September 15, 2014

Ebola and the Construction of Fear

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

No doubt you have heard about the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which received heightened attention in the news after three Americans working as missionaries in Liberia contracted the virus. The first two, diagnosed in mid-August, become the topic of debate when they were given an experimental drug and airlifted home to the U.S.

Some wondered why they received the drug, while thousands of those infected in Africa did not (it is currently considered experimental and apparently in very short supply). Others expressed concern that they would spread the disease in the U.S. and should have been treated in Liberia.

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September 11, 2014

Gender and Sexual Assaults on Campus

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

As we go back to school, there has been a lot of talk about preventing sexual assault on campus. This is not a new problem. In fact, I wrote a blog about rape and sexual assault two years ago.

Much of the discussion is about assessing the rate of sexual assault on college campuses, but even after the Clery Act, it’s often difficult to know what the actual numbers are or how to prevent it. However, the prevention tips and policies are one-sided, typically focusing on how potential rape and sexual assault victims can avoid being victimized.

It’s like saying to a murder victim, don’t get in the way of your potential murderer. Blaming the victim is not an effective way to deal with any issue.

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September 08, 2014

What is “Affordable” Housing?

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

On July 21, 2014 Inae Oh published an article at the Huffington Post that discussed the New York City Council approved development of a condominium high-rise at 40 Riverside Boulevard on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The planned development will provide 218 market-rate condominiums with views of the Hudson River, and access to amenities such as a child area, gym, and swimming pool. 

In order to create a larger footprint and obtain millions in tax breaks through New York City’s Inclusionary Housing Program, Extell, the developer of this project, will also provide 55 affordable housing rental units to moderate- and low-income residents.  The “affordable” rental units will go for $845 for a studio, $908 for a one-bedroom, and $1099 for a two-bedroom. 

Households with incomes that are 60% below New York City’s median income are eligible to apply.  To qualify for these units a family of four will need to make less than $51,540 a year and a single person will need to make less than $36,120 a year.  Tenants in the affordable housing units will not have access to the building’s amenities and will have to enter through a separate door – which from photographs appears to be located in an alleyway

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September 03, 2014

The Unintended Manhattan Project Experiment

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Moving to a new place is always a challenge…but what about a place that is new to everybody?

During World War II, an interesting—an unintended—sociological experiment took place when a few communities were built from scratch during the top-secret development of the nuclear bomb. People relocated to these restricted areas from all around the country, turning what once were desolate or sparsely populated areas into thriving mini-cities. Scientists, secretaries, technicians, and other workers came, along with their children, wives, and husbands to work on “The Project,” and in the process, create a new, if short-lived community.

How do people create communities where none exists? And why do communities matter?

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August 29, 2014

The Sociology of Time

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

I just finished reading a book called Einstein’s Dreams. Author Alan Lightman, a theoretical physicist, muses over what Einstein’s dreams might have been when pondering different conceptions of time. The stories are informed by theoretical physics and creativity, art and science.

Each chapter is a different "dream" in which time is experienced differently than how we experience time. The setting is the same— the historical period and place where Einstein worked as a patent clerk—but the time differences affect what happens in each dream.

Reading this book made me think about our relationship to time in personal subjective terms, in cultural terms, and in structural terms.

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August 25, 2014

Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, and the Invisibility of Race

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Fans of the Colbert Report are familiar with Stephen Colbert’s long-running routine about not seeing race (here is one of many examples during his interview with Michelle Alexander).  Pretending to be a conservative talk-show host, Colbert often pretends that he does not see race and that we live in a society where skin color is no longer important. He is especially fond of emphasizing this last point given that we have a Black president in the White House.

Although Colbert is playing this role to get laughs from his audience, the sad irony is that the majority of conservatives and a fair number of whites actually subscribe to this point of view.  The idea that race is no longer important in the United States becomes particularly evident when there are confrontations between Black citizens and white police officers. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black man who was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, offers a prime example.

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August 13, 2014

Siblings and Sociology

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you have siblings, you might feel like you have little in common with them despite growing up in the same family. I have certainly known families where siblings couldn’t have been more different, with diverging value systems, political beliefs, and aspirations.

Then again, some siblings share many similar attributes, educational strengths and even career aspirations. I’ve known brothers who joined the same fraternity during their college years, and siblings who chose to attend the same out-of-state university years apart. I remember years ago my mother and her sister unintentionally bought the same dress to wear to a family event despite living in different cities and shopping at different stores.

What makes siblings different or similar?

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