Photo by Nathan Keay, (c) MCA Chicago: William Kentridge (1995-96), 'Drawing for the film History of the Main Complain'
Photo by Nathan Keay, (c) MCA Chicago: William Kentridge (1995-96), ‘Drawing for the film History of the Main Complaint’

Writing for the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog yesterday, David Graeber warned that we may be heading towards yet another crisis of the kind we saw in 2007–08. In his Comment, Graeber takes to task George Osborne’s 2015 Mansion House speech (or rather the logic underpinning it), in which Osborne made a commitment to run a budget surplus in ‘normal times’, much to the consternation of dozens of academic economists. It seems that the utterly misleading and moralizing analogies so frequently made between well–disciplined householders ‘tightening their belts’ when times are tough, and the national government cutting its spending to pay down its debts – part of the mythos termed ‘mediamacro’ by Oxford macroeconomist Simon Wren-Lewis – simply won’t go away. And yet, as Graeber shows, “the less the government is in debt, the more everyone else is…If the government reduces its debt, everyone else has to go into debt in exactly that proportion in order to balance their own budgets.” Everyone cannot simultaneously ‘balance their budgets’ and continue to interact, because all money is debt, as the Bank of England ‘revealed’ in January 2014: “Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits.”

Similarly, at last week’s launch of his new book Between Debt and the Devil, Lord Adair Turner, who took over the Financial Services Authority as the 2007–08 crisis began to unfold, suggested that the UK has reached a position in which our debts are not being paid down, but simply shuffled back–and–forth between the public and private sectors – though the vast majority of ‘private sector’ lending is going into a game of property speculation played by the wealthiest, at the expense of the most vulnerable. For those seeking to make sociological sense of this scenario, the recent work of Stefano Sgambati, at the University of Naples Federico II, provides one of the most powerful pathways to making political and theoretical sense of money, debt and finance in the modern economy.

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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...

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Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/en/people-crowded-steps-walking-692005/

For LGBTQ people, public space is fraught with potential dangers, harassment, and discrimination. Over the past few months I have been researching how LGBTQ people learn to navigate space and its political implications.

Public space is the stage in which the sociopolitical plays out. How people present themselves and how people respond to such presentations is inherently a political struggle. Noting that gender is part of our performance is important to analyzing gender as a political act, as well as a potentially subversive threat to gender norms.

For LGBTQ people, performing their selves in public space is potentially threatening. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people often are predicated on a number of factors such as public displays of affection, non-normative gender performances, and “queer” signifiers. For LGBTQ people, navigating public space is loaded with political implications. First, social policing from others poses a real threat to ones well being, and second that transgressing gender in the public space is a way to create visibility for LGBTQ people. How LGBTQ people enact themselves in public requires a particular calculation between self-expression, political subversion, and the threat of social policing.

The concept of “passing” is particularly important, yet dubious for LGBTQ people. Being able to “pass” as heterosexual, cisgendered, and normative poses a number of advantages to navigating space. To an extent, LGBTQ people might manage their outward appearances and behavior to “pass” as normative. However, for many LGBTQ people this is not such a simple concept. Self-censorship and monitoring can lead to internalized homophobia, shame, and lack of self-esteem for LGBTQ people. It’s also particularly detrimental to non-heterosexual relationships in its limitation of where couples can go and where affection can be enacted.

Dominant conceptions of gender can be problematic for those who do not fit into them. Men may face stigma for being seen as effeminate. Women who are already at risk for sexual assault may be more at risk if their non-heterosexuality is seen as threatening to hegemony. Anyone who enacts non-normative gender expression may face particular negative attention and violence from those who seek to eradicate their difference.

For trans women of color, public space can be very difficult. Since trans women of color face disproportionate rates of murder, harassment, and incarceration, public space can be extremely dangerous. Though all LGBTQ people may face harassment, transwomen of color are often labeled by others as “mentally unstable,” “deviant,” and “radicals.” The intersections of oppression transwomen may face can make public life a difficulty. The matrix of oppressions and stigmas faced by people carrying multiple stigmatized and stereotyped identities makes achieving fulfillment and safety a much more difficult and inaccessible civic right.

“Safe spaces” for LGBTQ people may be difficult to come by. Often, physical markers such as flags, slogans and names that signify tolerance are all employed by spaces to to demonstrate they are safe, or perhaps, safer spaces. The Internet has created a new method of disseminating information about where “safe spaces” are. Information about where LGBTQ people can go for recreation, recourses, and comfort has become easier, although still imperfect.

All the above is a problem, not just for individuals but also for the community. The importance of being able to find and create community is contingent on one’s ability to be open, safe, and free to express oneself. Going forwards in the future, the LGBTQ community will have to pay attention to this issue, in the interest of preserving culture, well being, and interpersonal relationships. Not merely must public policy change to reflect this need, but our culture must change to accommodate the community.

That public space is inherently a political space means that power dynamics are always in play. And while identification of spaces and personal strategies for safety are important in the short term, an important political project might be to make spaces safer for all LGBTQ people regardless of how adept they are at “passing” or “navigating” spaces. I believe one of the most pertinent political projects for LGBTQ people should be an attention to public space. The creation of safety for LGBTQ people is an issue of overlooked importance, particularly for those of multiple oppressed identities.

 

For more information visit:

http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/hate-crimes-and-violence-against-lgbt-people

http://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/12/09/us-1-5-reported-hate-crimes-target-gay-or-bi-victims

http://www.avp.org/storage/documents/Training%20and%20TA%20Center/FORGE_Trans_People_Police_Incarceration_Facts.pdf

 

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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"Natural Afro American Hair" by AveryScott - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg#/media/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg
“Natural Afro American Hair” by AveryScott – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg#/media/File:Natural_Afro_American_Hair.jpg

The term “natural hair” is used in the African American community to differentiate between hair that has been left in its natural state and hair which has been permed (which is to permanently straighten the hair follicle with chemicals). African American hair in its natural state appears tightly coiled or kinky and is often socially stigmatized. Social stigmas are any idea that individuals associate with negative connotations. Many individuals would agree that hair is a prevailing symbol of one’s self and self-expression, contributing much stake towards one’s identity. As social norms change over time, so do the effects of symbols that an individual imposes on their social reality; as a consequence of being symbolic in society, hair speaks to a person’s status, power, beauty and beliefs (Bellinger 2007). Hair speaks to one’s character and is representative of their status in society. Hair is also a measure of beauty and how one styles their hair affects one’s level of beauty in society more...

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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...

 

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(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Igualtat_de_sexes.svg)

 

One of sociology’s main critiques revolves around neoliberalism, and its implications on everyday life in a capitalistic society. Yet, individuals do not comprehend what these implications are for those who identify as LGBTQ. As of recently, there are a plethora of articles illustrating some of the consequences that occur in this new neoliberal society. For example, John P. Elia and Gust A. Yep stated in their article, “Sexualities and Genders in an Age of Neoterrorism:” more...

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Photo Credit: Unsplash (Public Domain)

There have been innumerable pieces dedicated towards labeling the millennial generation with negative qualities. The generation is usually targeted with the following complaints:

  1. Narcissistic
  2. Entitled
  3. Apathetic
  4. Immature

I think these arguments have been poorly constructed. They’re often more symptomatic of a fear of what is new. I will explore these four critiques and offer what about them actually makes millennials an interesting, unique and a positive generation. One that is capable of making changes to the world around them.

  1. Narcissistic: In Defense of the Selfie

There is the supposition that millennials are narcissists, self-obsessed enough to post pictures of themselves, about the minutiae of their activities, and endlessly seeking to accrue “likes” from others. What’s not talked about is the possibility of radical self-affirmation that millennial are exploring through the internet as a medium. Yes, social media prompts us to document ourselves. Why is this so bad? In a sense, sharing ourselves, our interests, our activities, our feelings, and our image enables new possibilities for individuals to create community. Considering that adolescents (particularly women) are likely to suffer from lower self-esteem, one’s choice to explore their own self-image, to craft how we see our selves and project this to others, as well as affirm our friends’ and family’s own projected selves offers a new type of self-authorship. When a friend posts a picture of themselves, has a moment of positivity towards their own appearance, and when others lend support to this, I find it difficult to find that insidious, selfish, or terrible.

  1. Entitled: In Defense of Our Work

Millennials are supposedly lazy. Older generations accuse them of being non-self-starters, unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find jobs in a job market that is not flourishing or receptive to a new generation attempting to move in. But considering how many millennials move into the job market only to find themselves taking unpaid internships, jobs bellow their skill level, or flatly unemployable says more about our society than it does our generation. There are social forces at work, and the naivety of assuming self-reliance is outdated, narrow minded, and socially unaware.

  1. Apathetic: In Defense of Our Efforts

Millennials are not apathetic. Our engagement with the Internet has opened us up to new ideas. That social movements like #BlackLivesMatter have taken off on the much derided social medium of twitter is symptomatic of something entirely different. Our generation has participated in new social movements, ones that are entirely contingent on the utilization of new technology. To discount it is to discount the work of many millennial activists who have been doing work to make the world better and kinder.

  1. Immature: In Defense of Our Potential

There is a type of binary thinking that is applied to younger generations. If they watch silly Reality TV Shows and do silly dances, isn’t it a sign that behind it all they’re really immature? Unable to grow up? I think this is a profound generalization. Pop culture has always had disposable, and easily derided aspects of it gives older generations the impression that the world is burning. But to view our collective interest in Kim Kardashian as symptomatic of a deep cultural malaise is incredibly cynical. Is it somehow not possible, are we not able to have the perspective to view pop culture as non-specific to millennials? Pop culture has constantly been derided by older generations who find themselves lost in today’s world. The good news? This has happened for time immemorial for generation upon generation. We will not go down in history for the ephemeral aesthetics, the fashion trends or other minute details. Millennials have more potential than that, more heart than they’re given credit for and have the ability to make changes using the technology they’re so seamlessly integrated in.

In summation, it’s easy to write off an entire generation for aspects that are trivial. It’s much harder to explore the positive side: to see millennials as possessing unique capabilities and harnessing them for good, or to see a group of marginalized people taking charge of their narratives via the much dismissed “social network” sites that are more opportunity than calamity. Millennials have so much to bring to the table, and it’s time for us as a culture to take stock of that.

Further Reading:
“Why You Shouldn’t Ignore The Millennial Generation” in Huffington Post
Why You Can’t Ignore Millennials” in Forbes Magazine


Corbyn on the front bench of the House of Commons for his first PMQs.

Yesterday I had to pinch myself when I saw Jeremy Corbyn on the front benches of the House of Commons, facing David Cameron as the leader of the British Labour party. Corbyn is the man who has spent all of his adult lifetime on the fringes of mainstream politics, an unapologetic socialist campaigner who has fought many of the battles of the left: against South African apartheid and Thatcherite deindustrialisation in the 1980s, against the introduction of university tuition fees in the late 1990s, against the invasion of Iraq in the 2000s, against government austerity since 2010, and, like me, a lifelong campaigner against nuclear weapons. Since becoming an MP in 1983, Corbyn’s been a member of the awkward squad on the far-left of the Labour party, someone who could usually be ignored by his old bosses Blair, Brown and Miliband.

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