THE SOCIOLOGICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Now that you have learned and applied new sociological concepts throughout the semester, the next and final step will be to apply what you’ve learned through composing an autobiographical essay.
Kedebe (2009) says that sociological autobiographers tell an autobiographical story to write and think sociologically. A sociological autobiography is a story about your life using the insights of the sociological imagination. It is linking together your personal biography with the history of your society. In other words, a sociological autobiography is the art of telling one’s story within a social and historical context. Why is your life meaningful and what social forces have contributed to making your life unique? This is your opportunity to put sociology into practice and write a story about yourself!
The function of memory (or biography in this case) is simply to understand the past so we can reconfigure our actions in the present to create a more fulfilling future. It is common knowledge that unresolved past experiences can keep us stuck doing the same thing over and over again. It’s like carrying a sack of useless social and mental junk with you wherever we go. It weighs you down and limits what’s possible in your life. This essay is a rare opportunity to develop the powerful skill of self-reflection, and to examine who you are and where you are going. It will also help you develop critical thinking and communication, which are essential skills for personal and professional success. This is not only an assignment for credit. It is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to reflect on who you are, and what gets in the way of who you want to be.
To get started, ask yourself: How can I resolve the experiences of my past? Where might I be stuck and in need of growth? Will retelling my story help me understand how the history of my society has shaped who I am today? What would I like to learn more about myself and the world I live in?
WHAT SHOULD I DO NOW?
In this essay, you will contemplate and analyze the relationships between your life and the social world through personal storytelling. When composing your story, consider how your self has emerged through social interaction during a particular historical and cultural era. How are you unique? How does your life emerge through interaction with others? Have you been affected by celebrity culture, sports, consumerism, social media, body image and gender stereotypes, racial inequality, immigration, the COVID-19 pandemic, or the Global Recession? Whatever it may be, your life and experience has emerged in a particular social and historical context. Trace those steps, and tell your story.
Let me make this simple: The goal of this assignment is to understand social reality through an examination of yourself. Simply look at your life within a particular social and historical context. When writing this essay, draw on The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills, which requires you to make connections between personal biography and history. Furthermore, to make your analysis sociological use any of the reading from this semester, including course PowerPoints to tell your story. Here are some common sociological terms students have used in the past. This is not an exhaustive list, but contains only a few suggestions:
“Gender roles,” “social and cultural trends,” “class,” “economic system,” “social institutions,” “ascribed status,” “achieved status,” “ethnicity,” “race,” “social identity,” “discrimination,” “prejudice,” “stereotype,” “status,” “socialization,” “norms and values.”
Our experiences hold wisdom. If we try to forget it, it will stay with us anyway, so it’s better to develop a relationship with those experiences. Then, you can move on, develop yourself, and move towards actualizing your goals and wishes. This is the timeless practice of transformation. Writing about your life helps bring things from the abstract and emotionally hued past into clarity and precision in the present. It makes your thoughts a workable story. Therefore, you can see its effect on your actions and shift direction to consciously create a more meaningful life. It’s up to you.
Please do not feel obliged to put personally sensitive material in your autobiographies, especially if you think it would be harmful to you. Share only what is helpful for deep self-reflection and completion of this essay.
SIMPLE & CLEAR DIRECTIONS
The goal of this assignment is to write a story about your life. You will examine yourself within a particular social and historical context, and using sociological concepts discussed in this course. Think of your life story as data and the course concepts as the supporting theory.
The essay should be 1500-2000 words in length. It will test your communication, critical thinking, and self-reflection skills, and your ability to synthesize class material. Keep your writing short and concise. To complete this essay, please define at least two major concepts from Essentials of Sociology, Evicted, and/or Braving the Wilderness. Then, use at least three additional citations from the readings throughout the semester to contextualize your story and make your arguments. Be specific and use examples to relate back to the readings. This is a semi-formal essay. It should have an introductory paragraph with a thesis, supporting body paragraphs, and then a conclusion. You must also use proper spelling, grammar, and citations.
The intention of this essay is:
to apply course concepts to the real-world experiences of your life;
to apply a sociological perspective and the sociological imagination;
to help you cultivate communication, self-awareness, and critical thinking skills;
to discover and confront personal and shared vulnerabilities;
and to muster the courage to forgive yourself and others.
Grammar, Writing Quality, Style, Length
Ask yourself: Have I written my essay as clearly as possible? Have I revised and edited my essay? Does it fulfill the page requirement, and use proper grammar, spelling, and citation format?
· Approximately 1500-2000 words, 1.0″ Margin on BOTH sides, Typed, Double Spaced, Times New Roman 12 pt. Font.
· You can use any citation style you are familiar with (ASA, APA, MLA, etc), but please be consistent throughout the essay.
Application of Course Material and Course Concepts
Ask yourself: Have I defined a major course concept from readings or lecture? Have I included citations from the semester’s readings in order to construct a compelling narrative, relating it to readings that support my arguments?
CRITERIA UNACCEPTABLE SATISFACTORY EXCELLENT
Application of the Course Concepts
Minimal definition and citation of course concepts. Student demonstrates satisfactory understanding of the concept and application of the concept.
Student defines at least one concept from course readings. Student cites at least two other course concepts to demonstrate how their personal life is related to larger social conditions explored in their essay.
of readings and outside references
Shows little evidence that readings were completed or understood. Gives mostly personal opinions or feelings. Student relies too heavily on quotes to develop essay.
Displays understanding of required readings and related course concepts with correct use of terminology and citations.
Displays understanding of required readings with correct use of terminology and citations. Extends the learning of the essay by integrating other resources to support important points.
Off-topic, incorrect, or irrelevant to essay.
Factually correct. Lacks full development of concept or thought.
Factually correct, reflective, and substantive contribution.
Long, unorganized or inappropriate content. Unsatisfactory use of spelling and grammar.
Communicates in a courteous, helpful, and friendly manner.
Communicates in a courteous, helpful, and friendly manner.
Contributes to discussion with clear concise manner. Little to no spelling or grammar errors.
 Kedebe, Alem. 2009. “Practicing Sociological Imagination Through Writing Sociological Autobiography.” Teaching Sociology. 37: 353
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