Social Science References
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (Food and Drug Administration)
The Family (J. Ross Eshleman) - Publisher's website
National Agricultural Library (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Race, Class, and Gender (Margaret Andersen & Patricia Hill Collins) - Publisher's website
Sociology is the scientific study of human society and social interactions. The American Sociological Association (1977) defines sociology as the study of social life and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. A social science (as opposed to natural sciences such as biology or physics), it focuses on the study of people as social beings, not only as biological creatures. Sociologists observe, describe and analyze the typical ways of thinking, feeling and behaving of people who are similarly located in time and in physical and cultural space.
Sociology is built on empiricism (generalizations are valid if evidence has been observed or verified through our senses) and the scientific method, a process by which knowledge is built through observation, experimentation, generalization and verification.
Sociology is characterized by a curiosity for the hidden fabric of our social environment. In Invitation to Sociology (1963), Peter Berger describes the sociologist as "a person intensively, endlessly, shamelessly interested in the doings of men" because things are not always what they seem. Networks of invisible rules and institutional arrangements guide and impact our daily behavior. We have to go beyond the threshold of immediate awareness and perceptions to, first, see the social reality and then to understand it.
The sociological perspective reveals the general in the particular, allowing us to identify general patterns in the behavior of particular individuals. In The Sociological Imagination (1959) C. Wright Mills considers the relations between our personal lives and the social forces we deal with. He writes: "The sociological imagination enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene... to grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society." The distinction between "the personal troubles of milieu and the public issues of social structure" is "an essential tool of the sociological imagination."
These orientations make sociology an adequate tool for questioning myths and stereotypes by bringing out facts and proposing scientific explanations (divorce rates, crime and poverty, social change). Sociology challenges common sense. What "everyone knows", "popular wisdom", "common sense" is more description than analysis and often makes sense after the fact only. Sociology is neither sensationalism nor journalism: sociologists are interested in the mundane everyday life of contemporary societies, in patterned behavior, not in exceptional or bizarre incidents highlighted for commercial or ideological reasons.
Among the basic concepts sociologists work with are group, role, status, social class, social institution, norm, behavior, attitude, symbol, interaction, socialization, social change, social structure.
* biological or physical anthropology looks at humans as biological organisms, how we adapt and how we change;
* archeology focuses on the human past involving the study of material, human and cultural remains;
* cultural anthropology is the study of human cultures. It focuses on variations in beliefs and behaviors of members of different human groups and how they are shaped by culture
* linguistic anthropology is concerned with the study of human languages.
There are direct applications of anthropology: applied anthropology is a specialty that uses information gathered by anthropologists to solve practical cross-cultural problems, forensic anthropology assists in the investigation of crimes, medical anthropology contributes to describe and analyze the social context of diseases and epidemics. Areas such as conflict resolution and economic development also benefit fromthe work of anthropologists.
Among the basic concept anthropologists work with are culture, language, adaptation, kinship, species, subsistence, religion, political organization.