The readings that inspire this assignment are Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,”and Michael Schwalbe’s chapter on Relationships, Groups, and interdependence. Our discussion about unintended consequences should also help guide your paper. Re-read these papers for inspiration.
Topic: Your assignment is to analyze something that you and/or other people commonly do and see as perfectly “normal,” but that can produce harmful unintended consequences (for you or for others), such as inequality.
People conveniently forget or ignore how they are interdependent with other people. Members of a group who have power over another group may be unaware of how their actions affect members of the subordinate group, or they may think of themselves as more deserving than others (an “us” vs. “them” mentality). Our culture also emphasizes individualism, which masks how we depend on other people for practically everything in our lives and makes it harder for us to see the unintended consequences of our actions.
You’ll write a 4 page paper about the social consequences of a so-called “personal choice.” Begin your paper by briefly explaining some action people call a personal choice, and then for the rest of your paper, analyze the meaningful social consequences. The goal of this short paper is to practice “sociological mindfulness.”
I assigned Horace Miner’s satire as a creative invitation. You may write this paper as if you’re a complete stranger to American society, or you can choose some other satirical approach, as long as you manage to describe and then analyze the intended and unintended social consequences of something that people conveniently want to think of as an individual, so-called personal choice (but that isn’t “personal” at all, once you see the social connections). A creative non-fiction style of paper is not required; it’s an option available to you if it inspires you to be sociologically mindful.
You can also write this paper in first or second person (“I”/“you”) and can describe your personal choice in essay form. You will describe how your personal choice has unintended consequences and how they impact other people. Contractions are fine (many examples appear in this assignment description)—they capture how we talk to each other. I hope that you’ll enjoy writing this paper!
*Please proof your paper for correct spelling and grammar before you turn it in.
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