Fall 2004

MW 1-2:20

Instructor: Bill Bogard
Office: Maxey 228
Phone: x5122
Email: bogard@whitman.edu
Office Hours TTh 10:30-12:30 and by appointment

Course Overview: This course examines the sociology of everyday life in both its various theoretical guises and as it is applied in empirical research.

There are many different kinds of theories of everyday life. Some try to describe how social interaction works at the level of face-to-face communication, or how social life is "performed" in everyday contexts (symbolic interaction and dramaturgy). Others seek to understand how mundane social reality is constructed as a meaningful experience, and how we come to have knowledge of it (phenomenological sociology and ethnomethodology). There are also critical theories of everyday life—sometimes called theories of the "lifeworld" or the "habitus"--which seek to explain how everyday life is constrained by or resists more powerful social structures and institutions. Despite their differences, all these theories focus on an elusive quality called "everydayness," the commonplace, ordinary, familiar and generally taken-for-granted world, what Alfred Schutz refers to as our "paramount" reality.

Empirical studies of everyday life are even more varied than the theories they arise from. They include descriptions of human behavior in every conceivable social setting, from airports to zoos. They look at the ways people deal with social stigmas, or how they create and use social space and time. They study how social identities are formed and maintained, and how ordinary life can sometimes pose extraordinary challenges to people. Methodologically, they include participant observation studies and subjective accounts of personal experience, as well as scientific description and analysis of behavior.

In short, the sociology of everyday life is as varied as its object. It tries to understand the social logic and forces that constitute life as ordinary reality. In general, it sees that reality as the spontaneous accomplishment of knowledgeable, vital and creative actors. In this course, with the help of some great authors, we will begin to study the form and content of that accomplishment.

Evaluation:

Journal -- 40%
Final project -- 40%
Participation in class -- 20%

1) Beginning the third week of class, each student will keep a journal of sociological observations of scenes of everyday life and bring them to each class to share with others. Journals will provide a set of real-world examples to ground and frame the more abstract concepts and theories we will be discussing in class. I will collect and grade journals approximately every three weeks. Each journal entry should be a brief descriptive analysis, between 1 and 2 pages long, of a typical sociological setting, occasion, circumstance, or interaction from the point of view of the participants. Participants are to be treated as "lay sociologists," i.e., as persons who are interested in and have practical sociological knowledge of the social situations in which they play a role (i.e., are attentive to roles, norms of behavior, differences in status, prestige, gender, etc.). Journal observations should be attentive to and reflect knowledge of the concepts and theories we discuss in class (e.g., stigma, la perruque, region behavior, performance). Accounts of scenes of everyday life can be many things: descriptions of "interaction rituals" (e.g., how people initiate or avoid encounters with friends or strangers, how they behave in different public settings), observations of how people use space and time or interact with objects around them, analyses of conversations, etiquette or everyday transactions, identity work, and so on. Settings can include classrooms, dining areas, bars, supermarkets, street corners, virtually any public area. Journal accounts are not polished essays or articles, but more in the nature of personal reflections on how people construct and negotiate their mundane everyday realities, how they control the information they give off and receive, how they manage appearances, and so on. Each journal observation should be different, i.e., focused on a different scene, encounter or event, and should bring to bear a different concept from the readings. For example, you may want to describe a scene that illustrates what Goffman means by "region behavior" or Schutz means by a "realm of experience." Beyond this, you have total freedom in your choice of a scene. Journal entries are not formal essays. They can contain asides, notes, graphical materials, schemas, critiques, etc. I will not be grading them on grammar or form, but on their ability to throw further light on the readings and discussions, to characterize an everyday scene in a sociologically relevant way, and of course on the timeliness of their submission for each class.

2) Each student will write a medium length (12 page maximum) study of a scene or scenes of "everyday violence," with particular attention to how that concept is used by Nancy Scheper-Hughes in her book Death Without Weeping. Everyday violence obviously can be many things, from the minor cruelties people subject themselves to in everyday interactions, to stigmatization and degradation ceremonies (of self and other), to violence that is the result of wider conflicts, wars, economic conditions, etc. Everyday violence can be overt or covert, physical, verbal, or mental, or gender-race-class based. It can manifest itself in our everyday relation to objects and the media, even to our friends and family. As Scheper-Hughes notes, everyday violence is intimately tied to personal experience and the health and well-being of the body, which both reflect the workings of the larger society. There are many possibilities for topics here, as well as ways to approach them. The paper can be theoretically or empirically oriented (or both), i.e., it can analyze everyday violence from an abstract and conceptual point of view, or it can use participant observation and collect data. In any case, the guiding principle of the paper is to concentrate on the "everydayness" of violence, i.e., to fix your attention on the micro-level of behavior, on interactions, speech and communication, social consciousness, performances, the details of work and play. I will provide more information on this project in class.

3) This is not a lecture class and your active participation is required to make it work. Oftentimes, we will meet in settings outside the classroom, both to create a non-threatening environment for discussion and to observe real life behavior informed by the materials we are reading. Excellent participation assumes attendance and speaking in every class. I encourage questions, debate and criticism, as long as they are about relevant points and advance our understanding of the materials and their subjects. I will keep you periodically informed throughout the semester about how I think your participation is going, and of course you are free to check your status with me at any time.

Required Books (all available in the bookstore):

  • Goffman, Erving. 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Anchor Books.
  • Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Touchstone Books.
  • Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 1993. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil. University of California Press.
  • Schutz, Alfred. 1970. On Phenomenology and Social Relations. Edited by Helmut Wagner. University of Chicago Press.

In addition to required texts, I will distribute a couple of additional xeroxed materials during the semester, noted in the schedule of readings below.

Schedule of readings

T 8/31 Introduction - What is the sociology of everyday life?

Part I. The Management of Spoiled Identities

TH 9/2 Goffman, Stigma, pp. 1-48

T 9/7 Goffman, Stigma, pp. 49-104

TH 9/9 Goffman, Stigma, pp. 105-end

Part II. Method and Critique

T 9/14 Blumer, The Method of Symbolic Interaction (Handout)
Begin Journal Observations (bring first ones to class on Thursday)

TH 9/16 De Certeau, "La Perruque" (Handout)
Bourdieu, "The Habitus" (Handout)

Part III. Dramaturgical Analysis

T 9/21 Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, pp. 1-51

TH 9/23 Goffman, Presentation, pp. 51-105

T 9/28 Goffman, Presentation, pp. 107-140

TH 9/30 Goffman, Presentation, pp. 140-190

T 10/5 Goffman, Presentation, pp. 190-end

Part IV. The Phenomenology of the Social World

TH 10/7 Schutz, Phenomenological Foundations, pp. 53-76

T 10/12 Schutz, The Cognitive Setting of the Lifeworld, pp. 77-122

TH 10/14 Schutz, Acting in the Lifeworld, pp. 125-159

T 10/19 Schutz, The World of Social Relationships, pp. 163-199

TH 10/21 Schutz, The World of Social Relationships, pp. 200-242

T 10/26 Schutz, Realms of Experience and The Province of Sociology, pp. 245-293

Part V. Violence in Everyday Life

TH 10/28 Scheper-Hughes, Death Without Weeping, pp. 1-49

T 11/2 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 49-97

TH 11/4 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 98-152

T 11/9 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 152-199

TH 11/11 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 199-252

T 11/16 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 252-303

TH 11/18 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 303-353

Thanksgiving Break

T 11/30 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 353-408

TH 12/2 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 408-462

T 12/7 Scheper-Hughes, pp. 462-end

TH 12/9 Retrospective -- What is the sociology of everyday life?