And then the Monster Cuddled…

During the early days of my encounter with sociology, when I was beginning to comprehend the discipline, people would ask me:
“Wow, great score in boards, you have a great future. You are in Delhi University!
What subject are you pursuing by the way?”
I would say “B.A sociology” (and now I would see the smile fading).
“You could have easily got economics, it has great scope”, they would assert.
“But I wanted to do sociology”.
“What do you do in sociology by the way? It is the same as social science that kids do in school right? You probably are doing an elaborate version of it.
Are you interested in visiting villages?” they would ask.
I would straighten up now, to vent and say “it is not social science. It is the SCIENCE OF SOCIETY. We don’t go to villages”!

I must admit here that I felt empowered when I said that.
‘Science of society’ sounded more scientific to me than ‘social science’ for some reason. It was ‘objective’ and ‘value free’ and hence everything rational. I was pursuing a rational and scientific discipline. Yes. And I liked the sound of it.

The petite body of the baby monster cracked open the egg with a shriek that was trembling, scratching his mother with the newly founded, tiny (yet sharp) nails.

During these days, I simplified (or over-simplified, perhaps) sociology’s agenda as consisting of two hemispheres. There was a body of knowledge called Theory, which, when visualised, was a bulk of complex writings with the smell of old books and mites, written over a century before. The other hemisphere, relatively more exciting, was the set of method and methodologies (me interviewing like a pro, in a mental visual). I presumed that the former had to be applied to the world around us through the latter in order to Re-Search sociology. And this is how, I assumed, sociology was scientific.

He was no more a baby with tiny nails. He was gigantic and hence, his presence could not be ignored. He roared, an ear-splitting and thunderous roar, and a chill ran down the spine of everyone around.

Its science-ness was getting more and more obvious with time. I started to imagine that all capitalists in the modern world are blood-suckers, every complex religious phenomenon can be reduced to sacred and profane and that every bureaucratic setup is an iron cage. Meta narratives such as these made me feel that social facts are actually to be treated as ‘things’ and that such generalizations of social facts are characteristic of the ‘science of society’ and not ‘social science’. Also, the absence of first-person narrative in sociological theories made sociologists look like omnipresent observers, devoid of humanly feelings. Heavy use of jargons and concepts merely added to its ‘scientific-ness’, making them look like mathematical formulas.

One day he looked into the mirror. The reality was ghastly; he quivered. And all I heard was ‘meow… ’

Things change, and so did my comprehension of sociology. I matured and so did sociology. I no more wanted to pursue the ‘science of society’ and was very much contended with the ‘social sciences’. I now wish to question the ‘given’ definitions of science, art and literature and explore the fluidity between disciplines. Sociology was not about mere application of theory into reality anymore. It was not just about ‘scientific’ methods of research. It was not reproducing social theorists anymore. It was like walking with them, like fellow travellers; listening to them but questioning them when the need be. There was now a call for experiential reading of theory; contextualize them and mould them to suit our needs.
I no more saw reality as blacks and whites. I saw grey. And I now liked the sound of it, the sound of ambiguousness of everyday life. I did not imagine old books and mites of library while thinking of theories and I did not imagine visiting villages while thinking of research, anymore. I wished to explore different modes of social expression such as folk art, photography, cinema etc., beyond texts, and along texts.
It was not about total immersion in objectivism/subjectivism, rather it was now about “exact fantasy” as Adorno would call it; not wild imagination, but imagination tamed by theory.
Sociology was not about rational calculations of social behaviour anymore. It was now about “vivid awareness of relationship between experiences and wider society”, as Mills would put it. It was now about thinking beyond the obvious. It was, now, like asking the fish to describe water.
It was now an urge to move from depicting society as a picture to a collage, from realism to surrealism, recognizing and relishing complexities, subtleties and ironies of social reality. It was not a constant search for ‘truth’ anymore; rather it was now about recognizing plurality of truths and coming up with my personal explanation of that truth: the partial truth.

Submitting to the ‘truth’, he curled back to his bed. Darkness comforted his crestfallen selfhood…

Some call it post modernism, I call it change.
I have changed. And I am open to more change.

-Sandhya A.S




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