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Finding Sociology in the Everyday

January 7, 2010

by Sarah Michele Ford

As a teacher of sociology, I am often asked what exactly sociology is.  My usual answer is that it’s the study of groups and social institutions, and that really we are all living sociology every single day.

It is one thing to say this; it is a much harder thing to concretely identify those parts of our everyday lives that could easily be analyzed from a sociological perspective.

As a challenge to myself, I am thinking about this one day – January 6th 2010 – and what sociological issues were raised as I went about my everyday life.

  • As my family got ready to leave the house in the morning, we made decisions about who did what tasks. I made breakfast for the family, and later my husband took our daughter to the bus stop. We only own one car; I dropped my husband off at his office on my way to my own campus. How does this line up with the traditionally gendered division of labor?
  • At work, I met with another faculty member to talk about a student we have in common. He is a senior faculty member and I am a part-time instructor. How did our relative social standing within the department influence our interaction? Later, I talked to the department administrator. Again, how did our relative social standing influence our interaction?
  • After work, I came home and finished unpacking the luggage from a recent two-week trip to India. In what ways did my social class status impact my ability to go on that trip? And what did I learn about relative definitions of wealth and poverty while traveling in India?
  • When my family arrived home, I cooked dinner. How did our ethnic heritage and social class status influence the type, quantity, and quality of the foods that we ate?
  • In the evening, I spent some time chatting online with a friend who lives far away. How are information and communication technologies affecting our social ties? And, as mentioned here previously, can we say whether these changes are good or bad?

This is just one day from one person’s life. How might you analyze a day in your life from a sociological perspective? Which elements of sociology are most apparent in your everyday life?

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