Today, the Supreme Court heard opening arguments in two cases regarding the possibility of life without parole as a sentence for juvenile offenders. This article reports data from polling in four states that challenges the idea that the public supports such incarceration over rehabilitation approaches for youth offenders. It remains to be seen what the Court will decide.

Scholars and journalists alike often truncate the roots of social movements by pointing to simple origin stories, predicated on the publication of seminal books like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Michael Harrington’s The Other America, or Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed. The truth is that books and intellectualism have a role, but it’s more often symbolic and a function of collective memory than collective action. For a fuller story, these authors believe we must consider social and historical factors outside the world of big, singular ideas (or big, singular expressions of those ideas).
Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn A. Sikkink, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, 1998

Despite complaints about the organization behind the purposefully viral campaign to raise awareness about the Ugandan atrocities perpetrated by Joseph Kony (a number of which have been catalogued here), it’s clear that Invisible Children has been incredibly effective in gaining visibility for their cause. Look to Keck and Sikkink’s classic work to examine other activist networks and gain a better understanding of the information, symbols, leverage, and accountability these networks use to gain power in the international sphere.

The authors of this brand new article use data from 21 different European countries to examine the impact of ethnic composition on perceptions of neighborhood safety. The basic take-away is that the more immigrants (or non-Europeans) there are in a community, the lower the perceptions of safety in those neighborhoods. But, while people believe they’re less safe, it’s interesting to keep in mind recent U.S. findings that higher immigrant proportions in neighborhoods actually appear to lower crime rates.

Jamie L. Mullaney and Janet Hinson Shope, Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sale, 2012

This well-crafted and engaging new book looks at women involved in Direct Home Sales, selling things like Tupperware and Mary Kay cosmetics  at house parties among friends. The authors explore emotional fulfillment, work-life balance, and fun in a flexible work model and a billion-dollar industry. To learn more about other “feminist economies,” our own Cyborgology posted “Pinterest and Feminism” just yesterday!

As Michiganders and others pondered their Republican presidential candidates last week, Khan’s book reminded us of the concerted cultivation of leaders, even those who spend a good deal of time trying to hone their “Joe the plumber,” anti-intellectual chops while simultaneously using their prep school education and social capital to climb the political ladder.
Katherine S. Newman, Cybelle Fox, David Harding, Jal Mehta, and Wendy Roth, Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings, 2005

At a moment when so many are asking unanswerable questions about violence in schools, Newman and her colleagues discuss how the “roots of violence are deeply entwined in the communities” and why the warning signs of such events are frequently, but understandably, overlooked.

Amitai Etzioni and Jared Bloom, eds., We Are What We Celebrate: Understanding Holidays and Rituals, 2004
Among the flurry of February holidays, from Valentine’s to Presidents’ day, from Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday, it’s easy to forget that each holiday was constructed for social purposes and its celebration and practice serve sometimes very different functions today. Read up between parties with this collection of new and classic essays.

As you enjoy a day off to remember presidents (or at least, we hope you have the day off!), why not consider how we remember those presidents and why?

California’s controversial Prop 8 (the ban on same-sex marriage) has now been struck down as unconstitutional, but ballot initiatives themselves can have lasting effects even if they’re unsuccessful. This article illustrates how and why the campaigns impact the targeted groups. Using community interviews from 2008, the authors show that the fight for the measure made gay people feel excluded and unequal, but also gave friends and family a moment to rally around their loved ones in opposition to the ballot initiative.