91 posts categorized "Peter Kaufman"

November 14, 2016

Institutional Discrimination: An Inadequate Concept

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

This post is based on a sociological riddle: How is it possible that we live in a country full of racism and sexism, and yet very few people are willing to admit that they are racist or sexist? In other words, how can racism and sexism be so pervasive in a country devoid of racists and sexists?

This sociological riddle has been gnawing on my mind for many years. And my preoccupation with it has gotten much worse with the election of Donald Trump. Trump ran on a campaign of open and unabashed racism, sexism, and xenophobia, among other forms of intolerance. He was even endorsed by white nationalist groups like the Klu Klux Klan. And yet, during his campaign and after his victory many of his supporters denied that they harbored racist or sexist sentiments. Donald Trump himself even proclaimed on many occasions that “I am the least racist person” and “there’s nobody that has more respect for women than I do.”

It is certainly troubling that the president-elect of the United States is now the poster child for a society of racist and sexist deniers; however, the deeper problem is that if no one is willing to admit to holding these views then the possibility of ever ridding ourselves of these forms of oppression is remote to nil. And to make matters worse, the situation is unintentionally exacerbated by the one answer that is often given to this sociological riddle: institutional discrimination.

Continue reading "Institutional Discrimination: An Inadequate Concept" »

October 31, 2016

The Sociology of Calling Other People Stupid

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Accusations of people acting stupidly or being stupid have been common in the news lately. Donald Trump has been called “too stupid” for U. S. voters and his supporters are often accused of stupidity for believing things that are “demonstrably wrong or idiotic.” Hillary Clinton has been called the “stupidest person” for setting up a private e-mail address and using it for work. And Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that if protesters like Colin Kaepernick “want to be stupid” then that’s their decision (she later expressed regret for this comment).

These are just some of the high profile examples of people using the term “stupidity” to evaluate the decisions and actions of others. In the course of our everyday lives, most of us probably hear the words stupid and stupidity multiple times a day. We invoke these terms not only to define people and their actions, but also to describe situations that we find frustrating or annoying: that stupid ATM machine ate my card; this stupid cell-phone battery doesn’t even last a whole day; or our school has the stupidest dress-code policy.

Continue reading "The Sociology of Calling Other People Stupid" »

September 12, 2016

White Power and White Powerlessness: A New Double Consciousness?

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Can someone really feel powerful and powerless at the same time? Is it possible that some white people feel compelled to assert the dominance of their race because they fear that whiteness is becoming less dominant? Are the recent expressions of white superiority actually connected with the growing fear of white inferiority?

The themes of white power and white powerlessness are gaining newfound scrutiny these days as social scientists and journalists are trying to make sense of the rise of Donald Trump and his supporters. While some see Trump and his followers predominantly through a racial lens as white supremacists, nativists, and racists, others argue that the underlying origins of this right-wing extremism stem from feelings of social and economic marginalization.

Continue reading "White Power and White Powerlessness: A New Double Consciousness?" »

September 02, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and our Collective Ignorance of Social and Political Activism

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided not to stand for the national anthem, he joined a relatively small group of professional athletes who have used their stature to bring attention to a pressing social issue. Employing language that was reminiscent of Muhammad Ali’s protest against the Vietnam War, Kaepernick explained that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Kaepernick went on to explain that his protest was in response to the persistent racism and brutality that black people experience—whether it be from the police or from the inactions of the government:

Continue reading "Colin Kaepernick and our Collective Ignorance of Social and Political Activism" »

August 04, 2016

Us vs. Them: The Dangerous Discourse of Difference

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

I thought I was going to write this post about Brexit and the growing anti-immigration sentiment around the world. I was planning to draw a parallel between the recent referendum in Britain to leave the European Union with some of the isolationist sentiments we hear from Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump about building a wall to keep out Mexicans and barring all Muslims from entering the United States. For further context, I was going to discuss the growing nationalist surge that is enveloping much of Europe. That was my initial plan.

Continue reading "Us vs. Them: The Dangerous Discourse of Difference" »

July 26, 2016

Victim Blaming: When We Do It and When We Don’t

Peter kaufman 2014By 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" »

June 28, 2016

Exploitation at Home: Matthew Desmond’s Evicted

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

If you have not yet heard of the sociologist Matthew Desmond, you probably should. In the relatively anonymous world of professional sociology, Desmond is making quite a name for himself, and deservedly so. He has been dubbed sociology’s next great hope, he was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant, and his new national best-selling book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, has been hailed as “astonishing,” “remarkable,” and “monumental.” 

Evicted tells the story of poverty in America from the perspective of eight families who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Instead of focusing on traditional topics such as jobs, public assistance, the family, and mass incarceration, Desmond shifts our attention to housing so that we may better understand “how deeply [it] is implicated in the creation of poverty.”

Continue reading "Exploitation at Home: Matthew Desmond’s Evicted" »

June 06, 2016

The Compassionate Sociologist

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Is there a connection between sociology and compassion? Do you know of any sociologists who explicitly and unabashedly frame their work in the context of compassion? Do you consider yourself a compassionate sociologist?

For years, I've been mulling over these questions and thinking about the connection between sociology and compassion. I've been wondering if it's possible to study people and society without caring deeply for the people and the society you are studying. In other words, are sociology and compassion undeniably linked?

Continue reading "The Compassionate Sociologist" »

May 17, 2016

Architecture and Inequality on College Campuses

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2016-05-13/3916422015ae4d8da6c36dc3c98cbdd8.pngBy Peter Kaufman

Inequality is one of the most important and most popular topics that sociologists study. It might even be the most important and popular topic. Inequality is discussed in every introductory course, it is a prominent theme in many sociological theories, and it is even a required topic of study in most sociology departments. If you have ever studied sociology and have never thought about inequality then something was probably missing from your education.

When sociologists study inequality we usually look at the various ways that it exists in our daily lives. We may consider the different effects that inequality has on people, the multiple ways it plays out, and the various social institutions or locations where we might see proof of it. Because the world is awash in inequality, there is, unfortunately, no shortage of topics to consider.

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April 28, 2016

Mindfulness and Methodological Confusion

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

You have probably heard of the word mindfulness. The term is so commonplace these days that the only people who may not have heard about it are the ones who are practicing it diligently in some remote cave in the Himalayas. As I wrote about in a previous post, there is a prevailing sentiment that we are in the midst of a mindfulness revolution. From podcasts and apps to weekend retreats and self-help books, mindfulness is definitely in the moment (pun intended).

The popularity of mindfulness has also taken off among academic researchers. According to the American Mindfulness Research Association (AMRA), the number of academic publications on mindfulness has increased over 2,000% in the past 15 years from a mere 22 articles in 2000 to well over 500 articles in 2014 (although the actual number of research articles may be larger).

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