7 posts from January 2013

January 31, 2013

Bananas, Nessy, The Secret, and Social Theory

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

My usual first day of class gambit is a framing story or activity that lightens the mood, avoids jumping right into the material and yet still provides a window into the key ideas for the class.

 I’ve started my Sociological Theory courses with all sorts of odd topics: “overdosing” on homeopathic medicine (which you cannot actually overdose on, since it is little more than sugar tablets in fancy packaging), the numerology of September 11th, horoscopes, and the Lincoln/Kennedy conspiracy. I also bought some dowsing rods (two metal bars that supposedly locate water or whatever they are “attuned” to) for students to test their ability at finding water.

Continue reading "Bananas, Nessy, The Secret, and Social Theory " »

January 28, 2013

The Social Construction of Stuff

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

I am in the process of moving to a new home. The move has been planned for over a year, so I have been preparing to pack and get rid of things for a while. Coincidentally, our department recently moved to a new building and a family member is in the process of moving too, so I have had many chances to pack, unpack, and reflect.

Moving reminds me of the meanings we assign to our stuff. According to sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, we socially construct meaning of reality. We don’t just construct these meanings individually, but socially as well. These meanings become habitual and part of our social institutions, reinforcing the meanings that we collectively create about our social world and ultimately our realities.

Continue reading "The Social Construction of Stuff" »

January 24, 2013

Youth Power

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Apathetic. Apolitical. Indifferent. Insensitive. Self Absorbed. Self-Obsessed. Selfish. Uncaring. Uncompassionate. Uninvolved.

Have you heard these words thrown about? They are often used these days to describe today’s youth. Some call them the Me Generation or Generation Me. Youth 1Whatever order you prefer, the meaning is unmistakable: young people today are a generation of individuals who are more focused on themselves than others. This sentiment is summed up quite succinctly by Christian Smith and his colleagues in their book, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood. Based on 230 interviews with a cross section of young people between the ages of 18-23 the authors argue that:

The vast majority of the emerging adults interviewed remain highly civically and politically disengaged, uninformed, and distrustful. Most in fact in this study claim to feel disempowered, apathetic, and sometimes even despairing when it comes to the larger social, civic, and political world beyond their own private lives. 

 Given your own experiences and observations of young people do you feel this analysis rings true? I tend to have a different perspective than the authors of this study. My sense is that today’s young people are not all disengaged, consumer-driven individualists. I am more inclined to believe a recent study that found 56% of young adults around the world consider themselves activists and 69% of youth in the U.S. self identify as such.

Continue reading "Youth Power" »

January 21, 2013

Thinking Sociologically about Mass Shootings

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Much has been said about the Sandy Hook murders and other mass shootings in the United States. Some blame media or the accessibility of weapons, others cite gender, and others our medical infrastructure or even the killer’s parents.

What makes people do such horrible things? If there were a simple answer or one source of such behavior, we would have figured that out by now and made a simple solution!

Seeking answers is a natural part of healing after a terrible event such as this. However, seeking such answers through speculation can add to our misery since it may lead us to institute solutions that are not really solving the problems.

Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically about Mass Shootings" »

January 17, 2013

Thinking Sociologically About Holidays

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Did you or anyone you know find this last holiday season stressful? Sociology can help us understand some of the reasons why holiday celebrations might be difficult—and why people keep doing things the same way each year nonetheless.

As you begin to get back in your non-holiday routine, now is a great time to use our sociological imaginations to think about the many sociological concepts that help us understand end-of-the year routines.

Continue reading "Thinking Sociologically About Holidays" »

January 10, 2013

Everyday Sociology Talk: Migration and Masculinity


Sociologist Josh LePree discuss how men who migrate negotiate and reconstruct their masculinity.

For more video, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

January 07, 2013

Everyday Sociology Talk: Education and Ending Poverty


Dalton Conley and David Grusky discuss ending poverty in the United States.

For more video, see www.youtube.com/nortonsoc

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