August 03, 2020

Empty Pedestals, Monumental Culture

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

A non-trivial aspect of the wave of protests over the last few months has been focused on public monuments.

The Theodore Roosevelt statue at the National History Museum will be replaced because of its representation of racism and colonialism. Controversial former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo’s statue has been removed. Statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and other confederates are being removed on Richmond’s Monument Ave. Christopher Columbus statues are also being brought down in several states. This movement didn’t start weeks ago, however. The University of Texas Austin campus removed its statues of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson in 2016.

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July 29, 2020

The Panopticon and Protest Surveillance

Jessica polingBy Jessica Poling

There is no doubt that the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd will be one of the defining features of the year 2020. Following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, this recent wave of outcry and activism has dominated public discourse and gained traction—even among those who were previously skeptical of the movement.

The explosiveness of the protests, particularly in metropolitan areas like Philadelphia, have created more tension between civilians and law enforcement, who have at times escalated peaceful protests or harassed protesters. These are just a few of the many visible examples of the mechanisms government officials and law enforcement use to control and manipulate protests. However, to fully grasp the nature of this conflict, it is equally important to discuss the invisible, subtle ways that protestors are surveilled and punished.

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July 27, 2020

Is College for Jobs or Expanding the Mind: Why Not Both?

Colby King Author Photo Michelle corbin author photo Albert fu author photo Joseph cohen author photoBy Michelle Corbin, Albert Fu, Colby King, and Joseph Cohen

Michelle Corbin is an Associate Professor of Sociology Worcester State University; Albert Fu is a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Anthropology & Sociology at Kutztown University;  Joseph Cohen is an Associate Professor at Queens College in the City University of New York

Just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the upheaval in our academic work, the four of us engaged in a conversation about thinking of college education as vocational training. The discussion began on Twitter, where Canadian Economist Todd Hirsch argued that college education “should not be about jobs. It should be about expanding the mind, critical thinking and learning how to learn. To think otherwise about our university system is missing the point and purpose.”

Fellow sociologist, Albert Fu, disagreed, first asking “Why can’t it be both?” and argued that the “anti-job” or anti-vocational training view of college is elitist. Seeing an opportunity for an enlightening conversation, sociologist Joseph Cohen invited Albert, along with Colby King, and Michelle Corbin on to an episode of The Annex Sociology Podcast to discuss the issues around this debate.

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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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July 13, 2020

Who Gone Check Me Boo? The Backlash to Women and Power

author photoBy Myron Strong

In season two of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a now iconic scene is featured where co-star Sheree Whitfield demanded to know “who gone check me boo?” Her powerful retort came in response to her blatantly disrespectful party-planner refusing to follow her instructions. While meeting with him, the planner started screaming profanities and calling her names saying that someone needed to “check her.”

His aggressive manner prompted Sheree to verbally remind him that not only does he work for her, but also that she was in control. Sheree’s calm but strong-willed comment illustrates how she refused to back down. As she asserted her point of view, the male party-planner felt insecure and powerless--prompting him to say that someone was going to check her to which she defiantly replied, “who gone check me boo?”

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July 06, 2020

YouTube, Upward Mobility, and Inequality

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

These days, much of my “television” watching is on YouTube. I’m not unique—according to Google’s CEO (Google’s parent company owns YouTube), about 2 billion logged-in users use the site each month. As of 2018, there were an estimated 23 million channels. All this got me thinking about how news of YouTube fortunes may make many of us think that our financial future is online, especially during tough economic times.

The channels I watch most feature what seem to be ordinary people who have somehow found a way to monetize their skills: a fitness channel I use to work out has more than 6 million subscribers; two channels I am using to learn German have over a half million subscribers each, and one of the creators had been traveling the world and made her videos from wherever she happened to be at the time. I watch a lot of travel videos as well, including some by people who had been able to travel full time, thanks to YouTube success and sponsorship deals.

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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

Putting the “Diplo” in Diplomacy: Music as Soft Power

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

This summer, I’ve been obsessing over Wind of Change—a podcast about the CIA’s possible involvement in the titular 1990s global mega hit by the German rock band, The Scorpions. The story unravels the sometimes-shadowy threads between music and foreign policy, and gets us to think about how culture is used.

I absolutely remember ”Wind of Change,” but didn’t think it was as big a hit as ”Rock You Like A Hurricane,” a song U.S. readers might recognize from a commercial. But “Wind of Change” was a theme song for the revolutions behind the Iron Curtain, culminating in the end of the cold war, and I was shocked to learn that it is the fifteenth most purchased song in history, outranking any Beatles song. The podcast is a fantastic journey into how the U.S. government has secretly used American music, from jazz to hard rock, to further its own interests overseas.

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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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