In our series “Meet the LOC” we would like to introduce you to the members of our Local Organizing Committee. This week we talk to Chair of the LOC Rudolf Richter about the similarities between society and the theater stage, and how these made him want to study sociology.
Family sociology is my main area of interest. The reason why? Everybody seems to have something to say about it, but from a very personal point of view. I want to grasp it scientifically. Family sociology is double thrilling: you act as a scientist in a field full of personal opinions and prejudices. Great for a sociologist. Besides family sociology my interests are in interpretative and constructivist procedures. Transition processes, transformations are areas of study. Leaving home, becoming a parent, especially becoming a father, managing life course transitions, those are overall interests. Currently I am engaged in an EU project about families and the issue of gendered transition to parenthood. Shifting lifestyles excite me as well. As professor at a university I find my task lies in both research and teaching. Therefore a lot of my time is devoted to supervising and giving seminars and lectures – I like to give lectures.
How did you know you wanted to study sociology?
That´s a tricky question because it was a spontaneous decision, I didn’t give it much thought. In the theater I sometimes prefer to sit on the side of the row, which allows a peak behind the scene. Looking at a play, the main focus is on the content of course, but at the same time I am fascinated by how it works. What are the essentials needed for a play to be performed? Sociology is a field which looks behind the scenes. I was more interested in the structure that holds society together than in individual sensitivities. Well I was not disappointed by sociology and I have stayed in the field for forty years so far.
Do you have a mentor or (professional or personal) hero?
No heroes. But I was impressed by my former boss, Professor Erich Bodzenta, who gave me freedom and possibility for development as a young scientist. I was inspired by the methodology and the ideas of Karl Popper, the strength of testing and the political issue of the Open Society.
Which personal achievement are you the most proud of?
I think I can combine research and teaching very well and like to disseminate research. In the last years I was able to help young researchers to publish and enter the international research field. A lot of my students are working in the research field. That´s great. I am most proud of having reorganized the dean’s office of the faculty of social sciences with several study programs and 15.000 students. And to have promoted the faculty and given early stage researchers a chance to develop: we had 4 research assistants when I started as dean in 2004 and now we have over a hundred.
What is your favorite spot in the town where you live?
It used to be a coffeehouse, near the sociological institute. If I have time I stroll through the center of the city in Vienna, even at the times it is full of tourists. It has quiet areas, historic places and stores in all price classes. Everything is there, and there are places and restaurants where you can relax – but I’m keeping those secret.
You’re stranded on a desert island and get to bring one food, one beverage and one book – which would it be?
Definitely: Roast Pork, Beer and Thomas Mann´s The Magic Mountain.
Rudolf Richter is a professor of sociology at the University of Vienna with special research interests in family, transitions in the life course, life styles, interpretive theory and qualitative methods. He served as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna from 2004 to 2014 and was the president of RC06 Family Research of the ISA from 2006 to 2014.