Political Cartoon, July 5, 1919. Source: Wikimedia Commons
At the time of this posting, the government shutdown drags on, the debt default is on the horizon, and Democrats and Republicans are waging the battle of blame. Spin is, of course, business-as-usual in politics. Figuring prominently into this fight is the question of who is acting responsibly.
What stands out to me, as a student of social movement studies, is one particular strategy to smear opponents as irresponsible and therefore dangerous: the recent persistent use of the term “anarchist” by Senate Democrats to describe Republican politicians and the Tea Party social movement with which they are aligned. This approach is exemplified in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s blog post earlier this month entitled “We are not a country of anarchists,” and has been echoed repeatedly by other politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his claims that anarchists had taken over Congress. (more…)
The American farmer is becoming a central figure in the advertisement world and two recent commercials standout for using the image and ethos of the small, hardworking farmer to sell their products. During Super Bowl XLVII, Dodge Truck made a commercial called “god made a farmer.” The commercial shows a series of still shots of American farmers working hard and the narrative describes the hardships associated with an honest day work on the farm. The commercial focuses on the small farmer using his hands, rather than the more common use of mechanized equipment to accomplish farm work. A second commercial created by Chipotle romanticized the movement away from mass farming and towards the small farmer fighting the corporate machine to produce “wholesome” food. The Chipotle commercial critiqued the mass-farming of animals and received backlash for co-opting local food movements. Both commercials speak to the notion of the isolated American farmer attempting to make it on his/her own in a corporate world, placing the value of hard work as an American ethos. The construction of the farmer in this manner is not intended to provide support or to recognize the struggles of small farms, but to sell products. Nor does it allude to the goal of most farmers—to make a living. (more…)
Fall is here and farmer’s markets will soon be closing for the season. Realizing that I will be forced back into supermarkets for my sustenance I have been pondering what is it that makes farmer’s markets unique. My pondering led me to Jürgen Habermas’s ideas of a “representational culture” and the “public sphere”. I think the marketing of food within the conventional food system (i.e. in supermarkets) can be understood through the lens of a representational culture. That is, the powerful companies in the U.S. food system (Kraft, General Mills, PepsiCo, Dole, etc.) have successfully overwhelmed consumers with massive advertising campaigns — such that the average consumer receives little of the important information about his/her food purchases (where it was grown, how it was processed, what chemicals were used in its cultivation, etc.). This trend has led to a dynamic in which consumers are unable to exert their agency as rational actors. I believe farmer’s markets signify a response to representational culture. (more…)
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale of Breaking Bad ahead]
AMC’s award-winning and groundbreaking drama Breaking Bad is, although complemented by a number of highly intriguing and well-played characters, primarily the story of its lead protagonist Walter White, a disillusioned high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer, who turns to cooking crystal meth in order to provide for his family’s financial security after he will have passed away. Thus, Breaking Bad is a reflection on the destructive potential of masculinity in our society.
A vital element of the ethical discourse on human subject research is the process of informed consent. This recognizes the autonomy of research subjects by sharing the power of decision making with them. The informed consent process involves three components: relating the information to subjects; ensuring that subjects understand the information; and obtaining the voluntary agreement from subjects to participate. Researchers have the responsibility of determining what information should be divulged to subjects during the consent process. (more…)
Source: Our Bodies, Ourselves
For a long time I have been interested in how cultural products, ideologies, commodities, norms, values, and beliefs travel within an interconnected global society. I struggled with questions such as, “What happens when cultural product move from one global locality to another?” and “What happens to the cultural ideologies embedded within these products as they travel?”
I found that previous scholarship often presented the movement of cultural products and ideologies as a linear process. Hybridity and ‘glocalization’ models, such as those presented by Robertson (1990) and Pieterse (2001) did take this analysis one step further. Here local culture also merged with the imported cultural ideologies creating a compound ideology. These models provided a theory of understanding how cultural products become embedded in different cultural contexts without minimizing the power of local culture.
However, what these studies did not address is that within the context of a global society, cultural movement has a more recursive character, meaning that as a cultural object, or product, travels from one locality to another they are constantly developing and being shaped by complex and contingent negotiation that occurs as they move.
Harvard Business School Graduates. Source: businessinsider.com
In a recent Sociology Lens post, my colleague Markus Gerke discussed the so called ‘Boys-Crisis’ in Education, and provides an excellent critique of anti-feminist stances that point to boys apparent underachievement in education. As he argues, these stances so often fail to account for gendered practices that occur in schooling and education, and by utilising feminist education studies and masculinity studies, the differences between boys and girls achievement can be explained much more accurately. Rather than inherent ‘qualities’ existing to either sex, in an essentialist view about what makes ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ the way that they are, certain classroom behaviours are viewed as more acceptable for boys or girls, in line with social and cultural understandings of masculinity and femininity. These expectations can be used to understand a great many behaviours – why girls are more inclined to read or sit quietly, or why boys may resort more easily to playing up in classrooms, all have in them inherent implications about what is gender-appropriate behaviour. In terms of understanding why girls and boys succeed in different areas, we simply have to ask whether the behaviour is ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. Writers such as Bev Skeggs and Mike Savage have written extensively about how these categories also intersect with class: acceptable masculinities and femininities vary drastically according to class and background.
In reading Markus’ article I was struck by the similarities to the subject I intended on discussing in this post – the evidence of gender inequalities at Harvard Business School and how they are being addressed. Harvard Business School were the subject of a front-page article in the New York Times last month, when an article by Jodi Kantor revealed that the school, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world, had restructured their curriculum, assessment criteria and even social rules and regulations in order to attempt to address a gender imbalance and encourage female success. (more…)
Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silence_Means_Security_-_NARA_-_515419.tif
The chief of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, made his first public comments since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s PRISM spying program. The media aftermath of Snowden’s revelation generated multiple narratives surrounding the program. Media coverage focused on privacy concerns, the criminality of Snowden, and the necessity of the program to protect America’s safety. Lost in the production of these various discourses, there were also narratives that did not emerge, that remained silent. The absences of particular narratives are rarely innocent oversights, but a result of presenting controlled narratives. The lack of coverage of certain views can be explained through a framework recognizing the constitutive role of silence in our everyday lives. In particular, a focus on silence can teach us to ask what is not said, for instance, why was the PRISM program classified in the first place? (more…)
Via retail transactions, searching Google, Tweeting and countless other prosaic activities IBM estimates we are creating 2.5 billion gigabytes a day. These activities are generating ‘Big Data’; a catch-all term for unwieldy data sets that require substantial computing power to curate and put to constructive use. Although its slippery definition is relevant to this blog post, problematising the concept of Big Data is for another time. This post begins with the methodological enthusiasm and scepticism that exists simultaneously within the contemporary sociological dialogue that addresses large, potentially instructive, datasets. On the one hand, Big Data offers the possibility of access to interactions, behaviours and opinions at a scale beyond the dreams of sociologists who had to settle for relatively small scale representative sampling. Others warn of being seduced by the promise of Big Data into, for example, implying causation from correlation. (more…)
A few weeks ago I posted some thoughts on the impact of Title IX beyond collegiate athletics and last week my colleague, Markus Gerke, wrote brilliantly about the myth of the boy crisis in education. In this post I will illustrate how Title IX proponents and believers in the boy crisis myth have come to clash over the topic of single-sex education.
The movement to single-sex education in the US has been framed as a solution to both girls’ absence from science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines and the perceived decline in boys’ overall academic success. However, the data behind these assertions is shaky at best. Diane Halpern, Professor of Psychology at Claremont McKenna College and former President of the American Psychological Association, wrote a particularly biting review of the pro single-sex education literature. Perhaps as a result of the pro single-sex education framing, the US has seen an increased interest in single-sex schooling in the last few decades. More private single-sex schools have emerged and even many public school districts have begun to experiment with single-sex programs or classrooms.
An important question that arises in consideration of public schooling, though, is if separate schooling is actually fair to all students. The racialized question of separate but equal in education was answered by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal in regard to race is not actually equal at all. Should we expect gendered segregation of schooling to be any different? (I am certainly not the first to ask this question.) (more…)