The romantic and the mundane: Finding your soulmate via Social Practice Theory


Do you believe that ‘The One’, your ‘soul-mate’, your ‘life-partner’ exists? Have you already found them? Hollywood movies, glossy magazines, and agony aunts repeatedly reassure us that, firstly, somewhere out there is Mr/Miss Right, and secondly, we just need the good fortune to find them – some auspicious occasion when true love will make its presence known. I was compelled to dwell on this when I read Julie Birchill’s recent article on the matter in the Spectator. I don’t want to debate whether or not there is one predestined mate out there for each of us (for the record I’m pretty sure there isn’t), but Birchill’s piece did make me dwell on how we meet partners in particular, and how we meet and make friends generally. In reality, this is often more about the social practices we engage in, rather than personality traits or, good fortune, which bring people together. As with a lot of sociology and psychology, it replaces the romantic with the mundane.


World Polity Theory and Gender Mainstreaming

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What is the relationship between global theory and feminist scholarship and activism?  Even when global theories do not appear to relate to contemporary feminist dialogues, links can be drawn between global theory and women’s rights agendas.  One example can be seen in the relationship between world-polity theory and gender mainstreaming.

World-polity theorists sought to emphasize the importance of cultural frames, even suggesting world cultural principles and institutions shape the actions of nations and individuals (Boli and Thomas 1997).  World polity theory examined the flow of instrumental culture by focusing on the discourses of science/technology, human rights, and mass education as key mechanisms for the creation of an authoritative social order in a diversity of settings (Meyer 2000). The creation of a global instrumental culture emerged not only through relationships between nation-states, but also though collaboration between non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).  World polity theorists have suggested that as various non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations, and intergovernmental organizations continue to work together with multiple nation-states to promote changes in national policies, nation-states are becoming increasingly connected and dependent on each other (Chatfield 1997; Boli & Thomas 1997).


How About “Just Don’t Rape?”: On the Invention of Date Rape Nail Polish, Preventive Advice, and Women’s Subordination (or Men’s Empowerment)

"Polished" by James Lee - originally posted to Flickr as Polished. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Polished” by James Lee – originally posted to Flickr as Polished. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It is the same old tale, just spun with a different color thread: “Women: don’t get raped.”

Recently, four students (note that they are all male) invented Undercover Colors, a nail polish for women that changes color (like a mood ring) when it touches rape drugs commonly slipped into drinks. Now,  I do applaud the men for recognizing the all-too-common issue of rape and taking the initiative to do something about it. Only, what they did still places the blame on women.


Researching Young People and the Social Construction of Youth


Next time you read research about young people ask why is it focussing specifically on their age. It is still taken for granted that the process of maturing from a child to adolescent to adult unfolds as a series of naturally occurring stages, that there is a right age at which children should develop certain competencies and acquire certain freedoms and responsibilities (Scott, 1999).

Contemporary sociological research, however, has “highlighted the blurring of boundaries between youth and adulthood and the destandardisation of the life course” (Reisinger, 2012, p96). Griffin (1993), Lesko (2012), and Seaton (2012)) argue youth’s development is complex, non-linear, sophisticated, and dynamic; it involves a mutually defining interaction between asynchronous biological changes and multidirectional environmental and social influences. Any  research that fails to acknowledge this, by default, treats youth and age as a self-evident, timeless and unproblematic category. (more…)

Capital Ideas: Settling Accounts in Delhi


The first two posts for this ‘Capital Ideas’ series were organised around Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, a work of economic sociology unusually attentive to the relationship (rarely made explicit) between kinship, capital and inequality. This week I turn to Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi, by the British novelist Rana Dasgupta, continuing my exploration of the treatment of merit and inheritance in three contemporary bestsellers (one academic, one journalistic, and one fictional). Certainly, Dasgupta’s has not been afforded quite the celebrity (or recognition in the business and financial press) as Piketty’s similarly-titled book. Nonetheless, his Capital is the product of an effortlessly deployed sociological imagination, which conveyed Dasgupta along through the phantasmagoric world of Delhi’s elite business families, shaped by the destructive transformation of Delhi ‘from Walled City to World City‘. (more…)

“Who Are you Calling Entitled?” : The Problem with Lazy Millennials


In a recent Sociology Compass article, Dr Elisabeth Kelan draws attention to common uses of the concept of ‘Generations’ and points out that despite being a useful and commonly used concept for Psychology, it has not been widely drawn upon in the Sociological literature. This is surprising, as she notes, because it is so often used in more mainstream writing, media and culture, particularly to describe the characteristics of certain demographics of people. In reference to Dr Kelan’s work, the concept of generation can provide insight into how organizations can best treat their employees, by using their generation as a lens to understand their motivations, preferences and behaviors. Knowing what generation someone is in can be extremely helpful for our understandings of how people behave in certain ways.


Why the Fracking “Haves” Come Out Ahead

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Photograph taken by Joanne Koehler.

This is a guest post by Jamie Longazel and Joanne Koehler.  Jamie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work at the University of Dayton.  Joanne is a recent graduate of the University of Dayton, receiving degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies.

There is an interesting and potentially important fracking case going on New Mexico right now. The Mora County Commissioners passed the Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance, making it illegal for gas and oil companies to extract hydrocarbons within county limits. The ordinance, which has been dubbed “The Mother of all Anti-Fracking Tools,” has not surprisingly been challenged in court. Claimants, who most notably include Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest oil companies in the world, suggest the measure violates their right to corporate personhood, controversially affirmed recently in the Citizens United case.

Other municipalities have banned fracking within city limits, often by tweaking zoning laws. What makes this case unique is that it is situated at the county level, effectively banning the practice not just within city limits, where fracking rarely takes place anyway, but across mass swaths of potentially ‘frackable’ land.

From an environmental perspective, the Mora County ordinance is impressively bold. It goes so far as to establish “a local bill of rights for Mora County that protects the natural sources of water from damage related to the extraction of oil, natural gas, or other hydrocarbons.”

From a sociolegal perspective, the ordinance helps to level the playing field. With Mora County residents standing together as a collective and being represented by an experienced litigating group (specifically, the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund), they stand a better chance of having their voices heard and resources protected than others in situations where companies run freely from door to door wooing landowners with offers they often cannot refuse. (more…)

The joy of Absence and the Digital Detox

I just came back from a week in Greece. I’m not here to brag, but it was pretty damn great. One of the best things about it was that I hardly used my phone. I couldn’t. Out on the scrubland hills on the island of Levkas, my friend’s mother’s villa does get some limited internet access, but it’s expensive and patchy, so I just didn’t bother using it at all. No email, no facebook, no twitter, no whatsapp, no news, no Sociology Lens! It was like stepping back in time. The only thing I used my phone for was playing music whilst reading lots of books and soaking up the sun (Okay, small brag there).

Unfortunately, my phone had a little accident involving a car door and a cracked screen, so when I got back to a rainy Manchester airport and all the other surnburnt Brits were turning on their phones to check their messages outside Arrivals, I couldn’t do the same. I must admit, I felt smartphone jealousy. Whilst I was in Greece it felt good, it felt right to not use my phone, but back in the UK – my place of work, of friends, of study, of home – it felt strange, like something was missing, like I was missing out. (more…)

Don’t Quote Me On This!

Here is a photo I took of an elderly woman in Jandiayacu. She is one of very few people (possible only five remaining) who speak and have a deep knowledge of the Sapara Language. The knowledge of Sapara people is not written down; it is an oral tradition that has been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is useful to use citations to provide signposts to our readers should they want to know about something in more depth or detail. It is also important when we are talking about ‘facts’, particularly historic occurrences, statistics or things people have (supposedly) said. But there is another side to this practice that is more of a burden on the writer than it ought to be. (more…)

Holding Up the Women Who Hold Up Half the Sky




Recently, Netflix added the widely acclaimed documentary Half the Sky to its online streaming library.  The film, inspired by journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn book of the same name, follows six American celebrities as they travel throughout Asia and Africa addressing some of the health care, educational, and economic issues that oppress women and girls across the globe. Throughout the film, the viewer clearly sees the impact women and girls of the developing world have on both Kristof and the celebrity activists who join him in Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Vietnam, Somaliland, India, and Kenya.

What is even more striking is the difference between the lives of the women featured in film and the actresses visiting from the West.  At one point Kristof and actress Olivia Wilde are interviewing a former sex worker living in Kenya who is struggling to come up with the money needed to pay for her son’s tuition.  When Kristof asks her what she will do if she cannot raise the money needed the woman simply relies that she will not eat.  The conversation moves forward to other issues in the woman’s life and the viewer never finds out if the woman was able to pay her son’s tuition.