46 posts categorized "COVID-19"

March 01, 2021

Eldercare, Economics, and COVID-19

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In 2019, I wrote about my mother-in-law’s struggles with isolation after losing her husband of 61 years. As you can imagine, the pandemic has only made this challenge more difficult.

Adding to the challenge of 2020 were two injuries she experienced, first a spinal compression fracture in January and a pelvic fracture after a fall in May. Both left her in need of constant care, which family members alone have been unable to provide. Fortunately, she has been able to afford—although not easily afford—the help of in-home caregivers.

Continue reading "Eldercare, Economics, and COVID-19" »

February 22, 2021

Managing Risk and Sociological Theory

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

Here’s a situation that you might be familiar with: After months of being careful with a very small "pod" of three families, they decided to take a risk and allow another person into their trusted group.   That person ended up being an asymptomatic carrier of COVID and infected the whole group.  This is a tragic (and real) scenario.

It’s likely that you and your loved ones have had to individually assess risk and have been challenged either by a glut of some information, a confusion of incorrect information, or a deficit of good data. How are you assessing the decision to return to campus? Are colleges right to open up?

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February 15, 2021

Are Dogs People? Dog Valuation, Sacralization, and the Dog Consumer Market

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

Long considered “man’s best friend,” dogs have undoubtedly come to occupy a significant role in U.S. society. Their popularity with Americans is striking: an estimated 63.4 million households owned a dog in 2019-2020, which makes up 67% of all households in the U.S.  Dogs are by far the most popular pet in America.

Dog owners are increasingly opting for more affectionate terms for their pets like “companion,” “family member,” or even “person.” And perhaps rightly so. An abundance of research demonstrates that for many owners a dog can serve as an attachment figure– someone who the person turns to for psychological and emotional support. Indeed, the psychological benefits of being in the presence of an animal, and of a dog in particular, have proven to be plentiful: dogs can reduce a person’s anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as increase their self-esteem and playfulness.

Continue reading "Are Dogs People? Dog Valuation, Sacralization, and the Dog Consumer Market" »

February 04, 2021

An Inauguration and a Funeral: Rituals and Rites of Passage

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

On January 20, 2021, along with nearly 39 million people across the country, I watched the presidential inauguration. An inauguration is more than just a swearing-in ceremony; it includes a presidential address, followed by events like the “pass in review,” where the first and second couples (and in non-pandemic times, their guests) watch as a series of military processionals pass by to celebrate a new commander-in-chief from the steps of the Capitol building. Along with three former presidents and their spouses, the newly-inaugurated leaders also laid a wreath at Arlington Cemetery at the tomb of the unknown soldier, which included a prayer, the performance of the national anthem, and a military canon salute.

Moments after the ceremony, I attended a funeral for a beloved aunt via Zoom. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, most of my family and I could not travel to be there, and only a small number of family members were allowed to attend the brief graveside service. Along with about 75 others, I watched the rituals on my computer: the prayers, a eulogy, the family members putting dirt in the grave as the coffin is lowered into the ground.

Continue reading "An Inauguration and a Funeral: Rituals and Rites of Passage" »

January 08, 2021

Socially Made and Essential 

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Backing out of my driveway to head to the grocery store, I’m careful to avoid hitting the garbage tote at the end of the driveway. It’s garbage day. Workers from our town sanitation department are like mail carriers—they won’t be stopped by rain, sleet, or snow from doing their job. It snowed last night, so I’m driving out of my neighborhood on streets plowed by town highway workers and onto a road plowed by county plow drivers.

When I arrive at the store, I see carts in the parking lot that will be collected by a worker and brought inside the store. Upon entering the store, I see someone working in the floral department, while other employees are stocking produce. This store always has an abundance of fruits and vegetables. I think of a video I saw on Twitter posted by United Farm Workers, showing incredible skill level by farmworkers.

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December 07, 2020

COVID Babies: Boom or Bust?

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Back in April, there was speculation as to whether the coronavirus would lead to a baby boom, the premise being that people are home more than usual because of the pandemic, which could lead to an increase in baby- making activity. It was also thought that regular access to contraception might be interrupted.

However, at the time, sociologist Philip Cohen predicted a baby boom was highly unlikely, offering this explanation: "So even if a few people accidentally or on purpose decide to have a baby now, they will probably be outnumbered by the lost births from people meeting less, having sex with non-residential partners less and deciding now is not a good time."

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November 30, 2020

Collective Effervescence and the Election

Myron strongBy Myron Strong

On Saturday, November 7, 2020, the result of the election for the President of the United States was officially confirmed. At that moment, many people across the world expressed a sense of relief as well as a physical and emotional weight being lifted. Regardless of who you voted for, or your feelings about the election, the feeling and sentiment expressed by others was undeniable.

And as I bathed in the joy, I also pondered what it meant. This moment was the closest I have ever felt to what Émile Durkheim called collective effervescence. According to Durkheim, these are events that transcend everyday lives. People experience intense enjoyment by sharing the sentiments and values of a larger collective, because it makes people feel part of something larger. It creates a collective conscience, the common sentiments and values that people share as a result of living together, and they glimpse eternity, as we experience a moment that will outlive us.

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November 09, 2020

Neighborhood Culture and Halloween in the COVID-19 Era

Janis prince innissBy 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.

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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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