On January 11, armed
assailants entered a Nordstrom Rack store in the Los Angeles area just
after closing time. The police were called and surrounded the building, and the
assailants held 14 people hostage for about two hours.
Despite the heavy police presence—a SWAT team was at the scene—the
assailants escaped. Police later arrested five people, three suspects and two
accused as accessories for allegedly aiding the suspects.
This was a shocking event for both the victims and members
of the community. The store is located in an upscale shopping area with a state-of-the-art Cineplex and many shops and
restaurants in an area with a relatively low crime rate.
Continue reading "Race and Anger Online " »
By Sally Raskoff
Much has been said about the Sandy
Hook murders and other mass shootings in the United States. Some blame
media or the accessibility of weapons, others cite gender, and others our
medical infrastructure or even the killer’s parents.
What makes people do such horrible things? If there were a
simple answer or one source of such behavior, we would have figured that out by
now and made a simple solution!
Seeking answers is a natural part of healing after a
terrible event such as this. However, seeking such answers through speculation
can add to our misery since it may lead us to institute solutions that are not
really solving the problems.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about Mass Shootings" »
By Peter Kaufman
of victory and the agony of defeat. You’ve probably heard this saying if
you ever played or watched sports. I’ve been thinking of this phrase a lot
lately as I follow the rapid downfall of Lance Armstrong. As most people know
the seven-time winner of the Tour de France and creator of the Livestrong
Foundation was found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs during his
cycling career. As a result, he was stripped of his Tour victories, dropped by
a number of sponsors such as Nike, compelled to sever all ties with
Liverstrong, and even had an honorary degree he received rescinded from Tufts
Continue reading "Sports Heroes" »
Have you noticed that almost everything
these days is reviewed and rated? No matter what goods or services you use it
is likely that it will be judged by other consumers on some 4 or 5 star rating
system or with a simple thumbs up and thumbs down.
For example, this morning at the sound of my watch
alarm I took my head off my pillow,
pushed my body off my mattress,
stepped onto the bedroom carpet, and opened the blinds to let
in the morning sunlight. I walked into the bathroom to shower using my daily facial
I dried off with a towel
while the ceiling
fan in the bathroom pulled the moisture out of the air. I got dressed in my
typical fashion: underwear
(don’t worry, that’s not a picture of me wearing them), socks,
For breakfast I used a small pot
to cook my oatmeal,
poured a glass of orange
juice, and got some filtered
water for tea. After breakfast I cleaned my teeth using my toothbrush, toothpaste,
I put my books in my backpack,
grabbed my water
bottle and went off to work. You get the idea!
Continue reading "Overrated " »
By Jonathan Wynn
There were Black Friday protests at my local WalMart in Western Massachusetts, organized
by unions and worker’s rights advocates. If you watched the news you may have seen
one in your town too. Protesters object to the fact that the company offers
low-pay, limited-benefit jobs while the Walton family holds as much wealth as
the bottom third of the U.S. population. This follows reports from Hostess
(makers of Twinkies), claiming a worker’s strike gave them little choice but to
shut down production, and liquidation seems eminent. Hostess feels the pinch from owing over a billion
dollars to creditors, including their workers’ pensions but also to hedge
funds (like Silver Point Capital) that own 30% of the company’s debt).
Of course, you can still buy
Twinkies at WalMart.
While some lament the potential loss of the yellowcake confection (according to
a book on Twinkies, some of the ingredients are "more closely linked to rocks
and petroleum than any of the four food groups," and the primary sweetener
is high-fructose corn syrup), we don’t talk too much about the working
conditions of the folks that make them. Liquidation of Hostess would not only
eliminate jobs but worker’s pension plans as well, even though workers already made significant
concessions and the CEO pocketed a 300% increase in his
Continue reading "Twinkies & Big Macs: Thinking Sociologically About Black Friday " »
holidays such as Thanksgiving provide a wonderful opportunity for us to apply
many of the themes related to sociological mindfulness. It is useful to think
about the role that holidays play in society, the values and beliefs these
holidays instill, and the extent to which we can deconstruct the “facts” and
assumptions of these holidays. Consider some of the myths and realities of
Thanksgiving taken from sociologist James W. Loewen’s national bestseller, Lies My Teacher
Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
Continue reading "Giving Thanks? " »
Tanya Erzen is an
associate professor of comparative religious studies at Ohio State
University and visiting scholar at University of Washington.
A teenage fan of the Twilight series explains that she thinks Edward Cullen, the
brooding and gorgeous vampire hero, is controlling, creepy and even violent in
his relationship with Bella, an ordinary human high school girl with whom he is
passionately in love. While the fan
criticizes Bella and Edward’s tumultuous relationship, she is simultaneously wearing
a button on her jacket with the text, “Edward can bust my headboard, bite my
pillow and bruise my body any day.” This refers to the part of the story when Bella
awakes with her entire body black and blue after losing her virginity on her
honeymoon. In the aftermath, there are
feathers from the pillow Edward has bitten drifting around the room, and the
bed is shattered into pieces.
Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about Twilight" »
Are you planning to vote during this year’s election? If so,
you will be participating in a form of civic engagement, a
subject of sociological study examining anything from volunteering,
participation in social movements, or any action we take that involves
consideration of the greater good.
Sociologists study what factors motivate people to make
commitments towards creating social change, and often use ethnography to study the
how this process works from the inside, focusing on how people work together
(and sometimes struggle to work together) in the course of commitment to a
Continue reading "Voting as a Social Act" »