The interests of the readers of Social Science Space in 2021 hewed closely to the interests of larger society last year – how we interact with the pandemic, what can we discern and how can we redress past structural inequality, can my frazzled mind ultimately work better? This is the message that a scan of the most popular new content that appeared on the website suggests.
The compilation below takes a look at the 10 most popular posts on the site that debuted in 2021. To be clear, while close this isn’t exactly the same as our most popular posts – the 2020 all-star “16 Answers to Your Questions about Teaching Online” continues to dominate, for obvious reasons – but it does offer a snapshot of what’s engaging our community.
In that vein, our most popular new piece was from, and about, our community. “What I Have Learned from Social Science” was penned by Ziyad Marar shortly after his election as a Fellow of Britain’s Academy of Social Sciences. The essay includes Here are 10 examples of drawn from the social and behavioral science imagination detailing how social science can help us to organize ourselves and society better. That this particular piece tops the list is a sweet note for Social Science Space, since Marar, SAGE Publishing’s president of global publishing, was instrumental in creating Social Science Space itself a bit over a decade ago.
Our second most popular new post was a Social Science Space-curated compilation of “Anti-Racist Social Science Books and Articles” that “features some of the most important work across social science disciplines that has engaged with the ongoing need to understand, analyze, resist and dismantle the racism that continues to disfigure society and culture across the globe.” That piece in turn linked to another compilation collection that resulted from a survey of social and behavioral scientists asking them what anti-racist research they recommended for others to pick up.
That people were newly hungry for information these subjects is supported by another Top 10 piece, “Why is Interdisciplinary Research on Race and Racism So Important?” Author Lina Ashour, then part of SAGE’s corporate communications team, was the key player in crafting the two compilation pieces cited in the paragraph before. And another member of the corporate comms team, former intern Joy Wada, also landed in the Top 10 with her cri de Coeur, “It Is Not a Joke: Racist Humor Normalizes Anti-Asian Racism and Must Stop.”
The intersection of the coronavirus and society spawned a number of Social Science Space posts over the last two years, as the online teaching tips post we mentioned earlier suggests. Among 2021 posts, the most read pieces focused specifically on one particular manifestation of the pandemic: face masks. Social Science Space’s longtime blogger, sociologist Robert Dingwall, penned two takes that challenged mandating mask wearing without an accompanying burden of scientific proof. As Dingwall, who is co-editor of the SAGE Handbook of Research Management, argued in “COVID Science and Politics – the Case of Face Masks” and “COVID-19, Masks and Magical Thinking,” “some of the claims for face masks look much more like magical thinking than anything that demonstrates the sort of casual connection that might be recognizable as science.”
Not all the mask stories we ran were skeptical. One piece from just before the arrival of 2021, December 2020’s “How the Psychology of Mask Wearing Can Encourage Mask Use” by Helen Wall, Alex Balani and Derek Larkin, all senior lecturers in psychology at Edge Hill University, examined “psychological resistance” in the case of masks and in general. (The piece, by the way, was reposted from our friends at The Conversation.) Another fascinating look at masks, but which lay outside the Top 10, was Roberto Strongman’s “The Mask Of Your Enslavement: Escrava Anastácia And COVID Mandates,” in which the Black studies professor looked at how images of a famed – and muzzled — Brazilian slave have been mobilized in the current moment.
Another public health issue animated another Top 10 entry, Steven Lubet’s “Is The Sunk Cost Fallacy ‘First Doing Harm’ In Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?” Lubet, a Northwestern University law professor and author of Interrogating Ethnography: Why Evidence Matters, uses the example of treatment for myalgic encephalomyelitis to show how “the conceit of personal wisdom” can undermine less anecdotal data.
Another aspect of critical thinking informs “Words Matter: Shamelessly Normalizing Big Lies And Alternative Facts.” Here, Ruth Wodak, a professor of discourse studies and author of The Politics of Fear, explores the rhetoric of Donald Trump in spreading the false narrative that he was defrauded out of a second term as U.S. president and gives context to his and other’s ‘big lies.’
Closing the Top 10 are two offerings from our popular podcast series, Social Science Bites. The series is a classic long-tail phenomena, with many legacy podcasts doing exceptionally well in 2021 (such as this one with the late Doreen Massey). Two new podcasts, “Whose Work Most Influenced You? Part 4: A Social Science Bites Retrospective,” and Harvard sociologist “Michèle Lamont On Stigma.” The retrospective is the latest update of a project begun in 2017 in which all of our series subjects answer a single question centering on whose shoulders of a past giant the person feels they themselves are standing on.
Two projects at Social Science Space which didn’t land in the Top 10 based on website traffic still land in our own listing of favorite pieces from 2021. Both are loving looks back at seminal moments on 20th century social science.
One was a three-part examination of the legacy of the late Geert Hofstede, with “Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Hofstede’s ‘Culture’s Consequences’” by his collaborator Marieke De Mooij, “Geert Hofstede: A Paradigm’s Paternity,” by his son Gert Jan Hofstede, and then a survey of Hofstede’s life.
Our other historical piece was a recollection about the founding of the Journal of Black Studies a half century before, a key moment in solidifying ethnic studies as a part of the higher education ecosystem. The piece followed a Social Science Bites podcast on Afrocentrism with the journal’s co-founder, Molefi Kete Asante.