What is Sociology?
• The scientific study of society, the way that it is organized and the way that people
behave in relation to each other
• A way of thinking and a particular way of questioning the world
• Examing and reflecting on how we are shaped by our interactions
• The disciplthe has a history
• 19 century – Marks Weber, Karl Marx such thinkers developed the discipline
• All of the thinkers argued that individuals understood outside their.
• Sociological imagination
• C. Wright Mills aimed to reconcile two different and abstract concepts of social
reality – the “individual” and “society.”
• quality of mind that helps us see the connection between individual identities and
wider general social processes
• how we are shaped in number of ways by societal context
• Difference between common sense and sociological thinking
• Sociology is not the same as everyday common sense, it involves questioning
• Sociological thinking involves suspending the common sense and thinking
critically and analytical about everyday things shake up the things a bit
• Sociologyical thinking focuses on collective life on how we interact and relate to
Reading: Subjective Troubles
• Focus on subjective troubles involves looking at our interactions with others and how
these interactions create meanings that shape our views of the world and in turn, how
• subjective troubles approach challenges the idea that each of us is a stable or essential
individual that remains the same always and forever static
• Instead, this approach emphasises that how we see ourselves, as a student, are
produced based on our interactions and social context
• I do not exist before my social interactions
• We are socialized by our parents, socials and society at large --> we are made in our
interactions with others
• The concepts we use to define ourselves are created in different social historical
1. How do we become who we are?
2. How is it that we can communicate and understand each other?
3. What are the meaning we share?
4. How do these shared meaning lead us to act certain ways
5. Why do we each behave and think in the ways we do? Reading: Am I Free by Pavlich?
• Challenges everyday views that selves are naturally free
• Notes the extent to which Canadian society is based on images of individual freedom
• Our conceptions of individuals and freedom are products of social interactions at given
moments in history
• Michel Foucault states that individuals are not born free; instead, power relations create
both individuals and the particular freedoms ascribed to them
• Pavlich counter argues that power is sometimes exercised precisely by enforcing “free”
• “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains” (Rousseaue 1983, 165) – The social
• Existentialists such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus believed that human beings
are always and inescapably condemned to be free
• Rousseau notes that "to renounce liberty is to renounce being a man, to surrender the
rights of humanity and even its duties (1983 , 170)
• In his book The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes describes 'war of each against all' so that
life is 'nasty, burtish and short'. Also believed in the social contract
• Durkheim --> pre-modern societies are of a type held together by 'mechanical solidarity'
- tasks are simply structured, regulated and divided (woman, tribesmen, clans).
• However, modern captialism produces society in which labour tasks are broken down
into discrete components, become specialized and require many individuals to get the
job done (pen in your hand) --> INTERDEPENDENCE - social "glue" that he calls
• Foucault believed that we are not born free and the concept of freedom in always
• Marx and Engles chanlenged the view that freedom is universal - "The human being
animal which can individuate only in the midst of society" Marx -- means that each of us,
with our different identities - from the clothes we wear to our self image - are creations of
Know the liberal view and Foucault view of freedom
1. What does Pavlich ask us to reflect on?
2. What are the two approaches to freedom that Pavlich identifies ?
3. What are the two approaches to power that Pavlich indentifies?
4. What is the liberal view of freedom and power?
• Freedom is a basic and natural attribute of human beings; we are free by nature. As
humans, we can make rational decisions on how to live our lives.
• " I am born free" • Power is the oppoiste of freedom; power is restricting and constraining
• Power is something someone has such as the state or the government of canada
• You are free as long the power is kept in check
5. What is the Foucauldian view of freedom and power?
Foucault believed that we are not born free and the concept of freedom in always changing.
The phrase "I am free" is understood by a given historical context. Our idea of being free is
shaped by our contemporary relations.
Power is a relation, not something someone has. . Power is a productive force, it shapes who
we are, our actions. Power is not constraining, instead it creates freedom --> prisoner treatment.
Disciplinary power enables you to behave a different (mostly positive) way.
Reading: Who Am I? How Can I Become? pg 34-47
• Our identities involve doing things that show our identity to others.
• Identity is a performance in which we create ourselves.
• Our identities are shaped through our social interactions for example social norms or
conventions ( a good father is like this...., a good daughter is like this...)
• “We explore how girls talk about their social presence at school, and we refer to their
identity projects as ‘doing girlhood.’ [...]By acting within constraints that shape their daily
existence, girls negotiate their identities while making decisions about how to interact
with others. However, we distinguish between ‘agency’ as what girls say and do and
‘power’ as processes that make some ways of being sayable and doable, and others
not” (p. 35)
• Do some people have more agency than others in creating their identity? Are
there different constraints on different genders?
• Yes! Class differences
• Does this agency to create one's identity have any social impact? Can creating an
identity outside the norms create social change?
• Pavlich- the question bolded is not as straight forward as you might think - it involves a
lot of work, social interactions and constraints such as norms or conventions
• article invites to ask questions on being a girl or even a boy
Reading: Am I Woman? by Hird
• Hird invites us to look at gender identities by looking at how in Canada we look at gender
• Sociologist look at notion of gender by look at the wage differences or different prison
• Hird looks into the category of woman --> does the category of woman or man belong to
a universal reality that is based in nature?
• Are words like male and female linked to us biologically or given meaning by society? • Argues sex and gender are socially constructed - built by the meaning of society
• Essentialism -
• Sex - genetic makeup (anatomical differences), these differences are natural and
unchanging and with this notion, we can easily differentiate between genders biologically
(no grey areas - either male or female)
• Gender is the socially acceptable practices for either man or woman. Unlike sex, it is
understood to be something that can be changed.
• Sex shapes our gender which leads to our sexuality and create our identity.
• Hird wants to question or ask:
• maybe biolgoy is not sepearte from culture? Maybe biology is also socially
• Maybe sex can be changed like gender can be?
• Maybe biology is not distinguished between males and femals as consistantly as we
• Sexually difference between bodies is socially created in the ways our bodies are put
into categories. Bodies are made meaningful through their interpretation
• Trans people can invite us to ask questions about gender and sex
• Gender is a performance with just different actors who dance to the tunes of society
How are emotions social?
• Katz is inviting us to reflect on this question. According to the dictionary, emotions are
conscious mental reactions such as anger or free that are directed at a specific object
directive towards something. Emotion is a feeling that you experience such love ,fear or
• Emotion is something we experience and feel as an individual/as subjectively
• Our emotions are the true expression of our sense of ourselves.
• Emotions or feeling are shaped by our social interactions
What does it mean to approach emotions socially?
• Cultural and social context of emotions – how is that some emotions such as crying
at a funeral are tied? How are some emotions allowed or disallowed? The pressure to
enjoy at a holiday a social requirement
• History of Emotions
• Social Meaning of emotions - where does the meaning of love come from? How are
we made to feel and how might we feel otherwise?
What is the emotion reason divide?
• Emotion are subjective feelings
• Rules about where emotion should be no bias or subjective opinion in a research
• Reason involves thinking – using the mind to come to a decision or judgement logically
(use your head, not your heart)
• There is a hierarchy and emotions are at the bottom of the pyramid and reason on the
top. This hierarchy was used to differentiate man and animal or man or women. Men were reasonable and women were emotional thus irrational. First nations were
considered savages according to the Europeans
• To be civilized person, you need to keep your emotions in check
Emotional Labour and Feeling Rule
Emotional labour (check glossary)
Effective rules that define and govern appropriate and inappropriate in various circumstances
• Management of feelings – regardless of how you are feeling, you have to put on a smile
• Production of feelings – you have to feel happy in order to sell (salesmen)
• Commodification of feelings - Emotions become part of what is being sold.
• Reality Television – the way emotion is used or exploited in the shows. The show sells
itself based on these emotions
• Mother – the social expectations of mother – nurturing, support, caring
• Why are the stories of mother killing their children played so much on news?
• Why is it that the mother falls in love with her child the minute it is born?
Include examples – homophobia
Know subject troubles
Use the vocab in the article
• the construction of mental illness
• ways we decide what is mentally ill and what is not
• how our understanding of mental illness today (popular imagination) is something that has been
created socially through a set of practices and techniques.
Word I associate with mental illness: sick, unstable, unhappy
Medical model of mental illness:
• how we understand mental illness in North America right now
• approach that treats madness, mental distress, mental disorders as a disease (something in body
that needs to be corrected)
• connected to psychiatry, which then connected it to medicine
• emphasis on biological and physiological factors
• treatment will target this (ex: electro compulsive therapy) (medication) • people who suffer from mental distress and people who do not is differentiated by biological
processes, not social factors
• DSM: book that diagnoses mental disorders… grief was once separate from depression, now
may be diagnosed as a mental disorder.
Critiques of Medical Model
• Form of moralizing (deciding what is normal and what is abnormal) - argues that by categorizing
some behaviors as ill, as a disease, psychiatrists are making moral judgments of what is normal
and appropriate behavior. Categories are created about who is normal and who is abnormal.
Gives us distinction of what mental illness is. Categorizes deviants (people who stray from
any set of norms that threaten the given community) medical model contributes to social
construction of normality.
• Fails to recognize social factors-
• Perpetuates gender, class and racial stereotypes- some people are likely to be diagnosed -
overrepresentation of women and colored people in the mental illness. This has to do with how
certain stereotypes end up producing (ends up reproducing the stereotypes)
• Women actin out of norm can be seen as a mental illness just because it is a deviation from the
The notion of the hysterical women
• Racial stereotypes - research in the US that shows as how racial minorities develop different
reactions to racism. They develop fear which is considered abnormal and leads to mental illness
• People who are consider mentally ill are deviating from the norms
• Madness and race - colonial context - black community (mad and irrational)
• began in the 1980's to bring awareness to mental illness
• counters the medical model