Reflections on the 2009 Morris Rosenberg Forum


On October 2, 2009 the Morris Rosenberg Forum welcomed Dr. Sudhir Venkatesh, the William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. Our department – undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty – all welcomed Dr. Venkatesh to a full-day’s schedule including: a screening of his documentary, a meeting with graduate students interested in qualitative methodologies, his Forum lecture, and a concluding reception.

Dr. Venkatesh’s documentary – Dislocation – provided a medium and an example of the potential for visual sociology; he suggested that film and other types of visual media provide an emotional pallet from which sociologists can intellectualize. His lecture – “Law and Order in the Urban Ghetto” – provided an opportunity for the audience to understand the deeper complexities and situated knowledges – relationally- and spatially-framed – within the Chicago urban ghetto as described in his well-known ethnographyGang Leader for a Day. In fact, the lecture room was over-flowing with students, staff, and faculty eager to meet and hear our discipline’s rising star. It was the Forum’s most well attended lecture.

Personally, it was Dr. Venkatesh’s meeting with graduate students interested in qualitative methodologies that was most illuminating. After having us each introduce ourselves and state our experience with qualitative methods, he enthusiastically answered each of our inquiries including: the defense of small sample sizes, field research work-ethics, identity categorization, and event analysis. Dr. Venkatesh also gave specific advice for “surviving graduate school.” His list was inspiringly balanced and included: write every day, do book reviews, write every day, send papers out for review and “feel the pain,” write every day, present at regional meetings, write every day, and to be sure to list positive attributes – not only negative attributes – of articles/books while reading and critiquing. And, to be sure you caught it, he advised to write every day.

Thank you, Dr. Venkatesh, for visiting our department.

Beverly Pratt

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