One of the important skills in using sociological theory is the ability to make connections between recognized or well-known theoretical models

Students will participate in online discussions of assigned topics and readings within their assigned groups.  The second exercise is based on the identification and application of conflict theory dealing with social inequality and social change.

One of the important skills in using sociological theory is the ability to make connections between recognized or well-known theoretical models and situations or circumstances different from the specific contexts within which those theories were developed. Ch. 1 in the Collins text discusses numerous theories of social stratification and power beginning with Marx and Engels and ending with what Collins calls the “Golden Age” of historical sociology.

For this exercise let’s apply some of those theoretical perspectives to the writings of two of the leading thinkers in the postwar anti-colonial struggles of Africa: Albert Memmi (1920-2020) and Frantz Fanon (1926-1961). Neither was a social scientist; Memmi was born in Tunisia of mixed Jewish and Arab descent and educated in philosophy at the Sorbonne, while Fanon was born in Martinique, later educated in France in medicine and psychiatry, and subsequently resident in Algeria until he was deported in 1957. Both were actively involved in the efforts of North Africa to throw of French colonial rule, which ended in independence for Tunisia in 1956 and Algeria in 1962.  Both wrote memorably about colonial relationships: Memmi published “The Colonizer and the Colonized” in 1957, and Fanon’s “The Wretched of the Earth” appeared in 1961.

You have two excerpts to read:

1. Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), pp. 79-91 (PDF)

· Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth  Download The Wretched of the Earth(New York: Grove Press, 2004 [1963]), pp. 63-81 (PDF)

After you read these selections, think about the theories of class, stratification and power discussed by Collins. Then work on answering these questions:

1. Both Memmi and Fanon draw categorical distinctions between the colonizer and colonized. Memmi focuses on the colonizer’s perceptions and beliefs regarding the colonized. Which conflict theories within the Marxist and Weberian traditions do you think might help to explain the situation as Memmi presents it?

2. Fanon (the assigned reading for the second week) offers a more detailed analysis of the colonial context. Who are the principal social actors he identifies, and which conflict theories do you think are most apt for undertanding their actions and ideas?

3. Note: except for Marx and Weber, Collins does not provide you with lengthy description of conflict theorists, so you need to reason about how different historical analyses and concepts might be applied to the specific colonial context of North Africa. See also my PowerPoints for conflict theory.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>