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Volume 63 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: COLOMBIA AND VENEZUELA


WILLIAM L. CANAK, Professor of Sociology, Middle Tennessee State University

COLOMBIA
Decades of armed conflict, a weak national government, a pervasive presence of narcotrafficking, millions of displaced refugees, and small hope for a peaceful and productive future—these realities define the context for Colombia's richly productive and intellectually cosmopolitan community of sociologists. They merit an international human rights award for continuing to produce a broad-ranging and influential body of empirical research on Colombia's demographic, institutional, and cultural life. Recent innovative research on the coffee industry (item #bi2006001227#) and core institutions (universities, churches, etc.) is complemented by focused analyses of unions (item #bi2006001219#) and public policy formation (item #bi2006001537#). Colombian sociologists' tradition of urban and regional research finds important new empirical studies focusing on civic organizations, neighborhood associations, and municipal assemblies (items #bi2006001500#, #bi2005004798#, #bi2006001497#, and #bi2006001223#). Nevertheless, in these works and virtually all other research, the gravitational center for every consideration remains the pervasive and unrelenting environment of organized armed conflict, albeit marked by focus on specific topics, such as children, kidnapping, social-psychology, and displaced refugee populations (items #bi2006001543#, #bi2006001238#, #bi2006001226#, #bi2006001233#, #bi2006001229#, #bi2006001549#, and #bi2006001619#). Sociologists' awareness of counter-trends, however, is realized in a series of recent studies that target peace movements and civic culture, as well as political socialization (items #bi2006001544#, #bi2006001234#, #bi2006001230#, #bi2006001536#, and #bi2006001235#. Two recent contributions add to the research on the Afro-Colombian population (items #bi2006001492# and #bi2006001540#). Other studies of mass media (item #bi2006001546#), beauty parlors (item #bi2006001496#), and youth values (item #bi2006000047#) celebrate the originality and methodological innovations of current Colombian research into popular culture.

VENEZUELA
While the Chávez regime has captured international attention and focused interest on Venezuela's oil economy, opposition mobilization, and broad-based social programs of redistribution, sociological research continues to address a diverse set of pragmatic concerns. Institutional responses to disaster (item #bi2005003013#) and violence (item #bi2006001225#) confirm a trend toward greater focus on contemporary and critical political economy by Venezuelan sociologists (item #bi2004002745#). This critical stance is also expressed in recent studies of labor unions, increased urban segregation according to socioeconomic class (item #bi2004002767#), and mass media coverage of homosexuals (item #bi2006001222#). Venezuelan sociologists' traditional strength in demographic (item #bi2006001224#) and public health (item #bi2005002999#) research remains vital. Finally, regional economic studies of rural society (item #bi2004002715#) translate traditional US sociological concerns with the impact of technology on modernization.

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