“Sociology Through Literature” was established to promote the sociological imagination through two overarching ideas: that (I) the dialogue between sociology and literature creates a valuable asset that amplifies unheard voices and that (II) human imagination and collaboration are vital for enacting social change. Through this anthology of essays, we have discussed the formation of hierarchies, the mechanisms perpetuating social inequalities, and the dangers of upholding oppressive institutions in the hopes of recognizing solutions to dismantle systems of prejudice.
“Lived Experience, Socialization, and a Revolutionary Consciousness” is a compelling piece that outlines the characteristics of a “revolutionary consciousness”. Referring to C. Wright Mill’s concept of the “sociological imagination” and W.E.B. Du Bois’ “double consciousness,” in concurrence with Huey P. Newton’s Revolutionary Suicide, the paper assesses the revolutionary’s path to political consciousness. In particular, it determines that revolutionary consciousness is constantly evolving, modified by lived experiences, and is guided by the light of the sociological imagination. As a result, the paper seeks to emphasize the importance of revolutionary thought as an ever-changing path to clarity and liberation.
“Decolonizing Gender: Diverse Gender Identities in Households of Color” offers a starting point for expanding the scholarship concerning transgender youth of color. Depending upon quantitative and qualitative studies along with Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands- La Frontera: The New Mestiza, the essay seeks to accentuate the ramifications caused by the prevalence of gender expectations in households of color. Noticeably, the presence of heteropatriarchal colonialism and cisnormativity signifies that trans-YOC face internalized conflict in conjunction with minority stressors. To impede the marginalization of transgender youth it is necessary to broaden societal perceptions of gender and to provide safer support networks.
“Mass Incarceration: Contemporary Tools of Racial Capitalism” uses James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk and Yaa Gyasi’s Homecoming to analyze the mass incarceration of Black people. Positing that capitalism has created and fed into a global caste system, the paper emphasizes how mass incarceration provides capital through the exploitation of prison labor, making it a tool of racial capitalism. Additionally, the criminalization of Black men occurs in the interest of creating an underclass that can be exploited for labor to stimulate the economy. Given how deeply ingrained racial capitalism is embedded in the fabric of the United States, the paper calls for a complete reorganization of the nation’s social structures.
Accentuating the inequalities in the objectification of cis-women and cis-men, “The Stare of the Male Gaze” examines the underlying dynamics driving these differences. Interestingly, masculinity becomes synonymous with dominance, whereas femininity is equated with docility. Furthermore, women are portrayed through the guise of the Male Gaze as a projection of the male fantasy, which emphasizes their desirability. As a result, objectified men are portrayed as strong, whereas women are portrayed as fragile and exploited for their sex appeal. Given that this gendered objectification spreads toxic narratives, it is important to dismantle gendered mannerisms and traits.
Despite topics ranging from revolutionary consciousness to trans youth of color to mass incarceration and bodily objectification, all of the essays identified root sociological concepts and used them in conjunction with literature. There are lessons to be learned from the methods of analysis shared by these papers. Their use of literature as a means to understand larger societal phenomena from a distinctly personalized dimension teaches us the value of storytelling. It’s more than just entertainment— it’s also a way of knowing, a method of wisdom. The exercise of drawing conclusions from individual bodies of literature and then extrapolating them to broader structural trends highlights the crucial fact that the personal and the public are not quite as separate as we may think. Overarching, sociopolitical trends may influence the everyday realities of people’s lives, but it’s important to remember that institutions are made up of people, too. Through the translation of the personal to the societal, then, this collection of papers can ultimately be understood as an exercise in the sociological imagination.
But there are also lessons to be learned in where the essays differ. The four works covered a wide variety of issues, but their conjoining in this collective piece shows us that the topics discussed not only share similarities, but also hold the potential to challenge the assumptions and limitations of traditional disciplines. Understanding where bodily objectification, mass incarceration, trans youth of color, and revolutionary consciousness weave together generates new, larger understandings in itself. This is the lesson of interdisciplinarity— while the subject and the case study may differ, knowledge informs itself through combination and contention. Everything that is learned builds onto itself, and from that, only more growth occurs. Because of this, our work as both writers of this digital book and students in Professor Hernández-Medina’s class leaves us with lessons and skills that extend beyond the semester and into our understanding of the world around us.