Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Sociological Imagination Applied

Most of us pursue a PhD in Sociology for some reason beyond,
or perhaps within, our selves: a theoretical piece – like Baudrillard’s
America – demonstrated the creativity of theory… sociologists on
the syllabi of our undergraduate Critical Race and Women’s Studies
courses discussed social injustices in ways in which we had yet to
consider... a Research Methods class demonstrated the applicability
of Sociology – both theory and methods – as a tool to eliminate
social injustices. And for those of us who choose Sociology because
if these– or myriad other reasons – we struggle with how to dutifully
apply our budding Sociological Imaginations – both abstractly and
in praxis.

Within the tension of this struggle I choose to pursue the
Sociological Adventure. I also choose to volunteer time –
what little I can afford as a graduate student – at a Washington,
DC nonprofit actively utilizing their own Sociological Imagination.
I volunteer at Sojourners – a nearly 40 year-old faith-based social
justice nonprofit in the heart of the District’s ever changing – for
better and worse – Columbia Heights neighborhood. Though the
organization doesn’t provide direct-care services to people in the
neighborhood, it instead mobilizes activists and builds coalitions
among both secular and non-secular organizations fighting against
such oppressions as poverty, racism and those fighting for such
reforms as immigration and health care parody. In doing so,
Sojourners partners with organizations like World Vision, Oxfam,
and ONE.

So, while I don’t provide direct-care to people, I do get to interact
with folks who consider themselves activists, many since the Civil
Rights Movement. I’ve learned of their narratives as social
activists, volunteered side-by-side with them at huge mobilizations
and Capital Hill rallies, and have been able to witness and
experience sweat and tears as natural components to organizing
massive campaigns against the constantly fluctuating backdrop
of Washington, DC. While the nonprofit isn’t perfect (what
organizations are?), spending time within an organization founded
upon Sociological grassroots ideologies has both sharpened and
expanded my Sociological Imagination.

The potential and application of our Sociological Imaginations aren’t
limited to the classroom, our comprehensive exams, or even our
dissertations. Our Sociological Imagination extends beyond our
selves and our academically gated community to a political,
economic, and social world in much need of our Imaginations!
So, I definitely encourage you, whether you’re just beginning
your Sociological Adventure or are further along and in the midst
of one of its valleys to give what time you can to organizations,
relationships, and people that need you. I can testify that it’s
a reciprocal relationship, for the better.

-Beverly Pratt

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