Prominent Sociologists to Discuss Public Life and Social Justice

Yale University’s Department of Sociology will host a two-day conference on “Sociology and Public Life,” Thursday, Oct. 9, and Friday, Oct. 10. All sessions will be held in Room 211 of the Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York Street. Keynote speaker on Friday at 4 p.m. will be Harvard Professor William Julius Wilson, called “one of America’s 25 most influential people” by Time magazine in 1996. A reception will follow each day’s discussions. This conference is free and open to the public.

Herbert Gans, the Robert Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and former president of the American Sociological Association, will lead off the conference on Thursday, Oct. 9, at 4 p.m. with a talk titled “Sociology and the Public Intellectual.” He is author of “Urban Villagers,” “Popular Culture and High Culture” and “The War Against the Poor,” all of which explore the dignity and struggles of ordinary people.

During a long and distinguished career, Professor Gans has been both a scholar and a social critic. Using the tools of sociology, he exposed the human costs of urban renewal in the 1950s and has opposed welfare reforms that blame the poor for poverty.

Steven Seidman, professor of sociology at the State University of New York at Albany, will speak after Professor Gans. Professor Seidman, author of “Contested Knowledge,” “Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics,” and “Queer Theory,” writes about social science as a combination of scholarly inquiry on, and public engagement with, the problems of social justice. His lecture, “Sociology and the Politics of Social Justice,” will advance an argument about the social responsibilities of academics.

Feminist scholar Carol Brooks Gardner will speak on “Mean Streets: Gender and Public Harassment” on Friday, Oct. 10, at 2:30 p.m. She is an associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at Indiana University Indianapolis , and author of “Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment.” Her work documents the patterns of verbal and physical sexual harassment that take place in the public sphere and that deny freedoms to women.

The keynote address of the conference will be given by William Julius Wilson, the Malcolm Weiner Professor of Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Professor Wilson will speak on “Jobless Ghettos: The Impact of the Disappearance of Work in Segregated Neighborhoods.” Former president of the American Sociological Association, he is a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and the President’s Commission on the National Medal of Science. He is author of several books, including the prize-winning “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy” and “When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor,” which won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award and was designated by The New York Times as one of the notable books of 1996.

Professor Wilson is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and has been awarded more than 20 honorary doctoral degrees. His prodigious research on African-American urban communities has influenced the national agenda. His diagnosis of the predicament of urban unemployment and race, and his policy recommendations on those issues, are particularly relevant to New Haven.

For additional information, contact Joseph Soares, professor of sociology at Yale, at 203 432-3325.

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