, and national advancement, others have turned to more local issues such as racial and ethnic conflict, the HIV epidemic, and substance abuse problems. While academic politics fueled internal conflict in the past, increasing racial and gender-based diversity have increased the department's ability to address such issues more effectively than many of the university's other, more homogeneous departments.

This second case, while very different from the first, also highlights the radicalizing effects of biographical breaks on professional ideology: the individual's draft board experience, college activism, involvement in integrated and interdisciplinary college experiences, and postgraduate community action activities, all contrasted with his earlier segregated and bureaucratic educational background, resulting in a more critical, activist view of the profession.


CONCLUSIONS

This chapter has outlined the biographical experiences of two sociologists strikingly different in background who eventually came to share very similar intellectual interests and concerns. The first involved a white social scientist who was raised in a British colony, trained in the United States, lived in a number of countries, and has been located in the southeastern United States for the last twenty-six years. Moving from racist southern Africa to Hawaii where, at least on the surface, overt racist behavior was rejected, he came to view biased attitudes and behavior as completely ar-

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