What Does the Future Hold for the UK’s Oldest Sociology Journal?

Sociological Review cover
The journal is free to access until April 25, 2017.

This post originally appeared at SAGE Connection and is reposted here by permission


As one of the world’s foremost journals of sociological inquiry publishing for over 100 years, The Sociological Review is renowned for its high-quality and thought-provoking articles. Now that Britain’s oldest sociology journal joined SAGE Publishing’s comprehensive social science portfolio — (the first issue published at the end of January) — SAGE Connection caught up with Bev Skeggs, the outgoing managing editor, and Michaela Benson, the incoming managing editor, to find out what the future holds for the journal, as well as the key challenges facing sociology in current times. (SAGE is the parent of Social Science Space.)

What do you think has been key to the journals success so far?

From the outset, we have published the works of leading social scientists. A journey through our archive brings to light papers by Durkheim, Du Bois, Merton—preeminent figures in sociology—but also anthropologists and public intellectuals including HG Wells. This ambition to extend conversations beyond narrow disciplinary confines has been at the core of The Sociological Review throughout its history, troubling field-specific silos in its advance of knowledge. This highlights the journal’s longstanding commitment to speaking to the important social, economic and political issues, how sociology and sociologists might intervene in, respond to and challenge these issues. It has tackled uncomfortable subjects head on, calling for a politically engaged sociology. More recently, it has become nimble and flexible around different forms of authorship, attentive to the current and future challenges of academic publication, but also its articulation with more public-facing forms of knowledge. Such agenda setting remains central to our ambitions today; in building on this rich and lively history the journal remains open to interesting and innovative interventions that stretch beyond mainstream sociology and the academy, renewing the critical and creative appeal of sociology.

Michaela Benson, left, and Beverley Skeggs

How is The Sociological Review looking to support early career researchers?

While looking to the past, it is important not to lose sight of the future. Early career researchers (ECRs) have been particularly hard hit by changes in higher education and support for them tends to be patchy at best. We have built on our historic commitment to ECRs through The Sociological Review Fellowship, a one-year writing post-doc, committing funds for initiatives that include support for conference attendance, an annual writing retreat, professional development and specialist interest workshops. We are also hoping to extend this into seedcorn funding for postdoctoral projects. We also uniquely welcome ECRs onto the editorial board, involving them in the day-to-day business of academic publishing.

The Sociological Review is committed to publishing across disciplines. What value does this cross discipline approach have for the development of the field and the research you publish?

Despite our narrow disciplinary defined title, and as our history attests, we have always sought to trouble the orthodoxy in sociological thinking, speaking beyond traditional limits. We have been at the vanguard of challenges to the mainstream of sociology. For example, The Sociological Review was at the forefront of publishing feminist research. The journal’s commitment to interdisciplinarity has led to it setting the agenda on topics such as STS; continuing to publish anthropological work; and, unusually for a sociology journal has consistently published theoretically-informed ethnographic research. Our ethos is to embrace interdisciplinarity, seeing this as the grounds through which sociological debate can remain vital and relevant.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing sociologists today? How is the journal looking to respond through its content?

The challenges are too many to list, but this is precisely the point that we address in the manifesto for the journal. This is a time of ongoing and dramatic social, economic and political change; sociological disciplines and practices need to be responsive in intervening in these in critical and creative ways. Our response to this both through the journal and The Sociological Review Foundation is to connect private troubles to public issues, finding ways of putting this information out into the public. This starts with the editorial team. The new editorial team have expertise that draws from a range of cross-disciplinary engagements and are tasked with keeping the journal lively and relevant. A central feature of their role is to work with our digital and social media team to deliver sociological content beyond the journal; our blog and social media presence are just a starting point in this. In the coming year, we will be exploring new forms of content, working to extend sociological conversations beyond academic publication.

What do you think the next 10 years hold for the study of sociology?

These are turbulent times, and sociology will either rise to the challenge or break under the pressure to make itself relevant. We have produced excellent critiques but now we need to think beyond just critique. The Sociological Review is committed to fighting back, to demonstrate how things can be done differently, creating new possibilities, both in the academy and outside of it.

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SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space, is a leading international publisher of journals, books, and electronic media for academic, educational, and professional markets. An independent company, SAGE has principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Melbourne and Washington DC.

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