book cover exploration #4: theory for the working sociologist

Theory book cover

How do you illustrate “theory?” That was my issue circa 2016. The answer was not entirely clear, but some really great social theory books used abstract art on the cover. For example, I have always loved the cover to Bourdieu and Wacquant’s Introduction to Reflexive Sociology – a work by master Paul Klee. I also liked the quiet elegance of books that used color field paintings, such as Jeffrey Alexander’s Neofunctionalism and After.

So I went that route – abstract. Instead of choosing classic art, I wanted living art, because, after all, the book is about linking central themes of social theory to modern research. I went with a drawing by Chicago super-artist Elijah Burgher.

Elijah’s work has long appealed to me for many reasons. First, the craftsmanship is superb. Whether it’s on the impressionistic side of things or very realistic, every work he makes bears the mark of quality. I’ve seen art students stand in front of his work, in awe at the fine drawing. Secondly, his work is about method and theory. He’s a guy who believes in ritual and using ideas to guide the creation of work. Third, his work is mystical. He actively draws on occult traditions in his work. Much of his work is about sigials, symbols that incorporate messages in the way of chopped up and re-assembled letters. Finally, Elijah’s work is highly sub-cultural. His work touches gay subculture, the Chicago art scene, mysticism, and Greek and medieval belief systems.

Thus, Elijah is an artist who works with submerged traditions, but he also cares about quality, technique, and clarity. That’s what I like. Thankfully, he agreed to let me reprint one work – Excremental Philosophy Illustrated, Vol. 1 (2013).  It’s a drawing that is rich with color, shows guided complexity, and says, so softly, “there are secrets here.”

Jhon Balance

“Jhon Balance.”

burgher prints

Showing of prints at Ivan Gallery in Budapest.


50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

July 12, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. […] Theory for the Working Sociologist (cover by Elijah Burgher) […]


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