Last night I watched the documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (available on Netflix), which is about Ai Weiwei, a prominent, yet controversial Chinese artist and activist. A section of the film focuses on Ai Weiwei’s work following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which seeks to illuminate the sociopolitical issues that contributed to the high death toll, and specifically the shoddy “tofu” construction of government school buildings. I thought this perspective related to the idea of diasaters as social constructions, which reflect systemic weaknesses, as discussed in Tierney (2007).
Additionally, I thought Ai Weiwei’s impressive ability to engage the public and to make pointed and astute sociopolitical commentary through his art to be very relevant to the idea of public sociology. Perhaps in our work as public sociologists we could learn and improve our own methods of presentation and public engagement thought strong voices outside the academic community, such as Ai Weiwei.
For more about the documentary: