Italian-Australian activist Anna Moo talks about her attraction to social justice and how she worked with a group of migrant women in the 1970s to achieve policy changes on migrant women’s reproductive health. Moo says:
We really wanted to connect back with the women that we were advocating with. They were not aware of health services that might have been available to them. The W.I.C.H. [Women in Industry Contraception and Health] education project was developed in conjunction with Australian women and women from many different backgrounds with the support of a number of organisations.
And the fantastic aspect of that education kit is the fact that it was taken to the factories by women who were themselves from multicultural backgrounds. Each worker spoke a language, a community language, whereby women could actually ask questions and be supported through the discussions. You know, what’s really amazing is that we still have Women in Industry Contraception and Health, it’s called a different name but it’s still that organisation…
It’s really a testament to what women can do together.
Melbourne private school teacher and literary curmudgeon Christopher Bantick argues that Gen Y don’t understand “serious” Australian culture. Writing for The Age, Bantick believes that Gen Y’s engagement with popular culture over the classics will lead our nation to decline:
The vanity that is lauded as virtue pervades the culture to a corrosive extent. Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every word of their latest celeb mouthing inanities….
So who’s at fault? Schools need to do more about bringing a little elitism back into the awareness of culture. High culture: fine art, opera, serious drama and music that requires patience and understanding needs to be embedded into the curriculum.
In Australia, elitism is a dirty word. But maybe our jingoistic egalitarianism has gone too far with the sense of cultural equity. Who knows what a sonnet is, a partita, a motet, or who was Goethe or Christopher Marlowe? As for ballet, forget it. There are many other examples.
In sociology, we define community as a group who follow a social structure within a society (culture, norms, values, status). They may work together to organise social life within a particular place, or they may be bound by a sense of belonging sustained across time and space.
We start students thinking about community using the work of Ferdinand Toennies. He used the concept of gemienschaft to study the close social ties in rural and pre-industrial societies, where everyone knows one another and bonds overlap. For example your local grocerer is also your neighbour, you socialise together and you may be their children’s teacher. Gesellschaft is the opposite. Toennies used this to describe urban, post-industrial communities where people don’t necessarily know their neighbours and locals have specialised roles. You may not know your grocerer by name or associate outside their shop.
Toennies sees the former as an ideal community and the latter as a problem.
Durkheim and other sociologists have argued against the idealism of this typology as close-knit communities are more likely to adhere to traditions that demand strict obedience and reinforce individual oppression. Debates about community continue to this day, affecting the work of applied sociologists who address disadvantage. Some communities are held up as an ideal and so resources are allocated to groups who appear to conform to policy definitions of a “good community.” Other communities are stigmatised so programs either neglect their needs or focus on their deficiencies rather than their strenghts.
Have a think about how definitions of community might affect applied sciology. For example, I took this photo over the weekend at the Hispanic Street Festival in Melbourne Australia. This event is one of the ways that multiculturalism officially recognises and supports minority communities: by sponsoring community shows revolving around food and music. Social welfare, political recognition and other community issues of difference gain less social attention and funding.
I made a video for my educational website, Sociology at Work. We have a new YouTube channel that will feature interviews with sociologists about how they use sociology outside academia. Our first guest is Dr Yoland Wadsworth who has been working in community services and evaluation for over four decades.
Visual sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, Australia: Caroline Springs is a relatively new area that had a bad reputation about a decade a go. First because the media sensationalised illegal cock fighting as something that was endemic of its residents. It wasn’t; it was a tiny minority of unethical people treating animals illegally. Second, I was struck by the number of people who lived in the longer established outer suburbs in the West who looked down on the families who moved into these new estates. Continue reading Visual Sociology of the Western Suburbs of Melbourne