206 posts categorized "Popular Culture and Consumption"

November 16, 2015

Fiction with a Sociological Attitude

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Sociology is everywhere, right? Certainly we can find great examples of sociological concept in fiction.

I intended to do a top 5 list but that expanded to this top 10 and, as you may notice, it crept up to 15 (or more, depending on how you count). So many other books can and should be included, such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. But these are a good start. Some are not always referenced in lists for sociological reading, while a few are classics. Many are from science fiction, a tradition full of alternate realities and worlds that reflect or mimic our own. Some are easy to read, others are, well, not so much. Some can be used for class assignments or enrichment, while others are suggestions for further reading and practice in applying sociological theories and concepts. I’ve included the main sociological concepts each book addresses within my descriptions too.

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November 04, 2015

Racial (In)Equality in the U.S.

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Aside from my Netflix marathons, there are only a handful of network television shows that I make time to actually watch. And the new Fox prime time show Empire is one of them. Like so many great shows, it includes moments of fantasy, joy, and struggle that oftentimes mirror very real social issues that are on the forefront of their viewers’ minds.

For instance, the season two premiere opened with a #FreeLucious concert that paid homage to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and highlighted the overrepresented numbers of African-American men in our prison systems and their mistreatment by police. The imagery (particularly that of Cookie Lyon in a Gorilla suit and caged) and discourse used within that opening scene speaks to broader national issues. As highlighted by Gene Demby at NPR, however, these narratives are not common within prime time television.

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October 30, 2015

Urban Legends: Scary Stories and Halloween

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Year after year, sociologist Joel Best is inundated with calls from reporters during Halloween season. They call for a single reason, to debunk a story that you might have been told was true your whole life. Best has researched the claim that children are regularly poisoned by eating tainted Halloween candy, and found no evidence to support this widespread fear. (Check out his piece in The Society Pages on his experiences talking to reporters this year).

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September 07, 2015

Summer Sci-Fi and Social Media Segregation

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

 Summertime is time for a little fun reading, and I have always been a sucker for science fiction. I recently read four sci-fi books, Robopocalypse, The Martian, On Such a Full Sea, and The Affinities. The Martian as a kind of updated Robinson Crusoe story and Sea is set in dystopian U.S. (”New China”) feeling the aftereffects of climate change, where the rich live in “Charters” and the poor live in work-cities. Robopocalypse is, well, self-explanatory.

Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities tells the tale of a corporation called InterAlia that sorts people into 22 “affinity groups.” These groupings reminded me of recent research on social media: how Facebook, Twitter, etc. can paradoxically limit the range of information and opinion we consume. This social media self-segregation, according to a recent Atlantic article, partially explains why some white folks don’t fully understand important events, like the Ferguson, Missouri story.

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September 01, 2015

Why Does Gender Matter in Sports?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In 2009, I posted a blog about sex categories, intersex, sport, and cultural norms about identity.

Has much changed since then? In professional sports, categorizing eligibility to compete as a female is based on testosterone levels. They have moved from typing genitals—are the ”right” parts there? To chromosomes—is she an XX? To hormone levels—are her testosterone or androgen levels in the appropriate range that signifies female?

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July 30, 2015

Consuming Home

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Would you be excited to have a high-end brand of shower valve?

Most of us probably wouldn’t know the brands of shower valves to be excited one way or the other. I certainly don’t. But when a contractor came to give us an estimate for replacing our shower, he said he had connections and could “upgrade” us to a specific brand, assuming that I knew it signaled high-end plumbing. He promised that if we hired him we could have fancy branded tile at a discount too, giving us “the wow factor I know you’re looking for.”

The only “wow” came when we saw how much he would charge us for our new high-end branded shower, which we passed on.

This experience reminded me of sociologist Juliet B. Schor’s book The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. She has a chapter called “The Visible Lifestyle,” where she explores how consumption is connected with identity. We make statements about ourselves through the products that we consume, and the more visible the product, the more brands matter to consumers.

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June 26, 2015

Religion, Climate Change, and Poverty

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

There is a new sociologist on the block: he does not have a Ph.D., does not teach at a university, and as far as I know, may have never even taken a sociology course. In fact, he attended a technical secondary school where he graduated with a chemical technician’s diploma and worked for a time in a chemistry lab (as well as working temporarily as a bouncer). Who is this new sociologist?  He’s an Argentinian named Jorge Mario Bergogli or, as he is commonly referred to, Pope Francis.

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June 12, 2015

Mexican Pointy Boots and Subcultural Theory

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

While looking for videos to share with my Urban Sociology course this past term, I came across a mini-documentary from 2012 on Vice that chronicles the rise of a cultural phenomenon that centers around extremely pointy boots.

Men from the rural town of Matehuala, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico began augmenting their boots to make them pointier with an up-curved slant. While the boots initially were only slightly pointier, the trend expanded and some points increased as high as six feet tall. According to the documentary, the boot trend coincided with the rise of Tribal Guarachero;  a mix of pre-hispanic, indigenous, and Afro-Caribbean sounds, and electronica. According to an NPR piece on the pointy boots, men from Matehuala use the boots in dance competitions and the phenomenon grew from there.

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May 18, 2015

A Super Sweet Quince Economy

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

Growing up in Chicago, there were parts of the city that we’d go to to buy certain products. If we needed shoes or clothing, we’d walk or take the bus over to Maxwell Street to shop at places like Chernin’s, Mike’s, or the open-air market. If we wanted pan dulce (a traditional Mexican sweet bread) we’d go to Eighteenth Street to check out one of the many panaderias located there.  If my parents were looking for a piece of jewelry as a present for someone, they’d head over to Jeweler’s Row in downtown Chicago on Wabash.  

As I got older and had a little bit of pocket money, my friends and I would walk over to Cermak and Western to check out one of the many trendy (and affordable) clothing shops in that area.  Even now, on my trips back home, I often stop by Eighteenth Street in Pilsen to check out vintage items at one of the many second-hand shops, and by Twenty-Sixth Street to pick-up some traditional Mexican food items that I can’t find in Galesburg.

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March 02, 2015

Sports and Socio-Economic Status: More than Talent Required

Colby JakariBy Colby King and Jakari Griffith, Bridgewater State University

Colby King is an Assistant Professor of Sociology; Jakari Griffith is an Assistant Professor of Management

Recently, Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder Andrew McCutchen shared a great essay  on The Players’ Tribune in which he reflects on his path to the pros. In the essay, he responds to the drama surrounding the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team, which won the Little League World Series and then had their title taken away for having players on the team who lived outside of their geographic area. The emphasis of his essay  is a critique of what McCutchen, who was raised by a poor family in Fort Meade, Florida, sees as a broader problem: the cost and difficulties that talented kids from poor families face as they hope to be discovered by scouts.

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