ask a scatterbrain: what are the big questions?

This one comes from a graduate student who shall remain anonymous:

When we say “the big questions” what do we mean? What are the “big questions”?

I was thinking about reorienting my approach to teaching Intro by trying to make it focus on the big questions that sociology engages and how sociology has a unique perspective relative to other disciplines.  In particular, I was thinking about how we always talk about the “sociological imagination” but often don’t give that enough context.  The sociological imagination relative to what?  What are the alternatives?  How does that make it different from other disciplines?  Different from how we might be
accustomed to thinking?

The thing that first excited me about sociology was that it offered an entirely different way to think about the world than what I was accustomed to.  In our modern era of individualism, it seemed like an entirely different paradigm.  So I was thinking about how to convey this basic fact to Intro students and it led me to think that it might be interesting to try to give them a sense of the big questions that sociology engages and how it does so in a distinct way in order to better illustrate to my students how sociology is situated within the larger pursuit of knowledge and has a unique contribution to make.

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

4 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: what are the big questions?”

  1. A colleague just introduced me to a book called Ten Questions. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the setup of the book seems applicable to this post. I’m looking forward to reading it and maybe using it in my classes.


  2. I think some intro topics can grouped under, “What is the relationship between diversity and inequality?” That works for various kinds of inequality and integration (race/ethnicity, gender, immigration, gay rights, etc.), the associated movements, and policy stuff.


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