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Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life

By Josee Johnston, Kate Cairns, Shyon Baumann

© 2017 – Routledge

476 pages | 138 Color Illus.

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About the Book

The challenges of teaching a successful introductory sociology course today demand materials from a publisher very different from the norm. Texts that are organized the way the discipline structures itself intellectually no longer connect with the majority of student learners. This is not an issue of pandering to students or otherwise seeking the lowest common denominator. On the contrary, it is a question of again making the practice of sociological thinking meaningful, rigorous, and relevant to today’s world of undergraduates.

This comparatively concise, highly visual, and affordable book offers a refreshingly new way forward to reach students, using one of the most powerful tools in a sociologist’s teaching arsenal—the familiar stuff in students’ everyday lives throughout the world: the jeans they wear to class, the coffee they drink each morning, or the phones their professors tell them to put away during lectures.

A focus on consumer culture, seeing the strange in the familiar,is not only interesting for students; it is also (the authors suggest) pedagogically superior to more traditional approaches. By engaging students through their stuff, this book moves beyond teaching about sociology to helping instructors teach the practice of sociological thinking. It moves beyond describing what sociology is, so that students can practice what sociological thinking can do. This pedagogy also posits a relationship between teacher and learner that is bi-directional. Many students feel a sense of authority in various areas of consumer culture, and they often enjoy sharing their knowledge with fellow students and with their instructor. Opening up the sociology classroom to discussion of these topics validates students’ expertise on their own life-worlds. Teachers, in turn, gain insight from the goods, services, and cultural expectations that shape students’ lives.

While innovative, the book has been carefully crafted to make it as useful and flexible as possible for instructors aiming to build core sociological foundations in a single semester. A map on pages ii–iii identifies core sociological concepts covered so that a traditional syllabus as well as individual lectures can easily be maintained. Theory, method, and active learning exercises in every chapter constantly encourage the sociological imagination as well as the "doing" of sociology.

Reviews

"From designer jeans to iPhones, cultural understandings and material arrangements come together to shape what we buy and why. With a remarkable gift for storytelling, the authors shows us how the things we use reflect the conflict between our private lives and the public issues structuring them. After reading this book, it will be impossible to see a marketing campaign or a PR event in quite the same way. I can’t wait to teach Using the Stuff of Everyday Life in my classroom!"

Frederick F. Wherry, Yale University

"Johnston, Cairns, and Baumann have produced something that Introductory Sociology instructors have long needed: a text that integrates the many diverse topics covered by sociology into a unifying theme. By focusing on the social processes surrounding consumption and consumerism —the literal ‘stuff’ of our students’ everyday lives—the authors help students explore important sociological subjects such as globalization, inequality, subcultures, gender, identity, and much, much more. This is an exciting, creative contribution to the same-old, same-old landscape of introductory sociology texts, and one certain to get students exercising their sociological imaginations right away."

Daniel Winchester, co-editor of Social Theory Re-Wired (Routledge 2016)

"Remarkably well-written and cleverly organized, Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life demonstrates the relevance of a wide range of sociological concepts to suchroutine occurrences as getting a cup of coffee, playing sports, and getting married. Theauthors’ presentation of ‘thinking frames’ and ‘active learning’ suggestions for each chapterprovides students with rich opportunities to test and apply their knowledge andunderstanding. An excellent introductory text!"

David Karen, co-editor of Sociological Perspectives on Sport (Routledge 2015)

"Introducing Sociology Using the Stuff of Everyday Life succeeds where other ‘nontraditional’ textbooks have failed. Johnston, Cairns, and Baumann have compiled truly compelling chapters that apply core sociological concepts to the stuff—clothes, food, cars, music, phones, etc.—that surrounds our students today. Their focus on ‘stuff’ allows instructors go beyond concepts covered in traditional sociology textbooks to emphasize contemporary ideas that sociologists actually use when we ‘do sociology’. This is the first nontraditional textbook I’ve seen that really breaks the standard textbook mold and engages students in the practice of thinking sociologically!"

Julie A. Pelton, University of Nebraska Omaha

"Thanks to Introducing Sociology, your students in Introductory Sociology will never be able to look at their ‘stuff’ in the same way. This text will leave them thinking about sociology when they pick up their phone, eat a burger, pull on their jeans, and ‘conspicuously consume’ their lattes. Johnston, Cairns, and Baumann offer a unique approach to the introductory course that covers essential sociological concepts in an engaging and meaningful way."

Suzanne Hudd, Quinnipiac College

Table of Contents

CONTENTS IN BRIEF

Preface for Instructors

Preface for Students

Acknowledgements

Chapter 1. A Day in the Life of Your Jeans: Using Our Stuff to Discover Sociology

Part I. Surviving (and thriving) in Consumer Culture

Chapter 2. You Are What You Eat: Culture, Norms, and Values

Chapter 3. Fast Food Blues: Work in a Global Economy

Chapter 4. Coffee: Status, Distinction, and ‘Good’ Taste

Part II. Fitting In: Being Part of the Group

Chapter 5. Shopping Lessons: Consuming Social Order

Chapter 6. Get in the Game: Race, Merit, and Group Boundaries

Chapter 7. Barbies and Monster Trucks: Socialization and ‘Doing Gender’

Chapter 8. Dreaming of a White Wedding: Marriage, Family, and Heteronormativity

Chapter 9. I <3 My Phone: Technology and Social Networks

Part III. Standing Out: Individuals Negotiating the Social World

Chapter 10. Branding Your Unique Identity™: Consumer Culture and the Social Self

Chapter 11. Looking Good: Ideology, Intersectionality, and the Beauty Industry

Chapter 12. What’s On Your Playlist? Subcultures, Racism, and Cultural Appropriation

Chapter 13. Our Love-Hate Relationship with the Car: Masculinity, Industry, and Environmental Sustainability

Appendix: Advertising and Society: An Overview of Sociological Methods

Glossary / Index

Index of Key Sociological Concepts

Bibliography

About the Authors

Josée Johnston is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She is co-author of Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape, second edition and Food and Femininity.

Kate Cairns is Assistant Professor in the Department of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University. She is co-author of Food and Femininity.

Shyon Baumann is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He is co-author of Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape, second edition.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOC026000
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General