Call for Papers
Special Issue of Critical Sociology
A Critical Assessment of Community-Based Research

Special Issue Editors:
Dave Overfelt, Rochester Institute of Technology
Patricia Molina Costa, MIT Community Innovators Lab

We are seeking proposals for a special issue of Critical Sociologythat will emphasize the doing of community-based research from a multidisciplinary perspective, bringing together high-quality, original, and theoretically driven research that utilizes the community-based approach. Authors are invited to propose articles by January 7, 2013giving a general assessment of the current and future state of the field of community-based or activist research and original research articles using a community-based approach.

Within sociology, former president Michael Burawoy's now infamous 2004 address at the American Sociological Association’s national conference touched off a firestorm of debate on the discipline’s relationship to the world in which our science is embedded. Questions regarding the value of academic work to the rest of the world have become increasingly prevalent within sociology and other disciplines, while many raise concerns that even public academics still try to do things tothe communities we study instead of withthem.

Urban areas face multiple complex challenges – economic, environmental, social, and political – that will alter much of what we now know about cities. Though rich in their engagement of multiple disciplines, urban studies tend toward fragmentation and compartmentalization, leaving urban scholars working in isolation with limited and episodic engagement with communities. These challenges indicate a need to shift away from working to fix isolated problems and toward a multidisciplinary approach emphasizing the great urban potential for innovation in democracy and equity. In this context, new forms of community-university collaboration are needed to strengthen and capitalize on community institutions and assets and to identify, value, and deploy the untapped social and intellectual capital found in urban neighborhoods.

The approach comes with challenges: fostering joint projects between scholars and urban residents can require bridging competing logics, incompatible styles of discourse and attitudes towards authority, or inaccessibility of methods and results, all of which can undermine collaboration. Conflicting needs have traditionally played out in unequal partnerships that do not necessarily benefit the communities. The concept of research justice, or who gets to set the research agenda and benefit from the collaboration, is crucial to advance engaged scholarship.

With the goal of addressing these issues, a group of scholars and activists have recently formed the Urban Research-Based Action Network (URBAN), a multidisciplinary platform that aims at facilitating and promoting engaged scholarship across geographic and disciplinary lines, connecting scholars and activists that are working with struggling communities. The primary purpose of the network is twofold: (1) to contribute to the advancement of this work within academia, and (2) to foster mutually beneficial interdisciplinary and collaborative research projects among scholars and community partners.

As part of this initiative, this special issue of Critical Sociologyseeks authors from a variety of disciplines to provide a general assessment of the current and future state of the field of community-based or activist research and original research articles using a community-based approach. We are currently accepting proposals fitting these broad categories.

To submit your proposal, email title, abstract (250 word max), and detailed contact info for primary author to Dave Overfelt at daveosociologist@gmail.comwith the subject line “ATTN: SPECIAL ISSUE PROPOSAL”. Authors of accepted proposals will be invited to submit articles, all papers are subject to the standard review process at Critical Sociology.