55 posts categorized "Citites and Urbanization"

December 05, 2022

Here We Snow Again (But Not On Our Own)

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Nationwide, Buffalo is known for a few things: chicken wings, a football team that lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and a place that is cold and snowy. True, we happily claim our city as home of the chicken wing, we love our Buffalo Bills, and we take pride in being able to handle adverse winter weather conditions. Those of us on the inside refer to Buffalo as the city of good neighbors, and use slogans like “My city smells like Cheerios” and “Talking Proud.”

I’ve been through countless snowstorms, including what’s known as Snowvember in November 2014. Back in 2014, it wasn’t snow that was our biggest worry. It was the smell of gas in our basement that concerned us. We stayed with friends across the street who generously offered to take us in until a worker from the gas company was able to determine the leak was coming from outside our house and was able to solve the problem.

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November 07, 2022

Culture, Structure, and Public Transportation

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Traveling by train from Chamonix, France to Grindelwald, Switzerland was a breeze, despite having to change trains five (!) times. It wouldn’t have been so easy in most other countries. Certainly not where we live, in Los Angeles, where public transportation is much more limited, especially when traversing mountainous regions.

It’s not really fair to compare a city with lackluster public transportation like Los Angeles with Switzerland, the country with perhaps the best public transit system in the world, but I will in this post to make a point about the importance of social structure and how it shapes culture.

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June 06, 2022

Urban Barricades and Reconnecting Segregated Communities

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

When I discuss segregation in my classes, a key element I work to cover with students is the idea that the segregation we see today is the result of policies, preferences, and more to the point, choices that people made. This is a consensus view among urban sociologists, and something my co-authors and I explain in the most recent edition of The New Urban Sociology. Segregation does not just happen, but instead is the result of the accumulation of choices, individual and institutional, that have built inequality into the places we live.

In June of 2020, sociologist Patrick Sharkey published this essay in The Atlantic titled “To Avoid Integration, Americans Built Barricades in Urban Space.” In the piece, Sharkey illuminates this critical idea in detail, explaining how racial segregation has been exacerbated by the construction of literal barricades in urban space. These barricades, as he explains, separate neighborhoods, communities, and social groups, and heighten inequality across cities.

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April 06, 2022

Road Trip: Culture Shock and Renting a Car in Italy

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Culture shock is one of the most basic concepts in sociology, involving a feeling of confusion in a new environment that those accustomed to the location likely take for granted. Taking a road trip in a foreign country is a great way to experience culture shock: something at once familiar becomes strange in a place where the language and customs are different from what we are used to. Culture shock one of the most interesting things about travel.

Renting a car in most other countries often means that the instrument panels will look different, especially if the speedometer is based on kilometers per hour rather than miles per hour. While most rental cars in the U.S. have automatic transmission, nearly all European rentals are manual transmission, commonly known as a stick shift. And the one that we rented on our most recent trip didn’t even take gasoline, but instead ran on metano.

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September 27, 2021

Pizza and Neighborhood Change

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

There are many unforgettable aspects of my first week as a college student. Number one by far: my first slice of St. Mark’s Pizza, located at the corner of Third Avenue and St. Mark’s Place in lower Manhattan.

Surely you’ve heard about the uniqueness of New York-style pizza: huge slices, thin crust, and in the case of St. Mark’s, lots of cheese. As a student, I would get a slice from St. Mark’s almost once a week. At the time it was relatively cheap—maybe $2?—and so satisfying when money was tight.

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September 13, 2021

James Loewen and the Sociology of Sundown Towns

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Sociologist James Loewen passed away on Thursday, August 19 at the age of 79. In an obituary in the New York Times, he is described as a “civil rights champion who took high school teachers and textbook publishers to task for distorting American history, particularly the struggle of Black people in the South, by oversimplifying their experience and omitting the ugly parts.”

Loewen first worked as a professor at Tougaloo College, a historically black college in Mississippi. He later worked at the University of Vermont, and as a visiting professor at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Loewen is probably most famous for his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, which my friend Myron Strong writes about here. Loewen produced other important work as well. For example, Facing South, the online magazine for the Institute for Southern Studies republished Loewen’s article “Lies Across the South” from the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of Southern Exposure in an effort, “to deepen understanding of the long movement for memorial justice in the South — and appreciation for Loewen's critical contributions to it.” Memorials and landmarks continue to be sites where we continue to struggle over racism and place character, as I wrote about in an  Everyday Sociology Blog post about the removal of the Confederate Flag from the South Carolina state house grounds in 2015. In this article written 15 years earlier, Loewen emphasized that, “All across the South, from Maryland to Texas, historical markers, monuments, and historic sites get history wrong, mostly on purpose.”

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August 12, 2021

Place Matters: Learning from South Central Dreams

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Who we are is shaped by the places where we live, and we in turn shape these places. This is one of the resounding messages in a new book by my colleagues Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Manuel Pastor, South Central Dreams: Finding Home and Building Community in South LA.

When many people hear the phrase “South Central LA” they may think they know a lot about the area, even if they have never been to Los Angeles. Movies such as Colors (1988), Boyz n the Hood (1991), and Menace II Society (1993) brought the collection of neighborhoods known as “South Central” to national attention, painting the area as a bleak landscape of gangs, violence, and mayhem.

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June 28, 2021

You are Your ID, or are You?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As I waited in the security line to return home at an airport recently, a large banner with the words “You are Your ID” was impossible to miss. While just an ad for CLEAR, a biometrics company that uses facial recognition software to verify identity, those words stung that morning.

Why was I so sensitive? I had lost my driver’s license while on a hike two days earlier and was pretty upset. I had gone back to the trail three times to try and find it with no luck. I looked through the car multiple times and any place else it might have fallen where I was staying, including the recycling, and even the refrigerator and pantry.

On one of the attempts to retrace my steps, I got caught in a pretty harrowing thunderstorm and had to run back to the car after a I saw a large bolt of lightning. As I ran, I told myself that the danger I had placed myself in was hardly worth it. A driver’s license can be replaced; it is just a thing; it is not part of me. I had not lost a piece of myself, despite feeling like I had. I had trouble focusing on anything else for the next two days, and reminded myself over and over that “I am not my ID.”

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September 21, 2020

Health, Racial Inequality, and Residential Segregation

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student at Rutgers University – New Brunswick

We often talk about health as a strictly biological concept. After all, poor health outcomes such as heart disease and cancer are heavily dependent on biological factors such as our genetic makeup and our age. Public discourse is also rife with notions that viruses, such as COVID-19, “do not discriminate” and affect all of us equally – regardless of the vastly different social circumstances under which people in the U.S. are living.

Sociologists, however, have long emphasized that health outcomes are far from strictly biological. In fact, the subfield of medical sociology – one of the American Sociological Association’s largest sections – is entirely devoted to the study of how social contexts and structures influence health, illness, and healthcare. Although certain poor health outcomes are indeed influenced by factors outside of the social world, medical sociologists stress the importance of social influence in examining e.g. who gets sick and why.

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August 24, 2020

Internships and the Cost of Geography

author photoBy Colby King

This year, National Public Radio (NPR) received 20,520 applications for the 27 internships they are offering this fall. That was nearly 8 times the number of applications NPR received for 55 internship slots the year before, according to a report in Current, a trade journal that covers the public broadcasting industry in the US. Executive Director Julie Drizin notes how we are currently in “truly tough times to be job-hunting.”

I found this report after seeing behavioral economist Jodi Beggs retweet it, saying, “Wow I feel like we just learned something pretty important here.” In the report, NPR spokesperson Isabel Lara as suggests that this increase in applications is likely a result of the internships being offered remotely this year, and not requiring participants to move to the expensive large cities in which they are typically offered.

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