In the Company of Spectacle Makers

Soc Lens Survay London

Something rather curious is going to happen next week. On Michaelmas – the 29th of September – the next Lord Mayor of London will be elected by the Liverymen of the City of London’s trade associations – those gilded ‘Worshipful Companies’ of, among other craftsmen, the Goldsmiths, Spectacle-Makers and even Management Consultants. (The Lord Mayor presides over the City of London – the Square Mile on the north bank of the Thames that historically has been home to London’s financial centre – and is not to be confused with the Mayor of London, who runs the Greater London Authority.) Shortly after election, the new Lord Mayor travels, in the State Coach, to swear allegiance to the Crown, amidst the pageantry of the Lord Mayor’s Show. One could be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking of the Show as ‘mere’ ceremony, devoid of the unmistakable and overt political functions – including competitive displays of power, and surveillance of the City’s inhabitants – that was enabled by its Medieval predecessor, the now defunct Midsummer Watch (described by John Stow in his 1598 Survay of London, above).

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“Women are bitches”, and other obvious tales from the Sociological front line

www.glamour.com

www.glamour.com

 

Words excite me. I can’t help it, words are all I have really: they are my bread and butter and what keeps the wolves from the door, and what gets me up in the morning. And a lot of the time that means that I have a propensity to use long words when short words would definitely do. (See, I did it there with propensity. ‘Tendency’ would have worked, ‘habit’ would have done, too. It’s a sickness really.)

Every so often being a Sociologist, academic and chronic over-thinker pays off, and this is one of those cases: those days when you read an academic paper and come across a theory or idea or unnecessarily long word that makes you realise something you had no idea that you knew all along. It’s the Holy Grail for PhD students really, because it gives you a way of structuring all of the over-thinking and over-analysis you do on a daily basis into a nice easy to understand concept. So please forgive me for getting excited about words, but this week I have a new favourite ‘long-word-way-of-saying-something’. The phrase is ‘Negative Intra-gender relations’ and it is basically an academic way of saying ‘bitching’.  (more…)

Mothering on the Margins: legislating first environments and the demand for maternal accountability

 

Photo by: Gabriel Flores Romero Found on: Flickr Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

Photo by: Gabriel Flores Romero
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

 

“You put me in charge of Medicaid…”, the vice president of Arizona’s Republican Party and former state senator, Russell Pearce quipped on his weekly radio broadcast The Russell Pearce Show “the first thing I’d do is get Norplant, birth-control implants or tubal ligations”.  Medicaid is a program designed to provide health-related services for people who cannot afford healthcare in the private sector.  As Amanda Kennedy of Sociology Lens points out vividly here, “being valued as a parent is a white privilege…” and I would add, class privilege. (more…)

‘Where are all the grown ups?’ The Scottish referendum shows the dearth of UK political heavyweights

Today Scotland faces a monumental decision. For once, politics is thrilling, anything seems possible, Scots seem excited and motivated to vote, with a record turnout predicted. By the time you actually read this, the outcome might already be known. In the last weeks before the referendum, the result has been too close to call, which considering a few months ago the ‘No’ campaign had a twenty point lead, is quite a dramatic shift. Whatever today’s result, it will be a close one – Scotland will either become independent, with a huge proportion of people having voted to stay in the UK, or Scotland will remain British, with a huge proportion having voted to leave. Lots of people will not be happy, and the blame game will begin. Whatever the result, this campaign has reminded us of politicians’ increasing inability to persuade voters – quite a depressing thought, when that is what politicians are supposed to be there for.

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Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn    

Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.

Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.

Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. (more…)

Mass Exodus

 

Source: Maximizing Progress

Source: Maximizing Progress

Sociologists are frequently interested in how communities are imagined, built, developed, and restructured.  Studies of how communities are destroyed, abolished, or evicted are typically associated with scholarship on genocide, war, natural disaster, or gentrification.  These studies often equate the termination of a community with trauma, personal loss, and inequality.  In some cases, communities dissolve in less dramatic ways.  In some cases, as the needs of a population change, people and the communities they created travel from one space to another.  Recent news regarding the redevelopment of downtown Caracas in Venezuela sets the stage for an unusual case of a decomposing community.

In the 1990s, construction on the Centro Financiero Confinanzas began as hopeful Venezuelans envisioned the creation of an economic mega-center similar to Wall Street in the United States.  The skyscraper, which became known as the Tower of David after developer David Brillembourg, was a 221,000 square meter complex made up of five buildings and a 47-floor glass tower (Caldieron 2013: 139).  Expectations were high.  However, in 1993 Brillembourg died and the following year the Venezuelan market collapsed.  Construction on the Tower of David came to a halt.

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Cosmo’s 28 Not-So-Sexy Tips for “Lady-Lovers”

**Please note that this post has illustrations of sexual acts.**

Recently, and for the first time ever, Cosmopolitan Magazine published a list of sex tips and positions for “lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, queers- all lady-loving ladies in the crowd.” At first, as a member of the LGBTQQIAA community, I was shocked and excited at the seemingly legitimate public recognition of my sexual practices by the “sex gurus” themselves over at Cosmo. At a closer glance however, this list is a comical illustration that is not titillating to say the least, but ultimately is quite exclusionary in the understanding of lesbian sex. Needless to say, the lesbian sex Cosmo describes is not my sex, let alone a realistic portrait of most “lady-loving” relationships.

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The Necessity of Disorder in a Soft City: De Certeau vs Foucault (Part 2)

CONTAINERCITY_2210000b This is the second in a two-part guest post by Bea Moyes, who is an independent researcher based in East London. Having completed a Masters in Research at the London Consortium, Bea is working on ongoing research into the history of East London since the 1970s. Her work has often considered histories and narratives of urban space, particularly through the act of walking the city, and with dynamic and creative interactions which are generated in public spaces. She tweets @BeaMoyes

The first post can be found here

Michel De Certeau’s argument on the relationship between strategic powers and tactical resistances, has interesting implications in the history of the metropolis, and to the way with evolve our cities today. In pre-urban agrarian society, tactical resistances were common, with those without land re-appropriating resources in activities like poaching, gleaning and scrumping. These social and economic rituals were well worn valves of everyday life, oiling the relationships of power between masters and workers. However, during the industrial revolution, and particularly  with the increasing organisation of power relations with urbanisation and land enclosures in Britain, this dynamic interplay became largely disconnected, contributing to the break -up of community structures which had existed before. This is obviously a simplified analysis of social networks between classes over nearly two hundred years, but it is surely no coincidence that during the nineteenth century in Britain, there was considerably unrest and protest by the urban working-classes.

In my own work researching the history of East London, (more…)

Capital Ideas: Mortgage-Backed Insecurities

 cAPITAL iDEAS

The boundary demarcating literature and anthropology seems to be porous; frequently subject to incursions but nonetheless heavily policed. Two decades ago, in the midst of the ‘Science Wars‘, Stephen Reyna suggested rather unflatteringly that “the literary anthropologist’s final product appears to be her or his impressions of Others’ gossip.” For now, the tables seem to have turned. Very few anthropologists or sociologists interested in money, finance and accounting can have carried out their inquiries without encountering the work of Mary Poovey, a Professor of English. The anthropologist Jane Cowan has emphasized the extent to which novels can “speak to socio-historical-political analysis,” acting as a spur to research, while an upcoming conference at the University of Kent plans to explore how far Science Fiction can be used as a tool of anthropological analysis. So, this week, in the final installment for the ‘Capital Ideas’ mini-series, the subject is the treatment of kinship, capital and inequality in John Lanchester’s 2012 novel, Capital. (more…)

The Economist Twist

 

Photo by: Howard Gees aka. Cyberslayer  Found on: Flickr Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

Photo by: Howard Gees aka. Cyberslayer
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

 

 

If you operate in a world of “market forces” well, then you should probably leave the social research to the social scientists.  An August 23rd commentary in the Science and Technology section of the Economist magazine anonymously summarized an elegantly designed longitudinal quasi-experimental study in less than 500 words.  Their summary concluded with two very basic possibilities (because as we know the range of human possibility is exactly two!) to explain the correlation between criminality and socio-economic status:  either 1) the environment traps people in a culture of crime or 2) there is a genetic predisposition to being both poor and criminal.  That is, the criminal gene prefers to hang around in the bottom 20% of income earners.  Apparently, the “journalists” at The Economist are trying to revive the long dead nature vs. nurture debate as Sociology Lens addresses here and here. (more…)