By Karen Sternheimer
Moving to a new place is always a challenge…but what about a place that is new to everybody?
During World War II, an interesting—an unintended—sociological experiment took place when a few communities were built from scratch during the top-secret development of the nuclear bomb. People relocated to these restricted areas from all around the country, turning what once were desolate or sparsely populated areas into thriving mini-cities. Scientists, secretaries, technicians, and other workers came, along with their children, wives, and husbands to work on “The Project,” and in the process, create a new, if short-lived community.
How do people create communities where none exists? And why do communities matter?
Continue reading "The Unintended Manhattan Project Experiment" »
By Karen Sternheimer
If you have siblings, you might feel like you have little in common with them despite growing up in the same family. I have certainly known families where siblings couldn’t have been more different, with diverging value systems, political beliefs, and aspirations.
Then again, some siblings share many similar attributes, educational strengths and even career aspirations. I’ve known brothers who joined the same fraternity during their college years, and siblings who chose to attend the same out-of-state university years apart. I remember years ago my mother and her sister unintentionally bought the same dress to wear to a family event despite living in different cities and shopping at different stores.
What makes siblings different or similar?
Continue reading "Siblings and Sociology" »
By Karen Sternheimer
It’s tempting to argue that summer break is the best time to be a college professor. We can work on other projects, have time to read and indulge in hobbies, and it’s easy to schedule a vacation when you have several months off.
Of course there are many challenges to this career too. Just as with any profession, there are pressures associated with deadlines, one’s workload, and as in any situation, you might encounter difficult people. And for all too many adjunct professors, summer break doesn’t exist. If it does, it means months without pay, as they typically get paid by the class, and they are often poorly paid as well. They seldom have time to work on research, to write and publish, or even to read if they are teaching multiple classes to get by.
For those with full-time employment, one thing that sets being a professor apart is the degree of autonomy that often comes with the position. This means having flexibility to make at least some choices about your work.
Continue reading "Work, Autonomy and Health" »
By Jonathan Wynn
Laverne Cox’s June 2014 cover story in Time magazine was a very big deal for the transgender community. There she is on the cover in the checkout aisle at the grocery store: in a blue dress, eyes locked to the camera, looking slightly downwards, walking forward. If you study gender, sexuality, and the media, it is a good moment for thinking about the importance of visibility.
It’s not the only recent example of representations of gender and sexuality making headline news, however. A few weeks ago, the twittersphere erupted when University of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, upon learning that the St. Louis Rams drafted him, kissed his boyfriend in celebration. Broadcast on ESPN, it was seen as controversial by some people, and a watershed moment for others.
Continue reading "Sports and Representations of Gender and Sexuality" »
By Sally Raskoff
In February 2014, Facebook updated the choices that users can use to describe their gender. Their options for gender were previously limited to “male” and “female” but it seems that Facebook is acknowledging both the cultural patterns outside our dominant cultural norms and the ability of people to define themselves, particularly in social settings.
These, according to Slate.com are the 56 choices for “gender” on Facebook.
Continue reading "The Social Evolution of Gender " »
By Karen Sternheimer
Do you live alone, with friends, or with family? Your living arrangements can teach us a great deal about social structure.
According to an August 2013 U.S. Census report, nearly one-third of Americans live alone now, a rise from just under one in five in 1970. Just one in five households now include children under eighteen, compared with forty percent in 1970.
These changes reflect more than just personal choices, but social changes. Being able to live alone is primarily a function of prosperity; it generally costs more to sustain a single household. The economic growth that came with industrialization and the rise of women’s wages meant that more people could afford to live on their own. As young adults get married later now than they did decades ago, they are more likely to have some time where they live alone as well. Also, people live longer now and are thus more likely to outlive a spouse and end up living alone at some point in their lives.
Continue reading "Living Arrangements, Social Structure, and Public Policy" »
A title is a way of framing the meaning of a paper, a movie,
a book, a song, a job, and even a person. You might take great pains to come up
with a catchy title for a term paper (or just stick with the tried and true
“Term Paper”). What do human titles represent?
We use titles, information that precedes peoples’ names, in
order to provide meaning about that person. In public forums, titles convey
status and expertise. News programs regularly confer expertise on the people
they interview by including a title, even it is one that is only meaningful for
the story (like “witness,” “neighbor” or “resident”). Our more stable titles
reveal how we create order and meaning of others’ identities on a more regular
Continue reading "What’s in a Title?" »
C. Pratt-Harris, Assistant Professor & Criminal
Justice Program Coordinator
Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Morgan State University
When I was a college student, I scheduled classes
around syndicated episodes of Good Times, a 1970s sitcom about the intact African American Evans
family of five who lived in a housing project on the south side of Chicago. Although
the show had been off the air for nearly 15 years and I had watched
every episode, I found myself running
back to my dorm room between classes to watch the show.
I am sure that if YouTube or a smart phone were
around then, I would have had more ease in satisfying my Good Times fix. While I
thought I was being purely entertained, I was an evolving sociologist who was
experiencing social problems on the tube.
My near-obsession with the show made sense when I became a
professor. When I teach social problems
in the classroom, I often discuss the Good
Times story lines.
I had come to realize that what I once thought was purely humorous could
become a tool in an online class.
Continue reading "Good Times and Social Problems" »
By Peter Kaufman
When I was in college I practically
lived on cereal. It was the 1980s, I had just became a vegetarian, and I was
attending a college in the Midwest that had not really mastered the culinary
arts for the non-meat-eating student. They tried, but a slab of warm, unseas oned
tofu swimming in oil just didn’t cut it.
With limited options, the cereal
bar became my best friend. Although some students might bemoan having breakfast
for three meals a day I literally ate it up. What I liked best was that I had six different types of cereal from which
to choose. As someone who grew up on Cheerios and Wheaties, having three times
as many choices—much less having them available all day long—was cereal heaven.
I loved mixing and matching flavors and with only 120 combinations (5! for you
mathletes out there—I never included Raisin Bran in the mix), I was able to try
every conceivable mixture in a year.
Continue reading "Living in the Land of Excessive Choices (sort of)" »
By Sally Raskoff
When the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions, it is to
enforce and clarify the limits of the law. We, the people, rejoice when legal
decisions come our way or compliment our point of view. When those decisions
are not aligned with our way of thinking, we complain.
In 1965, the Civil
Rights Act and other laws that were passed which resulted in advancements
in opportunity and equal rights based on race, ethnicity, and gender. In
response to the Civil Rights and women’s movements, many states eased their
laws restricting abortion and in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe
v. Wade decision improved women’s access to reproductive health care by
legalizing abortion and asserting a woman’s constitutional right to control her
own body and make decisions about her fertility. In June 2013, the U.S.
Supreme Court made two decisions that improved access to marriage rights
for same-sex couples.
In each set of decisions, some people applauded the changes,
Continue reading "Discrimination, Prejudice and the Law" »