Your essay will include the following three elements:
1. Describe the community and individuals: What you include in your description will depend on the community chosen. In general, consider these areas. What is the community? What is its purpose? What are its boundaries, how is it constructed, and how do people become members (for example, a medical diagnosis, addiction, or commitment to a way of thinking or a practice)? What issues, themes, or problems are they addressing? What are the principles, rules, or norms that govern group membership? What makes them deviant or abnormal and why are they regarded this way?
As discussed below, I am also interested in the lived experiences of deviant individuals. While it is impossible for us to really get “inside” the heads of group members, attempt to offer (if possible, based on the materials you have available) a brief description of what it is like to have the condition or be a member of the group (or how they represent being “deviant”). Explore the experiences and what happens to people who exhibit the characteristics of this classification or categorization. How might deviant labels shape people’s identities and life chances? How does being a member of this group influence people’s interactions, relationships, emotional health or well-being? How do people make sense of being in this group? For example, if you are studying drug use, how to people manage and make sense of their own drug use. You might also explore the range of punishments and treatments associated with being a member of that group (such as arrest for drug use). Concepts that we discussed in class, such as sick roles, medicalization, stigma, labelling, and moral entrepreneurs are useful concepts to work with.
You should reference some of the readings and lectures from class, and show evidence or insights from discussion and other material in your writing. You are required to find at least 5 additional outside sources, either from the anthropology and/or the medical/psychiatric literature, on the identity/condition/community/practice you are writing about.
2. Analysis of Forum Members’ Narrartives of their Own Experience: The direction that your analysis can go is quite broad and dependent on the community you choose. Your analysis will likely be embedded within or closely connected to the descriptive materials discussed above. What I do want you to consider is the “discourse”that is, what they talk about and how they talk about it.
Look for and describe “themes” that regularly appear in their discussions, representations of life, and other postings. A theme might be, for example, a unique perception of gender, sexuality, desire, relationship to power or authority figures, methods of resistance, moral values, methods of public representation, or claims of authenticity. What sorts of metaphors seem to structure the way they talk about their identity/practice/condition? What are the dominant issues and conversations people are having? How do people present their own experiences, and respond to those of others?
As you read posts and other materials significant patterns or themes will arise. Take note of these and record examples. In your essay, describe a set of the common themes you found and use examples or quotes from your community to support your analysis. Finally, what does your analysis of this community tell you about the culture(s) (or subcultures) they come from? Think about the topics we have covered throughout the semester and you will likely see some connections to the narrative.
3. Analysis of Social Factors: Also, be sure to discuss peoples’ experience in reference to the larger cultural and social contexts and forces that seem to be shaping them. Discuss the role of their larger context in which they live. For example, is the environment or social structure a possible factor that plays some role? Did people experience discrimination? Was work and making a living interrupted? Is their condition medicalized in some way? How had this community or identity changed over time? Is this a new “kind of person” (a la Hacking)? If so, what are some of the social forces that seem to have contributed into its emergence? These are just some examples of the many directions that your narrative might go.