8 posts from July 2011

July 29, 2011

The Criminal Justice System in Context

KS_2010aBy Karen Sternheimer

Unless you have been in a media-free cave for the last few weeks, you probably heard about the young woman from Orlando who was recently acquitted of clip_image002murdering her toddler daughter and released from jail. You also probably also heard about the public outrage following the verdict, including celebrity tweets condemning the trial’s outcome.

It’s easy to get caught up in the story’s lurid details. After all, the case and subsequent trial has basically been a reality show for the last three years. According to reports, coverage of the case has brought the cable channel HLN record ratings. Even casual onlookers probably have an opinion about the case and the verdict.

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July 26, 2011

You Might be a Marxist

Peter_Kaufman_Bio_Pic By Peter Kaufman

If you have taken an introductory sociology class, and certainly if you have taken a sociological theory class, you have probably heard that Karl Marx is one of the founding figures of sociology.

You may find this to be both surprising and troubling given what is usually taught about Marx in most high school social studies classes. When I teach about Karl Marx I often begin by asking students what they know about him. Overwhelmingly, the responses are negative:

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July 22, 2011

Degradation Ceremonies and Perp Walks

new sallyBy Sally Raskoff

clip_image002“Perp walk” is a term that describes the parading of an arrested or accused person past the media and others. The person may have been just accused of an offense rather than convicted of one.. However, the perp walk gives the impression that the person is guilty as they walk handcuffed, often in prison garb, and surrounded by tough and serious law enforcement personnel.

These perp walks are under media scrutiny because of the case of a man accused of rape in New York City, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, whose case may not result in a conviction. His international prominence propelled his perp walk into the global media and made it a topic of world-wide discussion.

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July 18, 2011

Food: What's Class got to do with it?

new janisBy Janis Prince Inniss

Annoyed that my results don’t match the number of hours I spend in the gym, I decided to hire a personal trainer to tweak my training program and to offer tips on my diet. (In this piece, by “diet” I am simply referring to what I eat on a regular basis, not a way of eating meant to help me lose weight.)

Based on what might be called my diet consultation, three of the major tweaks I am making are moving around things I already eat—eating them at different times of the day, eating less, and adding a few new items to my diet. All of this has led me to many various food stores—not only grocery, but fresh-air markets, health food stores, and various specialty markets. My conclusion: eating well is expensive!

Continue reading "Food: What's Class got to do with it?" »

July 14, 2011

Marriage, Max Weber, and Verstehen

new sallyBy Sally Raskoff

Max Weber talked about verstehen as a very important concept for sociologists and social scientists. When studying people, even at the macro level of society, it is important to really understand what’s going on at the micro level of interactions and individuals. That’s what verstehen is all about: understanding what goes on in the lives of people from their particular perspective so that one can better understand how things work at the larger level of society.

In sociology, we analyze the importance of social rituals and social bonds. Symbols and rituals tie us together and reinforce our bonds as we celebrate or mourn together.

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July 11, 2011

Sociology vs. the Obvious

KS_2010aBy Karen Sternheimer

What is sociology?

This question may seem obvious (especially—I hope—if you have taken or are taking a sociology class), but when I asked this question on a midterm years ago, I observed a troubling pattern.

While the majority of students successfully responded in some form that sociology is the systematic study of patterns of human interaction with special focus on social institutions and processes of power and inequality, a few students regularly answered as follows:

“Sociology is just what you think about things in society,” or

“Sociology is what peoples’ opinions are about their community,” and similar responses to this effect.

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July 07, 2011

A Sociologist Goes to Prison

image By Peter Kaufman

Associate Professor of Sociology, SUNY New Paltz

Although I’ve never been arrested, never broken any laws (as far as I know), and never even received a speeding ticket (really, it’s true), last week I made my third trip in less than two years to the Shawangunk Maximum Security Correctional Facility (aka “the Gunk”). I was not there to visit a family member or loved one nor was I there to collect research. I was there to teach sociology to the inmates.

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July 04, 2011

Class, Status and Culture

new janisBy Janis Prince Inniss

How can you tell how financially well-off someone is? Do you look at their clothing and scan for certain labels? Is that why designer labels/emblems are outside garments and other products?

How about their shoes? Do those give you some indication? Do you try to see what kind of car they drive to make a judgment? Or perhaps you examine their fingernails to see whether they are well manicured or their feet to check for pedicure status?

Continue reading "Class, Status and Culture" »

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