|Vol. 19, No. 8||Oct. 21, 1999|
While serving in administrative positions for the past nine years at UD-as interim dean of the College of Arts and Science and vice provost for academic affairs-Margaret Andersen, sociology and women's studies, has remained active in her own research into race and gender issues.
The result is a new introductory textbook, Sociology: Understanding A Diverse Society, with coauthor Howard F. Taylor of Princeton University, and the revised, fifth edition of Thinking About Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender.
"In writing Sociology: Understanding A Diverse Society, we took a different approach from most textbooks, which treat diversity as a separate unit. Our approach was to integrate race and gender into all areas of sociology," Andersen said.
The book engages students immediately, in a "what if" scenario, asking them to imagine what it would be like to be born in another family and be rich or poor, of a different race, religion and gender. The authors write, "We are talking about changing the basic facts of your life-your family, social class, education, religion, sex and race. Each has major consequences for who you are and how you will fare in life."
Defining sociology as the "study of human behavior in society," the book encompasses all facets of the discipline. It is divided into five sections, first introducing students to the perspective and research methods of sociology, followed by units on "Individuals in Society," "Social Inequalities," Social Institutions" and "Social Change." It explores all areas of contemporary society, including culture, aging, poverty, sexuality, education, politics, population and social movements.
The illustrations run the gamut as well-from photographs of a Native American weaver to rites of passage from different cultures.
More than 40 maps of the United States and the world, plus graphs, have been used to impart information on demographics. Maps depict such concepts as the "McDonaldization" of society, showing the density of shopping centers in different locations in the U.S; American cultural penetration, showing where Pepsi-Cola and McDonald hamburgers are sold the world; immigration patterns; the world infant mortality rates and hazardous waste sites, among others.
Sociology: Understanding a Diverse Society, which has more than 600 pages, has been an ongoing project since 1990, Andersen said.
When Andersen wrote the first edition of Thinking About Women: Sociological Perspectives on Sex and Gender in 1982, there was very little written on gender issues. For example, "sexual harassment" and "workfare" were unknown terms in 1982, she said. Since then there has been an explosion of research and writing in women's studies and keeping current with the literature and scholarship in this area has meant frequent revisions to her original book.
Although women have made strides in equity, there are still discrepancies in opportunities for women in terms of jobs, salaries and sharing of home responsibilities. In addition, one third of all households headed by women are poor, and the percentage is greater for minority women, Andersen pointed out.
Andersen's book is inclusive and addresses the issues of race, class and gender. "There are inequalities among women because of racial and ethnic differences, and feminist studies are flawed, when they reflect only the experience of white, middle-class women," she said.
In her conclusion, she writes "At the heart of all feminist theory lies the idea that prior knowledge about women, society and culture has been distorted by the exclusion of women from academic thought." She points out in the book that "feminist theory is itself incomplete without an analysis of the intersections of race, class and gender in society," and that the overall goal of women's studies should be to generate "programs for social change designed for the liberation of all women and men."
This month, Andersen is headed west to Stanford University on sabbatical.
Stanford's Center for Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity has received a Ford Foundation grant for faculty development, and in conjunction with Stanford's Institute for Research on Women and Gender, she will be working with the center on this topic. The center encompasses different programs, such as African American studies, Chicano studies, Native American studies and Jewish studies. It also is sponsoring a major conference on "African Americans and Social Policy at the Turn of the Century," in which she will participate.
Andersen, who has been awarded UD's excellence-in-teaching award, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to teach an introductory class on race, class and gender at Stanford. "Although I have worked with undergraduate and graduate students on research projects for my books, I have not taught in the classroom for nine years and am looking forward to working more with students again," she said.
Andersen, who joined the UD faculty in 1974, is a graduate of Georgia State University and received a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has served as president of the Eastern Sociological Society, as editor of Gender & Society and is the coeditor with Patricia Hill Collins of Race, Class and Gender: An Anthology, which she is now revising for its fourth edition.