Respect and insult are something that human beings do. They are acts, performances, carried out through bodily gestures and spoken words. Respect and insult are feelings, emotions, which individuals get from others. These actions and emotions take place in surrounding circumstances, social conditions.
In this reading and writing seminar we will look into the relationships between those acts and feelings, which we will broadly call “agency”, AND the conditions in which they occur, which we will call “structures”. In this seminar you will learn to think explicitly about the relationships between individual agency and social structures. Insult and respect are tangible; structures are often unseen.
Respect and insult are not simply individual acts and feelings. And, they are tied to one another. Where there is a lot of respect, there is little insult; where there is a lot of insult, there is little respect.
Is there a lot of insult in your lives? A lot of respect? What about on college campuses these days? How are respect and insult expressed and felt in different times and places? Are there clear differences in them in societies with a hierarchical culture and those with an egalitarian one? Why is it that in a seminar like this one, are we focusing more on insult than on respect when there is almost certainly more respect in people’s lives than insult?
Weekly readings are between 100 and 150 pages. You will write an on-going, extensive journal throughout the semester, always adding, changing, composing, making it better, adding themes, thoughts, reflections. The instructor will review your journal every three weeks. There are no exams.
We will read FROM among these works and perhaps from others:
Edward Shils, “Deference”
Peter Berger, “On the Obsolescence of the Concept of Honor”
Roberto daMatta, “The Quest for Citizenship in a Relational Universe
Joanne Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic
Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory
Games Gilligan, Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic
Alan Page Fiske, Virtuous Violence
Philippe Bourgois, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in the Barrio
Roger Gould, Collision of Wills
Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
William Ian Miller, Humiliation
Peter Gay, The Cultivation of Hatred
Sarah Chambers, From Subjects to Citizens
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Respect: An Exploration