An Interview with Hoda Mahmoudi

From California Lutheran University

Conducted by Cheryl Gerth

GERTH: Which sociological tradition do you find yourself most in alignment with?

MAHMOUDI: In more recent years I have been bound up with feminist sociology. Feminist sociology views society as constantly changing and that we need to look at new ways of doing things. We need a new model to view society with.

GERTH: Which sociological tradition do you find yourself disagreeing with?

MAHMOUDI: I find myself disagreeing with the Conflict Theory which is rather simplistic in their view that human beings are motivated through conflict. There are enough recent examples to show differently.

GERTH: Name some sociologists that you admire? Why?

MAHMOUDI: Durkheim, Sorokan's material and nonmaterial civilization, Marxist's theory of alienation, and Max Weber. Each of these sociologists have something to offer into understanding society and social organization.

GERTH: What do you feel has been your greatest contribution to sociology?

MAHMOUDI: My greatest contribution was my dissertation on a cross national comparison on bureaucracy. I was the first to write on social structure and bureaucracy comparing seventy complex organizations in the United States with seventy organizations in the Middle East.

GERTH: In your research, what have you discovered that is of interest or significance?

MAHMOUDI: Learning what the major needs of the Third World are in terms of economic and social development, how the Third World nations need to manage their organization structures differently.

GERTH: As you know, sociology is still in its infancy as a science. What fields in sociology do you think hold the most promise?

MAHMOUDI: Complex Organization, Demography, and Medical Sociology.

GERTH: What fields of sociology do you think hold the least promise?

MAHMOUDI: Symbolic interactionism and Social Psychology.

GERTH: In the 1990's and into the 21st century, what are some of the key problems that sociologists must confront in further establishing their discipline?

MAHMOUDI: Better understanding of ethnic relations as related to general society. Creating a link between institutions in society and their ability to serve humans.

GERTH: In teaching students the subjects of sociology, what are some of the major misconceptions about individuals and society that you would like to clear up?

MAHMOUDI: The first is the notion of race. The word race is misleading because their is only one race, the human race. Also, to eliminate ethnocentrism and the knowing how much of human behavior is learned versus innate.

GERTH: Sociology books are not generally popular and a number of them turn out to be dated just shortly after they are published. If you had to choose four or five sociology related works (books or articles), which would they be? Why?

MAHMOUDI: Sociology: A Global Perspective by Ferrante, Making War Making Peace by Gibson and Cancian, Sociology by Ian Robertson. These are all general sociology books that I would use in my classes. They give a global perspective bringing interesting current social issues to the students of this day and age that they can relate to. The issues are well written and well presented. Giving global nature interdependence with the planet and peoples. A global society needs to manage social systems learning to be planetary systems. [They contain] issues about peace and war being an outmoded institution, and being able to resolve conflict peacefully.

GERTH: If you were stranded on a desert island and you could choose books from any subject, which books would you take?

MAHMOUDI: Of course, I would choose books about my faith [the Baha'i faith]. I would take The Hidden Words and The Gleanings of the Writings of Baha'u'llah and all of Shoghi Effendi's books. I would also take a general book on the history of the world, sociology books on peace studies about a new world and a new system, poetry by Adrian Rich, E.E. Cummings, and the complete works of Shakespeare.

GERTH: If you were to interview yourself, what question would you most like to answer? Ask that question now and answer it, if you like.

MAHMOUDI: What have I done with my education in sociology in providing service to humanity in order to make this world a better place? I would feel presumptuous to answer this question but I have tried to take my knowledge of sociology and apply it in action oriented ways to improve society. I have tried to improve racial and ethnic relations with workshops. [Trying to improve the problem of] sexism by teaching that people must change their own lives and to be an example. I give time to organizations and people. I apply sociology concepts to improve human behavior and action.

GERTH: Why did you choose sociology?

MAHMOUDI: I love the scope of sociology, in looking at human groups and at the larger picture. Sociological thinking is important in giving a new perspective to solve some of the problems that we have. Sociology has a broad all-encompassing vision. I am attracted to this vision.