An Introduction to Social Theory and Health

Graham Scambler, University College London, UK
Editor, Social Theory & Health

When we made the case for introducing a new journal in a fairly crowded field we stressed that its mission would be to bring closer together – to bridge – two hitherto discrete literatures, social theory on the one hand and empirical research on health and health care on the other. Hence our title: Social Theory and Health. The inaugural issue was published in the autumn of 2003, since when the journal has grown from strength to strength. We have found our niche.

Even since 2003 social media and their reach and influence have grown exponentially. Moreover they encompass audiences well beyond academia. Given the current onus on public engagement on the part of universities and allied institutions it is perhaps surprising that communities of scholarship have on the whole been tardy in adopting and adapting to social media. Or perhaps it is not that surprising since most forms of popular communication have in the past been frowned upon, unrecognized and unrewarded!

Times are changing however, and innovative technologies and media are becoming mainstream and can no longer be entirely ignored or sidelined either by hard-line theorists or researchers or by their line managers. Facebook and Twitter (see @SocThHlth) are in common use, but it is perhaps blogging that has proved optimally attractive in academic circles. Social theorists and health researchers committed to blogging are numerous and transnational. The blogs of some are read by thousands as opposed to the normal run of peer review papers published in the more esoteric and arcane journals. So blogs have the potential to reach large and diverse publics as well as disciplinary or area specialists.

Blogs have several appealing characteristics, or so it seems to me. First and most obviously, they can make one’s work accessible to new and non-expert audiences. This requires, second, translations into more readily comprehensible formats and vocabularies, which is intrinsically worthwhile! And third, and excitingly, they afford an opportunity to think aloud. There are of course restraints: for those aspiring to or anxious about career advancement, for example, it is still the case that publishing in high impact journals is paramount, so it can be imprudent to prematurely leak ideas or data. There may be thieves about.

We hope to recruit as well as attract bloggers to parade their intellectual wares via our journal website. The invitation is a broad one. We are open to a multiplicity of different contributions. We specifically encourage submissions from ‘Southern’, post-colonial, feminist, disability theorists and health care workers and activists worldwide. The single constraint is that issues of theory and health are raised, preferably innovatively but possibly only in passing. As one of us has demonstrated, it is possible to blog too much (see http://www.grahamscambler.com), but the future is displacing the present even as I write.  Drafts should be submitted to Graham Scambler at: grahamscambler@hotmail.com.

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