Imagine a World with No Sociology Department—It’s Easy if You Try

Last week as an April Fool’s Day post, the American Sociological Association announced the end of Sociology as a discipline here at Ethnography.com. For those of you not in on the joke, it didn’t happen. No one announced the end of Sociology as a discipline.

Having said that, I will admit to a brief bit of reverie imagining a world without Sociology Departments. And I think that the answer that followed was actually a bit accurate: Take out the Sociology Departments, and just maybe the Sociological approach/imagination would be strengthened across the academy as people with training in sociological theory, methods, and imagination would start teaching the “sociology” classes.

The fact of the matter is that, many other departments already “do” sociology. But they do it with teachers trained in their own disciplines, and not sociological theory or methods. The result is that people steeped in educational pedagogy and policy teach “Education and Society,” theologians teach “Religion and Society,” historians teach “Social History,” engineers teach “Technology and Society,” psychologists teach “Social Psychology,” business departments teach “Marketing,” English Departments teach “Critical Theory,” and so forth. All of it is just rewarmed sociology made by cooks from another kitchen.

Meanwhile, we try to mount the same courses in sociology, and no one takes them. Why? Because each department requires their own course for their majors—like sociology, they are control freaks when it comes to their own curriculum.   (And I haven’t even started to write about how sociological methods including survey research and qualitative methods permeate the academy far beyond the sociology department).

So imagine, poof, all those tenured deadwood sociologists like me would lose their department. The good news is that there are still plenty of classes to teach because sociology so successfully dominated the university curriculum during previous decades. Indeed, sociology departments are already excluded from teaching most of the sociology in the curriculum of most universities. Our curriculum is hijacked!

P.S. I have asked the same question of anthropology. Anthropology’s dominant paradigm for decades was culture—a concept that is so successful that most of the curriculum regarding culture is taught sans anthropological theory and method in every department except anthropology. There are classes on Education and Culture, Business Culture, Religion and Culture, and so forth. Such are the wages of success!