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Sociology and Social Forces

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Topics: Sociology
The following excerpt on a socioautobiography is taken directly from:
Kanagy, C. L., & Kraybill, D. B., (1999). The Riddles of Human Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. (Pp. 287, 288,289).

Socioautobiography
“The purpose of the socioautobiography is to use the insights from sociology to better understand your own story; it is a way of using the concepts of sociology to explore our personal riddle. But the socioautobiography is not a diary or a point-by-point account of your life since infancy. It is rather a reflective exercise in which you step outside of yourself and employ sociological concepts to interpret your experiences. . . . it uses the concepts of the discipline to interpret our life in its social context. (p. 287)

“The socioautobiography follows the tradition of C. Wright Mills, a sociologist who emphasized the influence of society on the individual. He argued that personal troubles are typically rooted in larger social forces—that is public issues.” (p. 287)

The socioautobiography invites you to consider, in the tradition of C. Wright Mills, how social influences have shaped you. As you contemplate your socioautobiography, you might ask, What were the social forces that constructed the riddle of my life? How did I negotiate the crisscrossing pressures of autonomy and conformity? The connection between the micro and macro realms is an important area to address in you socioautobiography.
The socioautobiography also gives you the opportunity to place your life under the sociological microscope and apply the skills of sociological analysis. Try to understand who you are in your social context using a sociological perspective. As you write your story, use sociological concepts—such as social class, reference group, conformity, norm, role, deviance, subculture, and any others that are helpful—to interpret your life experiences.
You may want to focus on several events, special moments, or important relationships in your life that have impacted you in significant ways. Recall key themes, events, or circumstances that have contributed to the construction of your identity. You may want to discuss the importance of some of the following influences: significant others, family structure, residence (urban, suburban, rural), ethnicity, religion, social status, group memberships, economic status, leisure, work, death, and crises. Regardless of which themes you discuss, be sure to interpret them with some of the sociological concepts that have been introduced throughout the book. Questions like the following may be appropriate: how have social forces—groups, larger social trends, and cultural values—molded my behavior and world view? In what sense am I both a produce and producers of culture? How has my family background expanded or restricted my opportunities and life chances? How might I be different had I been born into another culture? What have been the most influential social forces in my life? In crafting a socioautobiography, we have the opportunity to reflect on the construction of our self-identity. Only as we begin to understand how we have been socially created can we become fully empowered to act. Many of us go through life repeating patterns given to us by the faces in our mirror without realizing that we have the power to change those patterns in our own lives. As we begin to understand how we have been created, we have greater freedom to control how we shape and produce the culture around us. (pp. 288-289)

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