240 posts categorized "Social Institutions: Work, Education, and Medicine"

January 21, 2022

Retail Exodus

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

For the past year and a half of the pandemic, I have been fortunate enough to order groceries online and drive up for curbside pickup. Not only has it saved me from exposure to others, it also saves me time and enables me to shop throughout the week on the store’s app.

When I put in my most recent grocery order, I received an email about an hour later saying that my order had been canceled. It didn’t give a reason, it just said there was a problem with my order. At first I wondered if there was a problem with the credit card or if lots of things were out of stock.

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December 13, 2021

Maintaining Order

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I like a certain amount of orderliness in my life. I make lists and have rather predictable patterns when it comes to what I eat and how I spend my time at work as well as my leisure time. As I blogged about two years ago, I strive to be a minimalist. Order makes me feel a semblance of control and relief.

Perhaps this is part of the reason I am interested in a core aspect of sociology: how groups large and small seek to maintain order. Whether it is challenging the current social order on a grand scale or how rules are created within small groups and organizations, the quest to achieve order is woven through many areas of study within sociology. Emile Durkheim wrote quite a bit on this topic, noting that interdependence, or solidarity were central to maintaining stability.

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November 22, 2021

Commodities, Neoliberalism, and the Economy of Imprisonment

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos  

Under capitalism, we are surrounded by products that promise to improve or fulfill our lives in some way. Whether it’s beauty products, nutritional supplements, clothing, or even technology, the advertisements we are exposed to tell us that we need to keep consuming products in order to be the best versions of ourselves. Consumerism, or society’s incessant preoccupation with purchasing consumer goods, has seeped into just about every corner of our lives. Even holidays – our cultural traditions that are about celebration and togetherness – have become multi-billion-dollar industries, with consumption (like buying gifts or decorations) now being a condition for participation. After all, it is impossible to celebrate Halloween without at least buying a pumpkin!

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November 09, 2021

Striketober!

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

Over the past several weeks, we have seen a number of labor actions across the country, including strikes and walk-offs. Some observers have referred to this past month as “Striketober,” with the #striketober hashtag being popularized on social media, including Twitter.

As Catherine Thorbecke of ABC News reported:

A confluence of unique labor market conditions -- including record-high levels of people quitting their jobs and an apparent shortage of workers accepting low-wage jobs -- has contributed to the recent rash of work stoppages, experts say, but they also come after decades of stagnating wages and soaring income inequality in the U.S.

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October 18, 2021

Climate Change, Work and the Economy

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people are now working from home, some permanently. While the initial purpose of working from home was to avoid the spread of infection, it also may have some environmental benefits too.

At my university, there is a big push towards sustainability and there is now even a Chief Sustainability Officer working with the president. In addition to liquidating fossil fuel investments, the university has been encouraging alternative means of transportation and telecommuting when possible. So far this semester, aside from in-person classes, all of my meetings have been video conferences, and the decision of several people in leadership positions has been to keep this going even after the threat of COVID-19 ends. This has saved me hours of Los Angeles’s infamous traffic.

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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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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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August 05, 2021

Unconventional Combat: Exploring Intersectionality through the Study of Military Veterans

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

When you picture a military veteran, what image comes to mind? A buff young man? An older man wearing his weathered uniform?

Michael Messner’s new book, Unconventional Combat: Intersectional Action in the Veterans’ Peace Movement, gives us insights into the lives of veterans who may not neatly fit into the public image of what a vet “looks like.” In this follow-up to his 2018 book Guys Like Me, Messner shares the often-hidden experiences of veterans: women, those who identify as gender fluid, persons of color, including Native Americans, and LGBTQ+ people, including two-spirit individuals.

These categories, of course, are not mutually exclusive, which is the main point of the book: people’s identities are intersectional, which shapes the way they navigate their relationships with institutions (such as the military) and organizations (like those formed as part of the veteran’s peace movement).

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July 26, 2021

Who are the Stars at Your University?


Janis prince innissBy Janis Prince Inniss

I will never forget the day Dr. Levine told me that Lillian Rubin was coming to teach at Queens College. I couldn’t believe that he knew her! Or that she would be teaching at my school and I could take a class with her. In terms of today’s music celebrities, he might as well have said that Rihanna, Dua Lipa, or Ariana Grande was going to grace Kissena Hall. Before that conversation, I had read Dr. Rubin’s book Intimate Strangers and marveled at what seemed to be her ability to get into people’s heads and to explain issues that, as a 22-year-old, I was beginning to notice. Even the name of the book captured my attention as I struggled to understand intimate relationships.

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June 28, 2021

You are Your ID, or are You?

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

As I waited in the security line to return home at an airport recently, a large banner with the words “You are Your ID” was impossible to miss. While just an ad for CLEAR, a biometrics company that uses facial recognition software to verify identity, those words stung that morning.

Why was I so sensitive? I had lost my driver’s license while on a hike two days earlier and was pretty upset. I had gone back to the trail three times to try and find it with no luck. I looked through the car multiple times and any place else it might have fallen where I was staying, including the recycling, and even the refrigerator and pantry.

On one of the attempts to retrace my steps, I got caught in a pretty harrowing thunderstorm and had to run back to the car after a I saw a large bolt of lightning. As I ran, I told myself that the danger I had placed myself in was hardly worth it. A driver’s license can be replaced; it is just a thing; it is not part of me. I had not lost a piece of myself, despite feeling like I had. I had trouble focusing on anything else for the next two days, and reminded myself over and over that “I am not my ID.”

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