Major areas of sociological interest

Religion, Politics, Gender and Class

The first set of topics includes two major areas of sociological interest: religion and politics. We may not ordinarily think of popular music as an important feature of these two social institutions, but it certainly is. Music functions as a powerful tool for accomplishing religious and political tasks. This power comes from music’s ability to provide meaning for theology and ideology. Please indicate/reference the reading and page numbers in parentheses where you find the material in our books. Read Ch. 5 in Understanding.
(1) Briefly define religion sociologically. What are the five ways music relates to religion? Give an example for each from the reading
(2) Briefly describe John Michael Talbot. Why has he considered a postmodern case of authenticity? Google JMT and examine his homepage and view some of his recent cable TV programs. How has he incorporated contemporary media logic into his ministry? How does he and his ministry compare to your religious/spiritual upbringing
(3) Briefly define ideology. How can popular music be used for conservative as well as liberal/progressive purposes? How does the concept of hegemony fit in with this discussion? What side would you take, and what music fits your ideological position?
(4) What is the sociological definition of the institution? How does American Idol support conservative values in America? In what ways is The Voice, American Idol and other competitions like the American presidential election process?
The second set of topics includes two areas of sociological interest: gender and social class. The purpose of this array of topics is to show how central popular music is to structural sociological analysis, that is, those aspects of society that reflect society as a whole and are closely related to macro ideas such as status differences and inequality. Please indicate the page numbers of the readings where you find the material. Read Ch. 6 in Understanding.
1) Summarize the West Memphis Three situation. How does this unfortunate situation illustrate the limits of community? Explore the Internet to see if there is any update on the case.
(2) What do sociologists mean by doing gender? Give another example of a current prima donna, besides Jessica Simpson. Name one male musical performer who can be considered a prima donna, and why?
(3) What is the sociological definition of authenticity? Briefly discuss Katy Perry’s and Billie Eilish’s authenticity. In your opinion, has authenticity among women musical artists changed recently?

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