"Contexts," a 70-page magazine of the American Sociological
Association (ASA) that is published by University of California
Press, covers diverse issues of interest to a wide audience.
The fall 2002 issue, for example, includes a discussion
of American slavery reparations, a photo essay of a Chicago
neighborhood and a first-person article about genetic research.
The publication's "Discovery" section, which highlights
new social research, explores topics ranging from bridal
showers to the myth of the "dumb jock."
"UC Berkeley is a public institution, and so it has a responsibility
to give back to the public," said Claude Fischer, UC Berkeley
sociology professor and "Contexts" editor. Fischer hopes
the new publication will reach an audience including teachers,
students, journalists, civil servants and policy makers
"seeking out important developments in social research.
"It's really for anyone who is interested in social change,
important trends and the implications of sociological knowledge
for policy and public debate," he said.
While "Contexts" is slowly making its way onto newsstands
across the country, subscriptions may be obtained through
its Web site www.contextsmagazine.org.
Faculty members in UC Berkeley's sociology department,
one of the top sociology departments in the country, take
pride in a commitment to what they refer to as "public sociology,"
striving to bring sociological issues to an audience beyond
those who study and conduct research for their livelihoods.
They credit a diverse department where scholars collaborate
with many departments across campus on crucial public issues
and the pressing concerns of real people in the real world.
"As mirror and conscience of society, sociology must define,
promote and inform public debate about deepening class and
racial inequalities, new gender regimes, environmental degradation
and state and non-state violence," said Michael Burawoy,
the department's chair and ASA president-elect. "I believe
that, more than ever, the world needs public sociology,
a sociology that transcends the academy.
"We believe that our vocation as a community of social
scientists is to deploy our tools, methods, concepts and
theories, developed for a specialist audience, in the construction
of bridges to a broader public. And we do so with a view
to enhancing and deepening debate about social trends and
This new publication follows that open, inclusive tradition.
While it's based at UC Berkeley, the articles are written
by experts from throughout the country. In the current issue,
Lee Clarke of Rutgers University delves into the misconceptions
versus the truth about how people react in a disaster in
his article, "Panic: Myth or Reality?" He draws comparisons
between reactions presented in films like "Armageddon" and
"Independence Day" to the way people responded in real crises
like Sept. 11.
Bruce Western of Princeton University and Becky Pettit
of the University of Washington examine the changes in government
policy that have led to many more poor minority men being
behind bars and the future of an even greater inequality
in "Beyond Crime and Punishment: Prisons and Inequality."
UC Berkeley's Fischer gained prominence a few years ago
with an award-winning social study of the telephone, "America
Calling" (University of California Press). He also collaborated
with a number of UC Berkeley colleagues on "Inequality by
Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth,"(Princeton University
Press) named a 1998 Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Meyers
Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.
With UC Berkeley colleague Michael Hout, Fischer is working
on "USA: A Century of Difference," a project funded by the
Russell Sage Foundation. Tasked to draw on the 2000 census,
this project will report on how Americans live, work, consume
and pray at the beginning of the 21st century.