March 21, 2014

The Context of Understanding World Events

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

How aware are you of world events? As you are reading this, whats happening in the world?

As I write this, there are things happening with Russia and the Ukraine and Crimea. The missing Malaysian airplane is still missing. I wonder if theyll find it by the time you read this?

There are many things going on in the world that concern people--if they know about them.

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March 18, 2014

Stop and Frisk Through a Sociological Lens

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you live in or near New York, no doubt you have heard of a policing policy called “stop and frisk.” For those unfamiliar with the practice, stop and frisk involves police officers questioning and searching pedestrians for weapons if they deem them to be suspicious. This is different from an arrest, and there need not be a crime under investigation to justify a stop and frisk.  Instead, the idea is that this practice could stop a crime before it even happens.

In 2013, a judge ruled that stop and frisk was unconstitutional, as it was mainly used to stop—and many would argue harass—people of color on a daily basis. When Mayor Bill DiBlasio took office in 2014, he vowed that the police would discontinue the practice.

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March 13, 2014

Gentrification in Spike Lee’s Old Neighborhood

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The old complaints about how New York isn’t New York anymore are coming up again. In truth, they are rarely far from many people’s lips. All neighborhoods change, and at times those transitions can be quite unnerving and very, very personal. But it is a tricky issue that touches on race, class, and community.

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March 10, 2014

Peace and Friendship in Crimea

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

If you have been following the news you have probably heard a lot about Crimea. I’m guessing that many Americans had (or maybe still have) no idea where Crimea is or why we should care about it.

This has not been the case for me. Whenever I think of Crimea I always think of peace and friendship. Such a sentiment may seem rather odd given the current geo-political strife that is confronting that region of the world. With Vladimir Putin flexing his military muscles and President Obama spewing threatening cease and desist warnings, peace and friendship are not the keywords that one currently associates with Crimea.

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March 06, 2014

Why My Paper is Late: Excuses and Justifications

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s the middle of the semester now, time for papers and exams. It’s also time to hear many excuses and justifications by some students about why their papers are late, why they can’t take an exam, or why they did not do as well as they could have on the exam.

Part of human interaction involves the explanations we provide about our behavior to one another, often to save face or create a positive impression of ourselves. In a classic 1968 article, sociologists Marvin B. Scott and Stanford Lyman define these explanations as accounts,  “statement(s) made by a social actor to explain unanticipated or untoward behavior.” They note that accounts come in two varieties: excuses and justifications.

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March 03, 2014

Poverty Education and Tourism

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Walking through San Juan, Puerto Rico during the Feista de Calle San Sebastian, I left the touristy center of Old San Juan. Away from the blue cobblestoned streets and brightly colored colonial buildings of Puerto Rico’s most viable tourist bubble, I walked through an old gate. Locals say residents often stand guard in an attempt to dissuade people like me from entering the rundown area called La Perla.

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February 27, 2014

The Social Evolution of Gender

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In February 2014, Facebook updated the choices that users can use to describe their gender. Their options for gender were previously limited to “male” and “female” but it seems that Facebook is acknowledging both the cultural patterns outside our dominant cultural norms and the ability of people to define themselves, particularly in social settings.

These, according to Slate.com are the 56 choices for “gender” on Facebook.

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February 24, 2014

Sociology Lessons in Kindergarten

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

I happen to know several children who are either in kindergarten or will be soon. Hearing about their experiences and those of their parents made me realize that kindergarten offers many sociology lessons, both inside the classroom and out.

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February 19, 2014

C. Wright Mills, Public Sociologist

Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 1.32.27 PMBy Arlene Stein

Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University, and co-editor of Contexts

While there are certainly aspects of our lives which are unique to us as individuals, so much of what we experience— the ways we eat, we think, we live— are products of how and where we are situated. Society, in other words, makes up people. 

At the same time, we also act upon the world--we make history. We do so by raising children and teaching them, to the best of our abilities, to be good citizens; by participating in the world of work and being a part of different organizations, by developing relationships with coworkers, subcultures, and at times, by joining social movements. 

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February 17, 2014

Sociology and Mindfulness Meditation

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

Clear your desk of your books and water bottles. Sit in a comfortable, but upright position. Bring your attention to your breathing. Notice your stomach expanding on your in-breath and contracting on your out-breath. At the sound of the chime, try to stay focused on your breathing for 10 breaths, with each inhalation and exhalation counting as one breath. If your mind starts to wander, try to note when this happens and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing until you hear the chime. 

These instructions describe a short exercise I do in some of my classes when I introduce students to mindfulness meditation.  Mindfulness meditation is the practice of being fully present in the moment. By sitting still and just following our breath, mindfulness meditation helps cultivate awareness, attentiveness, and calmness. The roots of mindfulness meditation are generally associated with Buddhism but it is often presented in a secular fashion in the West.

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