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 21, 2021

How to Read a Sociological Journal Article for Beginners

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Most people who aren’t sociologists don’t just stumble upon a scholarly journal article and think, “Hmm, this looks like a fun read!” (Truth be told, many sociologists don’t either.) But there are times when reading journal articles is necessary, like when you are learning from the literature in order to prepare to conduct your own research or are writing a scholarly paper for a class.

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September 20, 2021

Becoming a Doctor: Inequities in Medical Training

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

The past year has taught us a lot about inequities within health care, from the disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates to the impact of racial segregation on our health, and the disparities in receiving vaccinations during the early rollout phase.

Disparities also exist among health care workers, even between doctors.

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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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September 06, 2021

Eating in Everyday Life

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

My 13-year-old has suddenly stopped eating meat. This came as a surprise to my wife and me, considering his voracious appetite and penchant for eating a variety of meats. It wasn’t long ago he was eager to participate in the chicken sandwich wars, comparing offerings from popular fast-food establishments. We live in Buffalo, which I consider a meat-centric place. After all, this is home of the chicken wing, and lesser-known meat treats that Western New Yorkers are proud to be associated with, like beef on weck sandwiches. Many a fund raiser in our region rely on chicken dinners sold in the parking lots of churches, schools, and fire halls.

My wife and I both come from meat and potato families. In my childhood, dinner was usually comprised of meat, a starch, and a vegetable. I remember eating pork chops, chicken, beef tacos, steak, and subs with cold cuts. My mom’s family is Italian. Our family Sunday dinners were pasta with meatballs and sausage. My kids have grown up eating breaded chicken cutlets that my dad makes, and my mom’s meatballs. Growing up Catholic, meat was only something to avoid only on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. What family traditions have shaped the way you eat? What religious customs can you think of that influence how people eat?

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September 02, 2021

Lies My Teacher Told Me: In Memory of James Loewen

Myron strongBy Myron Strong

In my Intro to Sociology courses, I often recall a story I told students when I was teaching at Little Rock’s Parkville High School in Little Rock, Arkansas while working on my masters in secondary education. While analyzing a canonized text on King Arthur to a group of 10th graders, I pointed to many of the problems centered around gender, class, violence, and history. At one point, I got heated and yelled, “they don’t want you to know this!” The students looking somewhat confused, asked who doesn’t want us to know? Surprised by their responses, I scrambled and replied, “the school board.”

I laughed thinking about it and the story warms me, in part because it reminds me of the book the Lies My Teacher Told Me. James Loewen, who passed away on August 19, 2021, published the book in 1995. It became an instant classic as it challenged the Eurocentric, white, patriarchal, narrow views of classroom texts by presenting an alternative text that corrected many of the myths and lies that are taught by the education system.

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August 30, 2021

“The Right Look”: Emotional and Aesthetic Labor in Ballet

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

It is no secret that jobs are not what they used to be. While Karl Marx’s disturbing depiction of alienated and lifeless factory workers in the mid nineteenth century may still ring true to some, our working conditions have arguably only gotten worse. The so-called “gig economy,” in which steady jobs are replaced with task-based independent contract work, has taken a strong hold in our society. Corporations like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart are making immense profits by hiring only independent contract workers (rather than employees), who are ineligible for benefits and exempt from minimum wage requirements – no matter how many hours these independent contractors actually work. Their argument, of course, is that limiting independent contract work would decrease flexibility and jeopardize the quirks of modernity we all hold near and dear – like ride sharing or food delivery .  

As our economy has expanded and morphed, so has scholars’ understanding of what “labor” actually means. In 1983, Arlie Hochschild famously published The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling in which she details the advent of “emotional labor” in the growing service economy. According to Hochschild, emotional labor is the work we do (usually daily, on the job) to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (20).

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August 16, 2021

Biography and History Intersecting: Thinking Critically about Individualism

Author photo

By Karen Sternheimer

In his book The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mills described the importance of historical events as shaping individuals’ lives. This is not just to say that historical events influence our personalities or preferences, but that sociology calls upon us to consider the interplay between our seemingly private lives and the world around us. The self cannot exist apart from society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to think about the connection between the self and society, as clashes over mask mandates, shutdowns, and vaccinations highlight the tensions between individualism and the larger society that we are part of.

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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 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 like 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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August 09, 2021

A Role Model for Humanizing the Practice of Medicine: My Love Letter to Dr. Nema

Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

Last October, I took my 90-year-old mother to her doctor's office for the seasonal flu shot. That shot is not given by the doctor, of course, but he came into the patient room to see her with great excitement! She was thrilled to see him, and there was no mistaking her grin beneath her mask. Dr. Nema (a pseudonym) told Mum how good she looked, complimented my pants, and when he saw my Saint Leo University mask, told me about some family members attending school there. Then, he invited my mother and me to return to the office the next month to have a physically distanced lunch with him.

Does this interaction with a physician seem typical to you? Do you have interactions like this with your doctor? How does this interaction square with what doctors are taught? Is Dr. Nema following prescribed physician-patient norms? Most of you, like me, find Dr. Nema’s behavior unusual among physicians regarding these questions. However, as a recipient of this style of practicing medicine, I can vouch for the benefits that this kind of behavior from a doctor can mean to a patient and the patient's family!

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