Social analysis is the effort to obtain a more complete picture of a social situation by exploring its historical and structural relationships. Social analysis is not a neutral process. To do social analysis best, it is important to be as honest as possible about one's social location, including one's own biases and assumptions. Despite the challenges implicit in social analysis, engaging in rigorous social analysis is essential to gain insight into social structures while engaging in service-learning. Joe Holland and Peter Henriot, explore the following four elements of society when doing social analysis: history, structures, divisions and levels.
Social analysis of the history of an issue or policy offers insight about how society developed to its present situation and where it is headed in the future. Social analysis of economic, political, social and cultural structures is necessary if the subsequent action is to be most effective. Social divisions include race, sex, age, class, ethnicity, religion, and geography.
Social analysis can ask three basic questions: Who makes the decisions? Who benefits from the decisions? Who bears the costs of the decisions? Issues and policies can happen at local, regional, national and international levels. For social analysis to be comprehensive, all of these elements need to be included in the analysis.
Social analysis is useful for facilitators who wish to broaden their students learning through service beyond a particular discipline by posing questions about the social contexts of service. The method of questioning is designed to help students appreciate the multiple social influences on the particular social problems they encounter, as well as the multidisciplinary research required in order to understand and solve the social problems. Because most social issues have multiple dimensions, students should be cautioned that they cannot easily construct a complete social analysis of a social situation. Rather, social analysis helps them to appreciate the complexity of the issues.
Social Analysis - The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice
Social Analysis has long been at the forefront of anthropology's engagement with the humanities and other social sciences. In forming a critical, concerned, and empirical perspective, Social Analysis encourages contributions that break away from the disciplinary bounds of anthropology and suggest innovative ways of challenging hegemonic paradigms through 'grounded theory', analysis based in original empirical research. Social Analysis is published three times a year: spring, summer, and winter. Each summer issue is guest edited and focuses on a single theme.