By Jonathan Wynn
When teaching sociology—particularly theory—we'll often hear about how most of the classic readings we assign are written by "dead white guys." And when you look through the canon it is, indeed, very pale and very male.
Few women are credited in shaping early sociology. Marianne Weber influenced her husband Max and Georg Simmel, and was a powerful sociologist in her own right. Harriet Martineau translated and edited Auguste Comte's famous Cours de Philosophi Positive so well that Comte preferred her version of his book over his own. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (of The Yellow Wallpaper fame) and Jane Addams both described themselves as sociologists, taught sociology courses, published articles in the American Journal of Sociology, and were charter members of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). Mary Jo Deegan writes on the exclusion of women in the American Sociological Society here.
Still, I think that it is completely fair to concede that classical sociological theory has a lot of "dead" and "guys."
What about that "white" part, though? Let's examine that more closely.
Continue reading "The Dead White Guys of Theory?" »
By Peter Kaufman
Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse,
you can take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.
These words come from Marge Piercy’s poem, "The Low Road." It is one of my favorite sociological poems about the potential power that is unleashed when people join together and fight for social change. I probably mention this poem at least once a semester in one or more of my classes and I will certainly be invoking it again as I discuss the recent events at the University of Missouri.
Black students at the University of Missouri have been protesting for months about ongoing racist incidents on campus. They are particularly frustrated by what they perceive to be the failure of the university’s administration, and particularly President Tim Wolfe, to adequately address these events. Using the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950, in reference to the year that black students where finally admitted into the University of Missouri, the protesters were calling for the resignation or removal of President Wolfe.
Continue reading "University of Missouri and the Power of Student Protests" »
By 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.
Continue reading "Racial (In)Equality in the U.S." »
By Teresa Irene Gonzales
I was recently listening to an episode of The TakeAway on NPR; the host was interviewing Shirin Lao-Raz Salemnia on her commitment to fostering an interest in coding among young girls. This got me thinking about my own experiences as a young, female computer technician during my late teens and early twenties.
I began working in information technology when I was 19. I didn’t know many women who were also interested in mainframes, computer networking, hardware technologies, et cetera. In fact, I was both the youngest person and the only woman in my computer engineering courses, and at both of my tech-related jobs. I didn’t really know how to process the explicitly gendered and sexist, and implicitly racist comments and treatment that I received (I once had a VP pat me on the head and say he’d call one of the guys to help him out). At the time, social networking was in its infancy and I didn’t know how to connect with others who had similar interests and/or challenges as me.
Continue reading "Girl Code and Heteronormativity in STEM Fields" »
By Aaron J. Howell
Assistant Professor of Sociology SUNY-Farmingdale
Racial politics have come to the forefront of political and social debates in the United States (U.S.) over the last year. The Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray (just to name a few) cases have caused many communities to rethink police-community relations and begin to have some honest conversations about race.
Continue reading "Black and White Understandings of Urban Uprising" »
By Peter Kaufman
I’m not a big fan of horror stories. I’ve never read Dracula, Frankenstein or even a Stephen King novel, and I don’t regularly watch movies full of chainsaws, ghostly figures, or creepy twins. But recently, I read a sociological horror story that I couldn’t put down. I was engrossed with it. It was beautifully written, painstakingly told, and depressingly disturbing. Although it did offer details of death and destruction, these were not the scariest passages. What made this story so frightening and unsettling was the plain, unadulterated sociological truth it told.
Continue reading "The Horror of Race in the United States" »
By Colby King
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Bridgewater State University
The ongoing debate about the confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House reminds us of the power of the symbols we put in our places, and the way we talk about those symbols and those places.
Continue reading "Social (Re)Construction of Place in Columbia, South Carolina" »
By Sally Raskoff
Have you heard about the woman in Spokane, Washington, the former head of the local NAACP chapter who resigned when people discovered that her identified race did not match her ancestry?
I’m talking about the case of Rachel Dolezal. With white ancestry but a strong identification with African American realities, she maintains that her racial identity is black. She passed as black by changing her appearance until her parents spoke to the media about their confusion with her mismatched self-identity.
Continue reading "Racial Construction and Appropriation" »
By Karen Sternheimer
California law requires that managers and supervisors receive anti-harassment training every other year. As a faculty member, I am considered a supervisor so I have taken this online training course several times now. I actually find it useful and interesting each time and always learn something new about workplace issues in the process.
The course teaches us how to recognize harassment based on state-designated protected categories, such as race, color, religion, national origin, age, health and disability status, gender, gender identity/expression and sexual orientation. Through a number of scenarios, we see what constitutes illegal behavior, what we should avoid doing and what to do if we observe violations. As of this year, the course also provides a very useful number of vignettes about reporting sexual assault if students bring an incident to our attention.
Continue reading "Harassment and Power in the Classroom" »
By Karen Sternheimer
On our last day of class for the spring semester, I asked my classes this question, in order to apply what they learned during the semester to help understand the civil unrest in Baltimore in late April.
The events were triggered by the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody on April 12, leading many citizens to public protests. After his funeral on April 27, demonstrations took place, and not all of remained peaceful. The news filled with vivid imagery of clashes with police, destruction of property, fire, and looting. In a video that went viral, a mother shown hitting her son and dragging him away from the crowds received praise nationwide.
What was this all about?
Continue reading "How Can Sociology Help Explain the Civil Unrest in Baltimore?" »