Sociology begins with individuals' experiences in order to explore the collective themes and patterns of human behaviour that shape our society and the distribution of health within it (Willis, 1993). This essay will describe the "sociological imagination" and then apply the concepts of the sociological enterprise to Aboriginal health and illness. The discussion will include how a sociological perspective contributes to understanding social exclusion and its affects on aboriginal mental illness .
The "sociological imagination" asserts that people do not exist in isolation but within a larger social network (Willis, 1993). Sociology begins with individuals' experiences in order to explore collective themes and patterns of behaviour that shape our society (Willis, 1993) and the distribution of health within it. This facilitates a connection to be made between "private troubles" and "public issues" (Mills 1959 cited in Germov, 2002) and further enables health problems to be viewed as social issues (Germov, 2002).
Evan Willis (1999 as cited in Germov, 2002) suggests that understanding the interrelated cultural, historical, structural and critical factors is the key to the sociological pursuit. A historical and cultural awareness involves examining how the past and culture impact upon a current health situation. Considering the structural factors entails understanding how the organisation and institutions of society and health influence peoples lives (Germov, 2002). By examining how these factors influence individuals and their behaviour, we are able to better understand the social determinants and distribution of health and apply a critical awareness in order to improve upon the society in which we live (Lupton and Najman, 1995).
From a historical perspective, the effects of colonisation and the subsequent depopulation, dispossession and degeneration of traditional Indigenous societies is fundamental to understanding the adverse health status of Aboriginals in Australia today (Davis and George, 1993). Dispossession and the subsequent marginalisation and...