Sociological Literature: a Series of Engagements

Last Spring, The Sociological Review’s Digital Team started to have conversations about how our online platforms could expand our interactions with practice-researchers – photographers, visual artists, musicians, pamphleteers, writers and so on – who were asking sociological questions through their craft. Our Instagram page now showcases a monthly ‘Image-Maker-in-Residence’, and this month’s artist is a practice-researcher using textiles to interrogate queer history-making and the archives. Additionally, The Sociological Review’s digital platforms have been publishing sociological fiction since March last year. Our fiction editor Ash Watson explored the sociological labour of both literary depictions of the “sociological” and of sociologists writing and reading fiction as part of the Sociology and Fiction special section on the blog, where our Sociological Fiction pages also showcase creative writing, usually short stories, that ask – and attempt to answer – sociological questions, accompanied by an exegesis offering analysis and commentary on that process of interrogation.

The Digital Team have been interested for some while in sociological literature as a wider phenomenon. Last summer our post ‘What Five Sociologists Told Us Their Holiday Reading Will Be’, gained a record amount of traction from our followers, and though it was meant as a fun piece, in its aftermath we also reflected upon how frequently sociologists look to literary work with a creative curiosity, and with their research questions in mind. This year, we had the opportunity to interact with the works of literature longlisted for this year’s The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, and were struck by the sociological work that many of these titles – alongside their creative innovations and affective impact as entertainment – were doing. As such, we invited several sociologists and practice-researchers to explore these titles as a way of unpacking what some of that work was. This series of engagements will be released throughout this month and we hope it may be the start of many more conversations about the labour that creative writing can do in shaping our knowledge about our social worlds. The upcoming contributions include writing from Clare Fisher, who writes about Virtuoso by Yelena Moskocih; Priya Sharma, who explores The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay; Laura Harris, who examines Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan; Kayo Chingonyi who interviews Jay Bernard about writing Surge; and Katucha Bento, who responds to Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.

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