Cultural Autobiography

 To understand peoples’ behavior, sociologists look at their social location in society. Identify the corners in your life by describing your job, income, education, gender, age, and race-ethnicity. Explain how each of these elements influences your self-concept and behavior. Select two or three elements to change (for example, gender and race-ethnicity) and describe what differences may exist in your self-concept and behavior if you occupied this social location.

 Considering the concept of cultural shock, share an instance(s) when your cultural assumptions were challenged by an encounter with a significantly different culture. In which ways did the cultural shock force you to reevaluate or change your own ways of thinking? Did the effects of the cultural shock lead to any long-lasting and/or profound changes in your own cultural attitudes and, if so, do they now view those changes as a positive or negative experience?

 List the norms, folkways, and mores from your society. Then discuss the importance of these in your culture. Do any of them seem silly, irrelevant, etc.? If your parents/grandparents were to make this list would it look the same/different? What do these differences imply about the social changes that have taken place in our society? Has cultural leveling influenced any of these changes?

 Examining the concept of ethnocentrism, list some of the groups to which you currently belong. Identify the ethnocentric tendencies of these groups, and discuss in what ways these ethnocentric tendencies may be functional and/or dysfunctional to the group as a whole and its members in particular.

 Make a list of your own personality traits and then address the following questions: How much, if at all, has your personality changed from the time you were in elementary school? What specific people and/or events most shaped your personality over the last fifteen years of your life? In terms of personality, which parent are you most like—your mother or your father—and in what ways?

 Can you examine all the roles you play in a week? Talk about your typical role performances and role strain or role conflicts that you typically encounter. Critically assess the different roles at the end of each day, spending at least twenty minutes writing about which of that day’s roles they most or least enjoyed, identified with, were influenced by, and/or attempted to resist.

 Do you work in small, medium or large organizations? If so, share some of your personal experiences of working for corporations. Have you noticed some of the hidden values that Rosabeth Moss Kanter identified in her organizational studies of corporations. If so, answer the following question: Did these hidden values personally benefit you or hurt you? How? Also, if these values were truly “hidden,” how is it that workers were able to identify them in the first place?

 Talk about the power of peer pressure while addressing the following questions: How is peer pressure different in college than in high school? Was there more peer pressure or less peer pressure in high school? Looking at the clothes you wear, the products you buy, the car you drive (or hope to drive someday), and the forms of entertainment you enjoy—how many of these are the result of truly independent choices versus the influence, at least to some degree, of peer pressure?

 Create a list of the five most deviant acts you can imagine. Consider which cultural values you employed in creating this list. Which cultural and/or personal biases affected your choices to include or exclude the items you selected for this list? What justification is present to define the items on the list as deviant? What gives society the right to define these items as deviant and impose negative sanctions on violators? Finally, can you think of any other cultures in the world and/or groups in American society that might consider one or more of the items on your list to be “perfectly normal”?

 Have each student write a one-page description of the most deviant behavior they have ever experienced or to which they have been personally exposed. Have them include in their essay why the act was considered deviant, whether it harmed anyone (including the individual responsible for the deviant act), and how observers reacted to the deviant act. Advise the students they may wish to use discretion in revealing any personal information they would feel uneasy sharing. Use these examples in an appropriate manner, not disclosing any information that would expose the author of the paper.

*Rubrics for written paper

Purpose/main point
This reader thinks that the writer’s purpose is clear. The document has a clear focus. Also, the idea presented/ advanced/argued is both interesting and feasible.

The writer has written for a clearly defined audience and, in this reader’s opinion, has addressed that audience expertly. Also, it appears the writer has expertly followed the directions of the assignment/task.

Sentence style: flow of writing
This reader thinks the clear, concise writing in this document made it easy (and perhaps even enjoyable) to read. The writer used solid sentence construction and strong word choices.

Correctness: Grammar and writing mechanics
This reader noticed few errors, if any. The document is clear, and the writer shows considerable mastery of the language.

Document design/
This reader thinks the document uses design elements (white space, titles and sub-titles, font size and style, etc.) expertly to create a professional-looking document that would satisfy the audience’s expectations for that type of document.

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