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Structure vs. Agency

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Maggie Cummings

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Lecture Eight: Structure vs. Agency – March 22, 2011
Key Terms:
Race as plural
Race as culturally constructed
Structural victimization
Street culture as opposition to marginalization
Agency as destructive/reinforcing structure
Race and Racism
Modes of exclusion, inferiorization, subordination, exploitation
Present specific and different characters in different social and historical
Racism is different based on place and time, but still retain common themes
In Search of Respect
Role of gender, race, class
Struggle against racism results in personal choices that reinforce that racism
oAgency vs. structure
Agency: Power of individual to choose what to do and how to
act based on intention (must have alternatives)
Structure: Larger forces such as politics, economic status,
institutions, ideologies, etc.
Agency vs. Structure
Social identity of individuals: more than one 'part' as they are dependant on
relationships (ie. Daughter, employee, ethnic group, etc.)
oParts gives us certain rights, responsibilities, and roles
Also individuals with 'free will' who make our own decisions, even though we
are constrained in many ways by society and convention
What is society?
oAbstraction and individuals
oPeople sharing the same social identity tend to act in similar manners
oWearing certain clothing
oDurkheim: Suicide (1897) (VSI ch. 3)
Study on suicide statistics in Paris
Likelihood of suicide correlated to social status
Urban vs. Rural
Protestants vs. Catholics/Jews
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