Definition of Sociology

Sociology literally means the study of companionship. It comes from the Latin “socius” meaning “companion” and the Greek “logos” meaning “the study of.” Another way to think about this: what makes up #social membership? How and why do people form different social groups? What are the societal structures that shape social interaction and subsequently give our lives meaning? Comte first popularised this term in 1824. He sought to investigate the laws of society using methods from the natural sciences. Later sociologists developed different methods that were less about cause and effect and more about the complex interactions between individuals, history and social institutions like the law, economy, religion, medicine, media, and so on.

This photo comes from the Penguin Dictionary of Sociology by Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan S. Turner.

The Confines of Western Feminism

Hispanic women are fully aware that our culture is entrenched in misogyny, but not necessarily any less than American culture. Women in the United States are often expected to take their husbands’ last name. Many men still go to their bride’s father to ask for her hand in marriage; just because we see it as a sweet gesture it does not mean that it isn’t patriarchal in nature… Loving tradition and having pride in your culture does not mean these women cannot vocalize the gender issues of their communities. My mother’s feminism was the truest form of feminism for me; a belief in the potential upward mobility of all women.

Patricia Valoy, Civil Engineer, feminist blogger, and radio host reflects on gender politics and the sacrifices her stay-at-home mother made for her children after they migrated from the Dominican Republic to the USA. Valoy writes that Western feminism encouraged her to see her mother as being trapped in patriarchy, but she argues that we need to find a way to move past narrow conceptions of feminism:

Feminism cannot continue to exist as a monolithic block, or we will never be able to include women from all walks of life.

Via Everyday Feminism.

Land Rights in Brazil

Ramom Tupinamba, a leader of the Tubinamba’s tribe, takes photos during the “meeting of rural workers and people” in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. According to the official report of the meeting, their objective is to demand that the government resolve the agrarian reform issues in Brazil, the demarcation of Indigenous lands and offer financing for small family farms. From Aug. 20-22, more than 5000 representatives of rural social movements will gather in this meeting being held in the Brazilian capital city of Brasilia.. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Via Xfinity.

Chavela Vargas

Chavela Vargas reportedly had a romantic relationship with Frida Kahlo when she was young. Anti-establishment and publicly identifying as homosexual, Vargas took a bold stance against the status quo of the music industry. Vargas defied stereotypes of what women singers should look and sound, by sculpting her unique vocal talents around traits typically associated with masculinity. Known as the rough voice of tenderness (“la voz áspera de la ternura”), Vargas embodied art both as passion and protest.

Vargas died on the 5th of August 2012, RIP.

Image via Van Guardia.

Subverting Colonialism in Peru

Peru’s Señor de Choquekillca Festival is held in Ollantaytambo, near Cuzco (the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu). The festival commemorates a local saint and it also represents the Inca’s mocking of the conquistadors who invaded and almost obliterated the Indigenous Quechua culture.

Writing for the Huffpost, Andrew Burmon muses that the festival comes across as a “strange” multicultural event that doesn’t match Western ideas of multiculturalism. The festival simultaneously represents an embrace of certain elements of Catholicism which are blended with Indigenous spirituality, as well as a rejection of Spanish colonialism.

In Western nations, multiculturalism takes on many contested forms, but it is usually about tolerance of cultural and religious difference as a means of social integration of minority groups. This festival in Ollantaytambo subverts this notion by recreating the history of colonialism as an act of cultural and religious rebellion. The town honours its tradition by staging people drinking outside a church as well as by having a cross procession.

The people dress up in beautifully ornate costumes as well as grotesque masks in a celebration, condemnation and reconciliation of the past.

Senor de Choquekillca is a strange sort of festival. A religious celebration in honor of a small town boy made saint that has morphed into an occasion for trans-generational venting, Choquekillca provides the citizens of the small town of Ollantaytambo with an occasion to dress up in white face and mock the conquistadors who destroyed the Inca civilization flourishing in this part of the Peruvian Andes…

That is what is great about the party: Like history itself, it doesn’t really make sense.

Peru’s Christian faith is a spoil of war, but no less genuine for being coerced. Likewise, the Incan culture is mourned despite being obviously extant. Unlike westerners, who more often than not see multiculturalism as the amalgamation of different peoples, the people of the Sacred Valley – inundated though they are by Machu Picchu-bound travelers – are multicultural on the inside, contradictions be damned.

It is hard not to love a people not only capable of holding contradictory ideas in their heads, but willing to celebrate them in concert. 

Photos via: Huffington Post.

Just as Strange as You

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.

Frida Kahlo.

Image via Miss Rossen.

Undocumented Peruana Challenges White American Politician

Lucia Allain is a an undocumented Peruvian-American student who moved to the USA when she was 10. She is also a DREAMer activist. The DREAM Act would provide undocumented migrants who moved to the USA as children a legal avenue to persue American citizenship. Allain interrupts American politician Mitt Romney a during a speech to call out his hypocrisy:

Right when he started talking about achieving the American Dream, and how every child deserves to live it. I interrupted and said, ‘I’m undocumented and I have a dream, are you still supporting “self-deportation?”’.

Source: HuffPost Latino Voices.

Los “Indignados”

El movimiento de los “indignados” ha llamado a una protesta mundial hoy para conmemorar su primer aniversario, en la que espera concentrar a cientos de miles de personas en diversas ciudades de Europa y de Estados Unidos. Una democracia real, más justicia social, una distribución de la riqueza y una ética pública forman parte común de las demandas de todos los actos que hoy sábado celebra ese movimiento.

The “Outraged” movement has called for a global protest to mark its first anniversary. Protesters hope to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters in various cities in Europe and the United States. A true democratic movement, it calls for social justice, re-distribution of wealth and public ethics.

The rest of the story covers events in various countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, the UK and the USA.

Read the story in Spanish at La Opinión.