Spring 2015 Readings

Sociology 590: Practicing Sociology [Spring 2015]

Sociologists in Action
Korgen, Kathleen Odell, Jonathan M. White, and Shelley K. White. 2013. Sociologists in Action: Sociology, Social Change, and Social Justice. SAGE.

Annotations of each chapter can be found below.

Chapter 1: The Sociological Perspective

As sociologists we are encouraged to use our sociological imagination and sociological eye to relate our personal experiences to larger social issues. Our commitment as sociologists should be to notice social patterns and become activists and/or encourage activism to address those social issues, which we have identified. In the first chapter of Sociologists in Action (Odell, White and White 2014) we find four stories that serve as examples of sociologists who took action. In “Sociology: Promise and Potential through Praxis”, Cheryl Joseph shares her experience as a child in moving to Los Angeles and how her experience challenged her notions of normativity. That life experience moved her to deconstruct the notions around normativity and encouraged her to teach her students through “hands on” experiences. The second story by Mayra Gómez, summarizes the importance of sociology and its relation to human rights. She claims that all abuses of human rights are “human-made”, therefore concluding that the link between the two is critical in order to illuminate the social struggles and inequalities. Judith Wittner in “Stand Up and Speak Out” interestingly points out the power dynamics that occurs in classrooms. Even though she advocates for the defiance of power structures and positions, she realized that in her classroom she “had strong emotions invested in being the powerful professor who enlightens her misinformed students (2014:12)”. Lastly, Georgette F. Bennett recognized that not all sociologists belongs or have to be part of the academia or “ivory tower”.

Added by: Stephanie Martínez-Ramírez
Last updated: May 19, 2015.

Chapter 2: Theory

This chapter focuses in how sociological theory can inform and help understand the social patterns. It encourages moving beyond the theory and applying it to different meaningful social contexts. The first piece illustrates how mixed-race theory can speak to the various identities that an individual might posses and the intersections that exist among them. In “Doing Sociology: Creating Equal Employment Opportunities”, Menah Pratt-Clarke promotes the use of Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice (TASJ) model and the “Straight A” approach (Ask, Analyze and Act) to encourage research and policy changes in institutions. Finally in “Using Sociology for College Success” by Laura Nichols, the author takes into consideration the differences in students’ patterns of behavior, learning styles, discussions, among other characteristics in relation to one demographic marker she had not considered before. Is the individual a first-generation college student or a continuing-generation student? The focus of this chapter is summarized in the next quote:

“Social Change does not happen without action and praxis. It requires an activist-an individual who can coordinate, track issues, and bring people and teams together (2014:29).”

Added by: Stephanie Martínez-Ramírez
Last updated: May 19, 2015. 

Chapter 3: Research Methods

Chapter 4: Culture

Chapter 5: Socialization

Chapter 6: Deviant Behavior

Chapter 7: Social Movements

Chapter 8: Stratification and Social Class

Chapter 9: Race and Ethnic Relations

In chapter nine of Sociologists in Action, the work of four public sociologists are featured. These sociologists all have one thing in common—they use their sociological tools to promote racial justice.

C.N. Le shares his experience of embracing his Asian American heritage through blogging his experience in “Bridging the Campus and the Community: Blogging About the Asian American Experience”. The blogs are written for the public to serve as a source of information for young Asian Americans who may have grown up isolated from their history and culture, and also functions to mobilize the Asian American community in times of crises.

In an institutional ethnography of Native American women’s healthcare, feminist sociologist Barbara Gurr shares the ways we can lessen racial discrimination in “The Responsibilities of Relationships: Using Sociology to Build Meaningful Alliances”. This piece focuses on building and strengthening alliances between Native Americans and non Native Americans across racial lines. Gurr’s sociological skills allowed for the analysis of American institutions, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of these institutions as a path towards improvement. Mark Patrick George also uses sociological tools to fight racial injustices in the educational system in Georgia in “Putting Sociology to Work in Winnersville, USA”. After collecting data on city schools in Georgia, it revealed academic disparities in schools through internal segregation, retentions and disciplinary actions. In “Methods of Truth and Reconciliation”, David Cunningham shares how the partnership of university students in an applied research methods class and the Mississippi Truth Project were able to “connect the dots between past discrimination and racial inequity in present-day Mississippi…[and] to ‘shape an inclusive and equitable future” (164).

Added by: Nicole Chappelle
Last updated: April 7, 2015

Chapter 10: Sex, Gender and Sexuality

In chapter ten of Sociologists in Action, four public sociologists share the ways that they have worked towards positive social change through addressing topics of gender, sex and sexuality.

Rebecca Plante discusses her evaluative work on HIV/AIDS education and prevention efforts with undergraduates interviewing college students on what “hooking up” means in “Sex in Some Cities: Explorations of AIDS/HIV Education and Hooking Up”.

In “A Public Sociology of Gender and Masculinity”, Michael Kimmel shares findings from his book Guyland. Through interviews of more than 400 men between the ages of 16 and 26, Kimmel discovered that “many forces conspire together to keep [young men] from developing a life plan, a mental map of where they want to go and how to get there” (169). He uses his work as a vehicle to encourage men to work for gender equality by consulting with educational institutions and other structures.

Shannon Bell uses photography and narratives to understand injustices in West Virginia coalfields in “The Southern West Virginia PhotoVoice Project: Community Action Through Sociological Research”. This participatory action research project of 40 women empowered participants and provided a platform for voicing community concerns and hopes for positive change.

In “Getting the Message Out”, Susan Stall describes how she and colleague Roberta Feldman conducted a ten-year action research project with women residents in a public housing development in Chicago, Illinois after threats of a demolition to the Wentworth Gardens housing development. Their work included featuring residents-activists in television segments to discuss organizing successes and discuss their community-building actions. They published the book, The Dignity of Resistance: Women Residents’ Activism in Chicago Public Housing (Feldman and Stall 2004). In addition, Wentworth resident-activists accepted a National Social Advocacy Award from the American Planning Association in 2005, and published a play adaptation of their book called, A Neighborhood Fight: A Play in Two Acts.

Added by: Nicole Chappelle
Last updated: April 7, 2015

Chapter 11: Globalization and Immigration

In this chapter, the topics of globalization and immigration are explored in the context of sociological activism. The examples presented in the chapter, from the inter-racial tensions between white-US citizens and Somali refugees in Auburn, Maine to the creation of the World Social Forum for ‘alterative’ globalization, show how sociologists can use their academic training to combat the macro-scale issues of globalization (and it’s consequences) at the local level. We as trained sociologists can team up with out community and those in our community in need to fight the large-scale issues that effect our lives on a local scale.

The following quote summarizes the gist of the chapter: “Why should college students be the only ones to puzzle through questions, assemble evidence, and debate conclusions? I don’t tell people whom to vote for or what policy stance to take on debates about immigration, but I do push them to become intelligent and informed citizens, using social science evidence to weigh options and consider alternatives.” (p.209)

Added by: Hanna Menefee
Last updated: May 4, 2015

Chapter 12: Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is defined in this chapter as “(1) efforts to ensure that environmental quality and hazards are consistent across social classes, races, ethnicities, and regions, and (2) efforts to ensure that human beings operate in sustainable ways” (p.217). The environmental sociologists who are showcased in this chapter focus on both local and global issues of environmental racism, perceptions of risk, and environmental justice. The authors explain how perceptions of risk are developed, and the ways they get (mis)perceived. Diffusion theory (how technologies and ideas are accepted and adopted across communities) is used by Lou Jacobson to describe how we can understand the development of risk perception. Sociologists in this field do not ask “what can I do to get you to change?” (p.225) but rather focus their efforts on seeking to ask questions about how the community members see the situation at hand. The examples here show “the power of political education and collaborative action by university scholars and community members to transform both the academy and the world around us.” (p.229)

Added by: Hanna Menefee
Last updated: May 6, 2015

Chapter 13: Social Institutions (Family and Economy)

Chapter 14: Social Institutions (Education, Government and Religion)

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