Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lets hear it for radical tirades

Although I found Luker’s tips on sampling, operationalization and generalization, as well as the summary and class discussion to be extremely useful, the whole conversation triggered a healthy sense of disillusionment in me. Let me explain.

By fixating our attention on the “validated” means for producing “acceptable” generalizations, I think we run the risk of overlooking a world of “truths” which can enlighten our sense of “social reality.” For example, if an oppressed South African living in jail during the apartheid era produces a journal of his experiences, I would not penalize his work for leaving out a discussion on methodology. If anything, a preoccupation with social science methods would, somewhat ironically, render obscure this important piece of “reality.” This example speaks to the attractiveness of post-colonial literature (as well as poetry, music etc.) as a source of “truth” in our complex world.

In other words, if we accept that Luker’s (and similar scholars) methods are highly westernized, then it is not unreasonable to claim that they affectively perpetuate a western mindset in our society (also consider the immense influence of the academy).This affect is not only a hindrance to our pursuit of knowledge, but can also be quite dangerous. Take for example the Jews from the Frankfurt School whose critical theory (note the lack of capitalization) rose from the oppression of Nazi Germany. Although society has progressed since his time, Foucault, whose thinking was also unconventional in this sense, was a homosexual. You get my point.

As a final note to close this tirade, I believe that often important “truths” are too personal or humanistic to be attained by conceptual “methods,” as much as the established order would steer us to believe.

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