29 posts categorized "COVID-19"

November 09, 2020

Neighborhood Culture and Halloween in the COVID-19 Era

Jpi author photoBy Janis Prince Innis

Four teenage girls flew across the street, screaming! They leapt into the golf cart at the side of the road as one kept glancing over her shoulder and yelling, “Go! Go!”

I followed her gaze and saw an epically tall man come down the driveway, with an increasingly worried expression on his face. “Are you okay?” he asked. Somehow the girls were still parked in the golf cart and whipping their heads back and forth as if drawn to, yet afraid, of the figure. He apologized: “I’m sorry I scared you.” And with that, the girls hopped out of the cart, and ran back to the house, presumably to be further scared by the Halloween festivities! Halloween Picture1

Have you ever considered that neighborhoods have distinctive cultures? Even in the same city, neighborhoods can differ quite dramatically with regard to the norms, behaviors, and values—all characteristics of culture—that seem to dominate. Neighborhoods can have a shared identity or culture. Considering neighborhood norms—that is, those largely unspoken rules that tell us what is acceptable is one way to examine its culture. Norms, however, can be stifling, so as sociologists point out, societies take moral holidays or have moral holiday places as a respite that  gives people a chance to break norms.

Continue reading "Neighborhood Culture and Halloween in the COVID-19 Era" »

The Meaning of Masks in Everyday Life

Todd Schoepflin author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

A recent article about masks in Australia caught my attention. It’s written by a group of scholars who are working on a book about masks in the COVID-19 era. As they note in the article, wearing masks is compulsory in Victoria, a state in southeast Australia. As indicated by the Victoria state government, “all Victorians must wear a fitted face mask when they leave home, no matter where they live” (there are several exceptions to the requirement). 

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October 19, 2020

2020: The Ultimate Example of Emotional Labor

Todd Schoepflin author photoBy Todd Schoepflin

At 7:50 each weekday morning, my wife heads out the door, off to work at the elementary school where she is a social worker. This year is unlike any of the first ten years she’s worked at the school. There are no children in the building. Our local public school district is currently doing remote learning.

Teachers report to the building and conduct classes from empty classrooms. Staff members continue their daily work to make sure regular functions run smoothly. Social workers and psychologists go to their offices and do the best they can to contribute to the academic and social development of students. “Sad” is the word my wife most commonly uses to describe what it feels like to walk into a quiet school without the hustle and bustle of hundreds of children.

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September 28, 2020

Informal Social Control and Pandemic Behavior

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

A few months ago I wrote about what the pandemic-related stay at home orders can teach us about formal social control, the use of rules, laws, and sanctions to try and shape people’s behavior. What can the pandemic teach us about informal social control?

While formal social control involves large-scale institutional actions, informal social control involves the influence of the people closest to us. Our primary groups, which include our family members and friends, have the most influence on us for several reasons.

We often seek their approval, even if we are not conscious of doing so, and thus our behavior may be influenced in order to maintain these close ties. We typically spend the most time with people in our primary groups, so we also tend to view social issues similarly due to our influence on one another and self-selection of friends and mates whose perspectives our compatible with our own.

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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 05, 2020

Gender, Ethnicity, and the COVID Recession

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The recent economic downturn has impacted millions of Americans. As of this writing, about 30 million Americans are collecting unemployment benefits. Those earning less than $40,000 have endured the greatest job losses; according to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of these workers have lost their jobs in recent months. In contrast, just over one in ten households earning more than $100,000 have experienced job losses.

You might have seen news reports that women have been more likely to experience job losses during the current recession. The Great Recession of a decade ago hit construction and finance particularly hard, and came to be known as a “mancession” because those fields tend to be male dominated.

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July 20, 2020

Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: What is it like to be an Ambulance Worker?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The recent COVID crisis has drawn our attention to the risks health care providers take in treating patients. Ambulance personnel are on the front lines, often the first responders in treating injuries and illnesses.

As this recent PBS Newshour interview reveals, not only are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) in high-outbreak areas regularly exposed to COVID, they bear the emotional scars of feeling like there is little they can do to help the COVID patients they transport, all while earning relatively little pay.

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June 29, 2020

Collective Trauma and COVID-19

Liana tuller author photoBy Liana Renée Tuller,  Research Fellow at Northeastern University's Brudnick Center on Conflict and Violence

Numerous newspaper and magazine articles, health advisories, blogs, radio segments, and op-eds have dubbed COVID-19 a “collective trauma.” What does that mean? And, if our city, our country, and our world is, indeed, experiencing a collective trauma, what lessons can previous collective traumas offer us to help us cope?

Unquestionably, COVID-19 has affected people’s psychological state, not only through grief when loved ones die, but also through the stress of job loss, fear of being infected, isolation imposed by social distancing, and anxiety that life will never return to normal. These emotions, communally experienced, could indeed be described as traumatic.

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June 22, 2020

Race, COVID-19, and Payday Loans: How “Race-Neutral” Policies Reproduce Racism

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos, Sociology Doctoral Student, Rutgers University

More than three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that the virus has impacted the U.S. along racial and class lines. Previous posts on the blog have already commented on how people of color – Black Americans and Latinx immigrants, specifically – are at much higher risk of COVID-19 than White people. This is in part the result of significant class-related inequalities: people of color are vastly overrepresented among those deemed to be “essential workers” who can’t work from home, have less access to healthcare, and are more likely to be using means of transportation that involve potential exposure (e.g. taking the subway or bus). Of course, poor Whites are also at risk for these same reasons. There is no doubt that the long-lasting economic repercussions of the pandemic will also hit these populations the hardest.

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June 17, 2020

The Generalized Other During COVID-19

Jessica Poling author photoBy Jessica Poling

It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted our social lives and how we interact with others. Mandated to self-isolate, in-person interactions have been replaced with countless Zoom meetings, Facetime calls, and virtual happy hours and game nights.

The limited face-to-face interactions we do have are defined by new social norms. Suddenly, tasks that used to be mundane are defined by necessary, potentially life-altering decisions such as: should I go into public today? When should I wear a mask? When should I wash my hands? How close should or shouldn’t I get to other people?

In essence, how we think about our own behavior and actions in interaction with others has changed dramatically. How we address these questions is largely guided by external expectations, both formal (like those from the Center of Disease Control) and informal (such as peer-pressure from other affected citizens). In both cases, our day-to-day lives now invoke constant reflection on the impact of our actions on others.

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