This has gotten me thinking of late, however: what image would I put on a mug to somehow capture the essence of the sociological enterprise? I mean, some academic areas have obvious contenders. Take for example: Astronomy, Psychology, Freudian Psychology, Statistics, and even Post-Modernism. So, that said, what picture really captures the heart of Sociology?
I've come to the conclusion that the ideal image to represent sociology is Andrew Wyeth's excellent painting, Christina's World. Why is that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you, but first: go look at the painting.
I think this represents Sociology for two very particular reasons. First, the main character, Christina, is depicted in a field, looking towards a lonely set of farm buildings. By naming the painting "Christina's World" Wyeth was not suggesting that this is the physical extent of her universe- indeed the wagon tracks leading out of the picture imply rather strongly that it is not- instead, he was depicting her social world. The world in which Christina lives, the set of constraints and capabilities that make up her existence, are embodied within that painting. Wyeth is drawing the human world that defines her in a way that mere physicality cannot.
Beyond that, however, in a very real sense, the entire discipline of Sociology is like Christina. She sits in a field, outside the circle cleared and ordered by human activity, beyond the constructed spaces of human life. From there, she looks back at that human world with a mixed sense of reluctance, and longing. Reluctance, because it is a place in which she does not feel fully comfortable, and yet with longing, because it is a place that fascinates her, it is a reality into which a part of her wants to plunge. The artist did not picture her within the cirlce of human control, as he might easily have done, but instead pictured her outside of it, emphasizing her belonging, and her status as an outsider, all at once.
What better metaphor can there be for Sociology than such an image? We, as a discipline, try to situate ourselves beyond the borders of the social world, looking back on it with a mixture of scientific detachment and child-like fascination. Our involvement with that world and our simultaneous effort to see it as though from the outside, leaves us in the same position as Christina, caught between reluctance and longing. The tension between Christina and the scene is the tension between the individual and society- and the tension between the sociologist and their subject matter.
You may well disagree with me on some or all of this, but I think I make a good case. What image would you pick to embody Sociology? How would you replace the useless self-deprecation on ASA coffee mugs?
More importantly, if we come up with a new design for the ASA store, can we get a cut of the proceeds? Maybe then I could afford the good ramen!