Everyday Sociology

By Aamina Rahim 2021-04-16

A prominent lesson that stays with me after five years of university education in sociology is the everydayness of it. 


As an undergrad, I was introduced to multiple topics of social importance that could enrich a sociologist’s arsenal of knowledge. Social theories pushed a student to look deeper into Indian social institutions, their functioning and dynamics that dictated interpersonal relationships. It all seemed significant, yet ‘everyday sociology’一a sociological perspective stuck with me because it greatly informed my day-to-day lived reality. 

It was an exercise to regard my experiences as not random or unstructured, but as a result of the sociocultural context I was placed in. It became a personal exploration to step back in social interactions and ask myself, “What is the role that I am playing right now, and how does my conduct change in this particular scenario?”

Dramaturgy—a social theory proposed by Erving Goffman explores the performative aspect of one’s manifold identities during social interactions, painting a theatrical picture of social life. Essentially, we all play roles, and the continued efforts of doing so motivate us to manage our images. In a way, you could say that performing our role based on our gender, religion, social class, and social conditioning is a driving force of social equilibrium—the good ol’ status quo. 

Everyday sociology promotes reflection of regular interactions, habits, choices, and personal experiences when you’re out and about in the world. It can even be a source of humor when you can pick up traces of sheer absurdity of human relationships, with our exaggerated social etiquettes, niceties, and practices that serve no real purpose but have nevertheless been ingrained into our lives. Other times, knowing that your experiences are shared with a community can provide comfort, a sense of belonging. 

In a way, sociology as a subject acts as a bridge between ourselves and the rest of the world. Everyday sociology, specifically, emphasizes the importance of the individual—moving away from classical sociology that threw light on overarching social systems and institutions. Scrutinizing everyday interaction makes way for micro perspectives in sociology—dramaturgy is just one example. 

Sociology is a growing field. You could have many interests, which will all find a home in sociology—helping you to put a social analysis together. Sociology is inadvertently specialized knowledge, but I think that we can all be social researchers in some ways. 

The very first lesson during my first-year orientation was that sociology is a lens through which to view the world. It still rings true today, as I see my world in relation to that of others with greater empathy. 

We can probe beneath the surface of everyday interactions and connect the dots that create our social realities. With the tools provided by sociological knowledge, you can both remove yourself from certain situations and still have a clearer, closer, more critical outlook.  


Also read: Looking back to look ahead