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Students will participate in online discussions of assigned topics and readings within their assigned groups.  This exercise is based on the work of Dorothy Smith, a prominent American sociologist of the contemporary era. See the reading “Institutional Ethnography  Download Institutional Ethnography,” which can be accessed through the course website.

Smith is well-known as a pathbreaking feminist scholar and in particular for her work on standpoint theory, which argues that what one knows is heavily influenced by one’s position (standing) in society. The basic premises of Smith’s approach is that 1) it is impossible to have complete objective knowledge; 2) no two people will have exactly the same standpoint, and 3) one cannot take one’s own perspective or standpoint for granted. Recognizing this, the theorist must take her/his situated social experience as an entry point for any investigation.

In the reading, you should be able to recognize the influence of the microinteractionist sociological tradition, specifically phenomenological theories, ethnomethodology, and the work of George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, and Harold Garfinkel. Smith’s work is an excellent example of applying theories of how individual consciousness is formed and in turn, contributes to constructing the social world that we normally take for granted.

In the discussion, let’s start with Smith’s observation that her life at home and her work at the university constituted two separate tracks or subjectivities, each with distinct patterns of consciousness and reasoning, that could not be blended or integrated (see Smith, p. 384). For your first post, discuss what you think she means by this and whether or not you have experienced a similar division in your own social relations. Then, reflect on how the concept of standpoint is meaningful to understanding your own perspectives in a given social setting (work, home, family, recreation, etc.) in contrast to the perspectives of others around you.

This discussion will run within your group for two weeks. A minimum of four posts are required.

Your first post will be due by Friday, November 19.