A Postmodern Sociology

During my year in the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies graduate certificate program I encountered critical theory, postmodernism and poststructuralism numerous times. It just goes with the territory. It is difficult to study gender or sexuality without being able to deconstruct it and the best tools for that are provided by postmodern thought. Deconstructing the history that has been created is carried out through Derrida. Deconstructing the language that backs that history is carried out through Foucault. Deconstructing the performance of the history and the linguistic elements are carried out through Butler.

Now, on the first day of my second week of the Master of Arts in Sociology I am reviewing articles related to my potential thesis topics and discover that all four of the articles that I pulled make some reference to critical theory or postmodern thought. It seems that I have come across the area of theory that is actually applicable to my areas of interest. I react to this with both anxiety (because I am somewhat perplexed by critical theory) and relief (because this is one less new thing to learn).

I have been contemplating what my actual area of interest is given that I identify most closely with social psychology (and came from a psychology program), and am intrigued by deviant behavior, gender and sexuality. After spending some time reading on one area of social psychology, identity, it seems that I’ve found where everything converges in a way that makes sense. The social psychology of identity is a broad enough topic to allow me to explore a large amount of my interests in a cohesive way.

Currently I am thinking I would like to focus my research on the social construction of identities and separately on deviant identities. There are probably ways to approach these topics within the positivist and quantitative scopes, but I find myself drawn more to the theoretical aspects of postmodernism, they allow for something that I perceive to be more meaningful than generating statistics about a group or behavior set and then attempting to classify based on it. In my limited social training through gender studies I have found that creating classifications or separating people based on numbers leads to discrimination and attempts to prove that people in the numerical minority are somehow inappropriate or bad because they don’t conform to the same behaviors and thoughts as the majority. Critical theory, postmodernism and poststructuralism defy the constructions of rigid barriers and challenge the authority of the majority, calling into question their version of history and the linguistic constructions with which they attempt to define the world for everyone.

At some point my mission in sociology became not one of social research or analysis of social institutions, but of constructing discourse which promotes greater social justice and breaks the barriers of power which currently deny the existence of so much of the social capital that exists.