jump to navigation

Kosovo—A Failure of Pluralistic Democracy 26 February 2008

Posted by Todd in Democratic Theory, History, International Politics, Race & Ethnicity.
Tags: , ,
trackback

[Both commenters and doing a bit of my own research have corrected some of my misinformation, so be sure to read the updates and comments  before allowing your head to explode.]
[UPDATE/CORRECTION II, below (thanks to anonymous commenter)]
[UPDATE I, below]

I had a student from Serbia in a globalization course a few years ago who added an always interesting perspective on ethnic conflict around the world. During the section on retribalization and ethno-nationalism, his presence in the room always forced the conversation into more nuanced and careful discussions. Although he was deeply critical of Milosovic’s policies against the Albanian-Kosovards, he never let us forget that the Albanians were, for lack of a better word, immigrants and so the dynamics were far more complex than they had been portrayed in the “West”.

Albania over the past few generations has been poor and oppressive, and Yugoslavia had allowed immigrants from Albania into Kosovo. (I do not know this history well, and so this is very surface-level and from the perspective of my student, a Serbian man. If I’m misrepresenting the history here, I’d appreciate factual and interpretive corrections in the comments.)

My student tried to get his classmates to understand that for the Serbians in Kosovo, it was about a complete loss of control, of culture, of governance; he said it would be as if Mexicans in Los Angeles suddenly decided they wanted independence and wanted to wrest control of the society from Americans; then the government of California instituted ethnic cleansing policies against them; then the rest of the United States came in, defeated California, and made Los Angeles county a protectorate and allowed the Mexicans to come back. Three years later, I’m sure he would add, then the Mexicans declared themselves independent and the rest of the United States recognized Los Angeles as an independent nation even though California refused to and claimed that Los Angeles still belonged to California.

The point here is, of course, not to justify the ethnic cleansing policies of the early 90s, but to explain that the ethnic tensions are much more complex than we were led to believe. And my position is to keep pulling my hair out in frustration over the continual reification of ethnic identities, be they Serbian or Albanian or Kosovard.

For me, the ultimate tragedy of Kosovo isn’t that the Serbs lost their majority sometime in the past, nor that Serbia is “losing” the region that was the birthplace of its form of Christianity. Rather, the tragedy is that around the world, various ethnicities believe that they cannot live together and form democracies together; that the only way for a democracy to function is for everyone to have the same ethnicity, or that every ethnicity must have its corresponding nation. [Philosophically, this is why I have a huge problem with the establishment of Israel historically; although now that Israel has existed for going on five generations, that critique is purely theoretical.]

This is founded on a deep misunderstanding of ethnic identities in the first place: That they are permanent and essential, that they transcend other social considerations, that they necessarily exclude interaction and cooperation with other ethnic groups. It reproduces dangerous notions of purity. It precludes cooperation and compromise in favor of complete control.

Ultimately, it forecloses the possibility for real, pluralistic democracy and creates a world of ethno-Nations, reinforcing the power of dominant cultures instead of mitigating them, and permanently ghettoizing ethnic minorities. This is the continued fragmentation of democracies along ethnic lines. And that is a failure of democracy itself, which has been designed for the past 200 years to accommodate differences and protect minorities. Replacing Serbian dominance of Kosovo with Albanian dominance is not a difference in kind, but a difference in flavor.

[Caveat/Question: Are the Serbian-Kosovards in favor of independence also? Is there a move to make Kosovo into something new that is neither Albanian nor Serbian? Or is this an Albanian-Kosovard political action?]

UPDATE: I heard an interview with a professor at San Francisco State this morning on KPFA and he clarified a few things and reinforced my feeling that this was a failure in pluralism and highly problematic for the future of pluralistic democracy.

1) The albanians and serbs have been fighting over Kosovo for a lot longer than I had thought, dating back to several skirmishes with the Ottoman Empire. So my student’s analogy of immigrants to Los Angeles ultimately falls apart, in my opinion. The ethnic conflict is far older and the borders far more fluid than the analogy allows. The Serbs have never been a majority in the region, for example.

2) The Albanian-Kosovards were supported by the Maoists in Albania against Tito. The Albanians were known for their brutality and repression of the Serbian minority.
3) Tito had brokered an odd deal of semi-autonomy for Kosovo, with the Albanian majority in control, but with Serbia still having nominal control of the region.

4) Milosovic was more or less an opportunist who used Kosovo to fuel ethno-nationalism for his own political ends startingn in 1989. His adminsitration sent “settlers” from Serbia into Kosovo to “reclaim” it. The ethnic cleansing began in earnest in the early 1990s, and the northern part of Kosovo, the Albanian majority was forcibly removed (today, that northern section remains Serbian controled and the Albanians never returned).

5) The Albanian-Kosovards think of themselves as Kosovard, and *not* Albanian. They are kind of like Irish, who speak English, but don’t think of themselves or identify as English.

6) When the U.N. brokered the semi-autonomy for Kosovo at the end of the Balkans war, the backroom chatter was that Kosovard independence would be an inevitability, a matter of time.

So I’m left with the same critique: The history of the ethnic relations in Kosovo are as tortured and as convoluted as Israel-Palestine, with both groups having deep historical connections to the land. But both are insisting that they simply cannot live together and that the only possible solution is an ethnically pure state? I’m less concerned about Kosovo breaking off from Serbia now, than I am about the fact on the ground that the establishment of a free and equal Kosovo with minority rights intact and protected seems slim to none. It looks like all that’s going to happen is, at best, a kind of mutual apartheid, with separate government, education, and medical services.

As a side note: More irritating is the commentary from the West which speaks of this in that irritating Huntington mode, as a “conflict of civilizations”. In fact, both the Albanian and the SErbian Kosovards are relatively secular and non-practicing. Religion becomes a disingenuous ethnic identity marker to justify and explain what amounts to a refusal of Tolerance, the fundamental value and practice necessary for a pluralistic democracy.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION II]

Demographic history of Kosovo:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Kosovo

The 1921 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes population census for the territories comprising modern day Kosovo listed 439,010 inhabitants:
By religion:
Muslims: 329,502 (75%)
Orthodox Serb: 93,203 (21%)

Advertisements

Comments

1. M.S. - 24 February 2008

I have found your article as one of the rare and interesting from the US sources.

I appreciate you can see the problem as a complex one.

I, myself, have been to Kosovo for holidays. It was actually 20 years ago and I was shocked by the mutual hatred which at that time went more on the expense of the Serb minority living there.

But there was no Serb minority there before WWII. they were in majority.. It happened just after it because of the support of the fascist Italy who occupied the territory during the war time and supported Albanians from Albania to settle in Kosovo meanwhile Serbs were being expelled to Serbia. The communist leader Tito did not ask the newcomers from Albania rather to withdraw back to their home country so as to prevent escalation of the resentment between these two nations and even more he did not allow the expelled Serbs to come back. Thus the Albanians gained the majority and though they were actually guests in the country their later aspired to seize it completely which has been managed with the support of the USA and major EU countries in a fullish believe thus the problem can be resolved.

Unfortunately this is not the right way if it happens on the expense of the former host people (whose spiritual and cultural heritage is being demolished and who have no chance for peaceful living among the hostile majority, though they have many times longer and deeper roots on the territory than the whole American culture on the American continent today) by breaking international law and convention.

I am worried for two things.
First one nation (Albanians) is promoted for no reason (Serbia made a great effort to become more democratic, thus the nationalist may regain again). Furthermore the Kosovo´s government is based on the criminal UCK organization (which used to be on the black list of terrorist in the USA until the end of the last century) bound with mafia practices and drug dealing.

Second it is not a good signal for the future, if the international law loses its practical background.
A new wave of destructive nationalism may rise up all around the world with a great potential in escalation into wars.

Thank to the government of the USA, GB, France, Germany …. These countries thus even undermine their own future. Or do they not insist on democracy any longer? Or are they so morally weak? What a shame!

2. info - 26 February 2008

“But there was no Serb minority there before WWII. they were in majority.. It happened just after it because of the support of the fascist Italy who occupied the territory during the war time and supported Albanians from Albania to settle in Kosovo meanwhile Serbs were being expelled to Serbia”

Demographic history of Kosovo:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Kosovo

The 1921 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes population census for the territories comprising modern day Kosovo listed 439,010 inhabitants:
By religion:
Muslims: 329,502 (75%)
Orthodox Serb: 93,203 (21%)

3. Todd - 26 February 2008

Info, thanks. I think I had tried to correct that in my update, but when I reread the update, i realized I hadn’t. Much appreciated.

4. bardhylgjoni - 26 February 2008

Todd! That Serb student is a liar. You should hear Albanian side as well. I can tell you my side if interested. John.

5. Todd - 26 February 2008

John,

My student wasn’t a liar. He was trying to balance what his classmates knew about Kosovo with the complexities of the region’s history. I was wrong on many key facts above, and have tried to correct them in my Updates. Interestingly, the corrected facts actually make my case stronger: Stupid ethno-nationalistic claims to Kosovo (or Palestine, or Kashmir, or Basque, or Kurdistan) are the bane of democracy and the root cause of way too much violence.

I’m pretty well aware of the Albanian “side”, which is basically the same as the Serb side: Ethno-historical claims to land, hatred, victims of ethnic cleansing and oppression, etc. I’m not taking sides in the ethnic issue, which I find to be irritating in the extreme.

Rather, coming from the standpoint of the modern world, the world as we live in it right now, and pluralistic democracy, I have little patience for either side’s claims to legitimacy or tradition, and never-ending finger-pointing and recriminations.

My critique is basically thus:
1) Here in the U.S., we only heard of the Albanian plight under Milosovic’s regime, so the full complexity was never portrayed in the media.
2) This conflict is based on quasi ethno-religious identities and historical fantasies, analogous to Israel Palestine, and therefore represent the primary roadblock to a functioning pluralistic democracy.
3) The independence of Kosovo is a failure of democracy, not a triumph for Albanian-Kosovards. We all know that the de facto apartheid will continue; that there will be no efforts to establish equality under the law or a common Kosovard democratic identity; and that if history repeats itself, the Serbs will end up back in the position they were in prior to Yugoslavia, which is the oppressed minority (and no, Milosovic’s policies in the 1990s doesn’t make it okay to oppress the Serb’s now). The only way I will cheer for an independent Kosovo is when Kosovards of all ethnicities and religions (real or imagined) are equals at the table, integrating their social structures and institutions, and fully participating in a new democracy.

6. info - 26 February 2008

Todd, a quick point re. the future of democracy in Kosova. The government of Kosova has agreed to the Ahtisaari plan that is largely slanted towards Serb minority rights, giving them even more representation than their actual presence, and guarantying more rights than any other minority in Europe. For example they would have a veto on any matters regarding minorities and a guaranteed 10% of the seats in the Parliament, new municipalities and links to Serbia. A day after the declaration of independence, the Parliament moved to approve a series of laws steaming from the Ahtisaari package and is continuing work on all points of that plan. These rights will also be enshrined in the new constitution. PM Thaci, has been vocal and active in trying to reach across the ethnic divide, to assure the Serb minority that Kosova will be their country also, and to pull them into the govt and decision making. However democracy will not function without the participation of everybody, and the govt of Serbia has been particularly obstructive in this regard. The objectives of the Serbian govt are not in the inclusion of Serbs in the Kosovar society, but in their exclusion, in cementing the apartheid which will eventually lead in the partition of the province and a chunk of land going over to Serbia in the future. Only when the Kosovar Serbs break off the spell of Belgrade and start working with Kosovar institutions to improve their conditions, will the democracy and ethnic reconciliation have a real chance.
The independence of Kosovo is a failure for democracy in Serbia, but is also the logical conclusion of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Neither past nor present Serbian governments have ever been interested to treat Albanians as anything more than an undesirable element, they have never treated Albanians as their own citizens even though they formed some 20% of the population. All their arguments, even in the last negotiations have been about land, not about people. One example: in the voting of the last constitution of Serbia (2006), Albanians were excluded from the vote, and that’s just one out of million examples that typify the position of Albanian under the Serb state, and their exclusion from political life starting since the early 80s. It would be the same as if the US would exclude the blacks from the political process; in the past was acceptable but can you imagine it today? In fact, exactly the independence of Kosova is a “must do” step in the process of the emancipation of the Kosovar society, much like the civil rights were a “must do” step in the emancipation of the black population. Had the Serb state, in the past or today ever been interested in including Albanians in the political process, Albanians would have had a lot of difficulty in making the case for independence, and would have had even less people willing to listen to them.

And finally, I would like to congratulate you for approaching this issue from the point of democratic principles and human rights, rather than religion or even worse stupid mythologies.
Please check out this book on the Albanian civil resistance during the years of Milosevic.
http://www.amazon.com/Civil-Resistance-Kosovo-Howard-Clark/dp/0745315690
http://www.c-r.org/ccts/ccts12/resistbk.htm

Regards, Taulant

7. Todd - 26 February 2008

Thanks again, Taulant, for your input. The story you tell here is more or less the main story we got in the U.S. during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. I suppose what I got from my Serbian student was simply that the story was much older and much more complex, and that there had been earlier oppressions in the other direction.

My point here is that all of these ethnic squabbles must end at some point. Kosovo is just the most recent example, but it’s a huge problem the world over for democracies.

The fact is, there is no such thing as any region of the world that is ethnically pure. In the past ethnic tensions were held in check by dictators (e.g., Sadam Hussein). But if we truly want a world of democracy and freedom, then we have to let go of these old ethnic identities, conflicts, hatreds, and grudges. The only alternative is ethnic balkanization, and that’s, again, a failure of democracy.

8. info - 26 February 2008

Yes Todd, of course the story is much older and complex than it be described here; It’s often said with merit, that Balkans produces more history that it can consume, and in this specific conflict one can easily fill out libraries with arguments and contra-arguments. There was of course oppression following oppression in the either direction, both real, perceived or exaggerated. The facts must be sifted carefully by unbiased historians, but one simple fact can not be ignored. That for most of the time since 1912, Kosova was under the control of Serbia and Yugoslavia who had the army, police, security services and the apparatus of the state in their disposal. That must be kept in mind when judging biased opinions. However let historians deal with it. We can spend a lifetime (many have) arguing rights or wrongs, that happened 5, 10 or 100 years ago. We are where we are at this point and I agree 100% with you that ethnic squabbles must end, and I hope sooner rather than later. Kosova is in dire need of ethnic reconciliation, and in implementing the rule of law, democracy and equal human rights. Only if we approach the issue from this angle, we have a chance at making progress. Because if we continue with religious or ethno-centric perspectives, we’ll have pretty much more of the same.
Thank you for providing the medium for this modest debate. All the best to you.
Taulant

9. Bobi - 27 February 2008

Albanians of Kosovo don’t call themself kosovars. You’re totally wrong about that. They call themself albanians, and that’s what they are even if they had to live under serb’s state.

10. mattblack - 27 February 2008

Todd,
I’ve been reading this with interest. One point I’d be interested in hearing more discussion about is the idea you bring up in your comment that in the past, ethnic conflicts were held in check by dictators. It seems that democracy has, so far, failed to be an effective alternative to keeping order or peace among clashing ethnic groups (Iraq being one painful example). Can democracy find a foothold in a place with competing and embattled ethnic groups? Is it really a matter of letting go of ethnic identities? How do people do that?

11. sulo - 27 February 2008

Kosovar is in Albanian language someone that is from Kosova, like Tetovar is someone that is from Tetova, like Kercovar is someone from Kercova, or Preshevar is someone from Presheva etc etc etc. So Albanians from Kosova are both Albanians and Kosovars, Serbs from Kosova are both Serbs and Kosovars, and Americans from New York and both Americans and New Yorkers.

12. Todd - 27 February 2008

Thanks for the clarifications, Sulo and Bobi. From what the professor was saying about identifications within Kosovo, there really is an idea of being related to but different from Albanians proper. I’m not an expert in this field at all and have greatly appreciated the input from everyone on this thread, to correct my factual errors and add the depth necessary for this discussion.

Matt,

I think that it’s less about Democracy’s power to mediate ethnic (and other) differences, than it is about the flawed methods of implementing democracies we’ve witnessed over the past 100 years.

Places like the U.S. and Canada are flawed, surely; but they also show examples of how democratic values can be harnessed to overcome such differences, namely through instilling the value of Tolerance. I think historically, what made the U.S. and Canada ultimately work as plural democracies is that they were plural from the beginning, so these societies have been working out what it means to live in a diverse democracy for 200 years.

Perhaps from that perspective, it isn’t fair for me, an American, to expect emerging democracies to just ‘get it’ immediately. But I think in the 20th century, the mistake was on the part of Europe and the U.S. in how they dealt with the post-colonial world. They made the critical error of mistaking the institutions of democratic government (i.e., voting) with democracy itself. [I’m using the word democracy not in its literal, Greek sense; but in the way the idea has been theorized for the past 250 years or so.]

Democracy is a set of cultural values, assumptions that must be adopted and internalized by the majority of people who would come together to form a democratic public sphere. As I mentioned, I see those as being rights, equality, and tolerance. I may even add in an even deeper belief in the fundamental dignity of every individual, even individuals who are different from you.

In American history, the problem was that we had these value-ideals from as early as 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, but spreading them to the culture at large has been an ongoing battle. But perhaps that’s not a bad thing. The fact that those ideals are there and so imperative that we continue arguing about them means we’ll never give up trying to achieve the goal of a tolerant, equal society.

The problem in places like Iraq is that the U.S. government acted completely blindly, assuming that the mere institutions of democracy were enough. Set up a parliamentary electoral system and all else would work itself out. No, in reality, the citizens must recognize each other as individuals worthy of dignity, tolerance, and equality before the institutions can work.

But in a world where we’re hoping to get beyond totalitarianism, dictatorship, and fundamentalism, how do you move people to these values? I think that first and foremost they have to be talking about them. Can Albanian-Kosavards and Serbian-Kosovards even have the discussion about whether or not they all deserve dignity and equality under the law? Can British muslims (and the irritatingly ignorant Bishop of Canterbury) even have the discussion about whether or not a woman who doesn’t want to veil herself should be subjected to an extra-legal shariah court? Can new immigrants to the U.S. from Mexico talk about their status as humans with rights to native born Americans? Can a Palestinian who lives in Israel talk with Israeli Jews about why they should be allowed to vote?

Whenever these discussions can take place in real terms and in good faith, there is hope for democracy and the (relative) containment of ethnic (and other) divisions. But when the terms of that discussion aren’t even available for discussion, when the basic assumptions of shared humanity and a shared stake in building a society together don’t exist, there can be no democracy at all.

13. Bobi - 29 February 2008

The only reason serbs claim to keep Kosovo is because that land was their cradle of civilisation. In fact that is somehow true. That land is where they first encountered Rome. They was Slavonics and came quite late. Is there where they learned about christianity. But that was not a desert place. It was already inhabitated from an crystian population and already had churches. The serbs when expanded more under their “empire” reconstructed those churches. Albanian language have too much old latin words which can prove that they was the Romans on that region. Serbs can’t be find today in Kosovo but they make an majority in far north. So did they really moved from Kosovo to where they are today? Then who’s land they got? In the balkans the land was really limited because of many nations in it. The real problem is that albanian kosovars are muslim and many are confused. That land was crystian and the muslims invaded it. But many albanians become muslims really late and not because of ideology but because it fullfilled their needs in the Empire. The albanians adopt a religion only if the religion let them have power. They was some of the first in Europe to became chrystians, then some of the first to became orthodoxes and the first in Europe to became muslims. Today when the religion is considered as a relic they created the first atheist state in the world.

14. John F. Deethardt II - 6 July 2009

Please define “pluralistic democracy”. You are using that term without even a context for it. I have worked hard to define “democracy” elsewhere. Is there a “non-pluralistic” democracy. The discussion that welcomes all participants to democracy is always and never otherwise than a heterogeneous number of participants. The word “democracy” never implies anything exclusive. Your term “pluralistic democracy” implies that there is another modified democracy that is non-pluralistic and exclusive for some and inclusive of others who meet some criteria of membership.

15. Todd - 6 July 2009

John,

I don’t know your background in democratic theory, so please excuse me if I repeat stuff you already know and also in advance for being brief.

Basically, in discussions of democratic theory, the term “pluralistic democracy” refers not to a pluralism of individuals, but a pluralism of cultures, ethnicities, religions, or subcultures within a democracy. This is a vitally important concept in the post-colonial, globalized world we live in because it cuts right to the heart of central problems in new democracies: How do you deal with the relationship between majority and minority populations in a democratic system, that is, a system that is supposed to treat everyone equally regardless of their cultural (or racial) heritage. Ethno-nationalism in all its forms argues that democracies are only possible when the population is homogenous culturally/ethnically.

The United States started out in an odd way with a highly plural (culturally) population, but one dominated by Anglo and anglicized majority (some might even say aristocracy) who ran the show. We Americans have spent 200 or so years trying to figure out the majority/minority relationship and are, relatively speaking, significantly more comfortable living in pluralistic society. We argue and scream at each other frequently across our ethnic/cultural barriers (and we also mix and blend and hybridize constantly); yet we seem to come together around democratic ideals and fight for access. (Canada is another good example of this.) The U.S. clearly has problems with inequality to this day, but they are problems that as a society we discuss in terms of common, shared democratic values.

In other contexts, especially new democracies or newly independent nations flirting with democracy, without a couple hundred years of pluralistic living, they often violently resort to either ethnic cleansing or some kind of apartheid. One of several possibilities seems to have developed in these cases since WWII:

1) They devolve into civil war
2) They devolve into ethnic cleansing (mass forced exoduses) or genocide (mass deaths)
3) They devolve into a kind of communitarian (French sense) détente, where different cultures/ethnicities/religions occupy different social spaces within the democracy
4) The democratic experiment fails, and a dictatorship is established (usually by military junta)
5) The democratic experiment fails, and the nation divides up into smaller, more ethnically/culturally/religiously homogeneous nations.

You rightly point out that no population is actually completely homogeneous; but you have to stand back from the sort of radical atomistic or individualistic view, and instead think in larger social terms. When you study democratic societies (or any societies, for that matter), you have to be able to see them as larger moving systems that function in statistical terms. That is, averages and numbers and standard deviations matter.

Clearly, with all its pluralism, European countries are significantly more homogeneous than, say, the United States. The degree of cultural homogeneity (which can be as tenuous as a shared history or language (and can be real or merely perceived to be shared)) has real social effects, one of which is to create a more stable democracy. For example, we can mathematically measure, for example, the degree to which people trust their neighbors. In countries where neighbors trust each other, democracies tend to run much more smoothly. And homogeneous countries have significantly higher rates of trusting their neighbors.

In other words, the more homogeneous a democracy is, the more stable it is.

Please do not misunderstand me here. I am not advocating homogeneity as a prerequisite for democracy. Quite the opposite. As an American, it baffles me that most people around the world can’t figure out pluralism and how to build a democracy without homogeneity. It’s the world I grew up in. It’s messy and can be uncomfortable, but it also works. But it requires letting go of (to a great extent) personal attachments to old ethnic, cultural, and religious identities to interact with, trust, and flexibly live with people who are different from you; and to develop a degree of trust that in the government they will represent your best interests, even though they have different values, ideas, cultures, etc.

The great tragedy of the post-colonial age, in my opinion, is a simultaneous empirical pluralism and re-tribalization. On one hand, global markets and technology have enabled the mass migrations of people around the world. On the other hand, for many reasons, as people have moved around the world and come to live with each other in spaces and contexts their cultures weren’t prepared to deal with, they have retrenched into identity politics and resorted to violence to assert their tribal boundaries (I’m using tribal here in a loose way to emphasize group formations and how they police group boundaries).

The democratic experiment, which demands respect of individual rights and equality within the system, cannot succeed at the same time as retribalization.

Hope that helps you understand where I was coming from and how the term “pluralistic democracy” arises out of discussions in democratic theory about how plural societies can be democratic.

16. John F. Deethardt II - 9 July 2009

I think I can put my finger on our difference. You are working, like a sociologist (which I must presume you are) at the “macro” level of defining democracy. I am not. I am working with democracy at the “micro” level of practical, small group behavior, teaching and learning the micro-process of democratic operations. (My field is speech communication.) How is the democratic mind inculcated? I also taught intercultural communication, and have developed a definition of culture at the micro level of practice which does involve a matrix of sociological categories and communication variables (elsewhere on a communication blog). I simply want democracy to develop more fully in our society. My def of democracy incorporates, takes for granted, the heterogeneity of any groups that comes together. Any democratic discussion in a free society, with no pretexts such as religion, political ideology, assumes cultural differences, which will either hinder or enhance the problem-solving product.
Your view is stratospheric. Mine is bugs’-eye. Mostly we go like ants on a sidewalk, oblivious to the forces that may come crushing down on us. (A metaphor I often use.)

17. Todd - 9 July 2009

John,

Funny thing is, I’m a micro-sociologist. I work in the symbolic interaction tradition in my empirical work (qualitative, cultural sociology; overlapping with social psych in that I study how meaning gets made in interaction).

But I love social theory, which is definitely trying to see the system as a whole. In my own work, I always try to figure out the relationship of the individual/micro to the society/macro; because I study gay men, it often works out to be an analysis of power dynamics between teh dominant culture and the small communities that gay men have tended to form with each other (and which are often highly localized and intimate).

Does that make me a bug flying way to high above the ground for its own good, maybe caught in the updraft of a space shuttle launch or something? lol

18. John F. Deethardt II - 24 August 2009

Todd, our disciplines overlap, and the differences are in focus. Dealing with demographic science and practical applications (people in the special communication contexts, situational, perhaps. Whatever the demographic variables present, “how am I doin’?” “Well, I’ll tell ya.” So then I check my whole critical apparatus of performance and look for the criteria that may be hindering effect. In that, I have to be aware of cultural differences in codes of communication sharing. Same code, little problem, unless it’s a matter of special skills, like articulation and voice, that are not cultural but basic physical competence. And so on and on and pn.
We are of different disciplinary cultures, talking across rather distinctive differences. Research yields my criteria of performance evaluation. And your’s your.
Overall, in my experience, my discipline has been devalued by yours, and so mine has made great efforts to be very scientific in its studies, very sophisticated, to the point that our origin has been put far into the background.
We may speak slightly different languages, but there has been some convergence. I am now out of the field and have not kept up with the developments (retired). I look at the lit now and hardly recognize the new nomenclature, soaring off into new stratospheres of investigation.


Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: