Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Course Topic as Well as Pedagogical Strategy
Tamdgidi, Behrooz, Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge
This is the fifth issue of Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge since its inception in Spring 2002, and the second issue published at UMass Boston. Aside from many fine papers by students at UMass Boston enrolled in my courses and those of Anna Beckwith, an adjunct lecturer of Sociology at UMB, and an insightful article on the topic of alienation by Jorge Capetillo-Ponce, Assistant Professor of Sociology at UMB, it is a great pleasure to have as guests in this issue a first symposium of exemplary essays from Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota, made possible through the initiative of Khaldoun Samman, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Macalester College--a close friend and colleague.
Khaldoun Samman took the step recently of turning his senior seminar into a course on the sociology of self-knowledge--in fact entitling it as such--and encouraging his students, all graduating seniors at Macalester, to subject their own lives and "troubles" to their sociological imaginations. I am so happy to see that a course on the sociology of self-knowledge, with that title actually, was held so well and productively at another fine institution of higher learning at the U.S. Reading the serious and engaging papers by Samman's students along with his own autobiographical account inspired by his recent academic trip to Istanbul, Turkey, provides the reader with a sophisticated exposure to the complexities and challenges facing undergraduate students attending another college, as well as the personal strategies adopted by them to turn both their familial and academic homes into warmer and supportive liberating landscapes. Khaldoun Samman has provided an eloquent introduction to his students' papers in this issue, so I won't take too much space here to provide an additional introduction to the voices of their symposium.
The papers by UMB students included in this issue are also highly representative of how self and socially critical and liberating the sociology of self-knowledge can be. They use a variety of class and outside readings, as well as films and documentaries, to explore in-depth a currently unresolved issue in their lives, while making every effort to move in-depth to relate their personal troubles to broader public issues. Again the very titles and abstracts of student papers give the reader a glimpse into the explorations students carried out throughout one semester. So, I invite readers to glance through the table of contents and their abstracts (located at the end of the volume), and not hesitate to proceed to read these papers--as they are quite engaging and thoughtful, providing us with ample opportunities to reflect on our own lives in a simultaneously reflective and global framework.
An interesting aspect of the collection in this issue is that students from a variety of courses engage with the sociology of self-knowledge. Five papers are authored by students in courses on "Elements of Sociological Theory," and "Socialization" taught by Anna Beckwith, and eight by students enrolled in my courses on "Elements of Sociological Theory" and "The Self in Society: Studies of Autobiographies" across both semesters during the Fall 2004 and Spring 2005 semesters. In the previous issue, a paper from a course on "Race and Ethnic Relations" taught by Anna Beckwith was included, and several papers by students in
Professor Jorge Capetillo's theory class were done on the topic of drugs and society. I have previously published student papers from my courses (at both SUNY-Binghamton and SUNY-Oneonta) on "Introduction to Sociology," "Social Policy and the Life Course," "Ideas and Ideologies," "Symbolic Interaction," "Society and the Individual" "Social Change: Sociological Frameworks," "Issues in Human Development: Dialectics of Knowledge and Society," and "Sociology of Global Self-Knowledge" (Spring 2000). In fact the earliest I taught a course on the sociology of self-knowledge was in Spring 1997 ("Sociology of Knowledge: Mysticism, Science, and Utopia") which resulted in a collection of student writings self-published by students and myself under the title "I" in the World-System: Stories From an Odd Sociology Class. …