Political Activist Ethnography

Scholarly Definition

A Canadian school of sociological inquiry that took shape during the 1980s in the work of sociologist George Smith. The specific promise of political activist ethnography is to furnish social scientific analyses that can be used as an empirical evidence base supporting claims by individuals and social movements about the need for action and social change.

Artistic Statement

Social transformation happens through people’s pushing back against the status quo from the margins. Through this image, I am paying homage to social activists whose successes and failures I have studied through my training in sociology. Here we see a hand of a muscular person emerging from the academic literature. The person seizes the ivory tower, as a symbol of the university, and purposely shakes it up. As social activists intend through their efforts, I emphasize the value of scholarship for change through this illustration. I am inspired by the writings of Engels and Marx, the contributions of feminists in all three waves from all over the world, and the gains achieved through decolonizing and civil rights organizing from the 1960s, all of which echo in the today. In this image’s background, we see a crowd of people. Protesters. They are the movers and shakers whose research-informed actions are the heart and soul of social transformation.

Digital art © Ujwal Mantha