Jay Borchert is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology and a Population Studies Center Trainee at the University of Michigan, as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley School of Law. We discuss research he conducted for his dissertation titled “Mass Incarceration, The Profession of Corrections, and the Way Prison Workers Construct Meanings about their Participation in our Punishment State,” where he conducted ethnographic observation of prisons and semi-structured interviews with correctional officers.

“Dramatic things happened all the time in the prisons. It’s important to be able to manage your emotions and your reactions in those situations. Many prisons have been built in areas of extreme poverty and isolation, particularly in the case of Kentucky. The characteristics of local political economies make going to work in prisons – which is a stable job, with benefits – a logical, if not pleasant, choice for a lot of people. Their choices are understandable. Going in with a judgmental attitude just makes no sense if we claim to know anything about our history and our politics – particularly our racial politics. It makes no sense to do that if we really want to work toward solving social problems.”
 – Jay Borchert – 

In this episode, we talk with Alejandro Baer, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

In this study, Alejandro and his colleagues sought to understand the specific discourse around anti-semitic sentiments amongst different cultural groups in Spain. To study this difficult to measure construct, the researchers created homogenous discussion groups of 7 to 9 people, led by a trained moderator. Participants were of similar demographics, leading to a ‘group discourse mode’ that revealed the structures of meaning different groups use to discuss their views on minority groups.

“When you design your groups, they have to be internally homogenous and externally heterogeneous. All of the individuals of one group share certain similarities in terms of age, political orientation, or of religious origin. You cannot put together left wing activists with conservative religious individuals of a totally different age. That’s not the idea. We want to capture the discourse they will share, not what makes them different.
– Alejandro Baer – 

In this episode, we talk with Kathryn Henne, a Senior Research Fellow at the Regulatory Institutions Network, an interdisciplinary research center housed at the Australian National University. We discuss Kathryn’s experience conducting multi-sited fieldwork for her book Testing for Athlete Citizenship: Regulating Doping and Sex in Sport.

“This approach seeks to provide a nuanced understanding of how those localized and observable settings are conditioned, but also connected by those globalized dynamics which may not appear at first sight when you are in one particular site. So it really allows us to trace those processes and movements using qualitative methods.”
– Kathryn Henne – 

In this episode, we talk with Amy Schalet, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. We use her work on teenage sexuality to discuss in-depth interviews and cross-cultural research.

“You take them back to their comfort zone. Or you say, ‘why did that feel so wrong’? You have to stay with them. You have to make them feel that even though they just had an explosion, emotionally, that you are with them and willing to listen to that.”
Amy Schalet-