Department Spotlight

Sociology Department Offers Series of Presentations on "Listening to the Poor"

The Sociology Department at Whitworth University is offering a series of presentations this year on "Listening to the Poor."

Listening is an important skill, both as a sociological method and as a Christian ministry. It's a first step toward understanding others, a goal we value as learners and as Christians. We seek to understand others not in a pitying, self-enhancing way but in a respecting, other-enhancing way. Listening to poor people is especially valuable because it may make us uncomfortable; they may bear inconvenient truths.

To listen is to recognize others, to respect them by attending to their words. A basic characteristic of the poor is that they are ignored, invisible to us as we find ways to avoid them in our daily lives. We want to practice listening to the poor, making them visible, and giving them voice.

Sociologist Elliot Liebow wrote a book on homeless women titled Tell Them Who I Am. As he spent time with and interviewed these women, he got to know them as persons. He asked one homeless woman what he should write about her, and she said, "Tell them who I am." Hers was a simple plea to be known, to be acknowledged, to be listened to as a fellow human being.

So we encourage you to practice listening to the poor as a research method for understanding and as a ministry of respect for the "least among us."

  • October 16: "Listening to Oppressed Arabs and Muslims," with Dr. Raja Tanas, 4 p.m. in Dixon 206.
  • October 23: "Listening to the Terrorized Poor in Guatemala," with Blanca Hernandez, a founding member of the human rights group FAMDEGUA, 4 p.m. in Dixon 206.
  • November 13: "Listening to the Poor Women of Christ Kitchen," with Jan Martinez and Sheryl Whittekiend, 4 p.m. in Hendrick 110.

* Check here for future events in the series during January and spring term.

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