why i don’t study latino sociology
I am often asked: why don’t I study Latinos? Answer: I don’t have any good ideas. That’s it. If I had a great research idea, I would do it. Let me tell you, I would definitely do it and it would be YUGE.
Still, the question is worth thinking about in more detail. One might say that the question is racist, but I don’t think so. Normally, people like doing academic research about themselves. White people usually study white people and Black people like to study black people. Not a hard and fast rule, but we shouldn’t be surprised that American high schools teach American history instead of Albanian history. Thus, it’s ok to ask why I am focused on out groups.
Another way to think about the question is why I haven’t spent the time and effort working on Latino communities in search of research questions. For example, I have been asked a few times why I wrote on Black Studies instead of Latino Studies. There, the answer is simple. For the book, I preferred a “large N” data set. There are hundreds of Black Studies programs, but only a few dozen Latino or Hispanic American Studies programs. No systematic reasons. It’s just that I haven’t found the right case to make the right argument.
The lesson here is that what you study can be an idiosyncratic mix of personal identity and opportunity. If I weren’t interested in disciplines and higher education, I might have well arrived at a dissertation project that focused on Latinos. If my friend hadn’t asked me to help out with an antiwar studies project, I might have chosen a different post-dissertation topic. Who knows? If someone has a great idea on Latinos and approaches me, I’d probably try to help them.