Stoller and the 2014 challenge for social science

Paul Stoller has a new piece on HuffPo about saving the social sciences (and liberal arts).  Here’s a good snippet:

The challenge for the social sciences — at least for me — is to simultaneously maintain rigorous standards while producing works that clearly and powerfully articulate important insights to broad audiences across a variety of media. In my discipline, anthropology, the challenge is to communicate critical insights about social life in such a way that moves audiences to think and to act.

Many of my colleagues devote considerable energy to debate the whys and wherefores of nature, culture, social change, globalization and ontological turns. These debates are usually articulated in specialized languages that may demonstrate brilliance but often limit the reach of insight. There is no reason that theoretically informed findings cannot be communicated to broad audiences.

See that last line?  He’s right.  Read the rest here and then go write something that would make Stoller proud.

Ryan Anderson is a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Kentucky. He is currently writing up his dissertation, which is about the politics of development in Baja California Sur, Mexico. You can reach him at ethnografix AT gmail dot com or @publicanthro on twitter.

2 thoughts on “Stoller and the 2014 challenge for social science

  1. The challenge for the social sciences — at least for me — is to simultaneously maintain rigorous standards while producing works that clearly and powerfully articulate important insights to broad audiences across a variety of media. […] There is no reason that theoretically informed findings cannot be communicated to broad audiences.

    So there are really two tasks. The first is creating text and visuals to articulate your insights. The second is finding a platform for the communicating of them to those broad audiences. The latter is at least as challenging as the former. That might mean the work of building a relationship with an audience via a blog (a “pull” publishing platform), or it might mean the work of building a relationship with an editor at “push” publishing platforms like the Huff Post and newspapers.

  2. Matt makes a hugely important point here. It wasn’t until I started working in advertising that I learned the importance of media in communication strategy. To write and publish is good. To reach a sympathetic audience large enough to make something happen is absolutely vital.

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