Spreading the Contexts Gospel

Letters. We get letters—or, actually, emails and voicemails and blog posts.

Some can be a bit edgy, others are insightful and often amusing. But all are passionate and reaffirm our belief that we have as dedicated a following as any academic publication out there.

One of our current favorites is from a loyal reader who told us about how, instead of stacking back issues on a shelf in his office, he leaves them in choice locations—the coffee shop magazine rack, the gym, the waiting room at the doctor’s office—for others to pick up and peruse.

This small act of guerilla marketing is a wonderful reminder of Contexts’ overarching mission and goal: to bring sociology to broader, previously untapped audiences and public attention. With the help of the American Sociological Association’s media folks, in fact, we’ve had some successes recently on this front.

Robin Simon, for example, was featured in Newsweek, among other media outlets, after her piece on the stresses of parenting—also excerpted in the Utne Reader—appeared in these pages last spring. We were similarly gratified to see media using Jen’an Read’s contribution to our fall issue to help inform public understandings of Muslims in America. And we don’t think it was coincidental that David Brooks used the phrase “self-immolation express” in his syndicated New York Times column not long after our article on the topic (by Michael Biggs) appeared in the same issue in which Brooks himself was interviewed by Jerry Jacobs.

We like to think our new website, contexts.org, has played a role here as well. Our various blogs now get thousands of hits each day. And these online readers also practice guerilla marketing, linking to Contexts sites to spread the sociological word. If you haven’t had a chance yet, visit contexts.org to check out the Contexts Crawler, which tracks sociology in the national and inter national media, the popular Sociological Images blog, or one of our new podcasts.

Of course, there’s still a good deal of work left to do before we achieve total media saturation. But now that we have our feet under us, we will continue to spread the Contexts gospel, one strategically placed piece of sociology at a time.