46 posts categorized "Peter Kaufman"

April 01, 2014

Jewish? Buddhist? Atheist? All of the Above!

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

I was asked recently by a colleague what religion I follow, and I was not quite sure how to answer. I was raised in a secular Jewish household, and I never considered myself religious in the traditional sense of the word. Unlike my Jewish peers, my family did not belong to a temple or synagogue, I did not attend Hebrew school, and I did not have a bar mitzvah or learn to read from the Torah. Instead, I attended a small humanistic Sunday school that was run as a cooperative, I learned Yiddish and sang folk songs, and I had a modest graduation ceremony where I had to read an essay I wrote on a notable Jewish figure.  

In my late twenties, I became interested in the teachings of Buddhism. I took classes at Buddhist meditation centers, I read books and magazines about Buddhist texts and philosophies, and I started practicing meditation. Although I never took a formal Bodhisattva vow like some of my Buddhist friends, I still try to live my life around many of the central tenets of Buddhism, particularly Mahayana Buddhism.

Continue reading "Jewish? Buddhist? Atheist? All of the Above!" »

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" »

February 17, 2014

Sociology and Mindfulness Meditation

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Clear your desk of your books and water bottles. Sit in a comfortable, but upright position. Bring your attention to your breathing. Notice your stomach expanding on your in-breath and contracting on your out-breath. At the sound of the chime, try to stay focused on your breathing for 10 breaths, with each inhalation and exhalation counting as one breath. If your mind starts to wander, try to note when this happens and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing until you hear the chime. 

These instructions describe a short exercise I do in some of my classes when I introduce students to mindfulness meditation.  Mindfulness meditation is the practice of being fully present in the moment. By sitting still and just following our breath, mindfulness meditation helps cultivate awareness, attentiveness, and calmness. The roots of mindfulness meditation are generally associated with Buddhism but it is often presented in a secular fashion in the West.

Continue reading "Sociology and Mindfulness Meditation" »

February 03, 2014

The Olympics and the Politics of Sport

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 I love being a sociology professor. I really do. But as a young kid growing up, I did not lay awake at night dreaming about teaching and writing. Instead, like many young boys I aspired to be a professional athlete. More specifically, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Ever since I was a nine-year old watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics, I was trying to figure out what sport would give me the best chance to make the U.S. national team.

Continue reading "The Olympics and the Politics of Sport" »

January 13, 2014

A Sociological Snapshot of Selfies

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 Twerking. Phablet. MOOC. Flatform. Bitcoin. Apols. Omnishambles. These are just some of the new words that were added to the Oxford Online Dictionaries in 2013. All of these words found their way into the popular vernacular of the English-speaking world during the past year and were used widely in various settings. But the unanimous choice for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was selfie. In fact, among the staff at Oxford there was not even any debate; selfie was the hands-down, clear-cut winner.

Continue reading "A Sociological Snapshot of Selfies" »

December 31, 2013

Sociological New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Two years ago, I wrote a post, Sociological New Year’s Resolutions, in which I outlined five resolutions that were specifically sociological. Instead of focusing on actions and behaviors that will affect the person making the resolutions, my list included things that would provide societal benefits. I was hoping to make this list of sociological New Year’s resolutions an annual tradition. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing a 2013 version so for now we’ll have to think of this list as a biennial affair.

For the 2014 version, I decided to take both a traditional and sociological approach. Traditionally, New Year’s resolutions are often focused on individuals making promises to take some personal action. Typical resolutions include: start exercising, lose weight, quit smoking, stop eating junk food, and get a better job. To make these resolutions more sociological, I have pulled out these action words—start, lose, quit, stop, and get—and combined them with sociology to come up with the following five sociological New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

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December 23, 2013

We’re Number One!

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Let’s face it: Americans love being number one. It seems that wherever we turn, we are reminded of whom or what is the best. In sports, we have fans touting foam #1 fingers, fervent chants of “we’re number one,” and a barrage of statistics telling us who outshines everyone else. In schools, we have honor rolls, valedictorians, and distinctions such as best dressed, best looking, and best musician. And in politics, it is seemingly impossible to run for office without regularly invoking the phrase, “America is the greatest country in the world.”

Given our collective infatuation with greatness, it is fair to say that we are number one in proclaiming we are number one.

Unfortunately, not all things that Americans excel at are cause for celebration. For all of the presumed accomplishments that put us at the top of the list, there are also many dubious distinctions on our “better-than” list. Here then, is a list of seven categories in which the United States leads the industrialized world.

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December 12, 2013

Holiday Wish Lists: Mine vs. President Obama’s

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Recently, in a speech to the nation, President Obama put me to shame sociologically. I know that Michelle Obama has a BA in sociology and that the President once worked as a community organizer—a job that is often filled by sociology graduates. But still, I live and breathe sociology—and of course I also teach it for a living. I like to pretend that I have the DNA of Karl Marx and C. Wright Mills coursing through my veins. How could I have let the President outdo me sociologically?

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November 07, 2013

Racism on College Campuses

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

 A few weeks ago there was a racist incident on my campus. In one of the resident Racist msghalls, a message was written on a whiteboard that said, “Emmett Till Deserved to Die.” After the message was removed a new message appeared shortly thereafter that said, “You Can’t Erase the Truth.”

Unless you know the story of Emmett Till, you are probably unaware of how hateful and threatening this racist message is. For those who didn’t learn this story in history class (which is probably most of us), Emmett Till was  fourteen years old when he was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly talking to a white woman.

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October 18, 2013

Redskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, Whiteskins: Race and Team Mascots

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman 

This is a busy and stressful time to be President of the United States: The government was until recently shutdown, he’s facing an impasse with Congressional Republicans, the on-going violence in Syria (not to mention the rest of the Middle East), the recent commando raids in Libya and Somalia, the early snags of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), and the naming of the new chief of the Federal Reserve. Despite all of this, President Obama found time recently to weigh in on a matter that many Americans are probably more familiar with than most of these other current events: The Washington Redskins football team mascot.  

Continue reading "Redskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, Whiteskins: Race and Team Mascots" »

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