From the Editor’s Desk

Photo Credit: Gloria Mantovani used with expressed permission

Photo Credit: Gloria Mantovani used with expressed permission

Hello, and welcome to Sociology Lens.  It is a great pleasure to introduce myself as the site’s new Editor-In-Chief.  I believe that sociologists have a responsibility to directly engage with multiple publics through research, teaching, blogging, community activism, social organizing, cultural critique, and the like.  I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve the news editors of Sociology Lens as they engage current debates in sociology and imagine future sociological projects while maintaining the integrity and professionalism established through the leadership of my predecessor, Terry Glenn-Lilley.

When I am not writing for, and now editing Sociology Lens, I teach.  I am a recent graduate of Florida State University and will begin my full-time faculty position at Virginia Commonwealth University in August.  In addition to teaching core sociology courses I also teach in my area of media, adolescence, education, and gender studies.  I am also a parent to two small, slightly high-maintenance children.

In the immediate future, I will work closely with Wiley Publishing to design a new updated appearance for the blog.  The current editorial staff has also made some insightful recommendations to more closely connect Sociology Lens to the related Twitter and Facebook sites – which I will plan.  In addition, building on the recent success of the editor driven surviving graduate school themed month, I will encourage similarly creative ways to boost readership and new subscribers.

I hope that you will continue reading and sharing Sociology Lens as we promote a variety of emerging student voices.  If you are interested in writing for SL, please contact me directly.  Currently the site has around 14,000 subscribers and our Twitter account boasts 17,000 followers.  Our influence is growing.  You never know which doors will open because of your contributions here.

Onward!

Homosexuality and Anti-Colonialism: How Homosexual Frenchmen Are Actually Colonialists

Miklos_Vadasz_-_L'Assiettte_au_Beurre_-_Les_p'tits_jeun'_hommes_02

(Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:LGBT_history_in_France#/media/File:Miklos_Vadasz_-_L%27Assiettte_au_Beurre_-_Les_p%27tits_jeun%27_hommes_02.jpg)

 

Before the conquest of the colonies many non-Western, indigenous, societies did not believe in a heterosexual/homosexual binary. In lieu of this binary, many indigenous societies had some notion of a third category for a person’s sex: a man, or woman, who would dress as the opposite sex but sustained same-sex relationships. The indigenous populations viewed these same-sex relationships as something natural, not perverse. Conversely in Europe, the production of the homosexual was well underway with the coinage of the term in 1891. Many of the men in the imperial army were aware of their colleagues who had “those” tendencies: certain men that enjoyed having sex with other men. Yet once in the colonies, the soldiers met with indigenous men whom were willing to have relations with them. The soldiers believed it was a “situational” homosexuality, as coined by Aldrich. But how was the knowledge of a “situational” homosexuality produced? In the words of Bernard Cohn, this “situational” homosexuality came to be through investigative modalities. (more…)

Nudging might be sexy, but it isn’t enough.

Image courtesy of http://www.speroforum.com/a/NTUACKIKDY21/74868-Good-nudge-bad-nudge-Dont-get-too-comfortable#.VV8W4PlVhBc

Last week I went to a workshop in London about nudging, titled “Silver Bullets Need A Careful Aim. Dilemmas in applying behavioural insights”. It was very interesting, and my gratitude goes out to the organisers who put together a really interesting day focused on the ethics and effectiveness of ‘Nudge’, which, seven years after Thaler and Sunstein’s book of the same name was published, still seems to be capturing the imagination of academics, marketers and policy-makers.

(If you have no idea what ‘Nudge’ means, check my previous post here) (more…)

I Spoke Up: Politics and Social Media in Tory Britain

Photograph from Bristolpost.co.uk

Photograph from Bristolpost.co.uk

The issue of politics and social media is a contentious one. I have had discussions with lifelong friends where they have made it very clear that, in their view, social media should be just that, social. For them there is no place for politics in online platforms such as Facebook but I have to disagree. Over the years that I have had a Facebook account I have accrued over 600 ‘friends.’ I know that just a handful of them are real friends (in the traditional sense of the word) but they are people that I have met through my various studies, jobs, homes and travels. Who hasn’t seen and liked endless selfies, travel photos, pictures of children, puppies, weddings etc, as well as pages for club nights, bands, even businesses? I know I have, and I also know I am guilty of sharing almost all of the above.

My question, then, is this – why is it acceptable to use Facebook (other social media platforms are available) to celebrate, discuss or bemoan every aspect of our lives other than politics? (more…)

Reconceptualizing Homonormativity: Color-Blind Racism’s Sibling?

Source: http://pixabay.com/en/law-justice-justizia-blind-scale-311363/

Source: http://pixabay.com/en/law-justice-justizia-blind-scale-311363/

I know that I’ve written about my thesis a few times, but at last I have completed my research, written the formal document, and defended its status, certifying me as an official “master.” But if there is one thing that I have learned in my past two years of graduate school, that would be that there is always more work to  be done. There are always new ways of rethinking concepts, new ways to empirically test hypotheses, and new research questions that come out of research.

One of these new ways of thinking arose when I had the difficulty of “proving” homonationalism’s presence in study abroad. Granted, while I believe that qualitative, or even “social” more generally, research cannot actually prove anything, evidence paired with theory suggests particular outcomes or behavioral patterns. Consistently throughout my interviews, participant observation, and analyses of online sources I found that rather than a blatant exclusion of non-heterosexuality or heteronormative stance, that sexuality in general, both heterosexual and non-heterosexual alike, were excluded from the study abroad preparatory process. In fact, in interviews, students said that their sexuality “didn’t matter,” “wasn’t a big deal,” or “never caused a problem.” This lack of sexuality, however, did not prove that non-heterosexuality was accepted, let alone tolerated. So how can this exclusion, or erasure, of sexuality be explained? Is it homonormativity? (more…)

Kissing Strangers

Source: http://intothegloss.com/

 

Last summer, I was sent a message from a complete stranger through OkCupid, asking if I would like to meet him for a no-strings attached snog*. The message went like this:

You know when you’re sitting on the tube, on a bus, or even at your desk at work and someone walks past and you think: god damn, I wish I could just snog them right now. I mean, it happens on the screen all the time doesn’t it? People are always just randomly snogging strangers in the street and then walking off.
And I got to thinking, that looks like fun. But I don’t think I’m brave enough to actually ask anyone for a snog in the street in real life. And probably asking ruins it, anyway – in the adverts they just *know* that a snog’s about to happen, don’t they?
So I was wondering: would you like to meet me for a no strings attached snog? The way I see it, a day with a snog in it is almost always better than a day without. And snogs are good wholesome fun – no mess in your head or your bed.
We could choose a bridge in London and each walk from the opposite side to meet in the middle at an arranged time. Then we’d smile at each other, say hello, check that there’s some physical attraction (you sort of instantly know, don’t you? If there’s nothing, we can just turn around) and then have a snog.
Then just walk away again, like in a diet coke ad or something – have some fun and make a fantasy a reality? Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about kissing a perfect stranger…

 

Being a sociologist, and obsessively interested in relationships and sexuality, (and, partly, a hot-blooded woman) I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be part of snoggy a social experiment. Already it raised questions in my head about the nature of online dating, romance, and gender norms. Would it be perpetuating romantic ideals to do something ‘just like a Diet Coke advert‘? Was saying ‘yes’ to him asking for a kiss an act of consent? It felt like it might just be replicating typical gender norms (man asks woman for a kiss, how very Jane Austen…) Or maybe it could be empowering and agentic to admit that I we want to kiss a perfect stranger. (more…)

Considering Big Data Analysis as a Social Science

By ENERGY.GOV (Delphi Automotive Systems) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By ENERGY.GOV (Delphi Automotive Systems) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In early April, 2015, a self-driving car completed a 9 day cross country tour from San Francisco to New York City.  During the 9 day adventure, the car was fully automated for 99% of the trip – relying on its humans only to enter and exit the interstates.  The Audi car supported technology made by Delphi which uses a combination of advanced features already on the market including collision mitigation, integrated radar and camera systems, forward collision and lane departure warning.  While the company certainly used the trip to promote its products the more pressing purpose was to collect data – a lot of data – more than 3 terabytes of data over the nine days (about 30% of what’s on record at the Library of Congress) because the car’s technology needs to learn. (more…)

The Art of Consent: Sexualities on the Periphery

Love_Hurts

(Source:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Handcuffs_in_BDSM#/media/File:Love_Hurts.jpg)

For the past few months, I heard much criticism, and trepidation, about the Fifty Shades of Grey series, and its first movie. The novel’s graphic scenes, the descriptive language, and the overtness of sexuality, or a specific sexuality, laden in the text have appalled many people. Why is that? I know the majority of my academic friends, as well as personal friends, will give me much flak about my attempts to theorize, and parse out the intricacies of “such” a novel; but I feel there many cultural undertones the novel deploys that people can learn, from the series. (more…)

The UK Election: How to lose friends (and still influence people)

DON’T DROP IT! By Wikipedia Loves Art participant “VeronikaB” [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Roy Jenkins famously described Tony Blair’s task in getting Labour into power in 1997 as “like a man carrying a priceless Ming vase across a highly polished floor”. This has now become something of a truism of electioneering. According to this view, winning power is about damage-limitation, about not messing up, and it implies a strategy of ‘triangulation’ – co-opting voters from other parties whilst keeping your own voters onside. It implies a certain lack of ambition, trying to carry as many disparate sections of the electorate with you, limiting embarrassment to oneself and limiting offence caused to others. (more…)

It’s a wrap: Concluding Graduate Student Advice Month

And so here we are. Four weeks, 14 posts later. It never ceases to amaze me what we here at Sociology Lens have done here: we have created a space for graduate students to offer advice to other students. No where else is there a space specific for students to seek out advice and community, especially Sociology discipline-specific, from other students. I am ecstatic that this is now a resource that students will be able to come to for years.

Throughout this month, our editors discussed many topics from applying to PhD programs (by Roger Tyers) to the job search (by Tara Stamm), from having children (by Tara Stamm) to personal relationships (by Scarlett Brown), from blogging (by Roger Tyers) to publishing (by Megan Nanney), among many others. The wide breadth of topics shows just how much there is for graduate students to talk about, think about, and deal with on a daily basis. In fact, in just 2 days, George Byrnes piece “5 Things I Wish I had Known Before Starting my PhD Program” had nearly 6,000 hits! Even though the themed month has come to an end, I hope that we can keep these dialogues open either through our comment function, Twitter, or with future posts.

While there is always more to be said as our contexts and social circumstances, here I want to offer additional resources that have been provided to me over the years that people should feel free to use, share and distribute, and contribute to. May we continue to share our experiences, offer support and advice, and more importantly look out for not only the future of the discipline itself, but also those people within the discipline.

Resources:

Professional Development

Getting Organized

Sociology Specific Blogs (by Faculty)

Comedic Relief

For that Darned Thesis/ Dissertation

General Graduate Student Support

Financing