Sociology 216: Dynamics of Prejudice

Fall 2002: Section 001

Paper Assignment

Due dates: Final paper is due Dec. 4.  See below for other important due dates.  Much of your grade will depend on timely
completion of each step.
Length: 5-8 pages, double-spaced
Topic: Your choice, within parameters

The purpose of this project is for you to critically analyze material on a topic of your choice that relates to prejudice, privilege, and/or relations of power in society.  Whatever your choice of topic and format, you will need to incorporate references to at least two in-class readings, films or presentations AND at least two outside references you find on your own (scholarly journal articles, newspaper/magazine articles, films, etc.)  I am primarily interested in your synthesis of material and your CRITICAL RESPONSE to it (I don't want you to merely summarize what your sources say).  The paper will account for 20% of your final grade.

The paper will be five to eight pages, double-spaced, with one-inch margins and 12-point font. You will also turn in a brief
proposal, revised proposal, bibliography and outline on the dates specified in the syllabus.  Bring two copies of each to class on the dates specified to exchange with classmates for in-class comments.  You will meet with me once during the semester to talk about your project.  You must discuss the paper with me prior to writing it.  I encourage you to provide me with a rough draft for assessment and suggestions.  The final draft of the paper is due no later than December 4.   It will be graded on timely completion (proposal, bibliography, etc. as well as the final draft), independent thinking and creative analysis, incorporation of course material and outside sources, quality of writing, and correct use (and citation) of sources.

Choose one of the following (or propose an alternative):

1. Research paper.  Choose a focused category of prejudice, privilege, or domination/resistance that interests you and that relates to one of the areas covered in the syllabus and course readings (race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability, class).  Using Zimmerman Library's electronic databases, find a minimum of three good sociological articles on a behavior or phenomenon related to the topic and assess the authors' theoretical explanations for the phenomenon and the social construction of it.  Where does each theory fall on the positivist-constructionist, or materialist-idealist spectrum? What are the strengths and shortcomings of each explanation?  From your perspective, which theory (either one of those you've analyzed or your own alternative) offers the strongest explanation for the phenomenon you have chosen?  Why?
For sociological sources at Zimmerman you can start here:

2. Textual analysis.  Either read a book (novel, biography or memoir) or watch a perfomance or film that features one or more people facing an issue specifically related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability or class. Briefly describe the issue, the role of the person's immediate social circle and the larger social context, and your own critical response. Give at least two different possible theoretical explanations for the phenomenon portrayed and the social construction of it.  What are the strengths and shortcomings of each explanation?  From your perspective, which is the strongest?  Why?  Please note you need to incorporate references to at least two in-class sources and at least one outside source (other than your chosen text) related to the topic.
Suggested books include: Alexie, Indian Killer; Buford, Among the Thugs; Doty, Heaven's Coast, Feinberg, Stone Butch
Blues; Hernandez & Rehman, Colonize This!; Anchee Min, Red Azalea; Morrison, The Bluest Eye or Beloved; Rodríguez, Always Running; Schlonski, The Last Time I Wore a Dress; Malcom X w/ Haley, The Autobiography of Malcom X.
Film ideas: Traffic, Zoot Suit, Mi Vida Loca, Salt of the Earth, Little Big Man, The Business of Fancy Dancing, Smoke Signals, Imagining Indians, History and Memory, Boyz N the Hood, Paris is Burning, Boys Don't Cry, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), The Crying Game, Thelma & Louise, The Celluloid Closet, American Beauty, documentaries by Marlon Riggs, Michael Moore or Sadie Benning.  These are only suggestions, feel free to propose another book, film or live performance.

3. Ethnography.  Choose a category of prejudice, privilege, or domination/resistance that interests you.  (You can either choose an aspect of one of the areas covered in the syllabus and course readings, or propose a new topic.)  It can be related to your personal experience (or not).  Arrange to either 1) observe a person or group engaged in activity related to the phenomenon you're interested in (for at least a couple of hours) or 2) interview (an) individual(s) who regularly engage with the topic in some way.  For either observation or interviews, you will need to have a well-thought-out research question and methodological approach ahead of time. Briefly describe the nature of the topic and your methodology.  What do you observe and what is the response of those in the surrounding social context? Give three different theoretical explanations for the phenomenon you're addressing.  What are the strengths and shortcomings of each explanation?  From your perspective, which theory offers the strongest explanation?  Why?

I am open to other ideas for your paper.  Whatever your topic, we will schedule a meeting during the first half of the semester to discuss it.

Deadlines:  BRING 2 COPIES of the following to class on the dates specified.

Monday 9/16: One paragraph proposal.  Which of the three assignments (or an alternative - talk with me first) have you chosen?  What is your research topic or book title?  If doing ethnographic research, where, with whom and how will you do it?

Wednesday 10/16: Revised proposal, bibliography and/or methodology.  What is your research question?  What methods will you use to pursue this question?  If ethnography, who will you interview/observe, what will be your interview questions or guidelines for observation?  If research or text analysis, what will be your sources?  You must list citations correctly in some consistent bibliographic format.

Wednesday 11/13: Outline of paper - no more than a page.  Main ideas, supporting arguments, revised bibliography, a general update on the project.  Which theories will you be discussing?  Any tentative conclusions?  Questions that have emerged you want to pursue?

(11/20 - Draft of paper due, if  you want comments from me in time to make changes.)

Wednesday 12/4: Final paper due.  ATTACH ALL OF THE ABOVE to the back of your final paper.