Why do I love teaching sociology? The continual engagement with young people as they embark on their journey into adulthood fills me with hope and excitement about the future. I enjoy introducing students to sociology and accompanying them as they acquire a new, more critical perspective on the social world they inhabit and remake on a daily basis. More than anything, I relish the discipline’s transformative potential, its ability to present students with alternative modes of thinking- and being-in-the-world, to encourage them to critically examine existing social conditions and imagine how things could be different. I consider myself quite lucky to return year after year to this space where the bright-eyed energy of youth combines with the transformative power of sociology.
Currently, I’m working on research projects focused on local efforts to resist federal deportation policies across the United States and on urban development projects and displacement in the DC metro region. What fascinates me about this research is that it helps us to better understand how communities respond to adversities and work to create local social structures and relations that foster justice, inclusion, and community well-being.
Teaching sociology (or any subject for that matter), begins with a genuine love for the field. But, I believe in order to be an effective teacher of sociology, one must be genuinely willing to engage in a constant struggle with the concepts, theories, and methodological approaches that make up the discipline we know today. Like society itself, sociology is always changing. This means that teaching sociology, and teaching it well, requires an instructor to be comfortable in the role of student. As a proud ‘learner’ of sociology, my most recent explorations have taken me into the area of housing inequality, and community displacement in the greater Washington, D.C. area.
Sociology is the science of making meaningful connections. Teaching sociology 131 is connecting with others through dialogue and difference. Teaching and learning are an interactional processes that create change. Using technology and the networks it engenders, we analyze the changing conditions of the social order, connecting the local to the global and the global to the local. It is hard not to grow in such an environment.
Learning isn’t a spectator sport – you can’t sit on the sidelines and expect to understand the world in which we live! Rather than just reading about the work that sociologists do, I want students to get a feel for doing sociology, to discover the ways our lives are shaped by the social relationships that we often take for granted. At Marymount, our students bring a global perspective to the classroom. Together we strive for intellectual excellence by analyzing issues from diverse perspectives, considering views of people from all walks of life, and giving voice to those who are marginalized. More often than not I learn from my students, getting a new perspective by seeing the world through their eyes. Our conversations spark intellectual curiosity and challenge us to value the insights that come from our differences and thinking beyond those cultural and geographical boundaries that define our comfort zones.
Jessica Emami is an Iranian-Italian-American sociologist interested in gender, politics and migration. She has recently focused social media and multiculturalism. Dr. Emami is also passionate about research fostering civic engagement and political participation. Together with her students, she enjoys exploring ideas, and learning from their insights and experiences.