SSI Session One: Thursday 1st October 2013, 7-9pm

We will start with introductions and explain what the course and the Social Science Centre are all about. Everyone will have a chance to share who they are, why they are interested in the course and what they hope to get out of it. We’ll also talk about our approaches to teaching and learning environments.

After a break, we’ll look at all the issues and ideas that emerged in our discussion and talk about how we will explore them through the rest of the course. We’ll do this from many perspectives, but will introduce the first piece we’ll read (a chapter by C. Wright Mills’ book The Sociological Imagination’) and discuss plans for our next meeting.

Links to reading

Link to the first chapter of The Sociological Imagination, which we will read together first:

C. Wright Mills, ‘The promise’, Chapter 1 of The Sociological Imagination (NY: Free Press, 1959), http://sitem.sdjzu.edu.cn/zhangpeizhong/Sociological-Imagination.pdf.

Links to a few pieces of writing that explain what Mills means by ‘the promise’:

Kimberly Kiesewetter, ‘Choosing the sociological imagination’, Sociology in Focus, 14 November,http://www.sociologyinfocus.com/2012/11/14/choosing-the-sociological-imagination/ (the questions at the end of this piece are not terribly relevant, but you could try to make up your own…).

Joachim Vogt Isaksen, ‘The sociological imagination: thinking outside the box’, Popular Social Science, 29 April 2013, http://www.popularsocialscience.com/2013/04/29/the-sociological-imagination-thinking-outside-the-box/.

Questions for thinking

It will be helpful if we all read about the sociological imagination with some similar questions in mind. We can start with the following questions:

  • What do you think Mills means by ‘the sociological’ imagination’? How might you explain this idea to someone you know?

  • Why did Mills think that people felt ‘trapped’ in their lives when he was writing? What did he argue they were trapped by?

  • Did he think people could become free from these traps? If so, how?

  • What is the difference between ‘personal troubles’ and public issues’, according to Mills? Why did he think it is important for people to be able to tell the difference?

  • This first chapter of Mills’ book is called ‘the promise’. He wrote that the sociological imagination promises something for us. What is this promise?

Once you understand something of what Mills is saying, try using it to think differently about something in your own life or something that you’ve noticed happening around you (for example, in your observations on the streets or in the media).

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