It might seem on a superficial reading that fiction and sociology are antithetical, such that one seeks to study the social world while the other is concerned with imagining it. But many would argue that such a dichotomy does a disservice to both fiction and sociology. As Howard Becker observes in his Telling About Society, works of fiction have often been vehicles of social analysis while the writing of social analysis inevitably encompasses an evaluative and imaginative dimension.
There is much contemporary work which explores the relationship between fiction and sociology. The Social Fictions series edited by Patricia Leavy now has 17 titles, all informed by social research but written in a literary form. This emerged from a broader movement of Arts-Based Research and Creative Methods. Design Fiction methods are increasingly being explored outside the context of design practice, constituting the basis for two recent workshops in the UK with an explicitly Sociological focus. A recent collection on the Theory, Culture and Society website explored the relationship between social theory and fiction, as well as laid the intellectual ground for an upcoming conference on Fiction and the Sociological Imaginary. There are also Sociologists who write fiction. For instance Ann Oakley has written 7 novels and Richard Sennett has written 3. The Geographer Rob Kitchin has written 4 novels and 2 collections of short stories.
This special section of The Sociological Review’s website invites short blog posts (1500 words or less) reflecting on these trends. This could include questions such as the following:
- Is the value of fiction for sociology simply a matter of finding new ways to write about existing research? Or can fiction inform the research process itself?
- What are the risks involved in writing in a fictional mode about research? Is there a possibility we undermine the value of sociological research?
- Is the promise of sociological fiction simply a matter of accessibility or is it something more?
- Is there an important distinction to be drawn between writing sociological fiction and being a sociologist who writes fiction?
- How can fiction be used, as Bourdieu put it, to give “symbolic force, by way of artistic form, to critical ideas and analyses”?
Please contact Mark Carrigan with submissions or any questions relating to the special section: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for contributions is March 1st 2016.