The Stranger: A Study in Social Relationships

By Margaret Mary Wood | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS volume embodies an attempt to answer certain questions which have been suggested in part by the writer's own experiences as a stranger in many lands and in part by the controversy concerning the rightful subject-matter of sociology and the methods best adapted for the study of social phenomena. It endeavors to relate these two types of questions, to translate, as it were, social experience into terms of social theory. It seeks to discover an order amid a seeming confusion of diversities, to show, in other words, that the new relationships which are formed when strangers meet are not governed wholly by fortuitous circumstances, but that they are closely correlated with social relationships that are already present in the group which the stranger has entered. It essays therefore to incorporate the new with the old; and, hence, to explain the behavior toward the stranger --the manner of new relationship which is established, whether hostile or friendly, indifferent or curious--from the standpoint of preexisting relationships as these may be affected by the special circumstances of the meeting and by the personalities of the interacting individuals. In following this method whatever knowledge is gained, should any be acquired, becomes of sociological import. It augments the body of knowledge which we already possess concerning the nature of social integration and the relationships which this involves, a problem which is of major import for the sociologist.

In view of this aim the method has necessarily been analytical and interpretative. The field surveyed has been an extensive one since the validity of the argument has rested on

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