Structural Oppression – Part 2


So now I want you to think about your responses to Exercise 2.1. For your first unit assignment, you had to research several different institutions. And each of them, even the ones we don’t often think about, were a necessary link in the chain that produced your clothing. So the retailer where you purchased your shirt from is connected to the farmer who picks the cotton that went into that shirt. The brand, the retailer, the distributor, and the factory are all separate institutions. But they do interact with one another. And this is crucial to remember about any Institution: they do not exist in isolation. All institutions exist together and they interact with one another. What this means is that institutions, as they exist together, form a system. And this is because They are linked together, And because they exist in relation to each other. So what makes an organization an institution is not just its social practices But that it has other institutions to be compared to. We know, for example, that when we hear a siren on the road while we’re driving that we need to pull over. And then When the vehicle finally passes us, we know whether we are looking at a police car because we have fire trucks and ambulances to compare it to. And institutions also form a system in the sense that they all operate simultaneously and in tandem with each other. And finally, and most important, institutions produce and reproduce social stratification. They are the places where structural oppression occurs. And this is what makes oppression structural. It exists within our institutions and those institutions link together to form a system of oppression. So structural oppression, then, entails four components. And these four components are not necessarily in order. So you don’t need to think of this as a linear process, but just four different things that come in to structural oppression. The first is category formation and ranking. In other words the categories necessary to stratify people such as race, gender, and class need to be constructed. This is something that we’re going to explore further during Week 4. Second, those categories need to be internalized. And this means that those categories need to become normalized; seen as part of the common sense fabric of our social world Next those categories also need to become institutionalized. They are produced and reproduced through the policies and practices within our institutions. And finally, those institutions link together to form a system. That system of stratification is what structural oppression is. We are classified, ranked hierarchically, and that ranking becomes a central feature of our institutions. And one thing that is very important to remember is that structural oppression is not a natural occurrence. It doesn’t just kind of happen. The categories formed – such as race, gender, class, and sexuality – are formed deliberately and they are learned. We are socialized into them and we internalize them. And they are embedded in the institutions that we navigate every day. And Those institutions are linked. They form a system. So to conclude, I want to bring this all back to something we learned about in Week 1: intercultural praxis. These are the skill sets needed to engage in meaningful and equitable intercultural interactions. Structural oppression is the ultimate barrier to intercultural praxis, and it has been at the root of everything you have learned thus far in class. Stratification, the hallmark of structural oppression, fragments people from each other. it structures how we are able to live our lives from our social location and because of Internalization, it becomes difficult to put those various ports of entry into practice. So one example of this is that, thinking of category formation, one of the awards or privileges that are granted to the dominant groups – or as you learned, what are called Agent group members – is that they don’t have to think about how they’re Agent group members. You know, so they don’t have to think about their social location in the same way that a Target group member has to. And so if we’re going to put that into intercultural praxis, how are you supposed to think about your social location – such as your race, gender, class, and sexuality – and how that impacts your frame, when you don’t even necessarily know that you have a social location or you’re not in a place where you really have to think about it? As such, much of this course is going to be about learning to unpack that through examining your own experiences. So we’re going to be doing a lot of work exploring our own positions and our own frames. That concludes our lecture. So, thank you. And again, please let me know if you have any questions about the content

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