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Unit 1 Awakening the sociological imagination


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Unit.1 Towards an introduction to the study of society. Awakening the sociological imagination 1

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Unit 1 Awakening the sociological imagination

  1. 1. Unit 1: Towards an introduction to the study of society: The awakening of the sociological imagination 1 Objectives:  Define society and explain what sociologists view as a society  Explain and be able to use a sociological perspective  Explain the sociological imagination (a term coined by C. Wright Mills)  Explain how culture shock and the beginner's mind can be useful in demonstrating a sociological perspective.
  2. 2. Society: Society = a group of people who shape their lives in aggregated and patterned ways that distinguish their group from other groups
  3. 3. What does society look like?  The study of society  Society as an object itself (sui generis)  if society is an object, than it can be examined closely and analyzed like any other subject (sounds simple isn’t it? We divide it in pieces and explore each piece carefully)  A sociologist does to society, what a biologist does to a living organism, or a geologist does to a rock:  Society becomes something scientifically weighted, measured and dissected
  4. 4. A geologist studying a rock:
  5. 5. Is Society a concrete object after all?  But, wait…as we begin to dissect this object, we discover that it’s made up of countless other components  Of things like: culture, working class, ethnicity  These things appear to be sui generis (objects on their own) as well: more phenomena to examine by themselves, hmmm, but wait….  And these components can be broken down even further into seemly endless bits and pieces  It gets confusing: daunting, almost impossible to imagine we could analyze something so big, with so many parts, the shapes and boundaries are so fluid
  6. 6. Society looks like this painting by Kandinsky:
  7. 7. Or more like this: Relationships between individuals in a society (social networks)
  8. 8. What can we see?  If we can’t see the whole of society, what can we see? We can see people living their lives, interacting with each other, working, playing, eating, dancing, flirting, lying, fighting, grieving, driving in their cars, ending their lives by own choice, partying, getting married, divorcing, stealing, loosing their minds…..etc  There are limitless observable phenomena for us to analyze sociologically  In fact they are all happening around us right now, every moment of every life  Scoping social phenomena
  9. 9. E.g. Addiction to alcohol?: Mad Men and alcoholism [Sociology of Mad Men] As a sociologist you start wondering what happened in episode 3?
  10. 10. And the ladies in ‘mad men’:
  11. 11. This is what society looks like:  People actively and collectively shape their lives, organizing their social interactions and relationships to produce a real meaningful world: and they do this in patterned ways that (we as) social scientists can analyze.  We are curious to analyze the social processes that everyone experiences and how those social processes create the larger
  12. 12. E.g. The sociology of partying and its possible secondary effects  First shy, drink alcohol, dance, dance, kiss, kiss some more, with the guy, ‘what’s his name again?’ and yeah, let’s go his place… The sun shines, headache, OH NO! a one night stand, with this guy? (Tierra traga me)
  13. 13. E.g. the sociology of first loves /You can not eat nor think clearly, or do anything else, you just think about that person, you want to be with that person, you want to do everything for them, you don’t care if they don’t appreciate it, don’t care if it all comes from one way, if it hurts, if she doesn’t call, you want to lose yourself in their eyes, literally lose yourself… This is the One, I KNOW IT! (not! Or not always! Or to be specific, 95% of the time this is not the one)
  14. 14. Is sociology a science?  Natural science is the study of the physical features of nature and the ways in which they interact and change  Social science is the study of the social features of humans and the ways they interact and change
  15. 15. Positioning sociology among other sciences: sociology economic s psycholog y geograph y Communicati on studies Anthropolo gy History Political science Sociology overlaps with other social sciences, but much of the territory it covers is unique
  16. 16.  Sociology =  the systematic or scientific study of human society and social behavior, from large scale institutions and mass culture to small groups and individual interactionsThe sociology of The Sopranos would deal with family, mafia, loyalty, the experience of crime, morality, immigration, integration etc.
  17. 17. Socius Logos [study of society]  Another more pragmatic definition by Becker (1986): sociology is the study of “people doing things together”  Above definition reminds us of the fact that neither society nor the individual exists in isolation but each is dependent on the intertwined with the other… Humans are social beings :  Not only for survival, but importantly because our very sense of self derives from our membership in society (E.g. family, neighborhoods, etc.)
  18. 18. Awakening the sociological imagination
  19. 19. Micro and Macro sociology  The different sociological perspectives are like the photographers' lenses, allowing different ways of looking at a common subject (Newman, 2000): Sociologist can take:  a Micro sociological lens: zoom lens  a Macro sociological lens:wide-angle lens  or any number of perspectives located on the continuum between the two
  20. 20. Macro and Micro perspectives:  The micro perspective assumes that society’s larger structures are shaped through individual interactions; while,  The macro perspective assumes that society’s larger structures shape those individual interactions  Think of these perspectives as being on a continuum
  21. 21. Levels of analysis: micro- and macro sociology: society culture Social institutions (economics, politics, education, mass media, religion) Social inequality (class, gender, ethnicity) Groups Roles Socialization Interaction self Sociology covers a wide range of topics at different levels of analysis
  22. 22. Sociological Imagination (1)  One quality of mind that all the great social analysts need to possess in order to study social phenomena  The ability to understand “ the intersection between biography and history” C. Wright Mills (1916 - 1962)
  23. 23. Sociological imagination (2)  The sociological imagination requires that we search for the link between the micro and macro levels of analysis  Mill’s characterization of sociology as the intersection between biography and history reminds us that the process works in both directions:  While larger social forces influence individual lives, there are many ways in which our individual lives can affect society as well
  24. 24. Sociology and Common Sense?  Our theories and opinions typically come from ‘common sense’ , every day knowledge and experiences. These can be biased and incidental   This is not the sociological imagination!  The commonsense knowledge, while sometimes accurate, is not always reliable, because it rests on commonly held beliefs rather or assumptions than on systematic analysis of facts.  Doing sociologyis a radical undertaking: it requires from us a willingness to suspend our own pre-conceptions, assumptions and beliefs about the way things are 
  25. 25. Example of the awakening of the sociological imagination:
  26. 26. How to think like a sociologist  1. Never assume anything 2. Get ready to be wrong 3. Ask even more questions 4. Make the everyday strange 5. Embrace life’s complexities
  27. 27. Ways to stimulate the sociological imagination: 1. Try to create in ourselves a sense of what anthropologists call Culture Shock  This term was coined in Anthropology to describe the experience of visiting an exotic foreign country.  The first encounters with the local natives and their way of life can seem so strange to us that they produce a kind of disorientation and doubt about our ability to make sense of things. Putting all judgments aside for the moment  This state of mind is very useful   At this point: when we completely lack an understanding of our surroundings we start truly perceiving what is in front of our eyes
  28. 28. Culture shock In the TV show Lost, six of the characters return from a deserted island to discover that ordinary experiences that they previously took for granted seem strikingly different or unfamiliar Or my favorite analogy for the awakening of the sociological imagination that started with an unbelievable culture shock: Alice in Wonderland What about the Tourists that come for the first time to Aruba, would they experience a similar culture shock?
  29. 29. Sociology Zen (beginner’s mind)  Practice the opposite of the expert’s mind which is so filled with facts, projections, assumptions, opinions and explanations that it can’t learn anything new   You need a Beginners mind: approaching the world without preconceptions in order to see things in a new way…DISCOVERY   Make the assignment Analyzing everyday life: for the next session on Monday, the 22th of November.  We will then test your ability to apply a beginner’s
  30. 30. The practice of Sociology Zen: