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Sociology 2234E
Lesley Harman

The Stranger This lecture is about the social interaction between strangers. Simmel: wrote a famous essay on the stranger in 1908 Simmel was from a small down where everyone knew when a stranger came into town -The wondering merchant came to be the image of the stranger -Simmel came up with the concept of the “potential wanderer” - Always male – patriarchal society - There were a few types of female strangers but they were typically absent from literature. The two types of female strangers were 1) Street Walkers – bad girls 2) Anthropologists – who were travellers it was unusual for women to get an advanced degree at this time and so there was not much study done on this group A third type of stranger emerged for study In the 1980s Three social demographic trends that merged to make the bag lady (stranger) in the 1980s. 1) Battered women’s movement – women were encouraged to leave abusive relationships, however, battered women’s shelters wre often filled up so these women had no place to go 2) Gentrification – happens in Down Town gores of major urban centers. The cheapest housing is often located in the down town area. In the 1980s slums were being bought up and turned into office space and condos. The people who relied on the cheap rent no longer had housing 3) De-incarceration – many mental health facilities began to empty. It was cheaper to change your patients from inpatients to out patients. However, there was no safety net provided for these women. Where do they get jobs? Identification? Housing? Professor Harman interviewed homeless women in Toronto. 50% of them had previously been incarcerated (in jail or a mental hospital) Schutz wrote about the stranger in 1944. He wrote about soldiers returning home after the war to find that trustworthy knowledge recipes no longer worked. You are a stranger when you don’t know the “taken for granted” rules of membership. First week orientation at university is about building connections – students are supposed to no longer be strangers at the end of the week. Orientation is about building a community and creating membership. Culture as Communication Edward T Hall wrote the Silent Language - He taught diplomats how not to offend people through nonverbal communication - He argued that culture is a form of communication - Culture is part of our body and our non verbal communication. - We do not know we are in a society until a stranger shows us what is different Ethnocentrism - Belief that ones own culture is natural and superior to others - People are not always ethnocentric on purpose - Strangers teach us that there are other ways of doing things – such as eating 1) Between cultures - Differentiates groups by becoming obvious when groups meet - Gives members a “home” or a sense of belonging when they are confronted by different cultures (example: Canadian Embassy or flag) - Sometimes symbols are useful for getting a desired reaction. For example you may be treated better while traveling if you have a Canadian flag 2) Within Cultures - Gives members a history, a collective “already” having been there (Schutz) Time and space: - Different cultures relate time and space differently. This may cause conflict between cultures if not understood. - For western culture time is viewed as a commodity. Waiting is not viewed as
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