Eating the World

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…[Source By Mercy for Animals [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


Christmas comes every year, and every year, much like a snowball rolling down a mountain in er…Lapland, it accumulates new ‘traditions’. New additions in recent years include Christmas jumpers, Black Friday, and songs from X Factor going to Number One. Great. Go back further and see that Christmas trees, Santa Claus, crackers, Saint Nicholas, Christmas carols and even the nativity story have all been tacked onto what was originally the pagan festival of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Everything else is just hundreds of years of elaborate window-dressing: an ever-evolving Christian, Capitalist, Western cultural snowball.

One key Christmas tradition that seems to have become fundamental in the last half-century is the need to eat meat, lots and lots of it: Turkey, goose, rabbit, pigs-in-blankets, cold cuts of pork, beef, antipasti, KFC (if you’re in Japan) and even cat and dog meat (if you’re in Switzerland). The TV adverts are full of it, the supermarket warehouses are full of it, and come Christmas day evening, so will the bellies of the western world. (more…)

Putting the “Homo” in the Organization: Making the Case for Expanding Concepts of Normativity (Part 1)

The_Rainbow_Flag,_GLBT_PrideIt is that time of year when theses, dissertations, and proposals are being prepared for defense. My thesis intends to examine the scripting of a normative student identity with special attention to sexuality in study abroad orientation programs. Only, when it came to prepare my literature review, it came as a shock to me that there is little discussion of homonormativity in education, let alone a conceptualization of homonormativity and organizations more generally. In a world where non-heterosexual identified individuals are increasingly visible, included, and accepted, we need to consider how this is happening and what are the implications, consequences, and stipulations.

But wait, first, what homonormativity? Why hasn’t anyone talked about this?



Doge KeynesYup. It’s ‘Doge Keynes’.

 Paul Stoller – perhaps best known for his pioneering work on the ‘anthropology of the senses‘ – suggested last month in a blog for the Huffington Post that the ‘unprecedented prosperity that human activity has generated has ironically resulted in widespread misery in the world.’ Stoller calls upon anthropologists to shift ‘from passive to active voice,’ claiming that they are uniquely positioned to challenge what I like to refer to as the two-pronged politics of idiocy, recalling that ‘idiocy’ comes to us from the Greek idios kosmos, or ‘private realm’. Stoller first rails against an apparently widespread refusal to acknowledge mounting evidence from the natural and social sciences, that reveals the principal means by which we pursue prosperity to be engines of inequality and ecological destruction (a politics of idiocy where idiocy refers to intellectual refusal). This intellectual refusal is tethered to what Stoller calls the ‘politics of so-called personal responsibility,’ an orientation that shares much with what fellow anthropologist Sarah Kendzior recently termed ‘hipster economics,’ and could equally be understood as the other half of the politics of idiocy – where idiocy refers to a retreat from collective politics. Stoller ends his blog with the question ‘Will we do our part to make the world a bit sweeter for our children and grandchildren?’ It is hard to miss the echoes of  J. M. Keynes’ short essay from 1930: Economic possibilities for our grandchildren.


Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon (part 1)


As a belated nod to ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ (October, in the USA), and the plethora of pink, breast-cancer-sponsored items now on sale,  I want to talk about the rise of the pink ribbon campaign and the concept of ‘pinkwashing’.

Breast cancer and the pink ribbon campaign is probably one of the biggest success stories, in terms of its ability to raise awareness and ultimately, save lives. Breast cancer activism started in the 1980′s, in part as a reaction to the patriarchal medicalisation of women’s bodies. Up until then, breast cancer was being silenced: the field was dominated by male surgeons with little information available for individual sufferers, and incidence rates were fast increasing. A huge, grass roots movement began, focusing on empowering and giving voice to suffers and their families. By the 1990′s the focus had been shifted away from the medical profession and onto the empowerment of patients, and this increased attention and exposure increased its status and cultural currency. This was furthered by the launch of the now now iconic pink ribbon in 1992.

This increased focus was incredible in its uptake. It allowed the breast cancer movement to become a prominent focus for the general public, ‘awareness’ was raised, huge amounts of funds were raised, and it was being run by women: by cancer survivors, sufferers and family members. Treatment improved, mortality rates declined.  It was a success. But, as Gayle Sulik notes: “By this time, there were already controversies over the benefits of mammograms, concerns over conflicts of interest, rising competition in pharmacology, and infighting among thought leaders and scientists. Yet cause promotion and the desire to do something for breast cancer held the public’s attention”. (more…)

Legacies of The War on Poverty: A chat with Jill Quadagno on the 20th anniversary of The Color of Welfare

Jill Quadagno The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined The War on Poverty Eminent Scholar Florida State University

Jill Quadagno
The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined The War on Poverty
Eminent Scholar
Florida State University

In 1994 Jill Quadagno published The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty.  To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this highly influential text, Dr. Quadagno did a series of media interviews two days.  She also graciously sat down with me for an informal chat about what she believes to be the lasting outcome of The War on Poverty. (more…)

It’s Time to Discuss: Race, Police Misconduct, and Social Change

Source: AP Photos

Source: AP Photos


I have been reading the most recent posts on Sociology Lens and I was surprised to see that there has not been a post on the recent grand jury decision in not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. For weeks, a large portion of news coverage has been on the death of the unarmed 18-year-old black teen. Then Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict another white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of unarmed Eric Garner. There seemed to be so much to discuss but many of us remained silent.

Many bloggers, reporters, scholars, and writers will tell you there is an obvious problem in our society; a society where black men and boys are perceived as such a treat that they are being handled with deadly force by our police department. However, I feel there is another epidemic that is equally problematic in our culture, white men and women disengaging from this topic and failing to understand how race relations impact everyone of our daily lives, albeit in different ways.


Alive Inside: How music can help fight dementia.

Official Poster for “Alive Inside”

What’s your favourite song? Everyone has one. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you have about twenty. Those particular songs, our desert island discs, are powerful. They connect with us at a deep level and can arouse a variety of emotions: nostalgia, empowerment, wistfulness, sadness, ecstasy, maybe even a combination of these. But the potential of music – and particularly our favourite music, goes further than this. The forthcoming documentary ‘Alive Inside’, currently doing the rounds of the film festivals, powerfully illustrates the emancipatory potential of music which has largely gone unnoticed until now. For older people suffering the confusion and loneliness of dementia, music can bring them out of their isolation and help them re-engage with the outside world.   (more…)

Yes, Criticising Russell Brand for Supporting the New Era Estate is Snide, and if He is a Hypocrite, We All Are

Russell Brand outside 10 Downing Street with New Era Estate residents.

Russell Brand outside 10 Downing Street with New Era Estate residents. Original image from Russell Brand’s Facebook page

To ask a person how much their apartment is worth (as Channel 4 reporter, Paraic O’Brien, did to Russell Brand yesterday), or how much they pay in rent when they are attending a march in solidarity with less fortunate and more marginalized people is manipulative and dishonest, and, yes, it does make you a ‘snide’. It was an attempt to surreptitiously undermine the actions of Brand and paint him as a hypocrite simply because he happens to be richer than the people he is trying to help. This type of logic suggests that anyone who is rich either cannot or should not use their position of power to help people who have found themselves at the wrong end of a grossly inequitable social and economic system.

Today, the front page of The Sun, which carried the headline ‘Rants about high rents and tax avoidance, but pays £76k a year to tax-dodge landlords. HYPOCRITE’, is just ridiculous. Luckily, though, people have picked up on the logical fallacy, which has been followed by numerous satirical tweets under #TheSunLogic . (more…)

How RAD is Cultural Appropriation?: Color Run Capitalizing Indian Culture

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I'm second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I’m second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Recently, I ran a 5k called “Color Me Rad” with a group of friends from my department as a chance to just enjoy the southwest Virginia fall and not work for once. I was excited to participate in this race especially because unlike other races that I’ve run, this seemed like I would enjoy myself in a cultural event that I’ve always wanted to experience. As I got to the race, however, I couldn’t help but think sociologically about the cultural appropriation (ironic, as the race was a week prior to Halloween) of the Hindu Festival of Colors, called Holi. Was I culturally experiencing Holi, or was it merely commodified?


Dam-nation, Dissent and Cognitive Dissonance

Official movie poster for ‘Damnation’ depicting a real piece of graffiti on the Matilija Dam, painted in 2011.

I just got back from IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, where I volunteered in the running of this annual two-week event, in exchange for the chance to gorge myself on a host of documentary films, gratis. Lots of different subject matters were covered: graffiti artists in Brazil, al-Shabab militants in Somalia, music therapists in the United States, arms dealers in India, fracking in South Africa, loads of stuff. Not only were most of the films extremely watchable and enjoyable – despite often being about quite depressing, gritty topics – but it gave me lots of material to blog about (watch this space), and has even made me consider whether my PhD research could possibly form the basis of my own documentary  - one can but dream! (more…)