By Teresa Irene Gonzales
Over that past few weeks, my mother and eldest brother mentioned that they could not do what I’m doing. You see, this summer I’m spending time in Chicago to finish up data collection for an on-going project. Since I’m only going to be in the city for a few months, I’m renting a furnished condo that belongs to a woman I’ve never met. In fact, I’ve never even spoken to her; all of our communication happens via email. I think she’s traveling for the summer, but I don’t really know. I sit on her couch, watch her television, use her dishes, sleep on her bed, write blog posts using her desk, et cetera. It’s this intimate interaction with a stranger’s space and things that creeps out my family members. They can’t fathom allowing a stranger to use their home while they’re gone; and they can’t imagine how I’m able to stay in a stranger’s house.
Continue reading "Using Other People’s Things: Collaborative Consumption, Norms, and Implicit Bias" »
By Peter Kaufman
Consider the following stories that were in the news recently:
Story 1: A female college student at Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was studying abroad in Puerto Rico. After a night out at a bar, she went to the roof of her apartment building with a security guard who was employed by the apartment complex to protect its residents. The guard then raped her. The security guard (a former police officer who was suspended for selling bullets to an undercover agent) was found guilty by a Puerto Rican court and is serving up to twenty years in prison. The young woman is suing WPI because the university leased the apartment building and students were required to live there. Her lawsuit asks the court to consider if WPI adequately screened the security guards to ensure that they were safe and trustworthy.
In court, lawyers from the university’s insurance firm questioned the students’ actions and decisions, and insinuated that she was partly to blame for the rape. They claim she engaged in excessive drinking, risky activities, and bad judgment. In effect, the university is arguing they are not responsible for what happened to her; it was her behaviors that resulted in her being raped. WPI may recognize this woman as a victim of sexual violence, but they are suggesting that she should be blamed for her own victimization.
Continue reading "Victim Blaming: When We Do It and When We Don’t" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Summer jobs used to be a rite of passage for teenagers. Economic and social changes make this experience less common today, especially for teens in low-income families, who might need the money most.
My first job was babysitting, as was the case for many girls in the past. Shocking as it may seem today, I was eleven years old the first time I got paid to watch children. Today I suspect that an eleven-year-old would have a babysitter, not be one. It wasn’t just me who babysat; in the sixth grade we could take an American Red Cross child care class after school and be “certified” to babysit. Even today, the class is recommended for kids ages eleven and up, but I doubt many people would hire a pre-teen to babysit. When I was younger, one of my regular babysitters was a friend’s thirteen-year-old big sister. That was normal then, as children tended to be granted more independence and responsibility earlier.
Continue reading "The Privilege of a Summer Job" »
By Sally Raskoff
Have you ever been in the hospital? There’s a good reason sociologists use hospitals as one example of a total institution. One’s experience there can certainly match up nicely with the definition of a total institution.
Sociologist Erving Goffman had a lot to say about total institutions. They are places in which people live and work, cut off from the outside world, and perform routine activities, controlled by the rules of the organization.
We had a baby born into our family recently and I was reminded of the total institution typology when spending time in the hospital. Our family members, the new mom, dad, and their new baby slept in the hospital for a few days following the birth.
Continue reading "Health Institutions as Bureaucracies" »
By Jonathan Wynn
It feels like there’s a lot going on. A presidential election and all of the discussion about gun and immigration politics. Supreme Court rulings. Orlando. Black Lives Matter.
There is good reason to raise that rainbow flag or post that Black Lives Matter sign on your lawn. If you are white, straight and cisgender, the persons of color and LGBTQ folks you know might appreciate your signs of support. Someone walking by your house might take comfort in seeing some love.
There are plenty of unconscious reinforcements that support our preexisting thoughts on events, what psychologists call a confirmation bias. Confirmation bias and ethnocentricism (what sociologist William Graham Sumner described as the assessment that one’s own culture and values are superior to others) lock together. These twin forces block, slow, and alter our ability to be good allies for folks who are unlike us.
Continue reading "Challenging Confirmation Bias: Ways to Widen Your Perspective" »
By Brian Brutlag
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Rio Hondo College
I am a huge geek. My particular flavor of geekdom is superheroes. Since I was a kid, I have always looked to superheroes for comfort, solace, and motivation as a part of my reference group. Although superheroes are a part of my personal development, and I try to incorporate them as much as I can in my professional career (my sociological blog focuses on the analysis of comics and culture), I am always reluctant to display my admiration through clothing and other forms of apparel because when I do, someone always treats me like a child or some other reductive equivalent. Why? Because I have a physical disability.
Continue reading "When Your Wife is Mistaken for Your Caregiver" »
By Teresa Irene Gonzales
I study resident and nonprofit staff responses to large-scale urban redevelopment initiatives within low-income urban neighborhoods. As part of this work, I analyze the approaches that municipal governments and urban planning organizations utilize in order to plan and realize development plans. Within the U.S. we refer to these plans as local economic development (LED) initiatives.
LED is an approach to development that places importance on development activities in and by cities, districts, and regions. These plans receive funding from and are often managed by local and national governmental and philanthropic organizations. Local organizations (e.g. community-based organizations and community development corporations) generally work with other organizations (e.g. foundations, mediators, the city, private corporations) that provide resources in the form of cash transfers, strategies, technology, and/or staff, in order to promote local economic development. This can take the form of an affordable housing initiative, the (re)vitalization of a business district, workforce development, or the creation of an industrial corridor.
Continue reading "Redevelopment, Rural Places, and Inclusion" »
By Karen Sternheimer
Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City offers readers an in-depth and close up look at the struggle people in poverty face to find and maintain housing. Based on ethnography, interviews, and surveys conducted in Milwaukee, Desmond provides the perspectives of both tenants and landlords to give us a very thorough picture of the housing markets open to low-income people. As Peter Kaufman recently blogged, the book provides us with a great lesson in what Kaufman called “compassionate sociology.”
The book also provides several good examples of some of the paradoxes of poverty: things that we may think are causes of poverty are also the effects of poverty, and vice versa.
Continue reading "Evictions and the Paradox of Poverty" »