Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Colonized Consciousness and Othering


The above link is Faith ka-manzi's latest poem, featured at the IOLS newsletter for Feb (released today).. It is an example of political transcript manifested in art. (agency and social consciousness)

In your readings, Barker asks questions about the denigration and subordination of ‘native’ culture by colonial and imperial powers and the relationship between place and diaspora identities.

The concept of diaspora helps us think of identities as fluid, and in motion rather than confined to nature or cultural specifics.

The question of hybridity points to the cultures of the colonial and colonized are inseparable and eventually give rise to a hybrid culture.

So the question that we should ask is: is culture pure? Can culture ever be presented as pure? And also, can language, and dominant practices been seen as pure?

Also, What do we understand by local knowledge systems?

Central to the debate of power and hegemony from the dominant mode/colonizer is the notion of race and ethnicity. So then, ‘othering’ refers to a politics of difference to be found in the postcolonial conceptualizations of social reality.

Discuss some examples of 'othering' as understood by you.
And also.. What is Patriarchy?
What is a colonized consciousness?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Language, Structure, Duality

It is important for us to make the distinction between language as words and the language that is culture. Cultures are related to specific languages, and at the same time culture IS a language by which we make sense of identity and social reality.

The anti-essentialists say that the self is fractured and not unified; that identity is fractured, and constructed by discourse. What do we understand by this?

If subjects appear to be products rather than producers, how can we account for human agency which we have identified as necessary for social action and change?

The same structures that enable us, constrain us.
This is the ‘duality of structure’ and is central to Giddens’ structuration theory.
Give some of your own examples to illustrate how you make sense of this notion of duality.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Internship Opportunity with IOLS-Newsletter

Hi everyone

I have just come across news that the IOLS Newsletter (part of the IOLS research) is looking for undergrad students to assist with some research work. They are keen on using just two students for the moment, and the internship will be a great way of getting some experience in things like transcribing notes from interviews, etc. Please note that this is not a paid position; but it is a wonderful opportunity to engage with some rather dynamic researchers in the unit. If you are selected, you will be contacted only if and when something comes up and this will probably require about an hour of your time per week. The other type of talent that they are looking out for is a budding cartoonist. IOLS newsletter focuses on current issues regards labour, politics and socio-economic concerns, and is distributed widely among students, academics and organisations across the world. They need a cartoonist as part of the facelift being undertaken for the new editions so that they can put together political images that engage the imagination.

Let me know if any of you are interested!


Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Hi All

Please note that as a matter of easy facilitation, your course reading packs will be given out in the lecture tomorrow, Thursday 21 Feb 08. For those of you ambling into the course as late as this (second week of term!), lecture times are as follows:

Monday: 12-20 to 13-05
Tuesday: 10:30 to 12-10
Thursday: 14:10 to 15:40

Since there is no Friday lecture, Thursdays double constitutes a lecture and not a tutorial. The blog now serves as a participatory feature of the course and replaces tutorial sessions. Please make an attempt to engage in the discussions both here and in class, as participation counts for 10% of your assessment! By sharing and learning from each other, we hope to really get into the idea of starting with ourselves, and our own biographies as a resource!

All the best..

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

CULTS, Culture and MemOry

So once we have interrogated notions of culture, and how we are enabled membership into a particular social group by behaving in certain ways that are appropriate to that culture, we ask questions about whether we just merely conform to what culture expects of us, and absorb value systems and practices (like sponges).. or whether we are able to decide, choose, and assimilate.

Does our culture or society make us what we are?
What is a culture. What is a CULT? Cults may be seen as derogatory. Perhaps as counter-culture, as one student raised in class today. So then membership in a CULT can be seen as a response to culture.

We said that culture enables us; and it constrains us. Agency is relative.
Culture is open, cultures may inform each other.

In making social meaning, culture is a text, a language which its members learn.
Language, and discourse suggests that culture is not just absorbed. But language is open to ambiguity. What kinds of ambiguities are apparent to you? Are you able to identify ambiguous messages in your making sense of the social world?

Try to answer these questions and keep in mind the diary project! Can you see the links? Identity is a function of the enculturation process. And culture is language. We need language to make sense of the world. We use language to CREATE our stories. In listening to peoples life stories, which is what you do when you interview someone, we understand the importance of empirical REAL data in the social research process. Biography is important for research. Peoples stories come from how they make sense of life. And Memory is a great way of creating that space for conversation about life. So. Ask people what they remember!!! Remember. Stories are in Memories. Memories are Stories.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Week Two: Beliefs, Traditions, Customs, Culture

Beliefs; Traditions; Customs and Culture...

While i was reading the previous post' comments, I thought to ask myself: well, what are beliefs? what are traditions? what are customs?
rather.. what are our assumptions about them?

Beliefs can be value-systems. Strong MORAL codes. Or they can be seen as PREJUDICES. How do you tell the difference?? When does one persons 'belief' in something become a prejudice or an attack on someone else? And what kind of beliefs are these??

What is culture; and what are the ten UNIQUE features of what you might regard as 'your culture'? Please post your answers from todays class assignment here!

Also, do you think that there is a LINK between Culture and Race?
Yes or No, tell me why you think so..

Friday, February 15, 2008

On agency and the hidden transcript...

These are some of the points we discussed in this weeks lectures. What are examples of hidden transcript that you know of, and what do you think of the concept? (Students who have not attempted commenting at the first post should do so.)

“The term agency is usually juxtaposed to structure and is often no more than a synonym for action, emphasizing implicitly the undetermined nature of human action, as opposed to the alleged determinism of structural theories. If it has a wider meaning, it is to draw attention to the psychological and social psychological make-up of the actor, and to imply the capacity for willed (voluntary) action.”

From the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Sociology.

Marx: Base/Superstructure:

For Marx, the origin of determination is in people’s own activities

Marxism attempts to relate the production and reproduction of social reality to the material and economic organization of life. This is articulated through the base and superstructure model: It suggests that -

• the foundation of society is the economic structure;
• legal and political superstructures arise from the base;
• definite forms of social consciousness (awareness of social reality) correspond to the above processes.

So then this suggests that it is the economic life of society that determines the social, political and spiritual processes of life.

Social being determines consciousness instead of the other way around.

Richard Williams book “Problems in Materialism and Culture” asserts that it is difficult for most people to move beyond experienced reality (becomes absolute to them).

A dominant culture is perpetuated by schools, work, family, etc.
And reality comes to depend on them

Dominant modes ignore the full range of potential and actual human agency.

But in critique of Marx base/superstructure model, Williams says that at some point, no dominant culture or mode of production can exhaust the full range of human potential (both practiced and imagined).

It is the quality of agency that distinguishes active society from passive society.

The emergence of agency takes human creativeness, instigated by the contradictions in social awareness… between expectations and achievements or allowances.
Agency derives from environment, and social awareness or social consciousness.

Agency depends on how people perceive others:
People could be self-righteous or have the naïve belief that everyone shares the same view. On the other hand, they could make realistic judgements of dominant social processes.

Social consciousness could be a false consciousness;
It could refer to feelings of powerlessness;
And it could depict a real awareness based on balanced judgements.

Agency needs to be awakened by social consciousness. And action then realters consciousness.

An example of agency occurs in the concept of the public vs hidden transcript.



Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned -
Everywhere is war -
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes -
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed -
Well, everywhere is war -
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south -
War - war -
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary -
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil -
Good over evil, yeah! /fadeout/

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Week One: Contemporary Social Theory as Critique of Classical Theory

Addressing subjectivity and agency

In this weeks lecture series, we looked at our assumptions and questioned our notions of knowledge, asking questions about the relevance of sociological theory and research.

We are in the process of actively changing and shaping our own minds..
While for the most part, we rely on our experiences and often deeply held assumptions to make sense of the social world.. We do this by using the sociological imagination as a tool to see how our 'stories', our own biographies, our own lives fit into the broader contemporary social and immediate historical context.

Can you challenge your own deeply held beliefs?
Do you dare to abandon them?
Do you dare to challenge your assumptions, traditions? What are they?
What are the ten most unique features of what you can claim to be 'your culture'?
Do you dare to challenge and influence your own community and society?

Feel free to reply or comment at these posts. If you are not a registered blog user, your comments will be published as anonymous (click on the anonymous option) and just remember to sign off after your comment with your name and student ID number. An example appears as Comment number one. You may introduce yourself if you like, talk about what most interests you about sociology, and even if you think studying social theory is a waste of time? And why! Try sharing your responses to the reflective questions above.. in our process of studying social science remember what Anthony Giddens had to say:

"Learning Sociology is in part a process of self-exploration"

So then, this course is about you. It is about you as a student of sociology; you as an individual. While participation here counts as part of your class participation assessment (10% of year mark), engaging in chat and discussions here will enhance and enrich your experience of the course. Group dynamic is important, and your shared views will create a wonderful energy of debate. This way, we can all learn from each other! So lets get this started!

Thursdays lecture will focus on Marx' Base/Superstructure model and look at the example of creative forms of resistance to dominance.. 'Public transcript vs Hidden transcript'

Readings of interest: Soweto Poetry as example of 'Hidden Transcript'.


Note: Reading Packs should be available by next week.