7 posts from December 2013

December 31, 2013

Sociological New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Two years ago, I wrote a post, Sociological New Year’s Resolutions, in which I outlined five resolutions that were specifically sociological. Instead of focusing on actions and behaviors that will affect the person making the resolutions, my list included things that would provide societal benefits. I was hoping to make this list of sociological New Year’s resolutions an annual tradition. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing a 2013 version so for now we’ll have to think of this list as a biennial affair.

For the 2014 version, I decided to take both a traditional and sociological approach. Traditionally, New Year’s resolutions are often focused on individuals making promises to take some personal action. Typical resolutions include: start exercising, lose weight, quit smoking, stop eating junk food, and get a better job. To make these resolutions more sociological, I have pulled out these action words—start, lose, quit, stop, and get—and combined them with sociology to come up with the following five sociological New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

Continue reading "Sociological New Year’s Resolutions for 2014" »

December 26, 2013

How to Get the Most Out of Your Break

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

As one semester ends and the break begins, we all tend to drop everything, fall over, and sleep for awhile. Whether it’s winter, summer, fall, or spring break, we celebrate the end of studying and doing the work of higher education.

You may not think that professors do the same but we, too, enjoy the change in work schedules and patterns. We take time off even though most of us keep prepping our classes and thinking of ways to advance our research and/or teaching goals.

I’d like to offer some suggestions for making the most of a break – so that you detox from the one semester and get ready for the next.

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December 23, 2013

We’re Number One!

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Let’s face it: Americans love being number one. It seems that wherever we turn, we are reminded of whom or what is the best. In sports, we have fans touting foam #1 fingers, fervent chants of “we’re number one,” and a barrage of statistics telling us who outshines everyone else. In schools, we have honor rolls, valedictorians, and distinctions such as best dressed, best looking, and best musician. And in politics, it is seemingly impossible to run for office without regularly invoking the phrase, “America is the greatest country in the world.”

Given our collective infatuation with greatness, it is fair to say that we are number one in proclaiming we are number one.

Unfortunately, not all things that Americans excel at are cause for celebration. For all of the presumed accomplishments that put us at the top of the list, there are also many dubious distinctions on our “better-than” list. Here then, is a list of seven categories in which the United States leads the industrialized world.

Continue reading "We’re Number One!" »

December 16, 2013

Deadlines and Social Interaction

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

‘Tis the season…for deadlines. If you are a student, this means papers, exams, and assignments come due. For many workers, the holidays and the end of the calendar year can mean sales and billing deadlines, and wrapping up important projects before vacation.

Deadlines also represent a basic social interaction: an agreement between parties of when tasks will be accomplished. Meeting a deadline is about more than just the task itself; it represents the ability to keep a promise, a basic tenet of social life.

Continue reading "Deadlines and Social Interaction" »

December 12, 2013

Holiday Wish Lists: Mine vs. President Obama’s

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Recently, in a speech to the nation, President Obama put me to shame sociologically. I know that Michelle Obama has a BA in sociology and that the President once worked as a community organizer—a job that is often filled by sociology graduates. But still, I live and breathe sociology—and of course I also teach it for a living. I like to pretend that I have the DNA of Karl Marx and C. Wright Mills coursing through my veins. How could I have let the President outdo me sociologically?

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December 09, 2013

Sketches in Qualitative Research

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Although it’s not a problem for every sociologist, accurately and affectively describing people in their settings is a challenge for ethnographers. We’re not particularly trained in writing, yet our credibility and reliability often rests upon crafting word-pictures of people in situations.

This opening from Paul Cressey’s 1932 book, The Taxi-Dance Hall, is a good description of a scene:

The patrons are a motley crowd. Some are uncouth, noisy youths, busied chiefly with their cigarettes. Others are sleekly groomed and suave men, who come alone and remain aloof. Others are middle-aged men whose stooped shoulders and shambling gait speak eloquently of a life of manual toil. Sometimes they speak English fluently. More often their broken English reveals them as European immigrants, on the way toward being Americanized… The girls, however, seem much alike. They wear the same style of dress, daub their faces in the same way, chew their chicle [gum] in the same manner, and—except for a few older spirits—all step about with a youthful air of confidence and enthusiasm. But one soon perceives wide differences under the surface… . (p. 4-5).

Nice description of a setting, right?

Continue reading "Sketches in Qualitative Research" »

December 02, 2013

The Social Construction of Death

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In Philadelphia, an emergency room nurse named Barbara Mancini was arrested for providing her 93-year-old terminally ill father with a lethal dose of morphine. Her father was in hospice care, meaning that no further treatment was possible and death was imminent; the goals of hospice care are to ease pain and provide comfort for the dying patient. He was in kidney failure and apparently in a significant amount of pain.

Prosecutors contend he just wanted pain relief from pain, not death, and so they are charging her with assisted suicide. Her family supports her action and is coping with both their loss and Mancini’s legal troubles.

This case brings up issues about assisted suicide that are frequently asked by ethicists and often appear on state ballots. Recent research from Pew’s Religion and Public Life Project found that a slight majority of Americans favor this practice in some circumstances, a number that has shrunk compared with previous studies in 1990 and 2005.

What do controversies over assisted suicide teach us about the social construction of death?

Continue reading "The Social Construction of Death" »

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