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Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie

, Volume 44, Supplement 2, pp 139–155 | Cite as

The imaginary as method. “Lyrical sociology” as a heuristic of sociological description

  • Il-Tschung LimEmail author
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Abstract

The article draws on recent debates about empirical sociology’s lack of imagination in order to champion the strength and virtue of a peculiar type of close, but also thin description as a central mode of social scientific observation. A case in point for the evocation of a descriptive sociology is Andrew Abbott’s neologism lyrical sociology. Examining the lyrical-sociological approach, the article claims that the concept presents a distinct heuristic for the elicitation of a more colorful and vivid sociological imagination, namely, an emotional imagination in the empirical toolbox of the descriptive sociologist. After the article considers the potential of description as a specific type of sociological representation and thus discusses the concept of the social imaginary from a methodological point of departure, the article suggests three vantage points to qualify the lyrical mode as a sociological descriptive: First, it presents its central properties, thereby referring to the notion of a so-called “descriptive turn”; second, it examines the heuristic value of lyrical sociology. And third, the article juxtaposes lyrical sociology and the compelling work of French-American anthropologist Didier Fassin to evaluate the potential but also the limits of lyricism within the sociological craft.

Keywords

Andrew Abbott Description Descriptive imagination Heuristic Semantic explanation Ethnography Didier Fassin 

Das Imaginäre methodisieren. „Lyrische Soziologie“ als Heuristik deskriptiver Soziologie

Zusammenfassung

Der Artikel nimmt Bezug auf eine jüngere Debatte in der Soziologie, die einen Mangel an methodologischer Kreativität und Originalität sowie ein Defizit an soziologischer Imagination und Einfallsreichtum in der Disziplin konstatiert. Vor diesem Hintergrund schlägt der Artikel vor, sich auf die soziologischen Qualitäten eines spezifischen Typs von Beschreibung zu besinnen, auf die Form einer eigentümlich „dünnen Beschreibung“, die im Vergleich zu den beiden anderen Typen soziologischer Beobachtung, Erklären und Interpretieren, zumeist abgewertet wird. Ein Paradebeispiel für einen solchen Beschreibungsmodus ist der Neologismus lyrische Soziologe des US-amerikanischen Soziologen Andrew Abbott. Der Artikel stellt Abbotts lyrischen Ansatz eingehend vor und argumentiert, dass mit dem lyrischen Darstellungsverfahren das vielversprechende Angebot einer soziologischen Heuristik vorliegt, eine Form von emotionaler Einbildungskraft zu stimulieren. Nachdem der Artikel die programmatischen Leitlinien einer deskriptiven Soziologie vorgestellt hat, nähert er sich aus drei Perspektiven Abbotts lyrischer Soziologie, um deren substanziellen Beitrag zu einer deskriptiv verfahrenden Soziologie zu profilieren: Erstens stellt der Artikel die charakteristischen Merkmale von lyrischer Soziologie vor; er qualifiziert zweitens ihren heuristischen Nutzen. Und drittens prüft der Artikel die Potenziale und Grenzen einer lyrischen Soziologie am Beispiel der ethnografischen Forschung des Anthropologen Didier Fassin.

Schlüsselwörter

Andrew Abbott Beschreibung Deskriptive Imagination Heuristik Semantische Erklärung Ethnographie Didier Fassin 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Dominic Angeloch, Andreas Folkers, Sebastian Giacovelli and Andrea Züger for comments on this paper. I also want to thank Sina Farzin for her comments on a preliminary version and the two anonymous reviewers for helping me to improve the paper.

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Copyright information

© Österreichische Gesellschaft für Soziologie 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyJustus Liebig University GiessenGiessenGermany

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