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INTRODUCTION

Th e contributors to this volume fi t a rather fl exible defi nition of sociology. Th e authors of the following chapters are affi liated with a range of departments, programs, and institutional centers, including Sociology, Women’s Studies, Criminal Justice, Feminist Studies, African American Studies, and Chicano/a Studies, among others. It is not their departmental affi liations that make their works sociological. Instead, it is that each of the contributors reveals in her or his work and in the responses provided in the following pages a vibrant sociological imagination. Th ey are adept at linking biography-their own and that of their respondents-with history and the larger social forces that compel both. For some, it is experiencing largescale historical shift s fi rst hand that sparked their sociological imagination. Th e contributors to this volume are also experts at illuminating the oft en invisible links between private troubles and public issues (Mills 1959). Th ey think critically about how institutions shape lives and the diffi culties associated with undertaking research that makes a diff erence. Th ese scholars have taken these common concerns to fi eld research sites in far-fl ung localesfrom Philadelphia to Saigon-and in a variety of settings-from neighborhoods to nail salons. Th e set of responses included in the following pages provides an invaluable and oft en intimate, survey of what sociologists do, how and why.