109 posts categorized "Crime and Deviance"

July 18, 2014

Collective Memory and the Danger of Forgetting

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

A few years ago I wrote about the importance of collective memories following the centennial coverage of the sinking of the Titanic. Collective memories are societal-level memories, shared by regularly told stories, and are often events we might have intimate knowledge of even if we weren’t born when they occurred.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy, the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the 20th anniversary of O.J. Simpson’s “slow speed chase” and subsequent arrest. Why are these events part of our collective memories?

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July 11, 2014

So Fresh Saturdays: Public Events and Building Collective Action

Teresa gonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

One of the few reasons I keep a Facebook page is so that I can keep up to date on the various community-building activities within Chicago. These range from hyper-local block club parties and various neighborhood festivals, to citywide events and music concerts held in the downtown Loop area.

In his book, Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect, Robert Sampson highlights the importance of community building activities as ways to increase collective efficacy. Put simply, collective efficacy means social cohesion (or connectivity) combined with shared goals and expectations regarding group behaviors.

For Sampson, public activities are particularly relevant in poor communities, where he argues that a history of concentrated poverty leads to a decrease in collective efficacy, and diminishes civic action. He argues, and I agree, that these events, and the increased relationships between neighbors that result from these events, can improve citizen involvement and lead to what Archon Fung terms “empowered participation” or innovative problem-solving and civic action by and amongst low-income residents.

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June 27, 2014

#YesAllWomen

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

When I was in high school, I met an old friend at our local park for a picnic. She had moved after elementary school so we were attending different schools and hadn’t seen each other for some time. We spread out our blanket, sat down, and proceeded to share food and stories.

Before long, a man came along, probably in his mid-late twenties, sat on our blanket and attempted to join in with our conversation. We both just looked at him for the first few minutes, shocked that he would be so bold. He continued talking to us, flirting, and asking us what we were “into.” We asked him to leave—we were not looking for a party or anyone else to talk to—but he refused to leave. Long story short, we had to leave the park to get rid of him. He tried to follow us but we made a lot of noise once we were nearer to other people and he wandered away. I never went back to that park.

I was reminded of this incident after the Isla Vista (Santa Barbara) murders occurred and the hashtag #YesAllWomen emerged and burned up the internet.

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April 21, 2014

Alcohol and the Social Construction of Social Problems

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

What do we know about the problems associated with alcohol, and how do we know it?

For many people, the first thing that comes to mind is that alcohol is a mainly problem of teens and college students. How do we know this? For one, we are taught at early ages about the dangers of teen drinking. Many universities include alcohol safety awareness as part of orientation programs. And we frequently hear stories in the news about young people who drink and drive or otherwise cause problems while drinking. Researchers study the incidence of teen drinking, often funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies. Then the results of these studies are reported in the news, helping us focus on teens as problem drinkers.

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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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February 06, 2014

“Affluenza,” Privilege and Justice

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Last year, Ethan Couch, 16, drove drunk and killed four people and severely injured two others in Texas. The case made national news when during the sentencing face his legal team claimed that he “suffered” from “affluenza”. In other words, the teen got everything he wanted and did not learn that his actions had consequences because his parents were lenient. The judge allowed him to go to a treatment facility, funded by his parents to the tune of $450,000 a year, instead of prison.

Affluenza is not a new term—when I was in high school in the 1980s my school district sent pamphlets to parents warning them of the dangers of giving kids too much—and it is not actually a psychiatric diagnosis.

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November 25, 2013

Race Education at Your Front Door

WinklewagnerFULL By Rachelle Winkle-Wagner
University of Wisconsin - Madison 
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis

After a devastating report about racial stratification in Madison, Wisconsin, the city in which I live, I am thinking a lot about social stratification and the way in which we keep reenacting it. In the report in Madison, the findings maintained that although the city is outwardly progressive, with a major university and many self-proclaimed White liberals, it way may also be one of the “racist cities in America” in terms of racial stratification; over three-quarters of the city’s Black population live in poverty, and there are persistent racial disparities in educational outcomes.

As a White scholar of race in education, I am particularly interested in the “education” that people are getting about race, not just in our formal brick-and-mortar institutions, but in everyday life.  Recently, a woman in a suburb of Detroit, Renisha McBride, had a car accident in the middle of the night. Unarmed, and needing help, she knocked on a door of a suburban White homeowner, and she was shot in the head. Since then, the homeowner has made a claim that the shooting was “justified” because he feared for his safety. While the homeowner is facing murder and manslaughter charges, his case is likely to rest on whether he was “reasonable” to shoot an unarmed Black woman in the face.  

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November 18, 2013

The Sociology of Harassment

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Last year I wrote about pranks and I have received several phone calls over the last two weeks from sports radio folks wanting me to talk about the alarming story coming out of the Miami Dolphins football team. These talk radio guys seem to want to know: “Isn’t a prank just a prank?” The answer has to do with power, institutions, masculinity in sports and, in this case, race.

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November 11, 2013

The Dangerous Dynamic of Gender

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you noticed the demographics of the people who tend to perpetrate mass shootings in public spaces? I’ve noticed they tend to be young, male, from middle class backgrounds, and socially isolated. These are not trivial factors.

Gender is key to this pattern. The age, class, and lack of social networks link with gender to create a situation in which the person sees the public shooting as a viable option to express their frustration. More maturity (which hopefully comes with age) and social support may allow frustrated people alternative outlets. Middle class resources bring the possibility of purchasing sometimes costly weapons and ammunition that are kept in one’s home. Most of these crimes utilize legal weapons that are part of the lifestyle of the perpetrator’s family and culture.

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September 27, 2013

Constructing Deviance: A-Rod, Drugs, and Cheating

Peter_kaufmanBy 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.

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