Understanding Social Identity, Power, and “Otherness”

Assignment Summary:
In the past couple of weeks, we have engaged in many discussions to help us explore sociological ways of understanding social identity, power, and “otherness.”

We have explored how group identities are formed socially and interdependently. We have explored how dominant and subordinate groups function within society – their power, authority, and placement within hierarchies. We have also discussed the role of stereotypes and single stories in perpetuating inequality and “othering.”

For this 5-page argumentative research essay, you will choose a social group / social identity that faces issues we have read about and discussed in class, such as otherness, domination, stereotypes, and single stories. The group you choose for this essay could be one that you already belong to, a group with which you are unfamiliar, or a group with which you only have a stereotypical or incomplete story.

You will come up with research questions to develop your knowledge about the group and the causes and effects of the problems and misrepresentations that they face. That is to say, your essay should describe and explain specific, related problems and stereotypes that the group faces. However, you should imagine that your college-level reader lacks awareness of the group that you chose.

(You can imagine your reader as being American or in another cultural/national context). Therefore, you will need to not only describe specific issues that the group faces, but you must also argue for why these issues are significant and why your reader should care – i.e., why your reader should build empathy with this group based on what you have described?

This essay, then, is not a report on a group – it is an argument for why your audience should increase their empathy for a social group they might otherwise overlook or ignore. As you make your argument, you will also acknowledge your own position in relationship to the group and how that affects your knowledge and research.
Overall, a successful essay 1 will be:
• Thoroughly researched, demonstrating the writer’s efforts to understand and make sense of this group and the issues that affect it

• Passionately, logically and persuasively argued, using a variety of persuasive strategies to convince readers of your argument and to raise their awareness and level of concern towards this group
• Clearly and compellingly structured and organized, making the essay easy to follow and interesting to read.
Guiding Questions for this Essay:
These are some questions to consider for your essay. Note: Your essay is not a list that responds to all of these questions.

Rather, use these questions as guides for what you might explore in your essay. Specificity and a narrow focus will be important as you develop your essay.
o What’s a social group (or subgroup) that consistently deals with problems relating to otherness and domination? This could be in American society/culture or in another society or culture.

o What are major, related issues pertaining to otherness, stereotyping, and domination that this group faces? How do these issues relate to each other?
o What are the causes of these specific problems? What kinds of authority / “power” (nkali) contribute to these problems? How so?
o What are the effects of these problems?

Who do they affect and how? Specifically, how do these problems result in otherness and domination?
o What makes these effects significant and worth caring about? Why should your reader care about and build empathy with this group based on these problems?
o What are the dominant / “single” stories that exist about the group? What stereotypes exist? Where do these stories come from?
o What do dominant stories miss or leave out about the group? How can you demonstrate the complexity of the group’s story?
o What can be done to counter single stories and address the problems that you explored in your essay?
o How does your own position and identity relate to the group you chose? How does this enable or limit your understanding of the group?
As you write this essay, you will:
 Understand identity beyond the “individual” and engage social theories of identity.
 Undertake a research process based on research questions and lines of inquiry around social identities.
 Employ various strategies of argumentation to effectively persuade your reader.
 Implement a variety of types of evidence to develop an argument.
 Craft an argument in light of a specific audience and within a current, real-world context.
 Understand how writing can help develop empathy and instigate change.
Requirements and Structure:
There is no one “right” way to structure or craft this essay. The following three sections detail the rhetorical expectations for the three main sections of your essay.
>>Your introduction should:
-Compellingly lead the reader into the essay and demonstrate why the issues and group you are discussing are significant and worth paying attention to.
o Think: How can I bring an unfamiliar reader into this topic in a thoughtful and interesting way? What will make my reader want to keep reading this essay?
-Provide brief context and background on the essay topic, the group you choose, and why you choose it.
o Think: How do I want to set up my overall argument for this paper? What background information and context does the reader need to know in order to understand where my ideas are coming from and the issues at hand?
-Lead up to an overall 1-3 sentence thesis statement that provides an overview of what you will be arguing in the essay.
o Think: What, overall, am I arguing about this group and the issues/stereotypes it faces? How can I briefly express to my reader the overall ideas of my essay?
>>The body paragraphs of your essay should:
-Develop your argument by engaging the guiding questions above in this document. You are not limited to these questions, but these might help you decide how you want to organize your exploration of existing stories and representations, your critical analysis of these stories, your modifications of these stories, and the alternate stories that you believe are important to emphasize.
-Your body paragraphs should be driven by what you think and found based on research and your own critical thinking. They should frame for the reader the argument you are making and why the argument is important. This essay is not a report of what you research. Rather, you are using your research to argue for how and why these groups face these issues and why the reader should care.
-Use a variety of evidence types to support the argument. This includes statistics / factual information, representative examples, primary sources, personal experiences, logical strategies, among others.
o Think: How can I appeal to logic (logos) and emotion (pathos) in order to craft a compelling, persuasive argument? What information, examples, and stories will be most effective in expressing my argument?
-Thoroughly integrate sources into the body of the essay. This includes adequately introducing the cited material, properly formatting the cited material, and thoroughly applying the citation to your overall argument. You should rely more on your own paraphrases than direct quotes. Your essay should synthesize the different ideas that you
o Remember: This last piece – your application of the source – should be well developed and substantial for all use of sources. No source “speaks for itself” – your commentary and analysis must explain to the reader how and why the source applies to your argument. You might agree with your sources, modify or add to your sources, or argue against your sources.
-Constantly consider the “so what?” question.
o Think: Why should my reader care about my argument? Why is my discussion significant? To whom? What are the consequences and impacts of what I’m describing?
The essay must include at least:
1) Two sources from class.
2) Two news sources.
3) One secondary, scholarly source.
4) Primary research.
>>The conclusion of your essay should:
-Avoid ending with a summary of all your preceding points.
o Think: Am I just repeating what I’ve already discussed in this essay? Does the reader already know what I’m saying?
-Instead, like your introduction, it should end your discussion in a compelling way. Particularly, you might focus your conclusion on possible solutions or alternatives that will help the group that you have discussed. What are the possibilities for action? Who can act? How so?
Overall criteria to consider:
You should imagine your audience as consisting of college-level readers outside of our class who have little to no familiarity with the group you are referring to. A successful essay will provide a sufficient level of detail and explanation for an unfamiliar academic reader. You should make sure that you express ideas clearly and that your word choice is accurate and precise. However, a perfectly proofread essay does not guarantee a high grade. In fact, feel free to take risks and “try on” more difficult ways of making meaning. For example, you should attempt to try out a variety of sentence lengths and structures as well as use academic language that is perhaps new to you. Avoid “playing it safe” with simple sentence structure and simple words while also paying close attention to how understandable the essay is (rather than how “flawless” the essay is).
Your essay should work on sentence-level coherence and development. Each sentence should clearly relate to the preceding sentence and proceeding sentence. Your sentences should follow a logical progression of ideas, using transitional words when necessary to express relationships.
Your paragraphs should begin, if necessary, with a transition from the preceding paragraph. Consider: How does this new idea connect to the previous idea? Then, the paragraph should provide the overarching claim or controlling idea of the paragraph. Each paragraph should be organized around one specific idea. The paragraph should elaborate on the controlling idea by providing support and evidence. Lastly, the paragraph should analyze how the evidence/support relates to the main of the paragraph.
Citation Style:
Your essay should use 8th edition Modern Language Association (MLA) Citation Style. You should provide an MLA heading, title, and in-text citations. You should also provide an MLA Works Cited page at the end of the essay.

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