On Tuesday, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 2015 at the City of London’s Guildhall (an institution about which I wrote for Sociology Lens last year). James’ book is an imagined retelling of the attempt made on Bob Marley’s life in 1976, and the first novel by a Jamaican writer to win the Prize, which now comes with a £50,000 cheque, having been introduced with a purse of £5,000 in 1969. Jamaican poet Kei Miller has suggested that James’ win heralds a new era in Caribbean writing, rejecting the apparent choice between the poles of ‘sacred’ reverence and gentle, mocking ‘satire’ that seem to have characterized Caribbean fiction to date. This new era, argues Miller, is one propelled by “a new generation of writers who had all the resources of creolised Englishes and the uncanny stories that they witnessed first-hand growing up on the islands, but who would also gain other, technical, resources from taking creative writing courses across the world and forming a community with other writers.” And here, in James’ win, and Miller’s response to it, can be found all that has, perhaps surprisingly, made the Booker Prize a favourite topic not only of literature professors, but of sociologists and management scholars too.
Being a WOC (Woman of Color) or MOC (Man of Color) in a graduate program is a unique experience. The opportunities made available to you become a great resource for networking, strengthening a skillset, and producing valuable research that provides a unique contribution to your field. Some departments offer grants to their graduate students while some pay for tuition waivers, however some students are left to fend for their own sources of funding. During this period of learning to become a graduate student and all that the title entails, it can become difficult for one to navigate. While the majority of graduate students have to go through an adjustment period, there are certain adjustments that graduate students who hold a minority status have to deal with that many students who meet the requirements of being a member of a dominant status group do not have to experience. While many scholarships and awards are available and designed to seek out minority students, it is still the case that the majority of scholarships go to White students. Similarly on the receiving end, many MOC faculty, and especially WOC faculty consistently receive lower student evaluations and retention rates from their universities of employ (Pittman 2010). These statistics are the result of various interactions that have taken place over time that some would describe as the consequence of racial microaggressions.
Racial microaggressions are derogatory and negative insults or interactions that occur on a day-to-day basis against a specific person or racial group. These insults can be overt or covert but the result is an active form of racism that serves to perpetuate beliefs, ideas, and prescribed stereotypes about racial groups. Given that it has become less socially acceptable to display overt forms of racism, covert displays of microaggressions serve to single-out, disadvantage, or invalidate a person of a specific racial group; even if the intent of the microagression is unintentional, the result is the same. more...
Recently I found myself at a bar in New York City on a Friday night with another female friend, where we had a starkly twenty-first century encounter. A polite man in his early thirties who was alone at the bar helped my friend and I find adjacent bar stools. He then sat on the stool next to my friend, and some other young women were sitting on his other side. I had a strange urge to study that man and saw him pull out his phone shortly after everyone in the immediate vicinity was seated. Not long after, he opened the Tinder application. For the next few hours, he sipped on his drinks and swiped away at pictures of women on this popular dating app, while physically surrounded by various women in their mid to late twenties, many of whom could possibly be single and available.
Maybe that doesn’t sound very strange to most people in 2015, but I was pretty taken aback, as the sociologist in me wondered what this man’s actions meant for society and its future. Somehow within the last few years, online dating has transformed from a deviant and stigmatized social practice to one of the most normative forms of meeting potential romantic partners. Therefore, we have to talk about its implications.
In many ways this is great news: we don’t like unsubstantiated social stigma, and this sure allows for a wider range of the community – including those that may experience trouble approaching potential suitors because of a myriad of potential social anxieties – to explore romantic possibilities. In the Western world and countries like the U.S. a substantially large population has access to this system: really all you need is a mobile device and Internet connection. It is at once the most socialist and capitalist forms of dating, too. Most people have equal access to these platforms and the users within these platforms, yet those with the highest erotic capital are the most likely to succeed. While this is slightly concerning in that any hierarchical distribution of human beings is concerning, it is not all that different from the non-virtual social world. People are attracted to people they find attractive – excuse my tautology – whether because of inherent or socially conditioned preferences, both online and offline. I’m not qualified to discuss the problems associated with that at length; however, I would like to address a tangentially related, possibly much larger social problem that online dating seems to have gotten some reputation for perpetuating: that of race and racially based discrimination.
According to data collected by OkCupid, another popular online dating platform, racially based bias in choosing potential romantic partners has increased between 2009 and 2014! People have less control over who occupies physical spaces traditionally popular for meeting people, such as bars or cafes, so they are more likely to meet and approach people from different racial backgrounds. However, in online dating, the options are numerous, allowing for the room to discount any potential candidate for any reason whatsoever. To provide a non-race related thought experiment: an extremely left-of-center woman, whose politics are integral to her life, encounters an attractive man at a bookstore and decides to approach him. They talk and there is instant spark, so they go on a few dates. On their third date the woman finds out the man’s political beliefs are extremely right of center. Whether or not it is a deal breaker in this scenario depends somewhat on the first two dates. In the online dating version of this, there probably wouldn’t be two dates to begin with because people often have information like political beliefs listed on their profile, and because there are so many choices, this hypothetical woman would have little need to give this hypothetical man a chance.
The problem is: alignment of political beliefs is a matter of compatibility, whereas specific racial preferences are a matter of institutionalized differences that reinforce racial bias. Whether or not attraction to specific physical attributes – particularly skin color – are intrinsic is an ongoing debate; however, it is difficult to argue that online dating has made these kinds of selection practices easier.
So, to go back to the man who was using Tinder alone at the bar: he was a white male, physically surrounded by women of color, as he “swiped right” – the Tinder equivalent of a “like” – for only white women. The man’s personal preferences for romantic partners matters little; however, the implications here are important to keep in mind: online dating allows for a more covert form of racial bias in the dating world.
Emerson Collins Blog: “Dating – Preference or Racism?
You have to hand it to the Daily Mail. Their writers have perfected the art of pressing people’s buttons; of making highly divisive clickbait, or, as my dad might’ve said, of stirring up sh*t. Last week’s article about British tourists in Greece being outraged by the influx of refugees coming from Turkey caused plenty of outrage and counter-outrage both online and in other parts of the British press. Even by its own standards of outrage, this was outrageously outrageous. Job well done Daily Mail.
The Mail highlighted the incongruous mix of outsiders that have been arriving on the island of Kos in recent weeks. One group are refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, who are seeking refuge in Europe from war, homelessness, and complete desperation back home. The other group are middle- or working-class white holiday-makers from the UK who go to Kos for sun, sea, booze and food. These two groups are not supposed to meet. This isn’t in the script. They might gaze upon at each other’s worlds briefly on TV or computer screens, but physical co-presence between these two worlds is not supposed to happen. more...
Yesterday, in Quito, Ecuador, hundreds of Indigenous people from around the country, including those from the Amazon, the Sierra and the Coast, gathered outside the offices of CONAIE (the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), in the north of the city, to continue the fight against a government plan to close the organisation’s headquarters. CONAIE is among the largest and longest standing Indigenous organisations in Ecuador, and its work focuses on defending the rights, territories, culture and lives of millions of Indigenous people who make up approximately 25% of the country’s population.
I am writing this blog post to encourage academics and activists from around the world to sign the open letter, drafted by CONAIE, in support of the organization and the indigenous peoples that it represents in their struggle to maintain control of the building, which is a key strategic part of the indigenous political community. more...
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.
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.
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
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...
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...