ANTH/SOCI 3027:A – PSCI 3802:A
Research Essay on a Globalization & Human Rights Issue Guidelines
>> Essay topic and 3 bibliographic sources due by July 25th
>> Paper due Thursday, Aug. 15 , at beginning of class
>> Grade value: 25% of overall grade
This course is designed to survey several human rights issues, none of which can be examined in great depth, with some barely touched upon. The research paper provides an opportunity to further explore a human rights issue of one’s choice, or examine a human rights organization, from an anthropological/sociological perspective.
This assignment gives you experience in library research, developing an argument, and improving your analytical and writing skills.
CHOICE OF TOPICS
You may choose a different topic of interest, provided I approve it in advance
A human rights issue related to:
- A minority group (e.g. First Nations/Inuit in Canada, or the Roma)
- Sexual orientation or gender identity (choose geographic location to focus topic)
- Analysis of a HR organization RESEARCH REQUIREMENTS
A current issue in the media
(cannot be same topic chosen in your discussion group)
- Minimum six bibliographic sources, of which at least three are scholarly studies on the subject, beyond the required course readings, i.e. sources from books, book chapters or in academic journals (as opposed to newspapers or news magazines).
- Of these three scholarly studies, at least one must be a sociological or anthropological article in a peer-reviewed academic journal OR focus on GLOBALIZATION. This could be an article about your topic in an anthropological/sociological journal OR an anthropologist or sociologist publishing in another journal such as one focused on human rights. (Put an asterisk (*) next to this source so that I know – this is especially important if you have used a sociologist or anthropologist publishing in an interdisciplinary journal.)
- You may include information found on the Internet. (Note: Wikipedia is NOT an appropriate research resource so please do not use this as a source).
- The paper should be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, 1.25 inch margins and 7- 8 pages in length.
- Citations: In addition to the 7-8 pages you should attach a bibliography using complete bibliographic citations. With your paper text you should use parenthetic citations when possible rather than footnotes. Footnotes are to be used exclusively for further comments rather than citations. Your citations should conform to either APA or AAA (be consistent!)
The paper will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
(a) Pertinence: The literature reviewed is relevant, accurate, and current. Citations are used to substantiate presentations of ideas and issues.
(b) Purposefulness: The paper identifies central ideas and follows them throughout the paper. The paper develops with a clear sense of introduction, purpose, development, and conclusion. ***Remember to approach your topic from an anthropological/sociological perspective!
(c) Organization: The paper is organized into clear sections demarcated by headings and paragraph divisions. The heading organization is consistent with the purpose of the paper.
(d) Writing Style & Grammar: Formal, scientific writing style (i.e. APA or AAA, consistent throughout) is used with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Grading Criteria for Paper
- Topic and at least 3 sources (by July 25th)
- Writing style & grammar
Oral Presentation and Participation in Group:
/2 points /3 points /10 points /2 points /3 points
Total: 20 points = 20%
5 marks = 5%
On Aug. 15th you must come to class prepared to present your research in groups of four (prearranged by me).
Presentation (15 minutes including discussion):
- Introduce your topic, providing some background and history
- Briefly outline key arguments made in the most pertinent literature you have used for
- Raise critical questions about the issue, e.g., how it is being addressed by the
international community, the media, any controversial aspects, etc.
- Allow at least 5 minutes for group discussion
Group members will be provided with a form to evaluate and comment on three presentations, to be submitted at the end of class.
Sexual orientation refers to the attraction of an individual towards a particular sex (male, female or both) emotionally and sexually (Phillips 2007). Modern social classification identifies four sexual orientations: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and asexual. A heterosexual orientation is the one in which an individual is attracted towards the opposite sex while homosexual orientation is the attraction to members of an individual’s own sex. In homosexuality, male attraction towards males is called gayism and female attraction to females is called lesbianism. Bisexuals are attracted to the opposite sex and their own sex too. Asexual people do not possess any sexual and emotional attraction towards any sex.
Sexual orientation is a social construct imposed on members with different perceptions towards different orientations. The term “straight” refers to a heterosexual orientation, reflecting the perception of this orientation as normal in many societies. While other orientations do not carry the normative title of “crooked” (as the opposite of “straight”), they evoke a sense of abnormality, hence their special names. In China, a UN (2016) report noted that heterosexuality is still considered the normal sexual orientation and that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersexual (LGBTI) individuals still faced discrimination in many spheres of society. While the report noted that, the country had decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, LGBTI individuals still lived in the shadows due to discrimination. On a positive note, the report acknowledged that the country was in a transition with the majority of the Chinese (especially young people) holding neither positive nor negative views towards LGBTIs. This paper explains the role sexual orientation and its position in Chinese society from a sociological perspective.
According to Liu et al. (2011), although heterosexuality was the most prevalent form of sexual orientation, homosexuality (tongzhi) was considered normal in ancient China. The arrival of the European explorers and their subsequent occupation of China in the mid-eighteenth century introduced Western values into the society. At the time, homosexuality was considered a mental problem in the West and society considered homosexuals sick criminals. The Chinese took up the Western values along with their technologies as part of the “progressive thoughts” that drove the rise of China as a modern nation state. The ascension of Chairman Mao to the helm of Chinese leadership in 1949 introduced a harsh view of homosexuality and it was heavily punished, with the practice used as an excuse for the persecutions of the Communist state. The relaxation of many communist policies in the 80s and the subsequent opening up of the state to foreign investment provided a reprieve for the homosexual community in the country (Kong 2016). Today, homosexuality exists in China and adherents are slowly gaining acceptance as noted earlier.
Underlying the social perception of sexual orientation in China (and in other societies) is the Chinese culture of collectivism. In the culture of collectivism, individual interests are inferior to the collective interests. Consequently, individuals seek to fit within the wider social norms and those of their own in-groups. Triandis, (as cited by Liu et al. 2011), posited that individualism and collectivism as social orientations exist alongside each other in every society although one expresses itself more than the other. Sexual orientation, like other social practices, seeks to conform to the norms of society. While individuals may feel a personal compulsion to exercise their individual preferences, the social norms due to collectivism are very strong and restrict the freedom with which they can do the same. The result is engaging in the practices covertly and identifying other individuals who share the same practice to form a social sub-group (in-group) (To and Taylor & Francis 2009:2010).
Sexual orientation is a sociological issue that can be discussed from many perspectives. The normative approach may examine it from the moral point, seeking to classify it as right or wrong. Most religions view it as a sin and a sign of non-conformity. The modern Western permissive society may want to view it simply as a matter of choice. This paper will approach the subject from sociological perspectives using the functionalist theory, the theory of conflict, the interactionist theory and social change with emphasis on Chinese society.
The Functionalist Perspective
The functionalist theory of sociology postulates that social stratification is a necessity for the smooth functioning of society (Rahman and Jackson 2010). It views society as a system of interconnected parts any without which it cannot operate fully. This view suggests that every individual, group or sub-group has a role in making any society complete and that the elimination of social inequalities would make societies non-functional. Furthermore, it is necessary for society to have governing rules that dictate the behavior of individuals through the establishment of norms.
Sexual orientation is accepted as a social construct imposed on individual members through socialization (Phillips 2007). Through long exposure to social beliefs, individuals and societies accept certain sexual orientations as “correct” and find other orientations as “wrong.” This classification and assignment of orientations as right or wrong is what leads to the term “straight”. The “straight” orientation is the sexual attraction towards members of the opposite sex.
Many scholars argue that the heterosexual orientation is the natural orientation given to man and other animals for the purpose of reproduction (Philips 2007). As the only means of self-propagation, reproduction is a sacrosanct necessity for any species without which the species would become extinct. Most cultures therefore, view heterosexual relations not only as normal but also as a necessity. Chinese culture is very collectivist, with individuals expected to subordinate personal interests for collective interests (Liu et al. 2011). This collectivist culture traces its origins from the Confucian culture that placed supreme importance on the family unit. Importantly, since those ancient days, the family in China goes beyond the nuclear unit as understood in the West. Confucianism emphasized that a man’s success in life depended not only on his individual capacity but also on the support of the family, including the uncles, cousins, first cousins and even second cousins. This position of the extended family remains important in Chinese society today, maintaining the collective cultural orientation established by Confucius’ teachings.
The UN (2016) reports that despite the discrimination of other forms of sexual orientation with the exception of heterosexuality, they exist in practice to a level that, practitioners are slowly admitting it openly. The report noted that homosexuals in China faced harassment from the police and security forces, discrimination in terms of access to services such as medical attention and even service in the private sector. Specifically, homosexuals faced arrest on the flimsiest of reasons and they ended up charged falsely or the police extorted bribes from them. The discrimination of homosexuals arises from the need of the Chinese society to maintain the norm of heterosexuality. While it is rare to find any individual or government official capable of explaining the unique dangers of homosexuality, it was nonetheless considered abnormal and repulsive. From a functionalist theory, homosexuality provides the basis on which heterosexuality can be classified as “normal”. The comparison is necessary to enable society to illustrate what is normal and what is not normal. In that manner, homosexuality plays the role of highlighting the “normal” orientation, which is heterosexuality. It is from the discriminative manner in which homosexuals are treated by Chinese society that the same society is able to socialize its members to accept heterosexuality as the norm. From the same argument, Chinese matrimonial law does not recognize same-sex marriage in China. The law is clear that marriage is strictly between members of opposite sexes. The law solidifies the culture of collectivism and reinforces the sociological functionalist perspective regarding sexual orientation.
Sociological Conflict Perspective
The sociological conflict perspective examines the competing interests that arise in society due to inequality (Rahman and Jackson 2010). It recognizes that some social classes have better access to social privileges compared to others. From a sexual orientation view, heterosexuality in China receives legal protection through privileges and rights granted to married heterosexual couples (Human Rights Watch 2017). These couples enjoy tax benefits, the right to sue for the wrongful death of a partner, the right to adoption and the right to inherit the property of a partner at death. These privileges are not available to same-sex unions (which are not legal in the first place).
Besides the government, Chinese society shows discrimination towards homosexuals through stigmatization (Liu et al. 2011). Research shows that homosexuals are considered outcasts and have been disowned by family members and friends. While there is no law against employing openly LGBTI people, evidence shows that they face more difficulty finding employment. Despite possession of requisite skills, LGBTI were less likely to be hired if they competed with heterosexuals with the same qualifications or even less. In addition, there is no law in China that specifies discrimination because of sexual orientation. Consequently, it remains the personal choice of employers to hire LGBTIs and any discriminatory act towards them has no legal recourse in China.
From a conflict perspective, another issue with LGBTI people in China is stereotyping. In a study of public perceptions on LGBTI individuals conducted on college students, Tu and Lee (2014) found that most Chinese citizens had unrealistic notions of these people. While few admitted knowing a person who was homosexual, they had ingrained expectations of LGBTI individuals from their interactions with them on the Internet. Majority reported that they believed homosexuals to be drug addicts, prostitutes, delinquents, drug pushers and generally occupying a lowly status in society. These stereotypes, stigmatization and discrimination increased conflict between heterosexuals and LGBTI individuals. It pushed them to identify more strongly with their peers and drew them away from the heterosexual society.
This sociological perspective examines how different social classes adjust to their positions to encourage coexistence with other classes (Rahman and Jackson 2010). The interactionist perspective within sexual orientation explores how individuals cope with their sexual identity in the context of the social norms. First, heterosexuality is institutionalized as the norm and individuals do not have any problem conforming to society. In China where homosexuality has a negative construct, homosexuals and transgender individuals have two choices, both that are exhausting to the individual. The first is to exercise their sexual orientation covertly, hiding their emotions towards their partners in public and avoiding any acts that may expose them. They force themselves to mimic the behavior of heterosexuals and many marry members of the opposite sex to cover for their true preference. The other recent option is to come out in the open and accept the attendant discrimination. Towards this option, several LGBTI people have chosen to become activists fighting for the rights of their colleagues. While the law ignores them, they face difficulties interacting with the rest of the population.
Sociologists agree that despite being disagreeable, social conflict is inevitable in society (Rahman and Jackson 2010). However, they also recognize that it is the major driver of social change; without conflict, societies would stagnate and fail to develop. While some homosexuals innovate survival techniques to coexist comfortably with the heterosexual population, some emerge to fight for their rights, leading to eventual acceptance. Recent occurrences in China point to increasing social change with respect to sexual orientation. First, in 1997, the government decriminalized homosexuality and followed up by declassifying it as a mental disorder in 2001. Human Rights Watch (2017) reports that 2016 was a year of major achievements as a male homosexual sued for denial to marry his male partner. While the courts did not rule in favor of the litigant, that they could entertain the suit in the first place marked a major gain in the recognition of gay rights. The same report noted that another gay sued a health facility for subjecting him to psychiatric therapy against his will because of his gay sexual orientation.
Despite the aforementioned achievements, Chinese law is still silent on many issues touching on homosexuals and homosexuality (Human Rights Watch 2017). For instance, there is no policy on discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace and in other arena. Worse, the government imposes restrictions on publication of material on homosexuality. In fact, the subject is not mentioned in school curricula despite schoolchildren being the most susceptible to the practice. As far as sexual crime is concerned, the law considers rape against men as minor offence that attracts a few days’ detention.
The legal and government positions notwithstanding, homosexuality seems to be gaining acceptance I Chinese society. A study by Zhang et al. (2007) raised concern that there was an increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence due to a rise in the number of men having sex with men after meeting on the Internet. The research reported that most of the males using the Internet to find male sex partners were young people with more open attitudes towards the practice.
The number of LGBTI individuals in China remains unknown due to the negative social construct of the practice that makes many members to operate covertly. The collectivist orientation of Chinese culture and the Confucian philosophy of family are the major culprits of constructing heterosexuality as the norm and homosexuality as an abnormality. These two factors fit into the functionalist sociological perspective in establishing a complete and functional society. The discrimination against LGBTIs leads to conflict that in turn results to social change as envisaged in a change of attitude among citizens and in government circles. The government however, remains cautiously silent on its official position on the practice. Nevertheless, sexual orientation is an issue that pervades Chinese society at depth.
Ho, L.W.W., & Taylor & Francis Group. (2010;2009;). Gay and lesbian subculture in urban China. NewYork; London; Routledge
Human Rights Watch. (2017). Human Rights Watch country profiles: Sexual orientation and gender identity. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/23/human-rights-watch-country-profiles-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity
Kong, T.S.K. (2016 August 1). The sexual in Chinese sociology: Homosexuality studies in contemporary China. The Sociological Review, 64(3), 495-514. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-954X.12372
Liu, H., Feng, T., Ha, T., Liu, H., Cai, Y., Liu, X., & Li, J. (2011). Chinese Culture, Homosexuality Stigma, Social Support and Condom Use: A Path Analytic Model. Stigma Research and Action, 1(1), 27–35. http://doi.org/10.5463/sra.v1i1.16
Phillips, D. (2007). Constructing definitions of sexual orientation in research and theory [Masters thesis]. Georgia State University. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/sociology_theses/19
Rahman, M., & Jackson, S. (2010). Gender and sexuality: Sociological approaches. Cambridge: Polity.
Tu, J., & Lee, T. (2014). The effects of media usage and interpersonal contacts on the stereotyping of lesbians and gay men in china. Journal of Homosexuality, 61(7), 980-1002
Zhang, D., Bi, P., Lv, F., Tang, H., Zhang, J., & Hiller, J. E. (2007). Internet use and risk behaviours: An online survey of visitors to three gay websites in china. Sexually Transmitted Infections, 83(7), 571-576