Happy Friday! This week, we feature a guest post on the UFC; a reflection on TSP, community, and belonging; and new research on hip hop. We also share sociological accounts of Covid caretaking and the illusion-destroying power of the pandemic.
Friday was the final TSP Board meeting for long-time member and graduate editor Allison Nobles. Allison marked the occasion with some remarkably candid and heartfelt reflections of her time on TSP, which she generously agreed to share with our readers. Although a bit more backstage than our usual TSP fare, we offer Allison’s remarks because they are such a powerful tribute to the special group of graduate students who make TSP possible–AND because it’s more important than ever to share such moments of gratitude, grace, and togetherness with each other in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
— TSP Editors Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen
In the spring semester of my first year in grad school, in 2015, several of my cohort-mates joined The Society Pages (TSP). I tried to pretend not to be interested, but in reality, I was super jealous. I remember one morningI heard the TSP crew laughing from another room. It just sounded like everyone was having a great time. Plus, my cohort-mates were actually writing stuff in their first year of grad school and sharing it all over facebook — “look at this new thing I wrote!”
I knew I had to get in there.
Essentially, The Society Pages is a website where grad students (and others) write stuff about sociological research — what new research is coming out, how sociology can speak to current events, and so on. But it’s much, much more than that. TSP supplies you with all sorts of intangible skills and social connections that go beyond its purpose on paper.
For me, TSP was a community, a space where I found friendship and support, and a place where I learned I had value. Maybe that sounds harsh — but as a grad student in my early 20s, constantly struggling with imposter syndrome and trying to figure out my place in the world, I seriously needed that validation. Through my time with TSP, I learned that my writing is worth reading, that people actually want to know my opinions, that they cherish my friendship, and that they value my leadership.
I also learned a lot about the field of sociology, about academia, and I picked up quite a few useful skills along the way. Sociology is HUGE, diverse, and I learned that mostly, I like all of it. It doesn’t have to be boring — there’s plenty of space for creativity in sociology — and it doesn’t have to be jargony or confusing for the sake of being confusing. In my time at TSP, I came to truly value public sociology and doing public sociology in a way that can be understood by people who don’t know much about it.
Here’s another big thing I learned: my colleagues are freaking awesome. When you’re in grad school, it’s hard to get a sense of your fellow grad students’ talents, skills, and ambitions (again, see imposter syndrome). You often don’t even get to read anything they’ve written until it’s published in a journal. In TSP, you not only get to see people write stuff pretty often, you get to workshop their writing during Friday meetings, hear their creative ideas in brainstorming sessions, and listen to why they are passionate about particular research during the days we pitch discovery articles. And if you pay attention, you also learn what your colleagues are good at: you see who is great at rephrasing things other people say, who asks really detailed questions you never would have thought of, who sees the “big picture,” who can type and talk at the same time, who gives constructive yet supportive feedback, who can teach you how to do a literature search without making you feel like a kindergartener, and whose energy makes everyone else perk up. To all of my colleagues during my time at TSP, I’m so glad I got to learn about you.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I spent nearly my whole term as grad student editor suffering some pretty serious and persistent concussion symptoms. I spend a lot of time thinking about how much more I could have done if that wasn’t the case, how much more I could have written, the new blogs I could have started, the ideas that never came to fruition. But I’m going to trust my very smart colleagues who have told me numerous times what a good job I’ve done as editor — and I know from the way they say it there isn’t an asterisk that says “even though you had a brain injury.”
I’ve never told anyone this, but I think in some ways TSP saved me during the past two years. Sure, maybe sometimes I pushed myself too hard or tried to do more than my brain was capable of because I was editor and felt like I couldn’t take a break. But I probably would have done that no matter what. TSP gave me a supportive space to still feel productive — something I desperately needed (see definition of grad student). It also kept me connected to people. I wasn’t able to attend very many things in the department at that time or really go out and do anything (I was social distancing before it was cool). TSP was my community. I showed up every Friday for our board meeting — often wearing dark sunglasses and a floppy hat — knowing I would be greeted with smiles, hugs, and sometimes bagels.
For all of those things and more, I say thank you.
Welcome Back! This week, we feature guest posts on death and COVID-19 and on the challenges of communicating via Zoom. We also bring you research on carework and historical changes in the mortality rate, and an analysis of the reopening of Taiwanese baseball.
Welcome Back! This week, we spotlight medical sociologists’ analyses of how COVID-19 will affect the equity, delivery, and organization of the US healthcare system. We also feature new research on fertility decision-making.
Welcome Back! This week, we feature a sociological review of the new Netflix drama Orthodox and research showing how social distancing might shape demand for sexbots. We also share new research on multiracial churches and women in leadership.
Welcome Back! This week, we share ASA’s COVID-19 resources for instructors along with research to help explain why teaching and meeting online can be so exhausting. We also feature new health research on the impacts of discrimination and anti-vaxxers’ complicated attitudes about medical interventions.
The American Sociological Association has some great sociological resources on their website related to COVID-19. While they are primarily meant to support sociologists during this time, we think many of the resources will appeal to TSP’s broad audience. For example, ASA has curated a list of journal articles (open-access for the time being – no paywall!) related to COVID-19, like this article on how job insecurity relates to mental health. For instructors, ASA’s teaching resources platform, TRAILS, is currently open-access. Read more about the resources ASA is offering below.
Open Access ASA Journal Articles Relevant to COVID-19
ASA has worked with our journal editors to create a curated collection of existing articles from ASA journals that could be useful when trying to respond to, cope with, and teach about the enormous disruptions this pandemic has produced. A few examples of what you will find in the collection:
A graphic visualization of the cumulative effects of natural hazards on racial wealth gaps between 1999-2013 which sheds light on disparities in economic impact this pandemic may have.
A socio-organizational approach to explaining empirical variation in rates of altruism. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing might be conceptualized as an altruistic act that can be more or less effectively structured and developed by the organizational and institutional environment.
The now classic article “Social Conditions as Fundamental Causes of Disease,” which has been cited nearly 5,000 times since it was first published in 1995.
Click here to freely access the full collection of articles.
Crowd Sourced: Sociologists in the News on COVID-19
Journalists are turning to sociologists to help them explain the social dimensions of the current crisis. We have created an open-access spread sheet devoted to collecting and sharing information about these media mentions and media appearances. Please help spread the word about sociologists in the news by adding information about your own media appearances and those you have seen.
Crowd Sourced: COVID-19 Projects Initiated by Sociologists
Sociologists are responding in creative ways to learn more about the pandemic and its consequences. They are collecting data, creating interdisciplinary research collaborations, and supporting their communities. We have launched an open-access spread sheet devoted to collecting and sharing information about these projects. You’ll see that some initiatives are already listed. We’re hoping you will add initiatives of which you are aware, and together we can disseminate information about these projects.
TRAILS Remains Temporarily Open Access
In response to COVID-19, ASA has temporarily made TRAILS, its peer-reviewed library of teaching and learning materials for sociology, available to everyone. Anyone may log in to TRAILS using their ASA username and password, regardless of their membership status. If someone does not have an ASA username and password, they can create one here. Please share this information with your colleagues.
ASA Webinars – All Welcome
Sociology Student Town Hall: Navigating COVID-19. April 16, 2020. 3:00 p.m. Eastern. The Student Forum Advisory Board invites sociology graduate and undergraduate students to a town hall to discuss how to navigate the challenges of being a student during this difficult time. Whether you are taking courses or are in the final stages of writing your dissertation, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students in unique ways. We invite students at all stages to join us for a conversation to share resources, discuss coping strategies, and commiserate. Click here to register.
Best Practices and Strategies for Successful Online Teaching. April 22, 2020. 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Because of COVID-19, faculty have quickly moved their courses online, and their immediate focus is getting through the crisis. As institutions look beyond the current semester, a growing number are moving summer courses online and some are planning for this possibility for fall. In this previously scheduled webinar, Melinda Messineo will cover best practices for online teaching and learning, as well as sociology-specific recommendations to help faculty prepare for and improve their online teaching. Dr. Messineo is a professor of sociology at Ball State University. She was a member of theASA Task Force on Liberal Learning and the Sociology Major, where she was part of the subcommittee on online learning. Click here to register.
Expanded: ASA Webpage with COVID-19 Resources for Sociologists
ASA has expanded its webpage devoted to collecting and sharing resources useful to sociologists during the current crisis. New additions to the page include a recorded webinar, “College Students and Mental Health: Strategies for Supporting Students,” resources for students, and resources to support teaching and advising, including new links to online sociological content for courses. Among those, don’t miss the brand new video in the Sociological Insights series, “An Embrace of Christian Nationalism,” featuring research by Andrew Whitehead.
Welcome Back! This week, we round up sociological research on astrology, and feature guest posts critiquing the use of the phrase “social distancing” and explaining how to make sense of the COVID-19 models that are now omnipresent.
Over the past month with lightning speed the phrase ‘social distancing’ became part of the American vocabulary. Epidemiologists invented the phrase in earlier epidemics to refer to avoiding close contact with other people during the outbreak of a contagious disease. The word now evokes such actions as staying six feet away from others, avoiding crowded places, stop handshakes and hugs and even washing your hands a lot.
But the phrase is not perfect. In fact, the World Health Organization and quite a few bloggers have called for use of an alternative phrase, ‘physical distancing’ to bring clarity. Their argument is that the word ‘social’ in social distancing suggests we should cut off relations with people. But in a pandemic, we desperately need social connecting via technology to avoid the social isolation that distancing demands.
From a sociological perspective another consideration is worth noting. Most of us have been advocating the reduction of social distance in the sense of reducing distance among race, class and sex-based groupings. Furthermore, almost 100 years ago a sociologist Emory S. Bogardus designed the research tool called the Bogardus Social Distance Scale. The tool measures the degree of separateness rather than closeness among any kind of social groups including race, class and gender.
The long tradition of sociological measurement of social distance implies another argument against using ‘social distance’ to talk about being safe in an epidemic. We don’t want to inadvertently suggest people increase their distance with minority ethnic groups. We are living in a time when white nationalism has been rising and there are many reports of prejudice and discrimination toward Asians. We need to build less, not more social distance.
It is probably too late to get most people to switch phrases from ‘social distancing’ to ‘physical distancing’ or just ‘distancing.’ But you can add your thoughts about this issue to the dialog on Wikipedia or elsewhere on this important topic. And you can be more precise in your own use of distancing terminology.