readings

View of Singapore harbor from the top of the Marina Bay Sands

The questions below were created to accompany Michael Goldman and Wesley Longhofer’s Winter 2009 feature article, “Making World Cities.”

1)    Development is often viewed in a positive light.   But, are there possible negative consequences?  Provide an example.

2)    With these potentially negative implications of global cities in mind, why do cities and communities continue to pursue growth? In other words, what are common reasons in support of world cities like those covered in the article?

3)    The article claims that inequality in Bangalore has increased five-fold since the software boom in the ’90s. What might have lead to the increase in inequality?

ACTIVITY: The article mentions that the World Bank funds many projects related to the expansion and infrastructure of global cities. Spend 10 minutes on the World Bank’s website.  What is it, and what types of projects does it fund?

 

Genocide is fundamentally social, though sociologists often ignore it in research and in the classroom.  A lesson on genocide could be part of multiple course units, such as ethnic conflict/war, race, crime/criminology, law, human rights, collective memory, etc.   Here’s one of many ideas:

Assign John Hagan and Wenona Rymond-Richmond’s article “The Collective Dynamics of Racial Dehumanization and Genocidal Victimization in Darfur” (ASR 2008).   Also consider assigning Contexts’ podcast with author John Hagan, which can be found here.

A few questions to consider:

1.  What is the legal definition of genocide?

2.  Why are only some groups protected under the legal definition of genocide?  Should other groups be included?

3.  How does genocide differ from crimes against humanity?

4.  How do Hagan and Rymond-Richmond explain genocide?

 

To accompany the collection of Contexts articles focused on aging, use these questions and activity to get a fruitful discussion going in your class. This collection
is available for free to ASA members.

Aging America

1)    On what grounds do the authors argue that Social Security and Medicare are not the biggest problems presented by an aging America?

Activity: The article states that policies to help the elderly often need to target young people in order to come to a long-term solution. Think of a problem faced by the elderly and what policies directed at children now might help alleviate that problem in the future.

Ageism in the American Workplace

1)    What are some of the stereotypes about older people that lead to employment discrimination against them? Are there stereotypes about young people that could spur ageist discrimination? What can be done to dispel myths and reduce discrimination in either case?

2)    How is discrimination related to economics, and how might the current economic recession affect ageism in the workplace?

 

 

No sigas la luzProstitution is one of those topics that incites very strong reactions–making it very difficult to discuss in the classroom. In the Fall 2007 issue of Contexts, Ronald Weitzer provides us with a balanced, classroom-friendly way to get your students thinking about this issue beyond their gut reactions. Read the article here!

Use the discussion questions and the activity below to get the conversation started:

1)    Define the oppression and celebratory models of prostitution. How would you characterize the alternative model proposed by the author?

2)    What is your reaction to Weitzer’s claim that some prostitutes are empowered by their jobs? Do you agree that sex work can be empowering for women or do you agree more with the oppression model?

3)    The article states that 17 percent of American men have paid for sex at some point in their lives. Do you think this is a high or low number? Why do you think there is a stigma against paying for sex?
ACTIVITY: Organize a class debate with one side arguing that prostitution should be legalized and regulated in the United States, and the other side arguing that it should remain illegal.

 

Business LookFor any gender, family, or business related lecture, we recommend “The Rhetoric and Reality of Opting Out” (Contexts, Fall 2007) which you can read here.
We’ve created discussion questions as well as an activity for you to use with this article in the classroom:

1)    How does your generation view mothers who stay at home? How have these perceptions changed from your parents’ and grandparents’ generations? Is this change positive or problematic in your opinion?

2)    According to Stone, what is the real culprit behind more and more mothers dropping out of the workforce? What are some underlying problems with many “family friendly” work arrangements?

ACTIVITY: Assume you’ve been given the task of re-designing your company’s workplace environment and scheduling norms so they are better suited for the types of working parents highlighted in this article. How could you change the work culture so mothers weren’t penalized for taking advantage of flexible work arrangements? Could any other problems result from your solutions?

 

We recommend incorporating the article “Controlling the Media in Iraq” by Andrew M. Linder (Contexts, Spring 2008) in a class or lesson on media or international relations. This article is highly readable and the topic is timely and of interest to undergraduates. Use the questions below to get a discussion started on this topic:

A PDF of this entire article is available from Contexts!

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1)    How has this article influenced your understanding of the relationship between journalism and war?

2)    The author offers two ideas of how embedded reporters come to write from a military point of view. Discuss the theories of empathy through socialization (at the extreme, Stockholm Syndrome) versus boundaries and limitations placed by the military.

3)    What do you make of the findings that embedded journalists reported more frequently from a soldier’s point of view?

Men are Missing from African Family Planning by Ashley E. Frost and F. Nii-Amoo Dodoo, from the Winter 2009 issue of Contexts would work well in any class on gender or sexuality issues as well as accompanying any lesson on population/ family planning policies abroad. Use the discussion questions and/or the activity  below to incorporate this article into your class. Africa Continent Location Map

ASSIGNMENT: Outline the main reasons the authors give for the high fertility rates among African women. In a nutshell, why aren’t current planning policies working?  Using what you learned in the article as your guide, explain how gender roles and ideologies within different cultures can influence fertility rates. Compare the African example to another community that you are familiar with.

ACTIVITY: Imagine that you are a public health official working with the U.N. on overpopulation in Africa. Given what you learned from this article, create a plan for a program that would be more successful in reducing fertility rates among women in Africa.

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With the mid-term elections recently behind us and the 2012 Presidential elections drawing closer, Jeffrey Alexander’s piece “Heroes, Presidents, and Politics” reminds us that political narratives are stories about heroes.  There are many ways you can use the article, which can be read online here, in the classroom.

*Alexander stresses that narratives and images are created.  Gary-Alan Fine’s work on reputational entrepreneurs further elaborates how and why certain reputations are created, and his article on reputational entrepreneurs and the image of President Harding could be used to complement this piece.  Assign both articles to students, and ask your students to discuss who might work as a reputational entrepreneur for Obama or McCain (i.e.. political parties, lobbyists, public officials, etc.).

*Ask students to find pictures, articles, and other campaign materials from recent elections and to discuss what narratives the campaigns were trying to create.

*The lesson could also be combined with Nathan Palmer’s suggestions on how to teach hero-making.

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Memories of the past are fluid and powerful.  They are influenced by the present and can simultaneously influence the present.  Memories can be manipulated to serve interests and often provide blueprints for social action.  In the Summer 2010 issue of Contexts, two pieces capture these and other nuances of memory.

Barbara Sutton’s photo essay on “Situating Memory in Argentina” highlights pictures of the military dictatorship that disappeared, tortured, and violated the human rights of the people of Argentina.  Robin Autry’s piece, entitled “Memory, Materiality, and the Apartheid Past,” examines processes of constructing memories in South Africa.

These readings could be paired together or could easily be paired with a chapter from Jeffrey Alexander et. al’s  book on Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity, which explores the relationship between collective memory, identity, and trauma.

For an assignment, students could research sites of memory and bring pictures and a historical description of the site to share with a group.

Potential discussion questions include:

How can a memory be shared?  Do you have to experience something in order to have a memory of it?

Do you think collective memory has the ability to deter future atrocities and human rights violations?  Why or why not?

The notion of collective memory often insinuates that a dominant memory exists.  However, Autry’s piece notes that resources and opportunity also play a role in which memory prevails.  Discuss how power can affect collective memory.

How do you view the U.S. treatment of Native Americans, Abraham Lincoln, or more recent events like September 11th?  What factors influence these memories and beliefs about the past?

Wikipedia: “often the best place to start, worst place to stop”

Dan Gillmor, via Eszter Hargittai .