7 posts from September 2013

September 27, 2013

Constructing Deviance: A-Rod, Drugs, and Cheating

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

“Is Calling Cheating Cheating, Cheating?” This was the title of a paper I wrote back in graduate school for a class on the sociology of deviance. This playful (or confusing) use of words was my attempt at getting at the uncertainty that sometimes surrounds actions that we deem improper. The point I was trying to make with this title is that it seems wrong to call some acts of inappropriate behavior inappropriate. A particular act might be referred to as cheating but upon closer inspection we may realize that it’s not entirely accurate to label this act as wrong.

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September 23, 2013

“Hey, Miss:” How Not to Talk to your Instructors

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Whether you’re at a massive research university or a small, private liberal arts college, there are good odds that you’ll come across a non-tenure track faculty member. That person may or may not be a Doctor or a Professor, which can create a little discomfort for you: How do you address your instructors? The easy answer is to ask, and always to be respectful. But before we get to the interactional level, I wanted to spend a few moments on the bigger, structural issues in education today.

Few undergrads really understand the behind the scenes gears that put an instructor in front of classes.

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September 19, 2013

Comedians and Sociological Questions

Headshot 3.13 cropcompress

By Karen Sternheimer

No matter what your comedic taste, most stand-up comedians have one thing in common: their jokes are based on observations of human behavior.

Their observations sometimes ring true, or at least entertain others by the conclusions they may draw. Because of the context, comedians can sometimes push the envelope regarding the rules of polite social behavior. Of course they may offend some—maybe a lot of people—in the process.

Comedians are interesting to think about sociologically; what topics do they focus on? What conclusions do they draw?

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September 16, 2013

Failure is an Option: Lessons from Mitty and Sports Journalism

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I recently saw the trailer for an upcoming Christmas movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller. It is a remake of a classic 1947 film about a mild-mannered man who daydreams about his own fantastical successes and journeys. As an undergrad I often felt assigned books were daydreams too. I would read old ethnographies and then envision myself as the noble researcher: diving into unknown worlds and becoming a member of some group or tribe. Early on, I had no idea how troubling this idea really was.

As a grad student I read a lot of qualitative research with a more trained eye, preparing to embark on my own research, and saw the same storylines of participant-observers struggling to be accepted as members of the groups they study. Sometimes, ferreted away in an appendix, there will be admissions that the ethnographer didn’t quite fit.

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September 12, 2013

When Men Get All the Credit: Gender and the Construction of Knowledge

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

There is a common theme that often plays out in television sitcoms and movies that goes something like this: A wife and husband are trying to accomplish a task—maybe trying to put something together or convey a life-lesson to their children. The husband takes first crack at the task and fails miserably. Next, the wife tries and is eventually or even immediately successful. Despite her prowess in accomplishing the task the husband finds a way to butt in and somehow take all of the credit. The woman often gives a knowing look to her husband (or the audience) and laughs it off (along with the audience) as typical male behavior.

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September 09, 2013

Ritual and Renewal

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

At the start of the fall semester, my university held a convocation to formally welcome incoming freshmen and transfer students to the student body. Students wore ceremonial gowns, and faculty wore the decorative gowns of their alma maters. Parents of incoming students looked on with pride, and applauded loudly when their student’s dean formally “presented” them to the university president.

Although most students I observed seemed less than excited to be at the early morning ceremony, rituals have a purpose.  That’s why we have so many.

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September 04, 2013

White Privilege and Orange is the New Black

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn 

Summertime’s for fun and relaxation, but unfortunately the switch controlling the sociology part of my brain rarely turns off. So when I watched the Netflix show, Orange is the New Black, a few gears turned in my head. If you didn’t see it or read the book, you might want to look it up. Race. Class. Gender. Culture. Mental health. Deviance. Religion. Drugs. It’s a streaming Intro to Sociology class ready for unpacking!

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