Society of African Journal Editors

South African Journal of Sociology

Reflections on canons, compilations, catalogues and curricula in relation to sociology and sociology in South Africa

Authors: Ken Jubber

Journal: South African Journal of Sociology

The concept canon is increasingly used to refer to the core concepts, texts, theories and authors in scientific and artistic disciplines. This article examines the appropriateness of this term when used in the social sciences generally and in sociology specifically. It argues that in terms of a strict definition of ‘canon’ sociology does not have a canon and cannot be regarded as a canonical discipline. The concept of a ‘compilatory’ discipline is introduced and discussed via references to the sociological catalogue and the knowledge/power relations that account for the form and structure of the catalogue. Arguments for regarding sociology as a compilatory rather than a canonic discipline are advanced and some consequences of this are explored through a discussion of the debates and struggles that were waged over the sociology curriculum during the apartheid years and more recently. The paper concludes with a call to South African sociologists to recognise the compilatory nature of the discipline and to meet the challenges this implies in the contemporary context and for the renewal of sociology and social transformation in South Africa.