I have to write a sociological analysis on visual art, paintings and sculptures. but i have no idea of what a sociological analysis is. am i supposed to argue something? or is it sortof factual? we have to use social order and social constructivism.
Yes its for an undergraduate, but this is my elective course so I don't really know how to do it, and have never written any sociology work before. All it says is to
use 2 of the notions of social order, social construction or social ineuqality as a way of organizing your analysis of the material in order to convince the reader that the discipline of sociology has something interesting and insightful to say about the topic.
dont know if thats any help?!
Okay, bearing in mind that I know nothing about art, visual or otherwise (nor about the course you’re doing) I can give you some pointers towards thinking about, understanding and organising an answer that might key into the way you’ve looked at art…
Firstly, the obvious thing to do is consider whatever form of art you’re talking about as a “text” in the abstract - something that has been created (it has “an author”) and which is read “by someone”.
Considering art in this way leads to the development of a number of questions:
Who owns this work - the author, as creator, or the reader as interpreter? This begins to suggest questions of social inequality that I’m sure you can start to develop.
Wider questions of social inequality (based around say Foucault’s concept of power) involve thinking not just about who “owns” art, per se, but also who has the power to create “art”, in the sense of who decides what is or what is not “art” (in simple terms, why does Picasso’s art sell for millions and my art isn’t work the paper it’s drawn on?)
Next you can consider questions of meaning in this dual way - who decides the meaning of a text (the author or the audience?) and who decides the meaning of art (when is a text considered “art” and when is it considered something else - whatever that something may be)?
This. In turn, leads to deeper questions of meaning - does a text only have a single, authoritative, meaning (and who gives it that meaning / owns that meaning)? Or does art have different meanings for different audiences / interpreters?
This can lead to a consideration of the power structures on which texts are based - if there is a single, authoritative, (essentialist) meaning to a text this suggests something about social order - that it is based (founded) on a certain structure which both gives authoritative meaning and which, in turn, is reflected in that meaning.
If, on the other hand, we reject the idea of authoritative meaning then we enter into a social constructionist realm where what we perceive as “the social order” is actually constructed around a wide range of fragmented meanings all struggling to be heard.
Thus, a central feature of a constructivist position is that ‘reality’ is defined from the position of different social groups and we need to think, therefore, in terms of ‘multiple realities’ rather than a single ‘reality’. Although this still involves a concept of ‘society’ (or art or whatever), in the sense that structural relationships (such as socialisation processes) affect individual behaviour, it is a different conception to that held by essentialists and means we need to understand how individuals construct realities that then reflect back on their behaviour.
If this is unclear, think about ‘society’ (defined in terms of the structure of our social relationships) as being like the author of a book. The author constructs a reality (a story or narrative) we enter as we read. However, whatever the ultimate intentions of the author, each reader interprets the narrative in different ways, some of which are intended by the author but many of which are different for each reader. Thus, when Barthes (1968) talks about ‘the death of the author’, he’s suggesting there is no single author of a text because each reader reconstructs it in different ways through the meanings they give to the narrative. As he puts it: ‘The death of the author is the birth of the reader.’
If we think of this in terms of the relationship between ‘society’ and the ‘individual’, the former is not ‘the author’ of the latter – people are not simply blank pages on which the author (society) writes and creates social order. On the contrary, from a constructionist (subjectivist) position it is ‘society’ that is the book (something that has a particular historical structure) and people who are the authors of their own narratives or, to paraphrase Keep et al. (2000): ‘The author (“society”) is not simply a ‘person’ (“thing”) but a socially and historically constituted subject.’
If you think about this in terms of art (rather than society) you should be able to develop a way of approaching the question you’ve been set.
This should at least get you started (thinking about how to approach this question in a way that, I trust, is similar to how you’ve been encouraged to approach artistic concepts) and if you need more detailed exposition let me know (things can get a lot deeper than the above if you need to get into debates about structuralism / poststructuralism and I can give you info. / references for further ideas).
Firstly, what "social issue" are you going to analyse?
Secondly, at it's most basic sociological analysis focuses on the various ways our membership of social groups (families, social classes, university seminars or whatever) at the very least influences - and some argue determines - how we both think about and act in the social world.
A sociological analysis of a social issue, therefore, will always begin with this fundamental belief. Once we establish "the issue", therefore, we can begin to develop ways of analysing it sociologically.
Unfortunately this isn't an issue I've been particularly following, so I can't really help with the detail (although it sounds quite an ambitious issue to analyse...).
What I would say is that while you don't necessarily have to bring in "sociological perspectives" like functionalism or Marxism, it may well be that some of the concepts used by particular writers working within a particular sociological tradition could be useful. Two that spring immediately to mind are those of ideology and power - the former because what little I know about the issue seems to involve - at least on the surface - a battle of ideas (and what these ideas may actually turn out to be is something you would need to analyse). The latter because, as with most (or even all?) things, social action ultimately devolves to questions of power - who has it, how they exercise it and so forth.
Further useful concepts to think about would involve the State (how it is constituted, how different power blocs interpret and use state power, etc.) and hegemony. The latter will be useful if you examine the ideological content of the issue since a key question here is how certain factions within the French government are able to exercise "leadership" on this issue.
Subsidiary concepts to use might include things like moral panics (over specific issues like immigration and wider issues like crises of the state) and scapegoating - how and why is a particular social group "picked out" for special treatment?
I don't know how much these ideas, as I've stated them, actually help you here at the moment. Perhaps it would be useful for you to frame the issue in some broad way so I can understand the direction of your thinking and try to build on it.
Having said that, I think it would be useful to think about Marxist theory here (and particularly the hegemonic Marxism of writers like Poulantzas) in order to get an handle on the issue.
++++ Moral Panic / Deviancy Amplification +++++
Having thought about it, why not do a sociological analysis of this particular issue in terms of deviancy amplification / moral panics? Both are fairly easy to research in terms of understanding what they involve (I can give you some references or just Google these terms) and the Roma issue might fit very neatly into the overall concept.
Last edited by Chris.Livesey; 13-09-2010 at 12:51.
If you are writing a sociological analysis for an introductory sociology class or as part of a non-sociology module then the best advice I can give is to cite C. Wright Mills' Sociological Imagination.
Basically, Mills argues that to have a sociological imagination is to separate personal issues from social issues. Unemployment, for instance, is a personal issue for the unemployed individual but it is a social problem for the rest of society. It can therefore be understood in terms of social processes; not individual circumstance.
Once you have established that something is of sociological interest you can provide an analysis based on more abstract theory.
I have to write a 8 to 10 page sociological analysis on the movie Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen. I have themes of militarism, the relationship between the military and society, government and military, as well as product placement and the relationship between mainstream media and the public. Any tips on the main direction I should go? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!