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the “mesearch” accusation vs. fabio

A few days ago, I discussed why I thought “mesearch” was a tricky issue. In the comments, people argued that describing work as “mesearch” was a pejorative aimed at minority and women scholars. I think is often the case, but not always. A few comments in no particular order.

  1. In my classes, I warn against “mesearch” because I want people to really use their imagination. This warning may be directed at the athlete studying sports teams, the network science student looking at their Facebook chat network, or even the minority student focusing on discrimination. These are all valid topics, but if all a student can do with the sociological imagination is look at themselves, we have failed as sociology instructors. There’s a whole world out there, fer cryin’ out loud!
  2. When I was writing the last post, I didn’t have minority scholars in mind. I actually had majority scholars in mind, like Loic Wacquant, whose book, Body and Soul, is a classic “mesearch” example. An auto-ethnography of his time working out in a boxing gym.
  3. I have a very weird history with the “mesearch” term. My first project was on Black Studies in the university. More than one professor at my graduate program thought that my dissertation was fluffy mesearch. But it wasn’t because I focused on ethnicity, it was because I was looking at higher ed! And this carried over into publishing. More than one book editor and peer reviewer wrote back that my work wasn’t “real sociology.” After a while, I had to develop a speech about why sociologists should study universities. If Durkheim and Parsons could write books on higher education, it’s probably ok for Fabio!
  4. My research subjects for my first book on Black Studies thought my work was “mesearch.” More than once, a respondent would look at me and say, “I thought you were Black, or maybe Blacktino, when I agreed to do this interview.” Colleagues, both Black and White, would often ask me, “Why aren’t you analyzing Latino Studies programs?” This pattern revealed to me multiple things. First, within Black Studies, there was an assumption that the scholars primarily interested in the topic would be co-ethnics. In interviews, I tried to explain that the rise of Black Studies is an important chapter in educational history and that everyone should care. Second, I sadly discovered that many scholars have the erroneous assumption that scholars of color can only look inward, not outward. For those wondering, there are rather mundane reasons for focusing on Black Studies – it came first and there’s way more of them than all other forms of identity studies, except women’s/gender studies.
  5. Since then, the issue of “mesearch” really hasn’t been an issue for me. My second project, Party in the Street, is about anti-war activism. I disapproved of the Iraq War, but I have no involvement in the movement. I also have work on infection control, big data/computational sociology, and social theory, but some upcoming work moves closer to mesearch.
  6. Finally, I’ve chilled out a lot about the accusation of “mesearch.” The reason is that I’ve decided to judge the contribution of the work, not its origins in biography. If the author can see a bigger picture and teach a broader lesson, then good. If not, then it should not bring you joy and you should toss it!

Please use the comments to describe your experiences with the “mesearch” issue.

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Written by fabiorojas

February 1, 2019 at 5:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. One of my concerns with mesearch is when studying a topic is only acceptable for members of the subject population, eg “Only Hispanics should study Hispanics.”

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    Michelangelo Landgrave

    February 2, 2019 at 12:29 am


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