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…)
Perhaps it is because I was not in the UK for much of last year, but Black Friday came as something of a shock. Stepping out of my flat on yesterday’s bright November morning, I came across the above signboard, positioned on Croydon’s High Street by inveterate tax avoiders Vodafone. My initial reaction was one of sincere befuddlement – not because I hadn’t heard the term Black Friday before, for I had. Except, the Black Friday I thought I knew was March 12th 1993, the day on which Mumbai experienced for the first time a type of public catastrophe that is now termed a ‘serial bombing’ or ‘multiple coordinated attack’, beginning at the (then Bombay) Stock Exchange. As Vyjayanthi Rao observes, despite there being no memorial as such to Mumbai’s Black Friday, it certainly has a legacy. It was the first time that an urban attack was experienced as a catastrophe, almost a natural disaster. (more…)
(An alternative to mixed methods especially within the sociology of digital technology)
Mixed methods in practice usually involves using quantitative and qualitative methods to allow researchers to cross-reference corroborating sources of data as they add layers of credibility to their studies (Creswell 2003). Mason’s facet methodology (Mason 2011) is an alternative to this “methods-driven integration or triangulation” of data that can characterise mixed methods “where methods and their products are fitted together in a predetermined or hierarchical way” (p84). The facet methodology “requires a blend of scientific and artistic or artful thinking, involving not only deductive but also imaginative, inventive, creative and intuitive reasoning” (p80). The facet is a metaphor for a mixed, yet more sophisticated and multi-dimensional methodology. (more…)
There was a shooting on my campus. A lone gunman entered the first floor of the library last week in the middle of the night and started randomly shooting. Three students were injured and hundreds more hid in the stacks while campus police ended the attack by killing the shooter. As a sociologist, I know too well how our culture has a way of pushing people to the point of breaking, (more…)
I remember a piece by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show from a few years ago where he asks his Senior Black Correspondent (Larry Wilmore): ‘Is blackface ever ok?’ the correspondent responds ‘No!’ and gets up to leave. When he is asked for a longer answer Wilmore says ‘Noooooooo!’. Then, when pushed further he states that ‘Blackface is part of a long history of mocking and dehumanizing black people while appropriating our culture. Here is when blackface is ok, when you have a black face!’ Nonetheless, stories of people painting their faces black in an attempt to be ‘funny’ keep popping up. Take for example this couple who though it was appropriate to dress as American Football player Ray Rice and his wife Janay, a victim of domestic abuse, for Halloween or this photo of British Prime Minister, David Cameron, with black faced morris dancers that caused controversy last month.
It seems obvious to me that blackface is a bad idea. Even where it is not intended to depict a person of African descent (as with the morris dancers), the contemporary and historical context is just too sensitive. It is for this reason that I found Mama Negra such a difficult thing to get my head round.
The Mama Negra Festival in Latacunga, Ecuador is one of the most important events in the country’s cultural calendar. It is a brass-band and moonshine fueled parade of thousands of people dressed in weird and wonderful costumes that represent various personajes (characters) including the El Angel de la Estrella (the Angel of the Stars), Los Huacos (brujos or witches), El Capitan (the Captain) and the guest of honour; La Mama Negra (the Black Mother). The festival is intended to thank the Virgin of Mercy (a particular depiction of the Virgin Mary that protects Christians from danger under her cloak), for allowing the town to survive the eruptions of the nearby volcano: Cotopaxi. (more…)
Over the last two weeks two videos have repeated shown up on my social media pages: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” and “3 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Homosexual.” Both videos aim to illuminate the often unnoticed topic of street harassment. And both videos clearly illustrate what day to day life is like for some women and gay men. However, it is important to frame both videos within the context of location, race, class, and presentation.
“10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was created as a collaboration between Hollaback and Rob Bliss Creative, a video marketing company. In the video, actress Shoshana B. Roberts dressed in jeans, black t-shirt, and tennis shoes walked through various Manhattan neighborhoods recording the actions and comments of men she encountered with a hidden camera and microphone.
“1-1256217176zbgk” by Petr Kratochvil – http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4469&picture=smal-mage-och-mata-tape. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg
When I really want to procrastinate doing my work, I like to visit some of my favorite websites and catch up on the latest trends and news. Recently, on one my favorite sites, I have noticed an increase in “Fitspiration Porn” right next to messages of pro-fat, pro- everybody type of images saying “Everyone is beautiful in their own way.” These also speak to the increase in celebrities with curvier bodies (e.g. Beyoncé, Iggy Azalea, Jennifer Lawrence, Nikki Minaj, and even Lena Dunham) and body-loving anthems such as Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” At first, all of this seems to be great- finally to see healthy, body loving, not-your-garden-variety, and real images and messages of real women celebrating the diversity of bodies.
Only- are they really that positive? (more…)
‘Jacob’s Ladder’ © 2013 Sumi Perera RE
In my post a fortnight ago, I picked up on a topic that Johannes Lenhard had engaged with on Sociology Lens earlier this year – the apparent immateriality of new monetary forms. From paper money, now unbacked by gold and promising the bearer nothing more than an ‘identical replacement of itself,’ up to the monetary ether that circulates in the rarefied market for foreign exchange derivatives, back down to London’s increasingly cashless public transport system – money takes on a disembodied, virtual and almost ghostly character. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin might seem like the epitome of monetary virtuality. And, as I discussed in my last post, attempts to embed bitcoins – which exist only as records of balances and transactions between bitcoin ‘addresses’ – in physical tokens may be treated as an unwanted distraction by cryptocurrency enthusiasts.
My PhD compatriot, Jens* leans over to me, a glint in his eye and a bemused smile on his face that makes it difficult to work out whether this will be a joke, a statement, or something to deliberately challenge me. Past history tells me probably a combination of all three, but lets see.
“Can I ask you a question, before you go?” (I am just on my way out of the PhD office** we share, coat on, mug washed, ready).
He continues; “I know you are something of an expert on the subject…”
Oh here we go. This means one of two conversation topics are about to be raised: headhunting, or gender. Which means gender is about to be raised. I put on my metaphorical*** ‘Will Dispense Pertinent Gender-Related Critical Analysis For Food” T-shirt, and wait.
Google images screen grab
Pop Quiz! What do Brandeis, UCLA, and Fayetteville Universities have in common? Answer: They all have The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty by Jill Quadagno on their 2014 syllabi. This book is taught in departments of history, public affairs, social work, sociology, and political science. Professors use it to examine sociological methods, poverty, race, politics, and welfare state. For many students this was a life changing book. This book ignited our interests in studies of inequality and even though it is already 20 years old the issues Quadagno raises are still fresh and relevant today.