A Sociological Method linked me to Charles Tilly for ever

The first time that I heard about the Content Analysis method was in a friendly chat the last time that Colombian sociologist Rafael Gutiérrez Girardot, emeritus of University of Bonn, visited Bogota in 1997. Gutiérrez Girardot not only mentioned the effectiveness of the method, but also its usefulness in cultural analysis. Coming from him, these comments could not fail to be taken into account and the idea turned over and over in my mind for some time. The method was almost unknown among historians who study Colombian topics and although a few sociologists did know about it in theory, no studies had yet applied it to the history or sociology of Colombia. This lack of knowledge regarding the matter raised doubts and disbelief in me regarding its effectiveness in reaching general conclusions, as well as uncertainty, since research carried out with said method might not be accepted in academic circles.

Nevertheless, the theme of ‘representations’ intrigued me and sparked my curiosity so I mentioned it in various academic centers in New York, with no response, until the magic formula of “Open, Sesame!” was heard as an echo in the office of Charles Tilly in Columbia University in 1998. Given the intellectual respect that Professors Charles Tilly and Louise Tilly both inspired in me, I immediately decided to work with the method and to apply it.

I met Charles Tilly as a student, partly at the New School for Social Research and afterwards at Columbia University. When Louise retired from the New School, I started working almost exclusively with him. He was the principal director of my Ph.D dissertation in historical sociology. And during long discussions in his office, he became my idol. My respect for him came out, not only from his academic admirable capacities, but from his human deepness. Living humanity was a matter that he understood as well as its history. Therefore, a capacity to understand human condition in depth was incorporated in his daily life. I have found a great coherence between his intellectual believes and his daily acts.

I started believing that he had inherited the values from the deepest of the Western tradition that have built a path to democracy, to equality and to friendship through centuries. He was the kind of American that has built the good side of America as it is today. The kind of American that we foreigners admire from outside. The kind of American that we all must follow in order to continue on the Western path based on hard work and on respect for human kind.

That is the kind of human being that has passed away. The human being that I will never forget no matter where I’ll be. The human that I will ever miss.

Victoria Peralta (Ph.D. 2005, New School)
Independent Scholar and Writer, Bogota, Columbia

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