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Lecture

SOCY 105 Lecture Notes - C. Wright Mills, White Privilege, Black Feminist Thought


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCY 105
Professor
Beverly Pratt

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SOCY105 9/5/12
Sociological Imagination (C Wright Mills): recognizing the intersection between our personal
biography and history
-It’s inherently biased
-Value- Free Sociology (Max Weber)- doesn’t really exist b/c everyone is biased
o Important what we do w/ our bias
Founders: Carl Marx, Darkheim, Max Weber, WEB DuBois
-Used by media, politicians, lawyers, psychologists
KEY TERMS:
1. Sociological imagination
a. Intersection between personal biography and history, inherently bias, going beyond
boundaries of own experiences, building relationships, empathy, distinguishes between
troubles and issues (indlv vs society), coined by C Wright Mills.
b. Answered using three questions, used by social scientist, media, politicians, lawyers.
2. Oppression
3. Privilege
4. Power
5. Intersectionality
6. Social justice
US has multiple troubles rooted in patterns of racial, gender and class oppression
When solving puzzles, important to
-Think outside of the box
-Understand complex layers
-Realize that problems can be multi- dimensional
Sociological Imagination (C Wright Mills)- “a quality of mind that will help us use information and to
develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world and of what may be
happening w/in ourselves”
-Kaufman (1997)- “…encourages us to recognize the intersection between personal biography
and history. The real analyst of the social world is able to…understand how personal biography
intersects w/ history to inform the social reality.”
-**Equips us to understand history and biography and the relationship between the two w/in
society
Questions using the socy imagination
1. What’s the structure of this particular society as a whole?
2. Where does this society stand in human history?
3. What varieties of men and women now prevail and don’t prevail in this society and in this period?
Distinguishes between “the personal troubles of milieu” and “the public issues of social structure”
-By troubles- occur w/in an individual’s character and w/in the range of his relations with others
oEx. Agency, people
-By issues- matters that transcend these local environments of the individual and the range of his
inner life
oEx. Structure, people (societal)
-Structure (race, class gender, sexuality) vs agency (how we act w/in structure, personal action
based on structure)

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Preface: (Anderson and Collins)
-Social dynamics of class- relationship to gender and race is changing
-2009 global financial crisis
-Race, class and gender shape social issues and experiences in US
-Intersectionality or matrix of domination is central (experience of being gay man differs from
straight)
-Ability to center oneself in lived experiences of others is important to grasping importance of
social factors (empathy)
9/10/12
Employing Sociological Imagination (Iphone)
-Description
-Local Analysis- own relationship to object
-Global Analysis- other people’s relationship to object
-Historical Analysis- what it looked like before and may be in future
Empathy- stepping into other’s shoes
Someone else has design for your resource
“While nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer, it is more difficult trying to understand him”
Intersectionality- matrix of domination/ oppression
-A type of paradigm- fundamental models’ frames of reference we use to organize our
observations and reasoning
oDifficult to recognize b/c explicit, assumed and taken for granted
-Each is a mosaic of many identities
oSexual identity, ethnicity, age, class, race, religion, sex, ability
oRace, class and gender are interconnected
oIdentities are multiplicative, not additive
-Multiple identities and all of them together affect experience of each of his identities (man
identified as latino affect experiences of his gender & sexuality, experience how identify his
sexuality affect how experience his gender and race)
oExperience of being a women/ middle class different between a latino and black person
-Concept developed from sociology, black feminist thought, cultural studies, critical race theory
(Law schools)
Informs understanding of complexities of how people experience privilege and oppression based on
social group memberships
-Markers of difference that do not act independent of one another
-Our various social identities interrelate to negate the possibility of a universal experience of any
one manifestation of oppression
Ex. Privileges of a straight white male are greater and more dominant than a latino, gay man
Oppression: an overarching concept w/ many different manifestations
-Racism, ageism, heterosexism, classism, religious oppression, anti-Semitism
Race, Class and Gender
-Remain foundations for systems of power and inequality, most significant social facts
-All social groups located in system of power relationship in which social location shapes what you
know and others know about you
oPeople in powerful positions w/ clear access to power and education had social
construction of reality and knowledge
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-Be self- reflected to know what own biases are, be less critical
-Additive Approach- comparing and adding people’s identities and how related to other people
-Diversity Approach- thinking others who are different from the norm
-Multicultural Approach- celebrating different cultures and races
9/12/12
Missing People & Others: Joining Together to Expand the Circle
-Went for presidential interview at university, told was very one dimensional
-If not let into front door (of church) go from the back, side or windows
-Always felt like a minority in the US, especially in school
Toward a New Vision [Collins]
-we should recognize that our differing experiences w/ oppression creates problems in the
relationships among us
-Through this recognition, need to build coalitions among common causes.
-Must build empathy to do so
Oppression
-A system that maintains advantage and disadvantage based on social group memberships and
operates, intentionally and unintentionally on individual, institutional and cultural levels
oIndividual- attitudes and actions that reflect prejudice against a social group
oInstitutional- policies, laws, rules, norms and customs enacted by organizations and
social institutions that disadvantage some social groups and advantage other social
groups
Such as religion, government, education, law, media ,health care system
oSocial/ Cultural- social norms, roles, rituals, language, music, art that reflect and
reinforce belief that one social group is superior to another
ex. Display of paintings of presidents who are white and male, feel out of place
-Marilyn Frye (Oppression): created metaphor that America is a bird cage b/c as a bird in cage that
wants to get free only see one wire at a time, knock one wire down realize it’s connected to other
wires so feel oppressed b/c is a complex web
oFrom the outside, must empathize to understand what bird is feeling
oFocus on gender
FEATURES of OPPRESSION
-Pervasive- social inequality is woven throughout social institutions and is embedded w/in
individual consciousness
-Restrictive- structural and material (money) constraints that significantly shape a person’s life
chances and sense of possibility
-Hierarchical- dominant/ privileged groups reap advantage from disempowerment of targeted
groups
-Complex, Multiple, Cross- Cutting Relationships-
opower and privilege are relative depending on own identity
oIndividuals hold multiple complex/ cross cutting social group memberships that configure
relatively to privilege or disadvantage
oIdentity isn’t additive, it’s multiplicative (matrix of domination)
-Internalized- lodged in human psyche
Privilege
-Exclusive advantages or benefits afforded to certain people based on their group identity/ status
oOften unearned and invisible for people enjoying them
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