First, I want to apologise. I didn't prepare my speech properly. It's been a very busy week.
Okay, the title of my speech is 'Why do I want to turn to Sociology?' So, it's a discipline topic. In my speech, I will ask myself a few questions, as well to you. Maybe I can answer these questions, maybe I can't.
‘Turn’ means I’m not studying sociology right now. Some of you may know that I’m studying for a Bachelor of Arts in History; it’s my third year. History is the discipline I am studying, and I am writing a paper on the history of Sino-American diplomacy these days.
If you ask me what ‘history’ is, it’s a very difficult question to answer. For all disciplines, it’s an elementary but also an ultimate question. Researchers will ask themselves repeatedly what they are devoting throughout their academic careers.
I remember our professor asked us that question in first grade, what is history to us. Unfortunately, I was called to answer.
Before that, our Ancient History professor lent me a book about the ancient Greek language. So, I said, the word 'history' comes from the Greek 'ἱστορία' (/his.to.rí.aː/), meaning inquiry or knowledge gained by the investigation. History is both a process and an outcome.
The outcome is easy to understand, namely what happened in the past. That's what many people think of history.
But it led to a lot of misunderstanding and confusion. I was once asked a question by a Microsoft software engineer. His question is how do the Byzantine emperor call the Holy Roman Emperor.
He got me, I really didn't know the answer to that question. But I know how to find and verify the answer to this question.
I'm sure Laurence has been in this situation before, your friends or family might think you can help them fix the computer because of your computer science major.
Back to ‘history’, we know that the human brain is limited, memory size is limited, therefore, ‘history’ can not and should not be done to remember all the things happened in the past. History should be building scientific research methodology and using it. In academia, ‘history’ refers not only to the past but also to the recording of the past; we call it historiography. More often than not, ‘history’ refers to the study of this process.
So, I have these understandings of history, why to give up the study of it, and turn to sociology?
Before answering is, I may have to face another ultimate question, what is sociology? Just as I explained what history is in class, I'd like to explain it from an etymology perspective again.
Over 200 years ago, the French philosopher Auguste Comte founded the word sociology. It first appeared in his book Cours de Philosophie Positive, published by 1839. This new word with a Latin prefix and a Greek suffix, socius and logos, which means an associate and study. Literally, it's the study of how and why people connect.
Today, sociology is the study of society, human social interaction and the rules and processes that bind and separate people not only as individuals but as members of associations, groups and institutions.
Research methods are also very diverse, including ethnography, in-depth interviews, archival work to advanced statistical modelling, etc.
Finally, I’d like to ask you a simple question, which word is like history? Yesterday or today?
Yes, it's 'yesterday'.
But what about sociology? I think it's 'today'. We study the theories and methods of previous scholars to better investigate the present society, understand it and solve social problems.
I prefer today to yesterday. I hope the future will be better, where everyone can live more convenient, comfortable, free and with dignity.
That's all. Thank you.