Access: TED Talks
Summary: In this TED Talk, 22-year-old spoken word poet Sarah Kay discusses her personal and professional experience with spoken word performance poetry. Throughout the talk, Kay highlights the pedagogical possibilities of spoken word, describing the ways in which New York City’s Bowery Poetry Club became her “classroom” when she was just 14 years old, as well as her current educational work with students across the country, using spoken word as a site of engagement. Such pedagogical possibilities point to the ways in which spoken word poetry might serve as a productive site for sociological analysis as well, in that it provides an accessible and entertaining medium through which students can “figure things out,” allowing them to draw upon their personal stories and experiences to explore something previously unknown to them. Echoing insights from C.W. Mills, Kay describes the pedagogical utility of using our personal stories (i.e., biographies) as a way through which to discover and connect to social phenomena “out there," seemingly detached from our own lives (i.e., history). As sociology instructors, we can draw upon this pedagogical approach. A class assignment might ask students to write (and perform) a spoken word poem about a topic germane to the class content; this can involve an explicit requirement for students to weave their personal stories into a potentially abstract sociological concept or subject area (the subject can be anything, e.g., social networks, gender violence, disability, stratification, hegemonic masculinity, rural poverty, conspicuous consumption, etc). This video clip can serve as an introduction to the assignment, providing a background on spoken word performance poetry; Kay also offers a few poetry writing exercises in the clip. Examples of how spoken word poetry can serve as a site for sociological analysis can be found here and here on The Sociological Cinema. Other TED Talks on the site can be found here, here, and here.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp