positionality

Jill Weinberg is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tufts University and an affiliated scholar at the American Bar Foundation.  In this episode, we discuss her research on how ordinary people define justice and injustice and how social context informs their definitions. In particular, we focus on Jill’s use of post-it notes to gather responses and how this methodological choice mitigates the researcher’s impact in the field and empowers respondents as they engage with what many view as a highly emotional topic.

 

In this episode we welcome Madison Van Oort, Ph.D candidate at the University of Minnesota. Madison conducts research in the areas of fast-fashion and low-wage labor in the 21st century. The format of the conversation will be slightly different than past episodes, as Madison joins us to reflect on the strengths and limitations of the discourse and semiotic analysis that she employed in collaboration with me (Kyle Green), to study how companies employed the crisis of masculinity to sell products. Our co-authored article, “We Wear No Pants: Selling the Crisis of Masculinity in the 2010 Super Bowl Commercials” can be found in Signs (Spring 2013 Vol. 38, No. 3). I enjoyed the chance to participate with in some of the methodological reflections and hope you enjoy the conversation as much we did.

“Semiotic analysis is never objective and it is never absolute. I don’t think that we were ever claiming that we were taking an objective approach. Instead, I think we just kind of came at it as two sociologists with somewhat similar, but also somewhat different, academic training and with eyes toward different kinds of signs and symbols.”
Madison Van Oort- 

*The commercials that we discussed on this podcast can be found here.

In this episode, C.J. Pascoe, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon, joins us to discuss the ethnographic research she conducted for her award-winning book, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. We discuss the joys of being an ethnographer, the difficulties of accessing youth culture, and how entering the school allowed C.J. a more nuanced understanding of contemporary masculinity.

“What was really interesting was that when I started watching young people and their gendered practices and enactment and also then listening to what they were saying in their reflections about gendered meaning and practices, I didn’t always see and hear things that were congruent with one another. I’d see these young men homophobically harass one each other—call each other ‘fag’, call each other ‘gay’. Then when I did an interview with some man who had engaged in some of that harassment and I asked him about homophobia, he would be like, ‘oh no, gay guys should totally be able to get married’.” 

– C.J. Pascoe – 

 

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Clifton Evers. Clifton is a member of the Media, Culture, Heritage unit at Newcastle University. He joins us to discuss mobile video ethnography and his use of GoPro cameras to better capture and understand affects, emotion, and masculinity through the study of surfing. Clifton’s chapter on this topic can be found in the recently published edited volume Researching Embodied Sport: Exploring Movement Cultures

I started carrying a very old Handycam everywhere and shooting footage. I eventually got frustrated because I was stuck on land. And, what a lot of the men would speak about or what they would experience in terms of emotions, affects, and embodied experience was happening in the water. So how does one do video research in the sea?

– Clifton Evers –

 

In this episode, we talk with Stefano Bloch. Stefano is an urban geographer specializing in social and spatial theory, cultural criminology, and subcultures. He is currently a Presidential Diversity Fellow in Urban Studies at Brown University. Stefano joins us to reflect on his use of personal autobiography as a source of data and methodological asset. In particular, he turns to his own experience as a member of the graffiti subculture when researching the destruction of the LA Olympic freeway murals by writers over the last 30 years. Stefano’s article on the subject titled “Why Grafitti Writers Write on Murals” is forthcoming in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 

“So often I hear students say the same few things. One of which is, “well, I’m from such a boring area and nothing happened there—we were so monotonous in the way we lived our lives, I didn’t do anything”. And, I remind them, if what they mean by boring is the traditional suburban, homogeneous enclave in the middle of Connecticut, that is, in fact, a revolution in the way in which people have lived. You know, the family with two-parents, two-point-seven kids, the dog, and the attached garage is a rich source of data…You need to de-familiarize your own upbringing. There is no such thing as boring.”
– Stefano Bloch – 

Alice Goffman’s ethnographic foray into a black neighborhood in inner city Philadelphia has attracted attention both inside and outside of academia. While On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City was a critical success and Goffman was initially celebrated for her accounts of over-policing and over-criminalization, questions are now being raised about the accuracy of Goffman’s accounts, her participation in illegal activities, and the claims made in the book. Today, Douglas Hartmann, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota, President of the Midwest Sociological Society, and co-editor of The Society Pages joins us to discuss lessons that can be learned from the attention the book has received as well as the larger implications for sociologists and urban ethnographers.

“What’s a good ethnography? There is not a single answer to that. The reason there is not a single answer is because there is a number of different questions and goals that ethnographers can take on…On the one hand, what are the goals and objectives that the researcher him or herself has and try to evaluate the work on those terms. And then, there is another set of terms on what else do we want to learn from that project. That is a different set of standards.”
– Douglas Hartmann –