7 posts from February 2016

February 26, 2016

Popular Culture, Race, and Representation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Zahira Kelly, who writes an advice column for The New Inquiry and for the blog Bad Dominicana, was recently on my campus to talk about the lack of Afro-Latin@/x representations within American and Latin American culture, history, and popular media. In her candid conversation, Zahira spoke honestly about her frustrations with systemic racism and heterosexism, and she mentioned the hate mail that she receives because she speaks openly about her experiences as a Black Latina.

While Kelly's talk highlighted the personal ways that racial erasure in popular media affects her on an individual level, it also showcased the lack of representations of a variety of people of color within our popular American consciousness. This negation of difference among and between communities of color both homogenizes these complex lived experiences and reinforces a simplistic understanding of race and culture that relies heavily on skin color and privileges whiteness.

Continue reading "Popular Culture, Race, and Representation" »

February 24, 2016

When Our Heroes are Also Villains

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

"We can be heroes, just for one day." This is the famous line from one of David Bowie's most popular songs, "Heroes." Bowie was indeed a hero to many people, and his passing at the beginning of the year was met with an outpouring of sadness from fans around the world. Bowie was known as a musical genius, a gender-bending norm breaker, and a crusader for racial justice in the music industry. But he was also known to have had sex with underage groupies and for some critics this dark side of his legacy is something we should not ignore.

Continue reading "When Our Heroes are Also Villains" »

February 15, 2016

Get to Know MoE: Why the Margin of Error Matters

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you are following this year's presidential election at all, you have probably heard about various candidates' poll numbers. While on the surface, polls seem like a simple way of describing who is ahead—if your poll numbers are higher than the other person's, you are "winning"—but unless you understand the margin of error it is easy to misinterpret poll results.

Let's say candidate A is polling at 44 percent among likely voters, and candidate B is polling at 42 percent. Candidate A is clearly ahead in a close race, right? Wrong.

Continue reading "Get to Know MoE: Why the Margin of Error Matters" »

February 10, 2016

Love is Sociological

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman    

When I was a kid, my parents had a book that I used to flip through called Love Is Walking Hand in Hand. The book was written by Peanuts illustrator Charles Schulz, and each page had a picture of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang explaining what love is: Love is hating to say good-bye; Love is walking in the rain together; Love is letting him win even though you know you could slaughter him; Love is the whole world (this was written in the 60s, after all!). Although it's been quite a few years since I've looked at this little book, I'm pretty sure there is no page that said: Love is sociological.

To say that love is sociological may sound strange and even somewhat sacrilegious. Most of us think of love as something that we feel naturally. It's a spiritual, even cosmic, connection that brings forth an array of reactions such as butterflies in our stomachs, sweaty palms, weak knees, or just warmth and happiness. What could possibly be sociological about these physiological responses and heartfelt emotions?

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February 08, 2016

Higher Education Widens Global Inequality

Audrey scottBy Audrey P. Scott

Dartmouth College freshman, guest blogger

American colleges and universities are becoming increasingly more like multi-national corporations. Their products? Students trained to further market growth through wide ranges of advanced skills— a prospect that may seem positive to the economically savvy. Universities teach students to improve the world, making a dime while at it. High school microeconomics, however, teaches us that sometimes efficiency and production do not equate with another important factor: equity.

As American colleges focus more on profit, they invest less on shrinking the international equality gap. Consequently, they diminish economically diverse international participation in their universities. Colleges either need to expand their need-blind financial aid to international students or improve multinational schools to better cater to poorer populations. Many are doing neither.

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February 05, 2016

The Dead White Guys of Theory?

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

When teaching sociology—particularly theory—we'll often hear about how most of the classic readings we assign are written by "dead white guys." And when you look through the canon it is, indeed, very pale and very male.

Few women are credited in shaping early sociology. Marianne Weber influenced her husband Max and Georg Simmel, and was a powerful sociologist in her own right. Harriet Martineau translated and edited Auguste Comte's famous Cours de Philosophi Positive so well that Comte preferred her version of his book over his own. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (of The Yellow Wallpaper fame) and Jane Addams both described themselves as sociologists, taught sociology courses, published articles in the American Journal of Sociology, and were charter members of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). Mary Jo Deegan writes on the exclusion of women in the American Sociological Society here.

Still, I think that it is completely fair to concede that classical sociological theory has a lot of "dead" and "guys."

What about that "white" part, though? Let's examine that more closely.

Continue reading "The Dead White Guys of Theory?" »

February 03, 2016

Happiness as Social Control

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The pursuit of happiness is so central to what it means to be American that it is part of one of our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence. It is a topic that I pursued informally for many years myself, having read a library's worth of self-help books trying to unlock the mystery of personal fulfillment. I came to some simple conclusions: that to be happy means to enjoy the little things in life, to appreciate the people in our lives, to focus on the present, and to take action steps towards our goals and consider action itself a mark of success, and also to do things that improve our health because feeling good, well, feels good.

I had not considered happiness as a scientific field of study until hearing about social psychologist Daniel Gilbert's work on happiness. Gilbert was inspired by events in his own life—things were not going particularly well for him at one point, and yet he did not feel unhappy. This led to a number of experiments about how well (or as it turns out, how poorly) people predict what makes them happy, which he describes in his bestselling book, Stumbling on Happiness.

Continue reading "Happiness as Social Control" »

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