Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Excellence, Reflexivity, and Racism: On Sociology's Nuclear Contradiction

Thursday, April 19, 2018

12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

CSREA, 96 Waterman Street, Providence

RSVP at csrea@brown.edu

Michael D. Kennedy (Professor, Sociology, International and Public Affairs), Prabhdeep S. Kehal (Doctoral student, Sociology) and Laura Garbes (Doctoral student, Sociology) present a "What I Am Thinking About Now" presentation. They will speak to "Excellence, Reflexivity, and Racism: On Sociology's Nuclear Contradiction and Its Abiding Crisis" elaborating on their paper available here.

One of the most important books for Kennedy during graduate school years was Alvin Gouldner's The Two Marxisms (1980). In it, Gouldner argued that Marxism had a "nuclear contradiction" -- between its "scientific" and "critical" components which, in turn, animated its knowledge cultural transformations. When Kennedy referenced this work in a seminar recently, Kayla Thomas asked what sociology's nuclear contradiction was. Kennedy recalled his own (unpublished) reflection from the 1990s in which he argued that a reflexive turn might integrate sociology without foundational impositions. In this presentation, he, Kehal and Garbes return to those concerns, while incorporating insights from those sociologists associated with Du Boisian thought, intellectual activism and postcolonial perspectives to argue that sociology, and perhaps by extension other disciplines, could improve its own collective accomplishment by looking squarely at its own nuclear contradiction around excellence and reflexivity. They conclude with this question: what does anti-racist excellence look like?  

Michael D. Kennedy is a Professor of Sociology and International and Public Affairs at Brown University who has specialized in a historical sociology of Eastern European social movements, national identifications and systemic change, and more recently in the knowledge cultural sociology of social and global transformations.

Prabhdeep S. Kehal is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Brown University who studies racial theory, racism, higher education and organizational theory.

Laura Garbes is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Brown University who studies race, organizational sociology and media sociology.

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