When we started graduate school at Berkeley in 2020, many things were uncertain. We were part of the first, and quite possibly the last, cohort to start entirely virtually in the Sociology department, during a tumultuous historical period where one crisis seemed to bleed into the next in a compounding effect – an ongoing global pandemic, the #BlackLivesMatter and MeToo movements, protests calling for police and prison abolition, a tense U.S. election, upticks in violence against racial minorities and refugees, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While we attended colloquium, workshops, and seminars on Zoom – a word that quickly diffused into our everyday language – this virtual introduction to sociological inquiry while sheltering-in-place felt detached from both the social fabric all around us and the department from which we were eager to learn from.
So when one day, in our weekly Monday night Classical Sociological Theory seminar for the first-year cohort, our professor Michael Burawoy brought up the Berkeley Journal of Sociology (BJS), it immediately caught our attention. Hearing about this journal, run by graduate students since 1955 that served as a venue for early-career scholarship influenced by Marxism, Feminism, and Critical Race Theory, evoked feelings of nostalgia for a place and time that we had not directly partaken in, but nevertheless spoke to what many of us came to graduate school looking for: a vibrant intellectual community and the exchange of ideas to drive meaningful social change. We imagined, and subsequently sought to resurrect, a time when BJS editorial meetings buzzed with student editors, ideas, and journal copies. Although today the realities of academia are far more intense, that dream of graduate students not only contributing to knowledge production but also actively steering the conversation remains.
Over the last 15 months, we have been working to relaunch the Berkeley Journal of Sociology as a platform for public sociology, where academic sociology that is often enshrined in the ivory tower is in meaningful dialogue with the public. With this relaunch, we are moving away from primarily publishing traditional academic essays, and instead, we are renewing and reimagining our engagement and practice of public sociology. What does this mean? Broadly, we will continue to push the field’s boundaries and scope in order to apply our field’s research to emergent political issues, cultural trends, and the future. Specifically, it means embracing a diversity of media to communicate sociology to the public using both print and digital channels, harnessing the power of pictures, documentaries, atlases, murals, and interviews. We aim to publish works that not only identify social problems but also actively engage and center the communities that we study and are a part of. We aim to field contributions from practitioners of sociological thought regardless of their field and educational training, including artists, activists, organizers, journalists, and policymakers. Lastly, we seek to create a supportive culture of intellectual community for researchers of all identities in Sociology and related disciplines to wrestle with questions that extend beyond the internal debates of the academic field.
Despite all these changes, some things remain the same. While Berkeley Sociology is our home department, we continue operating our journal autonomously to afford us greater editorial and artistic freedom. This autonomy, in turn, allows us to continue running the Berkeley Journal of Sociology as a platform by graduate students and for graduate students without the constraints imposed by university administrators. We are committed to the power of words and scholarship to make the world a better place and to resist forces of domination.
We are thankful to the faculty and students who have supported us as we relaunch this journal. We are especially grateful for the fellow graduate students who joined our reviewer board and without whom this work would not have been possible! We’d also like to thank everyone who has provided guidance and collaboration in this process, from early meetings with past editors of the BJS (Martin Eiermann and Caleb Scoville), to our panel at ASA 2021 on publishing public sociology, and to the department workshop groups that graciously let us share our early ideas about the journal. We also thank our peers in publicly-engaged sociological publications: Chris Uggen, Doug Hartmann, Jon Smajda, and the graduate students from The Society Pages, as well as Fabio Rojas and Rashawn Ray from Contexts Magazine. And of course, we’d also like to thank Michael Burawoy for providing the initial spark to this project. We’re grateful for those post-theory class Monday evening chats, the generous support, and ongoing encouragement.
Finally, we recognize the unique opportunity and responsibility we have as three women of color editors leading an equally diverse journal review board to actively create the kind of inclusive intellectual community that we want to see in sociology. As we reflect on picking up where the Berkeley Journal of Sociology had left off, in which “the point, after all, is to change the world,” we see our contribution to this change as a consistent practice of building the equitable, critical, and sociologically-engaged world that we want to be a part of.
We hope that this relaunched issue of the Berkeley Journal of Sociology serves as a sustained invitation for you to join us.
Tiffany Hamidjaja, Janna Huang, and Elena Amaya
Berkeley Journal of Sociology Editors-in-Chief