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DEFINING THE BOUNDARIES OF SOCIAL INQUIRY / Vol. 62, No. 4 (Winter 1995)

January 1, 1996

Arien Mack, Editor

 

Table of Contents

 

Arien Mack
Editor's Introduction

This issue gathers together papers that examine the boundaries between various fields of social inquiry.

 

Immanuel Wallerstein
What Are We Bounding, and Whom, When We Bound Social Research?

This article focuses on the social creation of boundaries for social enquiry. The social creation of boundaries for social enquiry is not very ancient. As of 1750, they scarcely could be said to exist. To be sure, we can today, looking back, make distinctions among the work then done, say in western Europe. We can use such descriptive terms as political arithmetic or Kameralwissenschaft to designate types of work. And some of these terms were actually used by some persons at the time. But there were no real boundaries that individuals felt obliged to respect in any meaningful way. Between circa 1750 and 1850, in western Europe, various efforts were made to argue the case for some kinds of boundaries. 

 

Andrew Abbott

Things of Boundaries

Argues that it is wrong to look for boundaries between preexisting social entities. Problems of things and boundaries; Social structure views; Issues about boundaries and entities; Definition of boundaries; Temporal priority of boundaries.

 

Robert Heilbroner

Putting Economics in Its Place

Expresses the author's skepticism with respect to the position that economics occupies among the social disciplines. Relation of economics with regard to its sister disciplines; Explication of production and distribution; Social settings; Explanatory principles

 

James Schmidt
Civil Society and Social Things: Setting the Boundaries of the Social Sciences

This article presents historical reflections on the discipline of anthropology. The boundaries of anthropology have always been problematic, more so, one suspects, than those of other social science disciplines or discourses. Never, however, so problematic as they are today. A recent issue of the "Anthropology Newsletter" suggests some dimensions and dynamics of the boundary problem. Since 1983, when the American Anthropological Association was reorganized to represent more effectively the numerous adjectival anthropologies that had emerged over the preceding quarter century, the number of constitutionally recognized units of the Association has more than doubled. 

 

Susan Gal and Judith T. Irvine
Disciplinary Boundaries and Language Ideology: The Semiotics of Differentiation

This article discusses the boundaries of languages and disciplines. In nineteenth-century Europe, the rise of interest in exotic languages as well as local dialects coincided with colonial expansion and the creation of a European regime of nation-states. Through the dichotomizing discourses of orientalism, Europe created itself in opposition to a broadly defined East that often included not only Asia but also Africa. As Said, Olender, Mudimbe, and others have pointed out, scholars of language and ideas about linguistic differences played a significant part in the development of such categories of identity. 

 

Charles Camic
Three Departments in Search of a Discipline: Localism and Interdisciplinary Interaction in American Sociology, 1890-1940

This article discusses localism and interdisciplinary interaction in U.S. sociology from 1890 to 1940. More than a decade ago, Clifford Geertz gave strong voice to two themes which have since acquired increasing importance throughout the social sciences and the humanities. On the one hand, he urged attention to the phenomenon of local knowledge, proposing that the shapes of knowledge are always ineluctably local, indivisible from their instruments and encasements. On the other hand, he accented the reality and significance of genres of intellectual work that are blurred, in the sense that they cut across a borders-and-territories map of separate academic disciplines. 

 

Harrison C. White
Network Switchings and Bayesian Forks: Reconstruing the Social and Behavioral Sciences

This article focuses on the social and behavioral sciences. A likely basis for renewing sociocultural analysis is in terms of the dynamics of sociocultural networks. Recastings of current disciplinary boundaries and constructs can follow. Sociocultural reality was constructed only when there was switching back and forth between at least two domains, everyday and ceremonial, with their continuing networks. Durkheim argued that the impacts of differentiation were as strong for subsequent societies as well, where they cumulated into further levels of sociocultural organization. Perceived times themselves are byproducts of switching processes, constructed as scaffolding for meanings. 

 

Allan Pred
Out of Bounds and Undisciplined: Social Inquiry and the Current Moment of Danger

This article focuses on social inquiries. The contemporary world at which inquiries are directed may be seen and heard in geographically and otherwise variant ways as passing through an extended moment of danger. An extended moment of danger in which the practices, relations and experiences encountered in everyday life are best characterized as a condition of hypermodernity--as a condition of modernity magnified, as an intensification and speeding up of circumstances associated with industrial modernity and the socially engineered, or high, modernity which followed in its wake. 

 

Eviatar Zerubavel
The Rigid, the Fuzzy, and the Flexible: Notes on the Mental Sculpting of Academic Identity

This article discusses the mental sculpting of academic scholarship. The social organization of academic scholarship is a topic of great interest not only to those who study science and formal organizations but also to students of both cognition and identity. After all, the way universities are institutionally carved up into schools and departments and professional associations into divisions and sections generally reflects the way people mentally carve up the world in their minds, as well as the way they experientially construct their professional identities as scholars. 

 

 

 

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