8 posts from July 2013

July 29, 2013

Responses to George Zimmerman’s Acquittal: Crowds and Riots, Uprisings and Protests

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

There has been a lot of collective action around the country after the George Zimmerman murder trial verdict. Protests about his not being found guilty of murder or manslaughter of Trayvon Martin, protests about the legal issues in court trials, protests about the “Stand Your Ground” laws.

I am reminded of what happened after the 1992 trial verdict regarding Rodney King’s beating by police officers. The days following that verdict started similarly with public protests about how those officers were found not guilty, yet much is different.

The 1992 uprising (or riots) happened primarily in Los Angeles, where the event and trial took place but other cites across the nation also had gatherings that erupted into violence and destruction. In 2013, the event and trial were in Florida but gatherings have taken place across the country.

Continue reading "Responses to George Zimmerman’s Acquittal: Crowds and Riots, Uprisings and Protests" »

July 25, 2013

Psychology is Social, Revisited

Aaron horvathBy Aaron Horvath

Sociology Graduate Student, Stanford University

In her recent post, “Psychology is Social,” Sally Raskoff makes an excellent case for the sociological concept of embeddedness—the timeless Karl Polanyi concept that behavior and institutions are embedded in systems of social relations—and further for the sociology of knowledge. Ultimately, the field of sociology is an academic discipline, embedded in a set of other disciplines, with its own set of orthodoxies-now-heterodoxies.


As Raskoff mentions, its somewhat formal roots can be traced back to Auguste Comte, the founder of positivism, the view that scientific knowledge is the only valid form of knowledge, and that sociology was a means of incorporating many sciences into a more unified view of the phenomenon. The field of sociology can be traced even further back to Aristotle and other philosophers, the Domesday Book (medieval data-junkies rejoice!) and even further to Ibn Khaldun (author of The Muqaddimah and an early examiner of social cohesion and conflict).

Continue reading "Psychology is Social, Revisited" »

July 23, 2013

The Sociology of Writing Sociologically

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s been a while now since I started graduate school, but I suspect from current grad students at least one part of the experience remains: the struggle to prove to yourself and others that you belong in a Ph.D. program.

One of the ways we prove ourselves is to sound smart, learn the discipline’s jargon and use it as much as possible in our writing and conversations with other grad students and professors. In order for grad students to earn good grades on papers, they must show that they include and clearly understand what other sociologists have written about and how their research adds to the discipline. Advanced students strive to have their work published in a handful of well-regarded sociology journals.

Ironically, writing about our social world for other sociologists can make our work practically unreadable to anyone else.

Continue reading "The Sociology of Writing Sociologically" »

July 18, 2013

Pregnancy and Social Interactions


By Sally Raskoff

Have you ever noticed how pregnant women are treated in public? I have become ever more aware of this lately since I know at least six people who are due in the next month. Each one of them has mentioned how remarkable it is to move through public spaces because people treat them so differently than they had before (and so differently than they will later).

Pregnant women tend to be treated as special people; doors are opened, people smile, people talk to them nicely, and may even give them their place in line. (A few people can react negatively, but their behavior is typically to avoid the pregnant person.)

Continue reading "Pregnancy and Social Interactions" »

July 11, 2013

What You See Isn’t Always What May Be: Confirmation Bias

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Confirmation bias is a fascinating dynamic. What we see may not be what we judge it to be. What we think we are seeing may just be what we expect it to be.

A new study by sociologists Aliya Saperstein and Andrew M. Penner highlights how social status cues, mixed with gender, may change judgments and perceptions about racial group membership.

Continue reading "What You See Isn’t Always What May Be: Confirmation Bias" »

July 08, 2013

Poetic Sociology

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

I would like to begin this post with a poem:

 Capitalist History

The capitalist has to create:

the material basis

universal intercourse

mutual dependency

the development of productive powers

the transformation of material production

into a scientific domination of nature.

Material conditions of a new world

created in the same way

as geological revolutions created the surface of the earth.


What we call history

is     but     the history of successive intruders.

The profound hypocrisy

inherent barbarism

of capitalist civilization


unveiled before our eyes.


When a great social revolution

masters the results of the capitalist epoch—

the market of the world, the modern powers of production—

and subjected them

to the common control of the most advanced peoples

then, only

will human progress . . . cease

to resemble that hideous, pagan idol

who would not drink the nectar

but from the skulls of the slain.

Continue reading "Poetic Sociology" »

July 04, 2013

Psychology is Social

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

The world is interdisciplinary. In education and academia, we’ve divided the world up into multiple perspectives or academic disciplines; it’s good to be reminded that we’re all looking at the same things from different perspectives – and that those perspectives sometimes converge.

I’ve encountered some news stories and books that illustrate that the more research we do, the more we realize that psychological issues and sociological concepts converge. While we typically reserve the field of social psychology for those areas in which psychology and sociology overlap, recent research confirms that psychological issues involve social contexts – and sociological concepts – more than previously thought.

Continue reading "Psychology is Social" »

July 01, 2013

The Promise and Perils of Public Sociology

SternheimerBy Karen Sternheimer

Last week I had a request from a reporter to comment on a story he was working on. It’s always nice to know that someone wants my input on a current event. Beyond the momentary ego boost, I feel that it is important to encourage people to understand events through a sociological perspective and see how the broader context shapes individuals’ lives.

In the last several years the phrase “public sociology” has become increasingly common among sociologists. As president of the American Sociological Association in 2004, Michael Burawoy encouraged sociologists to think beyond the academic tradition of sharing our ideas only with other professionals in academic journals.

Continue reading "The Promise and Perils of Public Sociology" »

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