Claudia Robles (2004-2010, PhD)

Claudia RoblesI first came to Essex in 2004 to pursue a MA in Sociology of Development and ended completing my PhD in Sociology in 2010. I chose to pursue my postgraduate studies at Essex’s Department of Sociology due to its past and present, its commitment to social change and equal opportunities for all and the excellence of its work.

Life in Essex, and Colchester in particular, confronted me in many ways with preconceived ideas of development and was often a challenging experience. Intercultural exchange was a significant gain of this period, as well as affections that will endure for life. In professional terms, Essex marked me deeply. Writing and research skills, ethnography, econometrics, political economy, development, were all tools I gained and that prepared me to perform in diverse platforms, including the academia, international organizations and politics.

In 2009, I joined the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and since 2012, I have worked as a social policy specialist for UNICEF El Salvador. Writing background documents for policy-making might seem distant from traditional sociological practice. However, I see sociology as immanent in these tasks imprinting a perspective to approach social reality, an eager interest for seeking explanations, not conforming to facts in the surface.

I think of the future of sociology from a land where this is uncertain. After enduring 12 years of civil war in the recent past, today it has become a post-conflict society and a low middle-income country. Yet, 5800 children and adolescents were killed by gang activity in El Salvador between 2008 and 2012. 50% of children and adolescents live in monetary poverty. Most of them will only occasionally relate to the state, mostly through public education that they will likely abandon at the age of 14 or by receiving a cash transfer that will partly alleviate their more acute needs. In such a context, citizenship and any form of social cohesion finds several obstacle to develop, becoming a matter of policy attention.

For periods, sociology was banned in the country. Today, while researchers are scarce, society has few observers and remains rather blind to understand how social ties have deteriorated to such a point. The national and international academia says little in probably one of the most interesting countries to do sociology in the world.

Yet, I never imagined the importance of sociological thinking until I came to this country. With few tools to examine society, there are few hints to start improving things from the deep. Such a change goes beyond institutional or policy transformations; it requires citizenry wanting to live or act together, convinced that this is still worthy. Digging into people’s motivations, drives, collective frustrations, fears and dreams might provide a starting point to build a new future.

Do I think there is a future for sociology in 50 years? I certainly do, as long as we decide that social forms of organization are still necessary. Bear in mind that this is not granted. Do I think it is relevant? More than ever, as I have witnessed its capacity to lead change in people’s everyday lives. What do I expect from sociological practice in the future? I envisage an academia interacting with other actors beyond its physical and symbolic walls; I see sociologists submerged in different arenas, hunger for understanding, conducting organized practices to uncover factors explaining social facts, empowered by their research’s impacts, humble before the immensity of the never ending task.

 

This is an entry from the book: Imaginations- 50 Years of Essex Sociology.

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