Connecting Sociology and YOU!

Afghanistan + Haiti + COVID-19 = ?

What does the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the earthquake in Haiti, and Covid-19 in Texas have in common? Sociology, the scientific study of social relationships, social institutions, and societies, helps us better understand not only the events themselves, but also why people act the way they do as the events unfold. People and societies do not exist in a vacuum. There are certain patterns of behavior that act as themes running through our collective lives. Let’s consider some of the ones that run through the aforementioned topics.

Using sociology we find that the events in Afghanistan can be studied broadly from the standpoint of political sociology, the study of political groups, leadership, and power within society. They can also be analyzed more specifically by considering topics such as terrorism, the use of violence or the threat of violence to influence the political process, refugees, individuals who leave their homeland to escape violence and war, and even sexism, prejudice, devaluation, and discrimination based on an individual’s sex. Sociology helps us bring the news stories about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan into focus.

The earthquake in Haiti has devastated the island nation. While the death toll continues to rise, it is worth remembering that the last major earthquake in 2010 resulted in upwards of 300,000 deaths, and billions of dollars’ worth of damage. Although one could be tempted to consider this devastation strictly from the standpoint of natural disasters, taking a broader sociological perspective indicates that a host of events has contributed to the island nation’s difficulties. Both slavery, a type of a closed stratified system in which slaves and owners exist, and dictatorship, form of government to which political authority is controlled by a single person or political entity, have played a role Haiti’s history. On the other hand, dependency theory, a macro theory indicating the stratified world economic system keeps peripheral nations dependent on core nations, helps us see Haiti’s position on the larger world stage today. By using sociology, we see that sometimes, natural disasters involve more than just nature alone.

As we close out August 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic is ramping back up. Schools across the U.S. are grappling with how to respond to the crises. Medical personnel are again overwhelmed by the numbers of sick and dying due to a shortage of not only hospital beds, but also nursing staff. The city of Iraan, Texas has been hit so hard by the virus that the entire town has completely shut down. Looking at the pandemic from a sociological perspective involves the use of medical sociology, the sociological analysis of social interactions, organizations, and systems related to health, illness, and medicine. Using this approach helps us understand that Covid-19 is not just about the virus, but also about the sick role, the rights and responsibilities of those ill. Arguably, the entire pandemic experience has taught us that health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

As we work our way through the semester, use sociology to help you understand the events in the world around you. Sociology is the microscope that helps us not only see, but also understand the underlying themes that transverse our lives.

This blog post provided by the co-authors of SociologicalYOU (Sixth Edition), a digital NextGen Introductory Sociology textbook engaging students in critical thinking to “Connect Sociology and YOU!” For more information, contact

About Author

Angela L. Thompson, Ph.D.

Dr. Thompson received her B.A. in English and Sociology from Wellesley College, her joint M.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Brandeis University, and her Ph.D. in Sociology also from Brandeis University.

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