191 posts categorized "Class and Stratification"

October 02, 2017

Good Bones and Good Policy

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As I blogged about several years ago, I have a weakness for programs on HGTV. I enjoy watching people house hunt and remodel, even with the knowledge that most of these shows are likely staged. At their core, they are programs about consumption, and advertisers hope their shows inspire viewers like me to want to buy home-related products. For me, and I suspect many other viewers, part of the pleasure of watching is vicarious consumption, watching other people make decisions and choices and perhaps getting ideas for my own purchases.

I recently binged-watched the first season of a new (to me) HGTV show, Good Bones. The show features a mother/daughter-run renovation team who buy mostly abandoned houses from the city, fix them up, and sell them.

What caught my interest in this show was that the stars’ company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, targets homes in their own neighborhood and a nearby neighborhood near downtown Indianapolis, with the goal of revitalizing the once struggling community. “I don’t want to build crappy homes for my neighbors, I just don’t,” says Karen E. Laine, the mother of the duo, during each show’s opening.

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September 25, 2017

A Strangeness in My Mind: Rural Poverty and Isolation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I generally spend my spring break visiting friends in Oklahoma, reading novels, playing board games, and taking a much-needed break from teaching and research. This past March, in an attempt to read something entertaining, I picked up a translation of Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind.

The story chronicles the life of Mevlut as he migrates between his rural village of Anatolia to the city of Istanbul for work. We read about his school-age games and schemes to make money, his tireless work with his father as a street vendor selling yogurt and boza (a slightly alcoholic Turkish drink), his conscription into the army, and, in a comically sad twist, his elopement to the seemingly wrong woman.

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September 18, 2017

Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few months ago while on jury duty, I observed the jury duty selection process for a vehicular manslaughter/hit and run case. I was never called into the jury box, but watched as others answered basic questions from both the prosecutor and defense attorney as they determined who would be part of the jury.

One prospective juror mentioned in the course of questioning that she didn’t have a driver’s license. She looked young—I would guess that she was in her very early twenties—and perhaps she was a student, judging by her clothing and backpack. The prosecutor seemed concerned that she didn’t have a license and asked her several questions about this.

“How did you get here? How do you get around town?” she asked the young woman, who responded that she took the bus.

“Why don’t you have a license? Are you scared of driving?” the prosecutor asked the embarrassed potential juror, who said she couldn’t afford a car and thus did not take the time to get a driver’s license. She was soon dismissed from the jury.

Continue reading "Getting a Ride: Transportation and Identity" »

August 14, 2017

Place, the Sociological Imagination, and Western Pennsylvania

Colby (1)By Colby King

When I first read C. Wright Mills’ “The Promise” as an undergraduate, I remember being struck by his argument that the “first fruit” of the sociological imagination “is the idea that the individual can understand his own experience and gauge his own fate only be locating himself within his period, that he can know his own chances in life only by becoming aware of those of all individuals in his circumstances.” For Mills, understanding a person’s social context, or what he calls the structure of society, is essential for understanding their life chances.

This quote from Mills struck me because, while I was just beginning to understand the concept of the sociological imagination, I already possessed an interest in how social context shapes people’s lives.

I had grown up in rural western Pennsylvania, in between the small university town of Slippery Rock and the county seat of Butler. I was a student in the Slippery Rock school district, while my dad worked at Armco Steel (now AK Steel) in Butler, and I already understood that in many ways this place was a particular social context shaping my perspective and opportunities.

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July 24, 2017

The Challenge of Avoiding Downward Mobility from the Upper Middle-Class

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

During a conversation with an acquaintance, a man in his 60s who has never been married and to my knowledge has no children, said that he didn’t think that mothers should have jobs if they were married and their husbands made a sufficient amount of income.

Specifically, he was talking about one of his co-workers, a married woman with teenaged kids who often discusses her family’s financial difficulties at work. My acquaintance didn’t understand why the family of four didn’t just move into a small apartment farther away from their office. He suggested that if one’s husband earns a good living, then a wife should stay home with the kids. He also presumed that her husband, a marketing manager, must make in “the high six figures,” so he couldn’t understand how they could possibly have any financial problems at all.

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June 26, 2017

Children and Global Gentrification

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

I recently gave a talk to the newly formed chapter of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Campus Initiative at Knox College. Founded by the United Nations in 1946 to provide aid to Children affected by World War II, UNICEF works in countries across the globe to improve the lives of children through research, health care, access to clean water and sanitation, and emergency relief, to name a few.

Their campus initiatives encourage college students to promote the mission of UNICEF, engage in fundraising, and organize educational panels. Like many clubs and organizations on college campuses, and especially at Knox, there is a component of philanthropy, volunteerism, and community engagement that underlines the work students do with UNICEF. At the same time there is a training component, where students learn how to become civically engaged in projects that they are passionate about.

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June 01, 2017

The Social Geography of Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Where we live matters, but not just for the reasons we might think. While we might associate the weather or terrain with a particular region or location, it's also important to consider the social forces that help explain how where we live shapes our health and even our life expectancy.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association details how life expectancies vary dramatically by county in the United States. For instance, if you are fortunate enough to live in Marin County, California, or Summit County, Colorado, your average life expectancy is about 87. But if you live in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, or in some parts of West Virginia and Kentucky, your life expectancy could be a full two decades shorter.

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December 02, 2016

Safety Pins and Being an Ally

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

In the week following the 2016 presidential election there have been over 700 cases of hateful harassment and intimidation--more than in the aftermath of 9/11. The debate on college campuses and among people involved in social movements has been heated over how social justice-oriented folks can support people in marginalized communities who feel acutely vulnerable in this moment.

Can you be white and support Black Lives Matter? Can you be cis-gender and straight while also supporting LGBTQ causes? An initial answer is likely “Sure!” although such a response is more probably followed with a “but…”

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August 18, 2016

The Logic of Consumption: Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In a recent post, I asked readers to think critically about the logic of consumption. This doesn’t mean that we start thinking about consumption as harmful, or that consumption is either good or bad. Instead, challenging the logic of consumption means that we acknowledge that we tend to view ourselves as consumers in arenas of social life where the consumer model doesn’t neatly fit. In that post, I used the examples of relationships and health as two modes of social life where viewing ourselves primarily as consumers can be problematic.

Education is another example where the logic of consumption fails both students and faculty.

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July 28, 2016

Using Other People’s Things: Collaborative Consumption, Norms, and Implicit Bias

TigonzalesBy 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" »

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