A sociology of the unmarked: Redirecting our focus

Sociological Theory 16 (1):34-51 (1998)
Abstract
This article suggests that American sociology has developed a de facto tradition in the sociology of the marked that devotes greater epistemological attention to "politically salient" and "ontologically uncommon" features of social life. Although the "unmarked" comprises the vast majority of social life, the "marked" commands a disproportionate share of attention from sociologists. Since the marked already draws more attention within the general culture, social scientists contribute to re-marking and the reproduction of common-sense images of social reality. This has important analytic consequences. This article argues for developing a stronger tradition in a sociology of the unmarked that explicitly foregrounds "politically unnoticed" and taken-for-granted elements of social reality. Three strategies are proposed toward this end: (1) reversing conventional patterns of markedness to foreground what typically remains unnamed and implicit, (2) marking everything by filling in all the shades of social continua so that each shares the same degree of epistemological ornamentation, and (3) developing an analytically nomadic perspective that observes social phenomena from multiple vantage points
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