Professional Vision

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Professionals are socialized into particular ways of seeing things, perspectives with which laypeople constantly contend. What does it take to cultivate, authorize, and institutionalize a professional vision so that it gains and maintains public acceptance as valuable and legitimate knowledge? To answer this and other related questions, this course begins by examining professional training practices, thereby exploring how particular professions come to see the way they do. We go on to examine the immediate and far-reaching effects of different types of professional vision—whether on clients, on institutions, or on broader social perceptions and constructions—with an interest how professional vision materializes. Along the way, we will find that not unlike academic disciplines, there are turf wars over what kind of things, people, and problems falls into which professional purview, as well as arguments about which ways of seeing are superior. Furthermore, we will discover that—whether studying social workers, lawyers, or air traffic controllers— professionals are always under pressure to legitimate the ways they see things and to establish trust with various publics; they undertake this part of their work with unevenly distributed social resources, including different degrees of established authority and institutional security or precarity. Close readings of American pragmatist philosophy, as well as classic works by Weber and Foucault, will help us make sense of our ethnographic material. Thus, this course will be relevant to students interested in knowledge production and expertise, authority and authorization, the sociology of complex institutions, pedagogical practices, and pragmatism, as well as those who are interested in the study of professions and professionals per se.

Courses are subject to change at any time. Please check mySSA for the quarters, days, and times that courses will be held, as well as room numbers.