This week, I am traveling to Colorado to give a talk at the Society for the Study of Social Problems Annual Meeting for 2012.
The Society for the Study of Social Problems, or SSSP, tags itself as being “In Pursuit of Social Justice” – I love that. Further, this year’s meeting is dedicated to “The Art of Activism.” Accordingly, current SSSP President Wendy Simonds offers:
Let’s face it, what we do is often depressing. The very name of our organization, The Society for the Study of Social Problems, is a downer! We spend a great deal of our time and energy aining and sharing knowledge about discrimination, dysfunction, and destruction. Through our work, we seek to communicate the consequences of the injustices we examine and how current conditions might be changed for the better (and how to prevent problems in the first place). As participants in social-change-seeking activities or in social service work, we deal with the tenacity of oppressive institutionalized power dynamics. Typically, we don’t have the power, ourselves, to eliminate the problems we illuminate. Unfortunately, our solutions are often difficult to actualize because they are based on theoretical approaches (feminist, anti-racist, socialist, and queer, to name a few) that are viewed with scepticism in mainstream culture because they are antithetical to the pernicious systems we work against. And, to make matters all that much more frustrating, we, ourselves, may perpetuate many of the same inegalitarian power dynamics we deplore and resist elsewhere – in our own workplaces, homes, and organizations. All of this is depressing.
This year, let us celebrate a crucial part of what initially brought the SSSP into existence in 1951: the art of activism. By focusing on the myriad intersections between art and activism, I mean to encourage the sharing of work that explores the creative spirit in activism as well as the sociopolitical power of art.
Art and activism are both situational, relying always on history, context, and interpretation for their meaning. Howard S. Becker presents a view of art as the result of patterned, coordinated, ever-changing social interaction, rather than inherent in or emergent from idiosyncratic genius or talent. The meaning of art, thus, cannot be limited to aesthetic or meritocratic considerations, which also result from social interactions. Becker’s approach also applies to activist and academic endeavors. Through our organizing, scholarship, teaching, mentoring, and community service, we are participant-observers in a variety of forms of activism and of artistry.
(Wendy Simonds’ quoted text here)
Although I definitely have some “ways in which sociology, sociologists, academia, and institutions of higher education contribute to and perpetuate the exact ‘downer’ phenomena Wendy discusses above” points to offer, I very much like the this year’s stated commitment to activism and social justice in research and scholarship.
Consequently, I’m very excited to be presenting “Pornographic Methods: Using New Media to Study Adult Production” at SSSP this year. (program listing here)
I hope to offer some… errr… modernizing (contemporizing?) and real world-izing suggestions for rigorous scholarly research of marginalized, contested sub/cultures (and for sociological inquiries in general). I also hope to embed some of those “ways in which sociology, sociologists, academia, and institutions of higher education contribute to and perpetuate the exact ‘downer’ phenomena Wendy discusses above” points I alluded to before… we’ll see!!
Regardless, SSSP 2012 should be a fun and interesting time. And though I know you may be thinking “Academic conference, yaaaaaaawn..,” I gotta tell ya – like everything, it’s all about what you make it. I hope to do some good at SSSP this year.
I will put my presentation up on PVV for all of you to see (because I know at least someone’s curious) soooon. Happy Monday in the meantime!!
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