Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Social Sciences: Challenges and Relevance

On the 18th of August, the Department of Sociology and Social work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru, organised a webinar on Social Sciences: Challenges and Relevance by Prof. Maitrayee Chaudhari, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She discussed the relevance of the Classical Sociologist perspective in understanding social science’s relevance in a modern democratic society. She brings in the philosophy of classical sociologists such as C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination and Peter Berger’s Invitation to Sociology. In doing so, she tried to elucidate the different ways of understanding society.

She begins her talk by questioning one’s choice of selecting subjects at the school and college levels. She quotes C. Wright Mills and says that one’s will is not so personal, instead is governed by society. Society has considered some subjects as sacrosanct over others; she cites her example of how her family, relatives, and neighbourhood negatively reacted to her choice of choosing the field of humanities over science and commerce.

By shedding light on the relevance of social science, Prof. Chaudhuri says that it helps us understand our aspirations and limitations better. It further elucidates how society and history structure one’s identity. She goes on to give relevant examples, for one to understand the connection between social structure and the self. Knowledge of and from the social sciences can help one gain an insight into their social position and the way their identities work with each other.

Prof. Chaudhuri uses the Sociology of Peter Berger, to understand the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, where the society has normalised the migrant labour unrest as ‘typical’ human behaviour. But sociology will tell us that gender, class, and caste are differently impacted even in this “normal” scenario.

In conclusion, she states that sociology and social work produce an understanding of society, and quality data and information help understand it. She shows hope when she mentions the New Education Policy (2020), and how it might give equal status to social science along with other streams.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session, where the participants engaged with the presenter and crucial questions regarding the education policy were discussed and were answered with a constructive conclusion.

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