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June 21, 2016

The Logic of Consumption, Your Friends and Your Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

We live in a consumption-oriented society. It’s not hard to find examples of ways in which we are encouraged to buy things, not just for survival, but presumably to make us happy. Advertising is predicated on the notion that a new product will help us become more attractive, make our lives easier, and in short, make us feel good.

And sometimes having new things does improve our lives, sometimes in small ways and sometimes dramatically. Driving a newer, more reliable car might ease our worries about car repairs and safety. Replacing any malfunctioning product—say, a computer that you use for work or school—with one that works better is certainly an example positive outcome of consumption.

Consumption isn’t just about buying things and enjoying them; its logic is so pervasive that it shapes how we think about many other aspects of society. For example, if we view ourselves primarily as customers rather than workers, we might be more likely to support policies that claim to make goods cheaper, rather than prioritizing better wages or living conditions, for instance.

Continue reading "The Logic of Consumption, Your Friends and Your Health" »

June 16, 2016

Dancing with Hierarchy

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I had the opportunity to attend the filming of a television show, a dance competition program on the night of its final competition before a winner was announced. It was quite the event and my sociological imagination worked overtime!

Hierarchy was an obvious element of the proceedings. The audience members were stratified into two main groups. The people who were fortunate enough to get the tickets in advance lined up at one gate, nowhere near a parking lot. The others who had some connection to people working in the industry or on the show lined up at another parking lot, much closer to the designated parking lot. I was in this line, thus I had a good vantage point to notice these differences.

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June 13, 2016

Making the Familiar Strange: An Ingredient for Creative Genius

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Creativity is a response to our environment – Eric Weiner

In my introduction to Sociology course, students and I work on developing their sociological imaginations, a sociological process and way of thinking that C. Wright Mills identified in the 1950s. Mills claims that in order to understand social issues, we must situate ourselves within our current historical context, take into consideration our personal history, and make connections between ourselves and larger social issues.. This process works in both directions: history influences us and we in turn influence history.

While we cover a breadth of content in my intro course, the sociological imagination is really the one skill that we focus on developing. We pay particular attention to making the familiar strange (a short video of what this is can be found here). But what does that mean?

Continue reading "Making the Familiar Strange: An Ingredient for Creative Genius" »

June 09, 2016

Air Travel, Class, and Relative Deprivation

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Air travel is one of the only places where class distinctions are made starkly apparent: whether you are sitting in first class or in coach (although some airlines also have "business class" or "economy plus") serves as a visible reminder that there are class differences in America.

A study of "air rage" incidents recently made the news, finding that "disruptive passenger incidents" were about four times as likely to happen when there was a first class cabin. When everyone had to walk through the first class cabin to board, the outbursts were especially likely to occur.

Continue reading "Air Travel, Class, and Relative Deprivation" »

June 06, 2016

The Compassionate Sociologist

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Is there a connection between sociology and compassion? Do you know of any sociologists who explicitly and unabashedly frame their work in the context of compassion? Do you consider yourself a compassionate sociologist?

For years, I've been mulling over these questions and thinking about the connection between sociology and compassion. I've been wondering if it's possible to study people and society without caring deeply for the people and the society you are studying. In other words, are sociology and compassion undeniably linked?

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June 01, 2016

Connecting Across Race

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The Black Lives Matter movement was made possible by social media, and offers an opportunity for different groups to have a conversation about race in America.

My grandparents were very religious and active in the civil rights movement. Bomb threats were directed at churches in the Washington D.C. area that planned to house southern African Americans making their way to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In coordination with their church, my grandparents housed dozens of men and women in their home. (For a vivid retelling of the time by one of the key figures in the movement, see John Lewis's graphic novel, March.)

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May 25, 2016

Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report on suicide rates, finding that suicides in the United States had increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Like most people, I learned of this report after reading upsetting headlines about this increase. My local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times reported that "US Suicides Have Soared Since 1999."

As sociologists, we learn to look at the original data to get the real story beyond the headlines. What do the data tell us? Is it the same story as being told in news reports?

Continue reading "Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender" »

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