By Sally Raskoff
Pete Seeger, one of many well-known sociology majors, passed away in January 2014 at the age of 94. His education in sociology reflects a specific time and place in history and his life experiences and impact on society reflect changes within sociology itself.
Seeger was a folk singer and activist, best known for songs like "If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" As is widely reported, he went to Harvard in 1936 to major in sociology to prepare for a career in journalism. Two years into the program, he dropped out (or, after failing an exam or failing to take an exam, he lost his scholarship).
Continue reading "Parsons, Seeger, and Marx" »
By Peter Kaufman
I love being a sociology professor. I really do. But as a young kid growing up, I did not lay awake at night dreaming about teaching and writing. Instead, like many young boys I aspired to be a professional athlete. More specifically, I wanted to be an Olympic athlete. Ever since I was a nine-year old watching the 1976 Montreal Olympics, I was trying to figure out what sport would give me the best chance to make the U.S. national team.
Continue reading "The Olympics and the Politics of Sport" »
By Peter Kaufman
Recently, in a speech to the nation, President Obama put me to shame sociologically. I know that Michelle Obama has a BA in sociology and that the President once worked as a community organizer—a job that is often filled by sociology graduates. But still, I live and breathe sociology—and of course I also teach it for a living. I like to pretend that I have the DNA of Karl Marx and C. Wright Mills coursing through my veins. How could I have let the President outdo me sociologically?
Continue reading "Holiday Wish Lists: Mine vs. President Obama’s" »
Sociology courses and concepts are not just for people
looking to become sociologists. I
wrote about the diversity of the sociology major recently, and mentioned
that journalists and even novelists can benefit from a degree in sociology. How
can storytellers enhance their skills by learning about sociology?
Continue reading "Sociology for Storytellers" »
By Jonathan Wynn
Having taught at a few different
colleges and universities, I’ve had students who knew the real struggles of
living in poverty and near poverty. But for every one of those students, there
have been hundreds more who were unfamiliar with the anxieties of everyday
economic uncertainty. Poverty is a hard
thing to teach about—both the very macro-level issues to the more personal,
blog post last year on McDonald’s was an invitation to think about work and
compensation at a global scale (on The Big Mac Index) recent news offers us a chance to connect the dots between the big
headlines of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, news on new campaigns
against low wage pay for fast food work, and those everyday economic hardships.
In all the talk about the Affordable Care Act, I’ve seen too much about broken
websites and not enough about those unemployed and low-wage workers who need
Continue reading "Big Corporations and Big Social Programs " »
As many cities and communities face budget cuts, parks and
other cultural gathering places often seem like unnecessary extravagances. For individuals recover from the economic downturn, going to the theater, a ballet
or opera might also be far too pricey. The
city of Detroit may even auction off its art museum’s treasures in order to
cope with bankruptcy. But the arts and public places for recreation can
redefine communities, socially, culturally and economically.
Continue reading "The Power of Parks and Museums" »
By Peter Kaufman
This is a busy and stressful time to be President of
the United States: The government was until recently shutdown, he’s facing an impasse
with Congressional Republicans, the on-going violence in Syria (not to mention
the rest of the Middle East), the recent commando raids in Libya and Somalia,
the early snags of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), and the naming of
the new chief of the Federal Reserve. Despite all of this, President Obama
found time recently to weigh in on a matter that many Americans are probably
more familiar with than most of these other current events: The Washington Redskins football team mascot.
Continue reading "Redskins, Blackskins, Brownskins, Whiteskins: Race and Team Mascots" »
By Peter Kaufman
“Is Calling Cheating Cheating,
Cheating?” This was the title of a paper I wrote back in graduate school for a
class on the sociology of deviance. This playful (or confusing) use of words
was my attempt at getting at the uncertainty that sometimes surrounds actions
that we deem improper. The point I was trying to make with this title is that
it seems wrong to call some acts of inappropriate behavior inappropriate. A
particular act might be referred to as cheating but upon closer inspection we
may realize that it’s not entirely accurate to label this act as wrong.
Continue reading "Constructing Deviance: A-Rod, Drugs, and Cheating" »
No matter what your comedic taste, most stand-up comedians
have one thing in common: their jokes are based on observations of human
Their observations sometimes ring true, or at least
entertain others by the conclusions they may draw. Because of the context,
comedians can sometimes push the envelope regarding the rules of polite social
behavior. Of course they may offend some—maybe a lot of people—in the process.
Comedians are interesting to think about sociologically;
what topics do they focus on? What conclusions do they draw?
Continue reading " Comedians and Sociological Questions" »
By Jonathan Wynn
I recently saw the trailer
for an upcoming Christmas movie, The
Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller. It is a remake of a classic 1947 film about a mild-mannered man who
daydreams about his own fantastical successes and journeys. As an undergrad I
often felt assigned books were daydreams too. I would read old ethnographies and
then envision myself as the noble researcher: diving into unknown worlds and becoming
a member of some group or tribe. Early on, I had no idea how troubling this
idea really was.
As a grad student I read a
lot of qualitative research with a more trained eye, preparing to embark on my
own research, and saw the same storylines of participant-observers struggling
to be accepted as members of the groups they study. Sometimes, ferreted away in
an appendix, there will be admissions that the ethnographer didn’t quite fit.
Continue reading "Failure is an Option: Lessons from Mitty and Sports Journalism" »