Weekly Roundup: July 28, 2014

RU072814Umm, you guys? Did you know July’s almost over? That’s… that’s too much to think about, really. So let’s talk about soc, baby.

Features:

Of Carbon and Cash,” by Erin Hoekstra. Could reparations for environmental damage flow as easily as pollution from the Global North to the Global South?

Office Hours:

Chad Lavin on Eating Anxiety,” with Matt Gunther. On the politics of our food choices.

There’s Research on That!

When Child Migrants Weren’t an Unwelcome Problem,” by Lisa Gulya and Stephen Suh. While politicians are busy blaming each other (slash coming up with conspiracy theories) for a recent influx of minor immigrants, research shows times when the U.S. has happily welcomed such kids. (more…)

Feminist Reflections

Creative Commons image by D. Morris

Creative Commons image by D. Morris

We place a high value on collaborative conversations at TSP. That’s one of the reasons we’re so delighted to welcome Feminist Reflections to our community pages. Gayle Sulik’s inaugural post offers a thoughtful invitation to a new space for engaging in feminist conversations about everyday life, for expanding feminist networks, and for celebrating feminist work.

We need a formal communal setting that is open to intellectual curiosity, the musings of everyday life and the emotions that set their tone, and the exploration of how ideas and knowledge are tied to power and influence. We need to contemplate poverty in the midst of riches, subjectivity and neutrality, public power and the linkages between meaning and power, and the social construction of knowledge (What counts as “knowledge”? Who has/lacks access? Who gets to create it?). We need to reflect, with a feminist perspective, on our lives as sociologists and human beings.

You can learn more about Tristan Bridges, another regular contributor, in this week’s fascinating Office Hours podcast on masculinities and sexual aesthetics. You’ll also find such scholars as Meika Loe, Trina Smith, and Amy Blackstone on Feminist Reflections. I’m personally excited to welcome Professor Blackstone to these pages, since few people have taught me more about the value and necessity of feminist perspectives in sociology. As we’ve coauthored seven pieces, I’ve felt fortunate to engage in the sort of productive back-and-forth that yields lasting insights as well as articles. We’re looking forward to engaging many more such collaborative conversations in Feminist Reflections.

Weekly Roundup: July 21, 2014

RU072114This week, TSP was pleased to welcome our latest Community Page, Feminist Reflections; to host Tristan Bridges (one of Feminist Reflections’ contributors) on Office Hours, and to talk baby contagions and blocking contraception at the Supreme Court. What else did we get up to?

Office Hours:

Tristan Bridges on Hybrid Masculinities and Sexual Aesthetics,” with Kyle Green. Being straight but not narrow and changing masculine norms along the way.

There’s Research on That!

Religion, Reproduction, and the Supreme Court,” by Jacqui Frost. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College’s cases before the SCOTUS reveal just one facet of the constraints on women’s access to reproductive health services. (more…)

The Society Pages’ Roundup: July 14, 2014

Ru071414A lot can happen in just a couple of weeks. While we entertained illustrious guests (the incoming editors of Contexts magazine) and worked on developing new Community Pages, we saw the arrival of the paperbacks of our third W.W. Norton volume (this time on race and ethnicity in the U.S.), a plaudit as a great Twin Cities blog from the fine folks at The Tangential and Vita.MN, and, of course, the winning of the World Cup. We didn’t do that last one. But here’s the stuff we did do.

Features:

Economic Decline and the American Dream,” by Kevin Leicht. The second in a three-part series reveals that the U.S. has the lowest rate of social mobility in the industrialized world.

Old Narratives and New Realities,” by Kevin Leicht. Why old-school parents really just don’t understand the financial precarity of modern early adulthood in the conclusion to Leicht’s series.

Andrew Ross on the Anti-Debt Movement,” by Erin Hoekstra. A conversation with a scholar-activist about the whys and hows of dumping debt. (more…)

The Morning After

With Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in a tense and tightly final game yesterday, the 2014 Brazil World Cup has drawn to a close. This edition of soccer’s global spectacle drew rave reviews for its games and crowds. However, as those who were willing to go beyond the coverage and commentary of the mainstream sports media well know, the event also generated more than its share of controversy and protest along the way for its cost, construction delays, and disinterest in social conditions in the host nation.

There is much to be learned about the social organization of sport, sports media, and the world from this event, as Alex Manning and TSP staffer Kyle Green suggest in a useful little overview currently running on our TeachingTSP page.  If you are interested in such angles, you might also check out this morning’s piece in The Guardian by Jules Boykoff and Alan Tomlinson.

Tomlinson and Boykoff, two leading sport scholars, take on FIFA’s tax-exempt status, characterizing the sport’s international governing body as a parasite on the world’s most popular game. While you may not agree with all of their conclusions, you will certainly be reminded that the finances of international, spectacle sport–or, what Boykoff and Tomlinson call the “global 1 percent” of the international sporting landscape (among which they include the Olympics and the American Super Bowl)–are far more than fun and games.

Virginia Rutter, Love, and Scholarly Generosity

Love and Lust is the cover story in the July issue of Psychology Today. And while the photos may be salacious, the writing is sagacious. The author, Virginia Rutter, is one of our favorite public scholars. On TSP, she’s known for her authoritative “Nice Work” contributions on Girl w/ Pen! and, more recently, Families as They Really Are and Council on Contemporary Families.

Apart from her formidable skills as a sociologist and writer, Professor Rutter’s work is distinguished by a characteristic all-too-rare among scholars: her generosity. To publish our work as academics, we often need to frame it in terms of the horrible weaknesses in everybody else’s work. This style might (or might not) work in the journals, but it undercuts us completely when we’re trying to reach a public audience — it makes it seem as though we don’t know anything at all. Virginia Rutter takes a different approach. Her Nice Work columns, like her new Psychology Today article, tell a much more coherent and cumulative story about the contributions made by different social researchers. Her new FATRA piece on the Equal Pay Act similarly offers a balanced presentation about what we know collectively and where we might go in the future.

So if you’re interested in writing successfully for venues like Psychology Today, Contexts, or TSP, you might take a cue from generous scholars like Professor Rutter. If you wish to be loved; Love!

 

Weekly Roundup: June 30, 2014

RU063014A difficult, reflective (if not reflexive) weekend that saw the TSP crew scattered about the country was rewarded, at least to some small degree, this morning, when we arrived at TSP’s HQ to find a squat little box containing our latest volume with W.W. Norton & Co., Color Lines and Racial Angles. The third in our series of readers, this book brings in big names like Douglas Massey, Jennifer Lee, David Pellow, Charles A. Gallagher, and Michelle Alexander with core contributions, cultural contexts, and critical takes on the construction, understanding, and functioning of race in American society. Perfect for an intro class, the slim volume literally fits in a roomy pocket and serves as an accessible entry-point for developing the sociological imagination. For everything else, hop right on in to this week’s roundup!

The Editors’ Desk:

The TSP Debt Series,” by Chris Uggen. Introducing a summer’s worth of readings on debt, inequality, and the life course in the United States today. From student debt to credit cards, legal debt, the return of the debtor’s prison, climate change, and reparations, these pieces comprise an incredible introduction and will be released in a volume, Owned, this fall. For now, they’re free online, of course!

Features:

“Has Borrowing Replaced Earning?” by Kevin Leicht. The first in a three-part series, this article explores the growth of and change in credit in the U.S. over the past three generations, as measured against wage growth. (more…)

The TSP Debt Series

Owned“Every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing,” began Michelle Obama at a 2014 White House summit. “They’re committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college.”

In fact, all incoming students at the U of M now get lessons in credit and debt as part of the Live Like a Student Now So You Don’t Have to Later campaign. The website, Facebook, and campus posters offer a steady stream of practical advice on everything from buying generic ketchup to finding the free days at local museums. A Plan Your Debt page even suggests the maximum advisable debt limit for students planning careers as graphic designers, nurses, and accountants.

Such programs can be a great help to individual students, but they also obscure a bigger sociological story: structural and institutional changes place young people today at risk of enormous debt loads. When I started college at the University of Wisconsin, the annual tuition was only $994 per year ($2,442 in today’s dollars), which barely covers a course these days. So, it hardly seems fair to blame today’s students for accumulating more debt than I did—or to blame their debt problems on $4 lattes.

In C. Wright Mills’ famous terms, the sociological imagination reveals the link between our “personal troubles” with debt and the broader “public issues” that have placed us in this position. And it isn’t just students. For the past five years, headlines have shouted about all manner of debt—people, companies, and even cities declaring bankruptcy, families losing their homes to foreclosure, and, the Occupy Wall Street movement arising to challenge the “1%” who prospered in the Great Recession. That’s why we chose debt as the subject of a new TSP volume, Owned, due out this fall with WW Norton and Company.

In curating TSP and putting the book together, we’ve been learning a lot about the power and importance of a sociological approach to debt and inequality. Starting next week, we’ll be running a series to showcase some of these pieces.  We’ll have a real expert, Kevin Leicht, kick us off this Monday by explaining the development and depth of the debt crisis. With hard data and vivid description, he shows how middle-class families suffer when borrowing replaces earning. On Wednesday, Leicht offers a hard-hitting progressive critique of the “politics of displacement” that distract us from needed economic reform, while proposing three steps to reinvigorate the American Dream. We’ll conclude Leicht’s series on Friday with a cogent piece contrasting the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” success narrative with the current structural realities. In the weeks to come, we’ll be running more new features, including interviews and articles with contributors like Dalton Conley, Bill Domhoff, Rachel Dwyer, Erin Hoekstra, Karyn Lacy, Rahsaan Mahadeo, and Andrew Ross. And don’t forget earlier pieces such as Out of the Nest and into the Red, where Jason Houle shows exactly how debt has shifted across the last three generations, Alexes Harris on the Cruel Poverty of Monetary Sanctions, David Schalliol’s Debt and Darkness in Detroit, and Rob Crosnoe on the Hourglass Economy.

The best sociology has long been critical of existing social arrangements and idealistic about the alternatives. And the new sociology of debt (reflected here and in projects like debtandsociety.org) is no exception. In detailing the grand society-level problems of the debt crisis, these TSP features point to social solutions on both ginormous (global climate reparations) and modest (a lone shopkeeper lighting his street) scales. And making small reforms to alleviate human suffering is hardly incompatible with changing the structural conditions that create or sustain the problem. So students can simultaneously rally for lower tuition and loan rates for everyone as they learn about personal finance to manage their own debt. Some might dismiss the latter efforts as “Band-Aids” for the structural issues, but we wouldn’t discount them completely. A well-applied Band-Aid can sometimes stop the bleeding while we pursue a more lasting fix to our problems.

Weekly Roundup: June 23, 2014

RU062314Features:

Deep Play and Flying Rats, with Colin Jerolmack,” by Kyle Green. The contingent relationships between people and pigeons. Oh, and the Million Dollar Pigeon Race.

Citings & Sightings:

Colbert: If Hispanics Identify as White, GOP’s Alright,” by Kat Albrecht. In a recent wørd segment, the Colbert Report highlighted sociological research on changing racial identifications.

There’s Research on That!

Why Students Don’t Sweat Sweatshops,” by Jacqui Frost. Remember the uproar over sweatshop labor that led to the rise of brands like American Apparel? Why hasn’t it taken hold with similar reports about today’s iPhones, Nikes, and other items? (more…)

Weekly Roundup: June 18, 2014

RU061814What’s that? You needed two weeks’ worth of sociology after you noticed soc is so hot even Stephen Colbert’s getting on the bandwagon? Oh, we’ve got you.

Features:

Violence and the Transformation of Ethno-Racial Categories in Rwanda,” by Marie Berry. Perpetrators of genocide rely on division, hardening ethno-racial classifications like “Hutu” and “Tutsi” as resentments and violence build.

The Homoegenization of Asian Beauty,”  by C.N. Le. Watching one culture converge on an ideal of beauty, Le shows a process at work around the world. (more…)

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