Professor Michael Burawoy Visits WISERD

Professor Michael Burawoy has become a regular visitor to Cardiff and he was with us once again in February to attend a WISERD Advisory Board meeting. His extended stay was facilitated by the Centre for Global Labour Research which provided Michael with a Montague Burton Visiting Fellowship.

During his time in Cardiff, Professor Burawoy delivered two workshops and a public lecture. He was also involved in many informal meeting and discussions with staff and research students from SOCSI and CARBS in 46 Park Place and on one Thursday evening joined Robin Smith on the purple bus!

The Extended Case Method, and Burawoy’s interpretation of it has been the subject of considerable debate, accentuated by the publication of his book of the same title which draws extensively on his experiences as a researcher and a teacher. His emphasis on the importance of theory, on issues of micro and macro and the importance of comparative research and “follow up” studies provided the basis for energetic discussion. The WISERD team was particular interested in issues of scale and also the potential for “follow ups” of earlier studies of Welsh communities.

At Berkeley, Michael teaches alongside Loic Waquant, disciple and collaborator of Pierre Bourdieu and it became clear that his lecture built upon years of reading and discussion in that department. Drawing upon Edward Albee’s play the talk – entitled “Who’s Afraid of Pierre Bourdieu? Reflections on Sociology as a Combat Sport” – drew attention to the practice of sociology within the academy and inter alia the distinction between the Bourdieu’s thought and that of Fanon and Gramsci.

Professor Burawoy is a past President of the American Sociological Association and Vice President of the International Sociological Association. He arrived in Cardiff having given lectures in Hungary and Poland’ and his reflections on changes in Eastern Europe formed the basis of his second workshop. This quickly turned into a well appreciated “master-class” of question and answer drawing upon the whole range of his work.

He was busy when he was in Cardiff and, like us, he felt that he had learned a lot. He left to take up the position of Mellon Distinguished Visiting Professor, at Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. He is expected back in Cardiff later this year.