We’re still a bit behind schedule, but as the scheduled reading load is relatively light, we should be able to get through Merton, Goffman, and Fanon, with enough time left for a final exam review on May 14th, which is the deadline for submitting required work for the course.
Next class (5/7) we will discuss Merton’s “strain theory,” which presents a typology of different “modes of adaptation” to anomie or social strain: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion. We’ll watch the video, “Reading the Riots,” based on research conducted by the Guardian and London School of Economics. In the video, participants speak for the first time about why they took part in the summer 2011 disturbances, the most serious bout of civil unrest in Britain in a generation. The study finds that the riots were sparked by poverty, injustice and a visceral hatred of the police. What do you make of this explanation? Does Merton’s theory help elucidate the events? Which “mode of adaptation” best characterizes the civil unrest? Other recommended videos below speak to similar themes, e.g., “Dubstep Rebellion,” which covers the UK student budget protests from the end of 2010 and the Tupac Shakur interview excerpt, where the slain rapper talks about “thug life.” Where would these cases fall in Merton’s framework?
Or does Goffman’s theory of “stigma” provide better insight into the unrest and its aftermath? As you’ll see from the Guardian video, participants in the UK riots and looting were considerably diverse in ethnic and racial terms; nonetheless, some commentators (including historian, David Starkey, featured in the recommended BBC video) insist “black culture” was behind the riots. What does this discourse say about race and racial politics in the UK, and how does it compare to the US?
May 2 (and May 7) – Merton and Strain Theory
* Rec’d (video): England Riots – Maps and Timeline, “How the Unrest Spread,” BBC News. Browse the timeline and click images for video/photos of the events that took place in August 2011 in cities across England.
May 7 – Goffman and Symbolic Interactionism
May 9 – Fanon and Postcolonial Theory
May 14 – Theorizing the Moment: course wrap-up and review
May 21 (1:45PM – 3:45PM) – SOC 331/1:40PM in-class final exam
May 23 (8:30AM – 10:30AM) – SOC 331/8:15AM in-class final exam