Oops! Discovered this post written during the winter quarter in my “drafts” folder and am publishing it now…
Last week in discussion section for Contemporary Sociological Theory I covered Harold Garfinkel, Erving Goffman, and the limitations of structuralism.
To review Garfinkel and Goffman, I played the speed-dating video below (suggested by one of my students), and had the students analyze it in small groups with this worksheet.
In a nutshell, we discussed how the video provides a good example of the unstated rules of interaction described by Garfinkel and Goffman (who were lumped together with the French Structuralists by the course instructor, Andy Szasz). Both people clearly come to the interaction with shared expectations for what happens on a speed-date, and successfully managed taking turns in conversation, flirting, and the other sorts of things meant to happen in this particular situational template.
Then, we watched the following Dave Chappelle video, “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” (the office scene with Vernon Franklin – also suggested by a student):
Here the students were able to see the consequences of breaking social rules of interaction (Dave Chappelle’s character gets fired after a workplace outburst), and also discuss the limitations of the structuralist paradigm. To help them with this latter task, I asked the following kinds of questions as I visited their small groups:
- Does it seem like everyone in the group came to the meeting with shared expectations about what would happen there?
- Does “give me some skin” seem to mean the same thing to Dave Chappelle’s character as it does to his mentor?
- What emotion does Goffman tell us that people usually feel after they break social rules or lose face? Does Dave Chappelle’s character appear to be feeling this emotion? What does he appear to be feeling? Why?
- Is there value in breaking with expected rules of social interaction?
I’ve come across a variety of intriguing online resources in past months that I keep meaning to write-up into a variety of teaching tools. But time is short so instead I’m posting them all here, with a few short ideas on how they might be used in the classroom. Happy teaching!
Race and the outdoors
- Stuff white people like: camping A tongue-in-cheek send-up of camping, camping culture, and the disproportionate participation of white people in camping. Could be a great way to stimulate classroom conversation about outdoor activities and race. I could see reading the post aloud and asking the following kinds of questions to get the conversation rolling: How many of you like camping? How many of you don’t? Does this post ring true to your experience of camping or not camping? Does this post seem like an accurate representation of camping? Does this post seem like an accurate representation of who camps? Why do you think white people are the dominant participants in so many recreational activities in the outdoors?
- Diversity and the outdoors - google hangout with Allison Chin (Sierra Club), Audrey Peterman (Legacy On the Land), Javier Sierra (Sierra Club en Español), Juan Martinez (Children and Nature Network), Rue Mapp (Outdoor Afro) and Rusty White (surfer). People of color outdoor-leaders discuss how they got interested in the outdoors and how to get more people to join them. This video would be a good follow-up to the “Stuff white people like” blog post described above because it contradicts it in some ways. You could ask students to consider how the leaders featured in the google hangout might respond to the “stuff white people like” blog post. Would they agree or disagree with its content?
- America’s forgotten black cowboys This article could help students question racialized narratives of the American West, as well as to consider the historical experiences of people of color in the American outdoors.
Race, Nation, and Agriculture: The “God Made a Farmer” Videos
I could imagine showing the first video without any introduction and asking the following questions at the end of it: Did you notice anything odd about this video? Was anything missing? If the students can’t think of anything, show the second video and ask them the question again. The point would be to launch into a discussion of the video’s startling use of white people to represent farming in America, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of people working in this industry are Latino. This could be a fruitful jumping off point for discussion about framing, narrative, representation, race, the history of farming in America, or any number of other juicy topics. Be sure to discuss what the difference between a “farmer” and a “farmworker” is. Child labor could make for an interesting and relevant topic for a follow-up conversation too.
Other data sources. See this activity for ideas on how they could be used.
I’m not sure how I would use these in the college classroom, but wanted to post them here for future reference.
Last quarter I worked as a teaching assistant for my advisor Andy Szasz’s class on Contemporary Sociological Theory. This means that I attended lectures, graded student work, and led two break-out classes of 30 students each. Like the time I taught classical theory, I assigned the students the task of supplying me with a constant stream of media sources related to the class content. You can see the text of the assignment below, and read descriptions of how I used some of their media pieces in class below that.
Each of you are responsible for turning in a short media assignment once during the quarter. We will sign up for due dates on the first day of section. You are tasked with finding a news article, short video (10 min. max), cartoon, photo collection or other piece of media relevant to our readings that will help the rest of the students relate what we are reading to current events, or to help them understand the theory better in its historical context. These assignments will be due on Friday. You should choose a media piece that helps illustrate a sociological theory from the reading due for the Monday and Wednesday lectures of the same week. I will review your assignments over the weekend and use them to help plan our discussion sections for the following week.
After you choose your media piece, write a 1 page, type-written essay that includes the following:
- Short summary of the media item.
- Description of what sociological theory your media piece relates to, and how it relates to that theory.
- The strengths and limitations of your selected media piece for understanding the sociological theory in question.
- A description of how you suggest using this media item in section in order to help the other students better understand the sociological theory discussed in your paper.
- Ice-breaker activity: Share Squares.
- I used the Simpsons and The Meatrix video to discuss Marx – read about how here.
The Frankfurt School, part 1
The Frankfurt School, part 2a: The Culture Industry
- I used Wall-E and Disneyland’s “Carousel of Progress” to explain the culture industry in section, check it out here.
- And here’s the worksheet.
The Frankfurt School 2b, Consumer Society
- See my post on how I used a sample “haul video” in section here.
- I used a video of a rapping toddler and a comedy sketch to help explain structuralism, read about it here. The comedy video also applies to some of Goffman and Garfinkle.
Goffman and Garfinkle
- See my post on using Pink Floyd to help students understand Foucault here.
Postmodernism and review
- I had this advertisement for Yas Island in Abu Dhabi playing as the students came into class and got settled.
- After we briefly discussed postmodernism and how it relates to the video above, I had the students work through this worksheet to begin to review the key ideas of the different theoretical perspectives covered in this course.