January 14, 2019

Applying Verstehen: Understanding the Transgender Experience

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It is very easy to fear what we don’t understand, and it is also easy to fear people who seem to be different from us. Our language enables this: the previous sentence contains the words “we” and “us,” suggesting that “they” and “them” are another group. As Peter Kaufman wrote two years ago, there is a danger in “othering” people that can mask our similarities.

People who identify as transgender get placed into the “other” category often, largely because many people don’t understand what it means to identify as any gender other than the one assigned at birth. When I came of age in the late twentieth century, I knew of no one who openly expressed gender identity issues—of course, that doesn’t mean no one I knew had these issues, just that they were hidden.

The concept of identifying as transgender was new to me, just as it was for many people. As sociologists, we strive to better understand people from their perspective. Sociologist Max Weber’s concept verstehen calls upon us to use research for the purpose of understanding people we study. This has led me to begin to read the growing body of sociological research on how people who identify as transgender come to this realization.

Continue reading "Applying Verstehen: Understanding the Transgender Experience" »

January 07, 2019

Getting Excited about Sociological Research Methods

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

In our department, Research Methods is a required course that many students put off taking until their junior or even senior year. For several reasons, this class is often viewed as one of those requirements that you just have to get through, rather than as one to eagerly anticipate.

I aim to change that. Here’s why you should be excited to take a research methods course:

Continue reading "Getting Excited about Sociological Research Methods" »

December 31, 2018

Emotional Intelligence and Sociology

Jonathan Wynn (1)By Jonathan Wynn

There is a secret piece of your college education that I think we could talk more about. Despite its importance, I am only now I am realizing that it’s perhaps one of the most important skill sets you need to develop as an undergraduate. It is tucked into the classes and the general requirements, hidden between the lines. It’s called emotional intelligence, and I think it can be a profoundly sociological—not just psychological—phenomenon.

Continue reading "Emotional Intelligence and Sociology" »

December 24, 2018

Millennials, Sex, and the Economy: The Sociological Imagination in Action

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Although the exact definition of a millennial may vary, roughly speaking millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, and are between 22 and 37 years of age in 2018. This is the first generation to come of age after the technology boom, having grown up with the internet and mobile phones. This is also the generation most impacted by the economic downturn. many of them graduated from college and entered the workforce during and immediately after the Great Recession, thus impacting not only their lifestyles and career opportunities, but even career choices and college majors.

While the economy impacts everyone, it has had a particular impact on millennials’ lives. We know so much about the lives and experiences of millennials in part because of their use of social media to document their lives, preferences, and habits and because, as the largest demographic, they are a target audience for market research.

Continue reading "Millennials, Sex, and the Economy: The Sociological Imagination in Action" »

December 14, 2018

Making Sense of The Senseless: A Sociological Perspective on Mass Shootings

Professional PicBy Lauren Madden

Instructor, Long Beach City College

"You can't make sense of the senseless," said one of the police officers in response to the Borderline shooting on November 7, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, California. This statement really struck me. Shouldn't we at least try? This is what social scientists do; they try to make sense of the seemingly senseless. So how can we make sense of the phenomenon of mass shootings?

One theory, supported by clinical psychologists, is that it is anger, not mental illness, causes violence. "Violence is not a product of mental illness. Nor is violence generally the action of ordinary, stable individuals who suddenly "break” and commit crimes of passion. Violent crimes are committed by violent people, those who do not have the skills to manage their anger," writes Laura Hayes, Slate contributor and psychologist. However, Hayes notes that the mental health community has not found appropriate diagnoses for anger disorders, prevention measures, or a specific framework to help people to comprehend the violence that occurs within their communities.

Sociologists, on the other hand, try to look at the bigger picture, zooming out to study external factors such as the impact of social institutions, cultural norms and values, and patterns in the social environment to explain the "senseless."

Continue reading "Making Sense of The Senseless: A Sociological Perspective on Mass Shootings" »

December 10, 2018

The Definition of the Situation: Resisting Discussions of Death

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A family member’s recent illness and passing highlighted a concept within micro sociology: the definition of the situation. This idea posits that situations come with social scripts that shape our behavior within any given context. How we define a situation guides our actions; sometimes our actions might seem strange if others around us define the situation differently. Put simply, people base their behavior on our understanding of events, and we generally ascribe meaning to these events based on our interactions with others.

Although he was 85-years-old and was being treated for lymphoma, a type of cancer, my father-in-law was healthy enough to play tennis this past August when he fell and broke his hip on the court. Our family defined this situation as a sports-related injury, albeit one with more risks due to his age and overall health status. It seemed that medical professionals defined his injury the same way too.

Continue reading "The Definition of the Situation: Resisting Discussions of Death" »

November 30, 2018

A Tribute to Peter Kaufman

Todd Schoepflin Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

After a battle with lung cancer, sociologist Peter Kaufman died on November 19. This post pays tribute to the special person he was and the exceptional writing he produced.

Less than a month before he died, Peter participated in a conversation about death and dying that took place at SUNY New Paltz, the place where he devoted his career as a sociology professor. It was a conversation with Rachel Somerstein, available to watch here. When I watch it, I see the Peter I knew and will miss dearly--contemplative, wise, honest, and funny. When asked why he chose to do this event (around the 12-minute mark), Peter said it was his idea, adding: “I’m not an expert on any of this stuff. I didn’t study death and dying as a sociologist. And I just have this unfortunate situation that I landed in this position and I’m gaining a lot of experiential wisdom. And I’ll have more wisdom after tonight, and more wisdom after next week, and I’ll have the most wisdom until my last breath.”

Continue reading "A Tribute to Peter Kaufman" »

November 26, 2018

Identity and Retirement

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Sociologist Michelle Pannor Silver’s new book, Retirement and its Discontents: Why We Won’t Stop Working, Even if We Can, is based on interviews with retirees, many of whom are struggling with the transition to retirement. Many of her informants who held prestigious positions as doctors, CEOs, and professors said the biggest challenge they faced was related to their sense of self.

If a big part of one’s identity comes from work, who are you if you are retired?

This challenge is complicated when work occupies most of one’s time, often to the detriment of family and maintaining social ties outside of one’s field. For occupations that demand long hours while offering titles with a great deal of prestige, leaving the field can leave people unsure of what to do and of who they are.

Continue reading "Identity and Retirement" »

November 20, 2018

In Memoriam: Peter Kaufman

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our longtime blogger, Peter Kaufman. We are fortunate to have an archive of 105 posts that Peter wrote for this blog on a variety of topics, often focusing on issues of inequality and social justice.

A longer tribute post will be coming soon; in the meantime, we can all pay tribute to Peter by sharing his work with others, and for those of us who teach, share his ideas with students for years to come.

Let us know: which of Peter's posts is most meaningful to you? Instructors, which posts have you used in class, and how do you recommend others use his work in our future classes?

November 19, 2018

Taking Sociology to the Circus

Colby (1)By Colby King

Did you know that before any U.S. city had a system of electric street lighting, Americans could see electric lighting at the circus? In 1878, James Bailey lit his circus with electricity, and as a result a large proportion of American saw electricity for the first time at the circus. Bailey even sold tickets for tours of the generator.

I learned this and a lot more from the recently aired documentary The Circus, from American Experience and PBS. The documentary illustrates the vibrant and problematic history of the circus, and underscored how the traveling circuses of the late 1800s and early 1900s were a quintessential part of U.S. society.

As someone who studies urban sociology, I was struck by the ways in which the circus functioned as a sort of traveling city. The film quotes one attendee describing the circus as:

a city that folds itself up like an umbrella. Quietly and swiftly every night it… [picks] up in its magician’s arms theatre, hotel, schoolroom, barracks, home, whisking them all miles away, and setting them down before sunrise in a new place.

Just as cities of the industrial era brought new patterns of social life, the circus brought culture and diversity, opportunities, and exploitation to the places it visited.

Continue reading "Taking Sociology to the Circus" »

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for everydaysociologyblog.com please .

Norton Sociology Books

The Real World

Learn More

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

The Family

Learn More

Gender

Learn More

The Art and Science of Social Research

Learn More

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More