9 posts categorized "Globalization"

March 10, 2014

Peace and Friendship in Crimea

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

If you have been following the news you have probably heard a lot about Crimea. I’m guessing that many Americans had (or maybe still have) no idea where Crimea is or why we should care about it.

This has not been the case for me. Whenever I think of Crimea I always think of peace and friendship. Such a sentiment may seem rather odd given the current geo-political strife that is confronting that region of the world. With Vladimir Putin flexing his military muscles and President Obama spewing threatening cease and desist warnings, peace and friendship are not the keywords that one currently associates with Crimea.

Continue reading "Peace and Friendship in Crimea" »

March 03, 2014

Poverty Education and Tourism

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Walking through San Juan, Puerto Rico during the Feista de Calle San Sebastian, I left the touristy center of Old San Juan. Away from the blue cobblestoned streets and brightly colored colonial buildings of Puerto Rico’s most viable tourist bubble, I walked through an old gate. Locals say residents often stand guard in an attempt to dissuade people like me from entering the rundown area called La Perla.

Continue reading "Poverty Education and Tourism" »

January 10, 2013

Everyday Sociology Talk: Migration and Masculinity

 

Sociologist Josh LePree discuss how men who migrate negotiate and reconstruct their masculinity.

For more video, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

November 28, 2012

Twinkies & Big Macs: Thinking Sociologically About Black Friday

WynnBy 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 compensation package.

Continue reading "Twinkies & Big Macs: Thinking Sociologically About Black Friday " »

August 02, 2012

Everday Sociology Talk: Sharon Zukin on Global Shopping

 

Sharon Zukin discusses her current research on global shopping.

For more videos, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

January 05, 2012

Everyday Sociology Talk: Robert Sampson on Communities and Crises

  

Robert Sampson, author of Great American City, discusses how crises impact communities differently with Karen Sternheimer.

For more videos, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

November 10, 2011

Victimization and Conformity: Just Following Orders?

clip_image001By Janis Prince Inniss

A few years ago, an 18-year-old McDonald’s employee was working the late shift at the fast-food restaurant when her 51-year-old assistant manager received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a police officer, “Officer Scott”. The police officer accused the 18-year-old of stealing and told the manager search the young woman; her pockets were emptied and her car keys and cell phone were confiscated and put into the manager’s car.

Continue reading "Victimization and Conformity: Just Following Orders?" »

April 19, 2010

Putting a Face on Immigration

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

The year I started high school, my family moved from a city in Guyana, to the capital, Georgetown. I remember that we often had no running water on the second floor of our home—the dwelling floor. The lower floor was a car porch and laundry area.

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At right is a picture of the house taken many years after I lived there, but it looks a lot as I remember it. There was no enclosed area on the ground floor when I lived there though.

This means that showers were rare, or maybe even non-existent. Not that this entitled us to have poor hygiene. On the contrary, it simply meant that showering came with a built in workout: We would fetch buckets of water from the pipe downstairs and have a “bucket bath”. This required special skill as the water was usually very cold because there were no hot water pipes. My strategy was to moisten a washcloth, add soap to it, wash my body with the cloth, and then quickly rinse with the freezing water. Sometimes, Mum would add some boiling water to my bucket to take the chill off which meant a more leisurely rinse.

The first high school I attended was called Queens College and it was in Georgetown, Guyana. I loved my high school. In fact, years later, I chose my college based on that name and attended Queens College, City University of New York. (Obviously, I was lucky that this bizarre method of choosing an institute of higher education netted me a fine one.) The number of international alumni organizations that have sprung up for Queens College suggest that my love for it isn’t unique. For example, there is a South Florida Alumni chapter (here is their Facebook page), a New York alumni chapter, one in the United Kingdom, and a chapter in Toronto. Considered the top school in the country for decades, QC produced many who have met great success in their careers. Of the few people I kept tabs on, I know that my class of fewer than 30 students produced at least two Ph.Ds, an engineer, a physician and a host of other professionals.

In either my first or second year at my beloved Queens College—the one in Guyana—I was sent to participate in mass games. Have you ever heard of mass games before? I hadn’t either, until then. According to Wikipedia the definition of mass games is:

a form of performing arts or gymnastics in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess. Because of the vast scale of the performance, with often tens of thousands of performers, mass games are performed in stadiums, often accompanied by a background of card-turners occupying the seats on the opposite side from the viewers. Mass games are typically used to emphasize themes of political propaganda.

Today, this description of mass games sounds about right to me. But at the time, I had no idea what was going on other than I had to spend hours out of my school day at a stadium practicing mass games. As I recall, I spent lots of time waiting around to be trained by the first Koreans I had ever seen. And my role, I think, was to turn pages in a large book. I remember at least one scene was that of our Prime Minister’s face—himself a QC graduate. I don’t remember how long the rehearsals for mass games continued, but I do recall that the color of my skin under my stud earring was significantly lighter than the highly tanned skin elsewhere on my face by the end of it.

Here, I’ve described but two aspects of my life in Guyana. Bathing without running water and spending time away from my favorite school preparing for mass games.  None of these were concerns for me as a child; in fact, I have very fond memories of growing up in Guyana. But think of how these experiences might seem to a concerned parent. The parent might worry that it’s hard for the child to maintain good hygiene and worry that the child is not spending each school day being educated. The child might not notice difficulties with obtaining basic food items like flour, milk, rice, and regular power outages, but most parents would.  Some of these parents end up emigrating to a more prosperous country that offers more opportunities for their children.

What are your predictions about the number or portion of foreign born people living in the U.S. today? I look forward to the answer from this year’s census (discussed here by Karen Sternheimer). What we know from the last census is that there were 28.4 million foreign-born people estimated to be living in the U.S. and that they represented about 10.4 percent of the U.S. population. Many predict that immigration reform will be the next issue U.S. politicians address.

Now, as in years past, much of the public discourse around immigration features rhetoric about “people coming to take away/over my schools/money/housing”; in other words many think about the factors that continue to pull or draw immigrants to the U.S. I offer a slice of life from a somewhat recent immigrant for you to consider some of the factors that push migration. What weight, if any, should the issues raised by stories such this, have on the subject of immigration?

February 04, 2010

Colonialism and Haiti's Earthquake: The Role of Economics, Politics, and History

new janis By Janis Prince Inniss

I was in Los Angeles when the Northridge Earthquake jolted us out of bed at 4:31 a.m. It was an unforgettable experience. I was up late after one of my parties, held on a Sunday night because the next day was the holiday in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I also remember it because the earthquake and its aftermath was one of the scariest times of my life! Each aftershock—real or my personally created and experienced—re-traumatized me. I could not sleep in my apartment for several days because my fear and the aftershocks made sleep there impossible. The Northridge earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, but because so many were sleeping when it struck many lives were spared. The time of the earthquake and the relative safety of California’s building codes made people safer than they would have been, but nevertheless 57 people died and more than 5,000 were injured.

clip_image002 clip_image004

Left: My kitchen after the earthquake. Above: One bookcase down!

 

 

Recent media attention to Haiti’s earthquake has focused on the tremendous destruction, but seldom has coverage addressed Haiti’s history and how it might have contributed to the suffering taking place there today.

On the first day of 1804, Haiti became the first independent black republic in the West. Enslaved Africans fought their French captors; in fact they were victorious over Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous army. At that time Africans were still enslaved in many areas of the world. Think about the similarities of the two countries emerging from European colonizers: In Haiti, former enslaved Africans proclaimed their independence from France, not long after the U.S. declared its independence from Britain. In the long arch of history, we might think of the two countries as being born at about the same time. What was happening in the U.S. at this time regarding slavery? It would take another 60 years before slavery was ended in the U.S., so this may explain why the two young independent countries—also geographically close—were not automatic friends; the U.S. greeted the news of Haiti’s independence with a cold shoulder, and like France, refused to recognize the nation until about the time of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The French demanded to be compensated for the financial loss that Haiti’s independence cost them; the county had been one of their most lucrative colonies, producing rum, sugar, and tobacco. In 1825, the French stipulated 150 million gold francs as reparations to recognize Haiti. (This is quite different from the direction of payment we think of regarding reparations in the U.S. and a terrible deal when compared to what the U.S. got from France for the Louisiana Territory [60 million francs], an area more than 70 times larger than Haiti!) With loans from the U.S., France, and Germany, it took Haiti 122 years to pay the reduced sum of about 90 million francs to France; these reparations sucked up most of the country’s budget.

You may have heard one other fact repeated in the coverage of the Haiti earthquake: It is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Two related facts? I could not help but think of them in tandem as much as I heard them repeated. Was the second punishment for the first, or at least because of it? What made Haiti so poor? Do you think that the cost of its freedom has had a lasting impact? What has been France’s response to the idea that Haiti receive $22 billion in restitution from its ”mother” country?

Haiti’s history is complex. Reading about it will acquaint you with terms like “gunboat diplomacy”, isolation, military coups, dictatorships, and military occupations. (Read more about its history here.) Hamstrung by international financial arrangements that strangled it, the Haitian government has not been able to right itself.

Click here to see images of Haiti

Decades of poverty meant that small farmers have been forced to move to the cities, creating large slums in the capital. Brutal deforestation has left the hillsides bare. All along Haiti’s forests have been used for charcoal and fuel; the French started this in the 17th and 18th centuries for sugar mill fuel. The next two centuries saw more heavy deforestation as mahogany was turned into tourist gifts. How much of the billions of dollars in foreign aid to Haiti has been lent to attempt to rectify the deforestation and soil erosion? Why is it important? Because it impacts where most Haitians live; deforestation has left many particularly vulnerable in times of natural disasters.

Thankfully, I have to look at my pictures to recall the physical damage in my apartment due to the Northridge earthquake. An earthquake measuring 7.0, such as the one in Haiti, would cause lots of damage and injury in any city – especially at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon. But to understand the impact of the January 2010 earthquake and even the 2004 and 2008 hurricanes in Haiti—not to mention earlier natural disasters—it is instructive to think about the role of the country’s history and politics in their impact.

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