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An approach within sociology initiated by Harold Garfinkel. It seeks to uncover the methods and social competence that people, as members of social groups, employ in constructing their sense of social reality. (Jary and Jary (2000). Sociology, 3rd ed.. Glasgow: HarperCollins)


1) The power of actors to operate independently of the determining constraints of social structure. The term agency is related to will and purpose.

2) Any human action, collective or structural or individual, which makes a difference to a human relationships or behaviour.

3) Anthony Giddens interprets agency as being equivalent to power.

All from Jary D. and Jary J. (eds) (2000). Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd Ed. Glasgow: HarperCollins.




A term that has several different meanings historically.  In general, alienation refers to the sense of distance from nature, separation from others, and helplessness that is an effect of modern existence.  

IMarxist theory, alienation is a specific condition of capitalism in which humans experience a sense of separation from the product of their labour, and hence all aspects of life including human relations.  

In psychoanalytic theory, alienation refers to split subjectivity and the discovery of the fact that one is not in control of one’s thoughts, actions, and desires because of the existence of the unconscious.

Sturken M., & Cartwright, L. (2001). In Practices of Looking: an introduction to visual culture. New York: Oxford University Press.


In sociology, reflexivity is an act of self-reference where examination or action ‘bends back on’, refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination. In brief, reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional; with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a situation that renders both functions causes and effects. Reflexivity is related to the concept of feedback and positive feedback in particular.

Broadly speaking, reflexivity is considered to occur when the observations or actions of observers in the social system affect the very situations they are observing, or theory being formulated is disseminated to and affects the behaviour of the individuals or systems the theory is meant to be objectively modelling. Thus for example an anthropologist living in an isolated village may affect the village and the behaviour of its citizens that he or she is studying. The observations are not independent of the participation of the observer.

Source: Wikipedia