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How inequality becomes embedded in social practices: in laws, in language, in social institutions

by | Apr 29, 2022 | Sociology

 

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To date, we have been looking at how inequality becomes embedded in social practices: in laws, in language, in social institutions. While institutions have been defined as “stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour” (Huntington, 1968, p. 12, as cited by McCarthy & Moon, 2018, p. 1153), these institutions do require human participation. This week, we want to turn our attention to the interpersonal transmission of inequality. In particular, we want to look at how identities are shaped by experiences of privilege and oppression.
When we look at inequality, we often think about the identities of the marginalized and oppressed. But – in my thinking – this in some ways perpetuates the normative practices that justify social stratification. It allows the analysis to fall on those who are seen as different. This concerns me. How can we collectively approach identity critically, if we don’t start with how identities of privilege are formed, how identities of the oppressor are formed? After all, if not for the oppressor, the oppressed would not exist.
So to that end, we begin our unit on identity looking at privilege, power, and dominance as identity: a position of superiority that has been established through laws and institutions and whose role is played out in daily practice. In particular, we look at the category of Caucasian, whose status has been defined and valued, and whose rank has been so embedded as to defy conscious awareness by those who walk without the costs of exclusion. We look at how interpersonal transactions in this role harm and demean and exclude in ways that are obscured by and through normative culture.
You can wonder how this came to be and how this is perpetuated today. This week we also explore the neuroscience of inequality through the processes of bias and dehumanization. While much is still unsaid, the material presented in this module is meant to raise consciousness so that transactions begin to reflect inclusion and equity.
Learning Objectives
After successful completion of this week’s module, students will be able to:
Define and discuss rank and status and how it imbues inequality through social transactions.
Discuss the concept of unconscious bias and what can be done to address its effects;
Define and discuss the process of “othering”;
Identify a few key structures and regions in our brains that contribute to our interpersonal experience of difference;
Discuss how these neurobiological effects give rise to interactions of dominance or provide opportunities for conscious intentions of equality;
Define critical consciousness and discuss its application in addressing transactions of inequality and oppression
How to Achieve the Objectives
You can achieve this module’s learning objective by accomplishing the following:
Reading Activities
Textbook Readings
Ferguson, S. (2020) Part Four: Power and Privilege Unmasked. In Ferguson, S. J. (Ed.) Race, gender, sexuality & social class: Dimensions of inequality, 3rd Ed. (pp. 491-494) Sage Publications, Inc.
Ferber, A. L. Reading 48: The Culture of Privilege: Color-Blindness, Postfeminism, and Christonormality. In Ferguson, S. J. (Ed.) Race, gender, sexuality & social class: Dimensions of inequality, 3rd Ed. (pp. 495-504) Sage Publications, Inc.
Young, I. M. Reading 49: Five Faces of Oppression. In Ferguson, S. J. (Ed.) Race, gender, sexuality & social class: Dimensions of inequality, 3rd Ed. (pp. 505-514) Sage Publications, Inc.
Harris, L. T., & Fiske, S. T. (2011). Dehumanized Perception–A Psychological Means to Facilitate Atrocities, Torture, and Genocide. Zeitschrift fur Psychologie, 219(3), 175–181.pdf

 

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