Sean Reardon Professor of Sociology from Stanford University discusses the sociological reasons why the middle class has been shrinking in the USA. This is from November 2011 but the argument is still valid and useful. The report referenced in this video can be accessed here: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/RussellSageIncomeSegregationreport.pdf
In this video, Raewyn Connell touches on her research on academia in the Southern hemisphere and on education, but most of her discussion is on her considerable research on masculinities. This is a very accessible overview of Connell’s work. She says her research is motivated by a desire to make the world safer for herself as a transgender woman, for her daughter, and for her community. I like this representation of sociology - producing research and activism to create a safer world. It’s poignant to remember that as another International Women’s Day passes, sociology and the feminist movement have a responsibility to all women, including transgender women.
- Source: zeezeescorner
Tumblr fosters catharsis. People blog because they want their voices to be heard — so let them know you’re listening.
Jason Pike, blogger and cancer patient, on how Tumblr is a great place to seek support, find a voice, educate others, and practice empathy.
Via Mashable (in partnership with Storyboard).
The Pew Research Centre reports that the proportion young people who own homes went down to 34% in 2011 compared to 40% in 2001. Also in 2011, only 66% of people aged 25 years or younger owned or leased a car compared to 73% of young people in 2001.
Good news is that credit card debt is down to 39% in 2010, in comparison to 50% of youth who had credit debt in 2001. Bad news is that student loan debt rose from 34% in 2007 to 40% in 2010. Then again, debt trends are mixed, as the median debt for young people is now $14,102, which is around $1,000 less than in 2007. These patterns reflect a shift in economic priorities after the recession as well as broader changes in society that include delayed marriage, which impacts on household formation and spending.
Two anthropologists, Rachel Caspari and Karen Rosenberg, talk about the Scars of Human Evolution. This excellent Google+ Hangout for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (below) addresses great questions such as, “what are the downsides of evolution?” The chat covers the costs on our bodies, health, reproduction and on our aging populations. Caspari and Rosenberg pose an argument that runs counter to the way in which many people think about human evolution. That is: evolution is not always geared towards perfection. Humans have made excellent strides towards improving our quality of life, to make evolution “workable,” but we don’t often stop to think about the trade offs of evolution. All species have these evolutionary imperfections, but “It may be because humans are cultural animals, we’re able to ameliorate the effects of some of those [issues].”
It’s lovely to hear these researchers answer a viewer question on why we’re one of the only species to only have one race when other species have many sub-divisions. As sociologists and anthropologists know, race is a social construction. That is, it’s a cultural idea that varies from one society to another, and ideas about race also change over time. Neanderthals and modern humans were different species, but modern humans have long been a single species.
Caspari and Rosenberg argue that there are two characteristics that distinguish modern humans genetically from our ancestors: 1) We have no races. 2) We live longer. These anthropologists note that other fields of evolutionary science continue to see ongoing diversification, including the development of new diseases and the discovery of new insects. Yet there’s no evidence that there has been increased complexity in human evolution. Looking at our history, modern humans are not the “inevitable outcome of the evolutionary process.” There is, however, increased cultural complexity amongst modern humans, which impacts on the challenges we face in the evolution process, particularly regarding our health and our procreation experiences.
The researchers answer a viewer question about whether keeping people alive who are genetically imperfect weakens our gene pool. Their answer - incorporating the cultural idea of stigma and our relationship to our environment - is a fantastic example of social science. Enjoy!
Credits: Video link via Chris Robinson on Google+.
One of my favorite bits from Jacob’s post on “seapunk” was this bit about keeping subcultures “sub”:
It is an impossibility for a subcultural style to be “owned”. Sub-culture exists when gazed at by mass-culture. The only way to ensure that your aesthetic is not going to become used by others is to never share it with anyone. Another approach is to protect your aesthetic with physical violence (see: gang colors). Otherwise, once you allow your presence to be seen, it can be consumed.
Most communities protect their culture through some form of obfuscation: hiding the meaning of their communication by making it hard to interpret.
This is a practice I’ve been studying for some time and some of it is incredible.
- Tum bl r an d L J u sers sep ar ate w ords thr ou gh o dd spacin g in o rde r to fo ol sea rc h en g i nes.
- Chinese users hide political messages in image attachments on Weibo.
- General Pretraeus communicated solely through draft mode.
- 4chan scares away the faint of heart with porn.
- Other groups communicate through obscure messaging systems.
If you want your subculture to go undetected, all of these techniques are moderately effective at keeping your activity undetectable by people and their machines.
Social psychologist Efrat Tseëlon is interested in feminist readings of fashion and culture. Tseëlon argues that while the English dictionary might define the practice of wearing masks and disguise as an attempt to conceal and misrepresent, masquerade is something different. Masquerade is not about portraying something false, but rather it is a way to understand the intricacies of identity. Masquerade draws its meaning through historical context, as the meaning of how we present our ideal selves in public has changed over time. Tseëlon writes:
…disguise is meant to hide, conceal, pass as something one is not. Masquerade however is a statement about the wearer. It is pleasurable excessive, sometime[s] subversive. The mask is partial covering; disguise is full covering; masquerade is deliberate covering. The mask hints; disguise erases from view; masquerade overstates. The mask is an accessory; disguise is a portrait; masquerade is a caricature. But these distinctions are tenuous, as each also shares the attributes of the other, at least in some uses or historical contexts… Thus, whatever shade of meaning of masquerade one chooses to employ it is obvious that through a dialectic of concealing and revealing masquerade serves a critical function. It calls attention to such fundamental issues as the nature of identity the truth of identity, the stability of identity categories and the relationship between the supposed identity and its outward manifestations (or essence and appearance).
Tseëlon outlines how the cultural practice of wearing masquerade is ancient. In Western culture, masquerade can be found in the philosophical writing of Plato, who wrote about life as a puppet show. Masquerade appears in Shakespeare’s plays, where comedic situations involving masquerade allow individuals to adopt new identities and experience other genders. It is also famously personified in the annual Carnival of Venice, held in Italy. Masquerade has been used throughout Western history as a way to play around with ideas of what makes up our “true” self. Masquerade has been employed by women in particular, liberating them from restrictive gender and sexual scripts, if only for brief periods at a time.
The study of masquerade allows us to ask: is there such a thing as an “authentic” self? Do we easily transgress social norms behind the anonymity of costume, or do we mostly adhere to the rules set out for us? Who are we when we don’t have to live up to the preconceived ideas of how other people see us?
- Source: zeezeescorner
Photo: Looted and burned houses in Pinga after fighting between armed groups caused the majority of the town’s population—together with many of MSF’s Congolese staff—to flee the area in October. DRC 2012 © MSF
Armed groups have clashed in the last few days, causing widespread panic and alarm in the area. Fearing for their lives, people grabbed whatever they could carry and ran into the surrounding forests. While displaced from their homes and villages, people’s access to health care is extremely limited. Some of those wounded in the fighting were brought to the MSF-run hospital 50 kilometers [about 31 miles] away in Mweso where doctors treated 24 people for violent trauma. Twelve more managed to reach the Mpeti health center 18 kilometers [about 11 miles] away from Pinga.
“What we see in Pinga is the tip of the iceberg,” said Grace Tang, MSF head of mission. “This kind of violence and mass displacement is happening throughout the province of North Kivu. We’re trying to respond as best we can in very difficult and challenging circumstances.”
- Reblogged from doctorswithoutborders
The “father of sociology,” Auguste Comte, features in the second animated video in the 60 Second Adventures in Religion series by Open University. Comte developed a theory positivism to argue that social phenomena could be studied through data collection and experiments fashioned on the practices of the natural sciences. His premise was that the philosophical development of science followed three stages:
1. Theological - nature has a will of it’s own. This stage is broken down into three stages of its own, including animism, polytheism, and monotheism.
2. Metaphysical state - though substituting ideas for a personal will.
3. Positive - a search for absolute knowledge.
Link to video via Brain Pickings.
- Source: zeezeescorner
Open University puts the (animated) spotlight on two sociologists who were critical of organised religion. This one is on Karl Marx and his enduring dictum: “Religion is the opium of the people.” Marx used this phrase to argue that religion is a mechanism to entice poor and disadvantaged people to accept suffering and inequality as part of life (through the enticement of higher rewards in the afterlife). The original quote is drawn from the Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. In context, Marx’s original quote reads:
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.
The video is from the series: Religion as Social Control - 60 Second Adventures in Religion.
Video link via: Brain Pickings.
- Source: zeezeescorner
Access all of Sage’s online collection and their databases for free until the 31st of December 12.
Thinking critically is at the heart of anybody transforming their life
- bell hooks.
American cultural theorist bell hooks’ distinguished contribution to sociology has been to unearth the intersecting issues of cultural difference, race and knowledge within feminism. Starting out as a literature professor, hooks would go on to challenge cultural studies in the early 1980s with books such as Ain’t I A Woman?: Black Women and Feminism and Feminist Theory: From Margin to Centre. Her work shows how women of colour have been marginalised by power structures in society as well as by white feminists who purport to speak about the universal struggle of all women. hooks argued that mainstream feminism silences experiences of race, ethnicity and class.
For the past three decades, hooks has explored the representation of race in popular culture, and how this affects social relations and public education. In the Cultural Transformation video series, bell hooks explains the importance of critical thinking not just for women, but for American society in general. Her work has been adopted and adapted by non-white feminists and cultural theorists around the world.
hooks talks about popular culture as a site for pedagogy - this term describes a reiterative relationship of learning from student to teacher and vice versa. She discusses how students she taught in white, privileged schools feel a sense of entitlement about their future in a way that non-white, urban students do not imagine for themselves. hooks’ students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds have jobs, children and other responsibilities that shape their expectation of the future. It is not that hooks’ students from Harlem were any less brilliant, the issue is that they exist in a reality where the education system only deemed to provide them with the basic “tools” to get a job, rather than to enhance their lives in a more profound way.
hooks notes that critical thinking can enhance not just these students whose choices are constrained. Critical thinking is just as important for them as it is for middle and upper class people who are materially privileged, but who are experiencing a personal crisis. Critical thinking is about having the language and frames of reference to examine one’s life as well as the world around them and ask questions about the things we take for granted. Why is it okay to watch movies and expect women to be raped and killed as part of the narrative arc? Why do sexually desirable women in Hollywood so often get cast in the role of prostitute who gets beaten up? Why are women characters denied a complex personal journey? Women often have limited dialogue in the full scheme of the story. Men get to be heroes with interesting tales, even when their characters are despicable drunks. Why does Hollywood tell stories the way they do? Why cast a Black kid in the role of a thief? Why is it James Earl Jones who voices the the villain in Star Wars? Who decides that a deep Black male voice represents evil? Why is Spike Lee seen as a “failure” in Hollywood? Does an increased consumption of “Black culture” by white, privileged youth help eliminate social inequality, or is “Blackness” simply a commodity?
These questions may seem familiar to students of sociology, but they are not straightforward. hooks argues that it is possible to enjoy big release movies and yet ask questions and problematise what we see on screen. Why was this story told this way? Whose voice is being heard? Who is being silenced?
hooks discusses examples from the 1990s (the series is from 1997), such as Larry Clark’s controversial film Kids; the spectacle of race, gender and crime in the way news is reported (the O.J. Simpson trial); and Madonna’s exploitation of Black men and her sexuality in the pursuit of “greed.” hooks’ comments on rap have vital resonance. hooks explores whether rap culture can be thought as “authentic”, when mainstream rap producers are “pushing a product” - that is, the pursuit of wealth, via images and language that make abuse seem erotic. Rap music also perpetuates a “colour caste system” within Black culture, by elevating the status of lighter-skinned, straight-haired Black women over those with darker skin.
Finally, hooks argues that despite an increasing focus on visual forms of communication. reading and writing are incredibly important to critical thinking. hooks says that the books she has read have been at the heart of “major radical interventions” in her personal life. The written word complements visual representations, as hooks reminds us:
We cannot over-value enough the importance of literacy to a culture that is deeply visual. I mean rather than seeing literacy and the visual and our pleasure in the visual as oppositional to one another, I think we have to see them as compatible with one another. I don’t think we will get much further in terms of decolonising our minds. So that we can both resist certain kinds of conservatising representation and at the same time create new and exciting representations.
Speaking of major radical interventions - bell hook’s Margin to Centre had an incalculable impact on my ability to think critically. It’s a must read. I draw inspiration from it to this day, as well from hooks’ other works. I’m especially partial to Black Looks: Race and Representation.
Watch the Cultural Transformation series: start with part 1 here and part 2 will lead you to the subsequent four videos. I also encourage you to read the PDF transcript to help you digest the wealth of ideas.
- Source: zeezeescorner
Singular Beauty: Photographing Cosmetic Surgery Clinics
As the adage goes, document what you know. Cara Phillips has never gone under the knife of a plastic surgeon, but she has photographed dozens of plastic surgery rooms around the country — all under the glare of florescent surgery lights. A former child model, Phillips chose photography as a way to turn her own lens on an industry she felt objectified women — and to battle her own body image demons. The result is Singular Beauty, a book of haunting portraits of the insides of cosmetic surgery offices and their promise of a better you.
What drew you to document the beauty industry?
Before I became a photographer, I spent most of my life in the beauty business, first as a child model and later as makeup artist. From a very early age, I learned that being beautiful was both valuable and required of women. These experiences left me with some serious body-image issues. So the decision to focus my camera on beauty started off as a personal exploration, but as the project progressed, my focus shifted to the larger cultural issues of aging, desire, and physical perfection. The cosmetic surgery industry is the ultimate expression of the relentless American pursuit of youth and beauty.
- Reblogged from storyboard
Oh dear… Germaine Greer on the cover of a vintage edition of Life magazine from 1971. The text reads: “Saucy feminist that even men like.” Yes! Feminists are woefully preoccupied with how attractive they are to men. Men have an aversion to feminists… unless they’re deemed attractive. This is a fantastic example of why even on a surface level, feminism is important in challenging sexist notions of what it means to be a woman and a man. Feminism for all!
Image via Sarah Jensen.
- Source: zeezeescorner