public sociology

Alice Goffman’s ethnographic foray into a black neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia has attracted attention both inside and outside of academia. While On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City was a critical success and Goffman was initially celebrated for her accounts of over-policing and over-criminalization, questions are now being raised about the accuracy of Goffman’s accounts, her participation in illegal activities, and the claims made in the book. Today, Douglas Hartmann, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, President of the Midwest Sociological Society, and co-editor of The Society Pages joins us to discuss lessons that can be learned from the attention the book has received as well as the larger implications for sociologists and urban ethnographers.

“What’s a good ethnography? There is not a single answer to that. The reason there is not a single answer is because there is a number of different questions and goals that ethnographers can take on…On the one hand, what are the goals and objectives that the researcher him or herself has and try to evaluate the work on those terms. And then, there is another set of terms on what else do we want to learn from that project. That is a different set of standards.”
– Douglas Hartmann –

In this special edition of Give Methods a Chance, we talk with Chris Uggen to get context and insight to a recent retraction of a political science article in Science and the resulting public discourse around the study under question.

“Outright fraud, where people make up data, is likely to be exceedingly rare–in part because it is not sustainable over a long term. As academics, we rely on our professional reputation. So you might be able to get a paper published, which might even get you a job, but, long term, it just isn’t in anyone’s interest to falsify data.”
– Chris Uggen –