Gender certification for María José Martínez-Patiño, a victim of the chromosomal testing era. Via http://transascity.org/cross-training-the-history-and-future-of-transgender-and-intersex-athletes-3/
Gender certification for María José Martínez-Patiño, a victim of the chromosomal testing era. Via http://transascity.org/cross-training-the-history-and-future-of-transgender-and-intersex-athletes-3/

It is hard to disavow the wonder and enchantment that watching the Olympics engenders. It’s easy to become engrossed by the spectacle of elite athletes pursuing seemingly impossible, barely perceptible improvements in sports that, for the next four years, you may never again consider. And spectacle is precisely what the Olympics proffer. But as Michael Silk (2011) writes in Sociology, the spectacle of sporting mega-events does far more than merely enchant. In London 2012, sporting spectacle was put to work as a tool for negotiating Britishness ‘after Empire’, sidestepping unexamined fault lines of race, class and nation. Silk describes the nation branding  strategy developed in the run-up to the Olympics, designed to present ‘Brand Britain’ as ‘Timeless, Dynamic and Genuine’: the University Boat Race and Gothic churches that populated T.S. Eliot’s image of ‘Timeless’ British culture, so beloved of the New Right, were here wedded to the entrepreneurial dynamism of Richard Branson, London Fashion Week, and Notting Hill Carnival (the latter’s history as a site of ‘bitter confrontations’ between blacks and the police duly excised). Meanwhile, as Paul Watt (2013) notes, young residents occupying marginal housing in East London felt confident that Olympic-led regeneration and redevelopment was simply not for them; the photo journals they created with Watt document the building of exclusive, luxury flats, from which they knew they would derive no benefit. In Rio 2016, a further tension is created between those who see sporting mega-events as part of a global pattern of exclusionary urban developments, and those who would project these mega-events as vehicles of ‘sport for development’.

But, while many acknowledge that the benefits accrued from hosting the Olympics are hardly distributed across a ‘level playing field’, most would more than likely cleave to the notion that ‘fair play’ prevails within the Olympic arena. And yet, as Claire Sullivan writes (2011) in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, while ‘fair play’ is a fundamental tenet of international sport, quite how to delimit fair play has never been entirely clear. As a result, ‘fairness’ has, by and large, been enacted by policing and verifying gender difference. The question of gender verification and fair play has come to the fore once again at Rio 2016, as South African sprinter Caster Semenya prepares to participate in the Women’s 800m tomorrow. Semenya first came to prominence for vastly outperforming her rivals in 2009, after which she was subjected to a variety of humiliating and invasive gender tests. Semenya herself became the subject of an ‘ongoing spectacularization‘, and her defenders attempted (with little success) to navigate what Neville Hoad (2010) describes as the ‘long and intractable representational history of racialized and sexualized African bodies‘ on the one hand, and an ‘LGBTQ praxis of freedom that wants to render visible and celebrate gender variance’ on the other.

Writing in the Irish Times this June, the two-time Olympic silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan objected to the idea that Caster Semenya might be able to run in the Women’s event in Rio. Deploying the same pseudo-sympathetic tone as Guy Martin, writing for The Daily Mail just yesterday, O’Sullivan argued that: more...

By LucasArt and Cody escadron delta [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By LucasArt and Cody escadron delta [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With all the Star Wars hype this past month the fandom seems to have awoken once more. The newest installment of Star Wars not only reinvigorates long-time fans but inspires a plethora of new comers to the franchise. Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives the world a new hope in representation as it showcases two of its main characters, a British woman as its protagonist and a Nigerian Brit as the deuteragonist. From the many hours of fan-made footage to the canonical expanded universe of the happenings in that galaxy far, far away, Star Wars has always been about the individual and what one could take away from the adventure set forth before them. Some see it as a metaphor for political implications while others see religious metaphors within the meaning of The Force. I view the saga as a metaphor for society, its ebbs and flows, the institutions that can restrict or advantage entire groups of peoples, and even popular culture metaphors from the much revered Jedi, to the Rebel or Resistance Pilots, and even various Sith Lords. more...

By Runner1616 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Runner1616 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The depiction of crime in fictional mass media occurs differently for people depending on the color of their skin and what this color has come to symbolize in such a complex system of race, ethnicity, and stratification in the United States. more...


By AIGA. Uploaded to Commons by User:ChrisRuvolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like millions of others – possibly including yourself – I passed through several airports this summer (Remember summer?). But – perhaps unlike you – I obsess about airports, maybe because air travel forms a key part of my studies, or because I’m just something of an aero-geek. I mean, I was in the air cadets for two years as a teenager. But if you think about it, airports are strange, unique kinds of places. more...

Booker Dabydeen

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.

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Source: https://pixabay.com/en/anger-angry-bad-isolated-dangerous-18615/

 

News coverage of protests and the activists which engage in them forms into patterns; media tends to highlight the extreme, irrational, angry, and violent segments of collective action (Corrigall-Brown and Wilkes 2012; Winter and Klaehn 2005). We can turn to the recent example of the Black Lives Matter movement shown shouting down presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Why does the nature of news media depictions of activists’ emotional expressions matter? Evoking the wrong emotion in the public can alienate potential supporters. In the United States emotion and rationality are still often treated as dichotomous and mutually exclusive perspectives (Goodwin, Jasper, and Polletta 2001). Being classified as overly emotional or having the improper emotional response can undermine activist attempts to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the public.

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Image: http://internet-map.net/
Image: http://internet-map.net/

Doubtless I am not alone among the contributors to Sociology Lens in having been exposed, during my first year as an undergraduate, to an array of foundational thinkers in sociology (and anthropology) who present human history as a movement away from ‘traditional’, ‘face–to–face’ or ‘kinship–based’ societies, towards those in which interaction and identity is less relational, and more individualized. Such theorizing is not only limited to the classical sociologists who wrote in the 1900s, like Ferdinand Tönnies and Émile Durkheim; it resurfaces again in the sociology of the 1990s. In the writings of Anthony Giddens, “the self” is seen less as a product of interactions and relations with others, and more as a matter of individual “self–fashioning.” Or, as Giddens (now Baron Giddens) wrote in 1991, “in the context of a post–traditional order, the self becomes a reflexive project” (p. 32).

And yet, this literature on individualization and self–fashioning as the signature mode of existence in ‘modernity’, associated not only with Giddens but also with Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman, becomes increasingly difficult to square with the ongoing proliferation of apparently ‘social’ measures and projects: from ‘social enterprise’ or ‘social business’ and ‘social return on investment’, to the even more ubiquitous social media platforms and social marketing initiatives. In the UK, the National Centre for Social Marketing describes social marketing as an approach that uses behavioural economics (see Roger Tyers’ post for Sociology Lens here) to change behaviour for the benefit of “society as a whole.” Similarly, the UK’s national body for social enterprise describes such enterprises as businesses that “trade to tackle social problems…when they profit, society profits.” And the New Economics Foundation’s vision of social return on investment tools are described as alternatives to conventional cost–benefit analysis, which “does not consider anything beyond simple costs and price.” Social return on investment tools thus incorporate “social factors” when accounting for the value generated by an investment. more...


Image courtesy of http://www.speroforum.com/a/NTUACKIKDY21/74868-Good-nudge-bad-nudge-Dont-get-too-comfortable#.VV8W4PlVhBc

Last week I went to a workshop in London about nudging, titled “Silver Bullets Need A Careful Aim. Dilemmas in applying behavioural insights”. It was very interesting, and my gratitude goes out to the organisers who put together a really interesting day focused on the ethics and effectiveness of ‘Nudge’, which, seven years after Thaler and Sunstein’s book of the same name was published, still seems to be capturing the imagination of academics, marketers and policy-makers.

(If you have no idea what ‘Nudge’ means, check my previous post here) more...


Source: http://intothegloss.com/

 

Last summer, I was sent a message from a complete stranger through OkCupid, asking if I would like to meet him for a no-strings attached snog*. The message went like this:

You know when you’re sitting on the tube, on a bus, or even at your desk at work and someone walks past and you think: god damn, I wish I could just snog them right now. I mean, it happens on the screen all the time doesn’t it? People are always just randomly snogging strangers in the street and then walking off.
And I got to thinking, that looks like fun. But I don’t think I’m brave enough to actually ask anyone for a snog in the street in real life. And probably asking ruins it, anyway – in the adverts they just *know* that a snog’s about to happen, don’t they?
So I was wondering: would you like to meet me for a no strings attached snog? The way I see it, a day with a snog in it is almost always better than a day without. And snogs are good wholesome fun – no mess in your head or your bed.
We could choose a bridge in London and each walk from the opposite side to meet in the middle at an arranged time. Then we’d smile at each other, say hello, check that there’s some physical attraction (you sort of instantly know, don’t you? If there’s nothing, we can just turn around) and then have a snog.
Then just walk away again, like in a diet coke ad or something – have some fun and make a fantasy a reality? Don’t tell me you’ve never thought about kissing a perfect stranger…

 

Being a sociologist, and obsessively interested in relationships and sexuality, (and, partly, a hot-blooded woman) I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be part of snoggy a social experiment. Already it raised questions in my head about the nature of online dating, romance, and gender norms. Would it be perpetuating romantic ideals to do something ‘just like a Diet Coke advert‘? Was saying ‘yes’ to him asking for a kiss an act of consent? It felt like it might just be replicating typical gender norms (man asks woman for a kiss, how very Jane Austen…) Or maybe it could be empowering and agentic to admit that I we want to kiss a perfect stranger. more...

Source: phdcomics.com
Source: www.phdcomics.com

Good writing is crucial to sociology. For sociology to thrive as a discipline we sociologists have to be able to communicate our research effectively to a range of audiences. There are many great writing guides out there (Write for Research is especially good: https://medium.com/@write4research). This list of tips reflects my experience of writing a sociology PhD. It’s by no means an exhaustive or authoritative list and some readers may disagree with some of its items: nevertheless it reflects three years focussing on trying to improve my own writing. As student advice month draws to a close, I think this list therefore may be useful to some student sociologists. more...