Cognitive Empathy with Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr.

Cultural sociologist Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr. says that cognitive empathy enables researchers to bring more humility to their storytelling.
Cognitive Empathy with Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr.
Published January 17, 2023

For everyday activists and socially-conscious advocates of change, storytelling offers a gateway for helping to bring people together and possibly change hearts and minds.

And yet, questions arise: When is or isn’t a story our own to tell?

Joseph C. Ewoodzie Jr. is the Vann Associate Professor of Racial Justice at Davidson College and the author of Getting Something to Eat in Jackson: Race, Class, and Food In the American South, a vivid portrait of African American life in today’s urban South through the lens of food, its history, and access to it.

For two weeks in 2011, 11 months in 2012, and 3 months in 2016, Joseph lived as an unhoused person, worked in a Black-owned BBQ restaurant, shadow low-income families just trying to get by, and sat at fine-dining tables with some of Jackon’s most well-off families to research people and their stories from in-depth, firsthand experience.

As a cultural sociologist, Joseph says that principles of the research method called “ethnography” can help all of us navigate ethical dilemmas of storytelling, including how to tell stories more honestly, respectfully, and humbly.

He says we live in a world that needs as many stories, and as much representation, as possible.

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