Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Development of my Sociological Imagination…

I fell into sociology after I discovered some books on feminism in one of my classes on the sociology of gender. I had never felt comfortable with gender norms or the various masculinity rituals prescribed by our society, so feminism became my point of entry to the field. So I guess you could say “the personal became political” when I realized that there were studies that helped validate my “anti-masculinity” identity.

At the time, I was an Asian Studies major and was very interested in the challenges faced by women of color, especially immigrants to the United States. Then after reading Susan Faludi’s “Backlash” and Patricia Collins “Black Feminist Thought,” I knew I had found the field for me. My professors at Texas A&M recommended more books to me, and I read constantly, mostly because I worked almost full-time at a coffee shop and didn’t really go out much.

In fact, I met one of our colleagues, Beverly Pratt, while I was managing the coffee shop and she recommended the works of Joe Feagin to me. I began a working relationship with him and started reading many of his books, along with the works of David Baldwin, W.E.B. DuBois, and Tim Wise (*swoon*). I would eventually take one of his graduate courses during my senior year and also perform a self-guided interview study of the 2008 Presidential Election under his guidance. Dr. Feagin became my mentor and my greatest influence during my undergraduate career. I still keep up with him today and occasionally write for his blog RacismReview.com.

But back to my intellectual development…

The more I read on racism in the United States, the more I became disillusioned with what I had been taught in school and what I saw everyday in the media. I guess you could say I was “unlearning my white privilege” and beginning to see things that Black Americans saw everyday. Not only was I surprised at the level of racism I found within myself, I was disgusted with the level of anti-Black bias I discovered in mainstream media, literature, and popular culture.

As I became more literate and more confident in my knowledge of racism and white privilege, I became more outspoken and vocal in my attacking of white institutions all around me. I started to use my knowledge for the betterment of my social circles and social environments around me, something I know alienated a lot of my former white friends. In fact, I made just about as many enemies as I did friends when I began verbally criticizing the systemic racism, gender bias, and prejudice I saw around me. I started to spend most of my time on progressive blogs, where I could commit to my new lifestyle and learn from others on issues of race, gender, and LGBT issues. But I need to state that this change didn’t happen overnight, I slowly developed into a more proficient and outspoken social activist over the course of 3 years reading books on issues relating to racism, social policy, pop culture, gender, and LGBT issues.

I have committed myself to anti-discriminatory and progressive issues because I want to be a friend to those who feel alienated or marginalized by mainstream society. I am an anti-racist, not so I can hold it over other people’s heads, but so that I can help root out the evil that I found latent within myself and within all the social institutions around me. I hope to take my studies further and become a social researcher, professor, teacher, and activist in the field of sociology. I want to be an inspiration to students from marginalized backgrounds in my classroom. I want to fight white, Anglo, middle-class, Christian, hetero-normative male biases in America, because I think we all have things to gain from a more inclusive, diverse, and tolerant society.

Regarding my research interests:

I am currently interested in the body modification community, particularly tattooing and other forms of formerly “primitive” body projects that have been appropriated by mainstream (white) middle-class America. I have been reading mounds of books on “modern primitives” and other groups who use body modification for “identity work” in post-modern America. I an interested in this topic due to my own experiences with body modification and tattooing, and also because of the growing popularity of the practices with American youth.

I would like to perform a qualitative study of tattooing and other forms of body modification that are now popular among middle-class white youth. I would like to show how such appropriations are a continuation of colonialist discourse between the modern/the primitive, the familiar/“the other,” and white/nonwhite peoples. I would also like to show how such appropriations are now used by white youth for identity work and self-construction in an era of post-modernity and change.

Finally, I am happy to be here at Maryland, where I have encountered some of the kindest, tolerant, and accepting faculty and students I have ever seen. I am grateful to be in such a progressive department, where I do not feel alienated by my appearance or my political views. I look forward to working with the faculty here and developing working relationships in which, we as well as the communities we serve, can benefit.

Dave Strohecker

1 comment:

  1. Very cool research interests. We haven't had any classes together yet, but I look forward to it!


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