January 17, 2024

Florida, Don’t Deprive Public College Students of the Opportunity to Develop their Sociological Imaginations

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

Even though I’m a professor, sometimes I fantasize about going back to college. Everyone should have the chance to experience that electric feeling of discovery. General education requirements exposed me to worlds I scarcely imagined as the first person in my family to go to college. I remember the thrill of encountering new subjects such as philosophy, theology, Spanish literature, art history, ancient Greek and Roman history. Like many high school students, I’d never had the opportunity to take classes in the social sciences, including anthropology, economics, political science, psychology, and sociology.

I could have never predicted an introductory sociology course would change my life.

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December 22, 2023

Unlearning Oppression

Wayne mellinger author photoBy Wayne Martin Mellinger

Instructor, Antioch University

No child is brought into this world as a racist or sexist or homophobe.  Oppression must be learned through our childhood socialization processes.  While the home environment provided by our parents is crucial to learning both oppressive and anti-oppressive behaviors, cultural institutions such as schools, religious institutions, and mass media also play a central role.

For many years I taught classes at local colleges and universities I called “Unlearning Oppression.”  While the formal titles of these classes were typically “Race, Class and Gender in American Society” I insisted on dealing with ageism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression too.

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December 15, 2023

Beyond Deviance 101: The Problem with Norms

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

You might have learned a very basic, easy to remember definition of deviance: that deviance is the violation of a social norm. A norm is a shared expectation of how people should behave; but this definition of deviance is very limited.

I ask my students to forget this definition. Here’s why:

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December 04, 2023

There are No Heroes Here: Killers of the Flower Moon and the Treatment of Indigenous Peoples

Rob Eschmann author photoBy Rob Eschmann, Associate Professor of Social Work, Columbia University

[email protected]

This post contains spoilers for the 2023 film, Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon is as good as you expect it to be, directed by Martin Scorsese and featuring spectacular performances from Robert De Niro as Bill “King” Hale, Leonardo DiCaprio as Hale’s easily influenced nephew Ernest Burkhart, and Lily Gladstone as Molly Burkhart, a beleaguered yet resolute Osage woman married to Ernest. Even the story behind the film is inspiring, as Scorsese worked with the Osage Tribe leadership, employed over one hundred Osage as extras, and was intentional about avoiding the Hollywood trope of Indigenous folks in trouble, White man to the rescue.

But don’t expect to like this film. Expect unease. For three and a half uncomfortable hours my heart broke for the Osage community as I held my breath, waiting for some respite, for the calvary to show up and save the day.

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November 22, 2023

The Impossibility of University Neutrality in Times of Crisis

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

Campuses are being torn apart due to the Israel-Hamas war. Students are protesting, getting arrested on campuses, and being threatened. While acknowledging that there are unspeakable horrors of war happening across the globe, it can still be said that it is the most challenging time to be on a U.S. college campus in my memory.

I am certain that even what I write here—which is tentative based on thoughts that are in-process—could be interpreted for this, against that, or not for anything and, therefore, bad. A lack of certainty, when faced by colleagues, friends, and students with very clear beliefs on very brutal realities, can be interpreted as a moral failure. My scholarship is not on colonialism, war, or international conflict, however. No one could or should look to me for enlightenment on this, and there are far too many people online who have spent a little time on Wikipedia and self-appointed themselves as experts in the history of Middle Eastern conflict.

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October 30, 2023

Place Matters: Inequality and Geography

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

The history of the places we live matters. From the infrastructure that provides access to roads, water, sewer systems, and utilities, often built long before we live someplace, to things like nearby schools and hospitals, where we live is a window into our life chances.

In their recently published book, The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America, Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, and Timothy Nelson examine the factors that lead to “deep disadvantage.” They define this as having an income of less than half of the poverty rate, health disadvantages, and limited opportunities for children (p. 4). These spaces are mostly rural, and often overlap with places of enslavement in the past (p. 10). Throughout their book, they explore the link between past injustices and the lack of opportunities in the present.

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October 23, 2023

How I Became a Professor: My Parents’ Gifts for Pursuing the Impossible Dream

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

 The good things of prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.

                                                                                                 –Seneca, Letters to Lucilius (28 CE)

Whenever I think about the winding path that led to my current position as a sociology professor, I can’t help but hear the lyrics of the iconic Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime.” How did I get here?

How do any of us become who we are? As a sociologist who studies aging and the life course, the myriad influences that shape us on our life’s journey fascinate me.

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October 16, 2023

Writing an Op-ed: Lessons in Public Sociology

Jonathan Wynn author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I have a book coming out in a few weeks on hospitals and their communities. One of my co-authors and I are hoping to write an op-ed that will bring some of the knowledge from the book (particularly the policies recommendations we are making) to the wider public. Sociology should always be looking for ways to reach a wider audience, and do more public sociology.  

When aiming to write an op-ed, one of the things that authors will look for a “news peg.” These are very recent events in the news that a writer can use to make a wider point about some political or social issue. When the Fyre Festival debacle occurred, for example, I was able to co-author an op-ed about the financial risks and rewards for small bands to participate in music festivals. In my local paper, when a recent controversy arose about the renovation of my small town downtown strip, I was able to write about Jane Jacobs’ more pedestrian-focused approach to urban planning.

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October 09, 2023

The Mouth of Privilege

Karen sternheimer 72523By Karen Sternheimer

Like many people, I’m not typically excited to go to the dentist, but I appreciate having the ability to do so, especially after reading Mary Otto’s book Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.

The book provides in-depth reporting on the tragic death of Deamonte Driver, a twelve-year-old boy who died after an infection in his tooth spread to his brain. Otto documents how despite the attempts of his mother to get he and his siblings dental care, their lack of private dental insurance and status as Medicaid recipients, created an inability to receive regular dental care.

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October 02, 2023

Creating a Class of Our Own: Reflections on First-Generation and Working-Class People in Sociology

By Colby R. King, Marisela Martinez-Cola (Assistant Professor, Morehouse College), Mary L. Scherer (Assistant Professor, Sam Houston State University), Robert Francis (Assistant Professor, Whitworth University), and Myron T. Strong

People from working-class and first-generation-to-college backgrounds have a lot to contribute to sociology and to our universities as students, instructors, and staff. The American Sociological Association’s (ASA) Task Force on First-Generation and Working-Class People in Sociology (FGWC) highlighted this in their report to ASA, which you can read here. (You can also see suggestions for how the report may be used in sociology courses here.)

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