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February 12, 2018

The Body as Social: Roxane Gay’s Hunger

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Our bodies are not just biological, but the way we make sense of our bodies and the bodies of others exists in both a personal and social context. While our bodies are also private, they are (mostly) visible to the public, and as such, often judged and evaluated by those around us and of course, by ourselves. In addition, the physical aspects of our bodies are shaped by events that are sometimes beyond our control, whether it be based on economics, our geographic location, or traumatic events.

Author Roxane Gay demonstrates this in her book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. The title, and the book’s contents, reminds us that our bodies, like ourselves, have stories of how they came to be as they are. In Gay’s case, she recounts how being sexually assaulted by a group of boys at the age of twelve changed her relationship to her body from that moment forward.

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February 05, 2018

The Big Rig and the Sociology of Work

Colby (1)By Colby King

I teach a Sociology of Work course at Bridgewater State University that meets in the evening each fall. At BSU, about half of our students come from working class backgrounds and/or are among the first generation in their family to go to college. One of the reasons I have really enjoyed teaching evening sections of this class is that many of the students typically work off campus and the class is often infused with their work experiences. These students also express a practical interest in the dynamics of labor markets, the shape of organizations, and the quality of jobs in addition to their interest in sociological concepts related to work.

This fall, I added Steve Viscelli’s book The Big Rig to the material we used in this class. I was motivated in part because it is a large and dynamic industry that illustrates many of the concepts and concerns we cover in this class. About 3 million people work as truck drivers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. NPR’s Planet Money has created this interactive map showing how truck driver has been the most common job in many states since at least the 1970s. The American Trucking Associations found that in 2014 more than 7 million people were employed in jobs related to the trucking industry, even after excluding those who were self-employed. They also report that registered trucks drove 279.1 billion miles in 2014.

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January 29, 2018

Food: From Micro to Macro

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What we eat is deeply personal. It is also connected to our cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. We may seldom think about it, but what we eat has global ramifications.

Sociology teaches us that very few choices we make are only personal. Food literally shapes your personal biology, but the choices we have access to make are shaped by where we live, the groups we are part of, and the policies our lawmakers have made. And all of this cumulatively impacts our environment, locally and globally.

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January 22, 2018

The Malfunction Heard Around the World: Cultural Appropriation, White Privilege, and Misogynoir

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Many college-aged students are too young to remember Super Bowl XXXIX. In fact, I doubt few people even remember the fact that the New England Patriots played the Carolina Panthers in this game (actually, no, maybe a lot of people know this). Nevertheless, it’s likely that this was one of the few Super Bowl games where the halftime show drew attention away from the game.

This was the game where the terms “wardrobe malfunction” and “nipplegate” entered into our popular cultural lexicon. I am not a huge sports fan, so back in grad school, when I was invited to my friend's Super Bowl party, I only went for the free food and to see Janet Jackson perform at the halftime show (these were the days before YouTube and readily available DVRs). Also, having grown up in a family that didn’t watch sports, I was actually looking forward to attending my first Super Bowl party and partaking in this uniquely American tradition.

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January 18, 2018

Joining the Conversation: Why Study Theory?

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you are a student of sociology, one of the first things you learn is about theory. You are probably also required to take an entire course in sociological theory, which is not always students’ favorite course in the major. In our program, many students try and put it off, are told by others that it is “hard” or don’t see why they need it anyway.

When you become a student of sociology—or any other discipline, for that matter—you are joining a conversation already in progress. In the case of sociology, a conversation that has been taking place for more than a century and a half. In order to understand the conversation, and hopefully add to it yourself, it is important to know what everyone has been talking about.

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January 08, 2018

The Sociology of Knowledge and Textbooks

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociologists are interested in all things social, even how we come to know what we know. The sociology of knowledge is a fundamental question in sociological thought: how is knowledge produced? We also think critically about the social contexts in which we create what humans define as “knowledge.”

So how do you know what you know? Beyond your personal experience, what you learn as a student informs your depth and breadth of knowledge. As you prepare for exams, there are typically two sources of knowledge that you need to master to earn a good grade: things that your professor said in lectures in conjunction with ideas you read about in your assigned texts.

We often take for granted that these are main sources of knowledge without thinking about how ideas become part of your course work, and your textbooks specifically. The production of textbooks is a good example of how knowledge is produced in a social context.

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January 04, 2018

New Semester Rulin’s

Colby (1)By Colby King

What are your resolutions for the New Year? How about for the new semester?

I was thinking about these questions myself after a friend shared with me Woody Guthrie’s “New Years Rulin’s,” which he wrote in his journal in 1943.

If you’re not sure who Woody Guthrie is, you’d likely recognize his most famous song “This Land is Your Land.” Known as the “People’s Bard,” Guthrie is something of a hero among working people and labor activists. He has had a substantial musical legacy, influencing artists from The Byrds and Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, and Tom Morello. If you’re not familiar with his music, you may want to listen to his song about the dust bowl, “Pastures of Plenty,” or his punchy song about union solidarity “Union Maid,” which is covered here by Old Crow Medicine Show live at the Kennedy Center.

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