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October 03, 2022

Smile for a Change

Cornelia Mayr Author Photo By Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

“The circus is coming! The circus is coming!” a colorful street poster silently shouted at us while a friend and I were walking down the sidewalk. Amazing trapeze artists, skilled acrobats in fabulous costumes and exotic animals, all captured in a performing pose in front of a tent-like symbol. Right next to the artistic performers grinned the huge face of a comical clown cheerfully down on us. “Clowns are creepy,” my friend claimed determinedly. “Why?” I asked him. “It’s because. I don’t know. Just look at them. They are... clownish.”

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September 26, 2022

Changes in the Middle: Explaining Shifts in the Middle Classes

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In my lifetime, there has been a major shift for middle income families, sometimes called the “middle class squeeze.” Some households have been squeezed up, as the growth in technology and globalization have created new high paying “knowledge class” occupations, especially in technology-related jobs. As I mentioned in a recent post about growing up in a middle- to upper-middle-class community during the 1970s and 1980s, I have witnessed how these changes have manifested in the past several decades.

What does this mean, how did this happen, and why does it matter?

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September 19, 2022

The Right to Grief Without Diagnosis: Prolonged Grief in These Times is Normal

Stacy Torres author photoBy Stacy Torres

I dreaded the recent one-year anniversary of my father’s death from lung cancer, sensing an expiration date on others’ patience with my grief. The recent inclusion of “prolonged grief disorder” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — which defines “prolonged” as lasting at least a year for adults—heightened my apprehension.

Is my intense sadness a mental illness or just being human? Rather than pathologize ten percent of grievers that may fall into “prolonged grief,” what if we instead embraced slower grieving?

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September 12, 2022

The Social Psychology of Kindness

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In my last post I wrote about how the stress of animal care has led to workers leaving the profession, and how I had hoped a brief note of appreciation after my cat’s surgical procedure might be a small antidote to this stress.

I have been particularly attuned to front-facing workplace stress since my own stints as a server in a restaurant and working in retail during and shortly after college. I know what it is like to be yelled at by a stranger for something you didn’t do or can’t control, and how it feels when there is nothing you can do but smile even when that is the last thing you feel like doing, something called emotional labor.

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September 05, 2022

Emotional Labor and Animal Care

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My cat recently needed oral surgery to have three teeth removed. It was an expensive procedure, as it required anesthesia and monitoring for most of the day. The local animal clinic is a busy place, too busy for its small storefront location, and humans are required to wait outside due to space limitations and the ongoing COVID pandemic. There is constant shuffling of newly arriving animals and those who have finished their appointments.

But staff there do a great job; they are quick to recognize when a patient arrives outside and immediately check in with the patient’s person. Vet techs later come to greet the animal with care, and the vet comes out after an examination, sits down with the person to discuss their findings. I received several phone calls throughout the day with updates about my cat’s progress, including when she was out of surgery and in recovery. When I came to pick her up a vet tech sat down and talked with me about her medication and follow-up care.

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August 22, 2022

Applying Sociology: Career Pathways to Consider

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

What to do with your degree in sociology? Students and graduates often ask this question, and it has many answers.

I recently wrote about how core concepts in sociology can help guide your career path, and how your career interests can guide your course path through the sociology major. I’ve discussed the tools your degree helps you build, how sociology can aid in an already chosen, non-academic career path, and how think tanks could be a great option for putting research skills to use.

Many sociologists with doctorates also pursue careers outside of academia. Footnotes—a magazine published by the American Sociological Association (ASA)—recently included essays written by sociologists with non-academic careers. The 2022 annual ASA meeting featured a Sociology in Practice Settings Symposium as well as sessions including “Exploring and Using Research Methods in Practice Settings” and “Applied Research with the Federal Government.”

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August 08, 2022

The End of Ending Relationships

Cornelia Mayr PhotoBy Cornelia Mayr

Department of Sociology, University of Klagenfurt, Austria

My colleague and I recently spoke about our experience with death. He asked me whether I have ever seen a dead person in real life. My answer was yes and so did he. Our experiences with death led us to talk about the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one for the last time.

How often do we say goodbye, see you, so long, ciao, adieu, adios, sayonara, auf Wiedersehen, to our family members, friends, or acquaintance--mostly with the taken-for-granted assumption that we will meet another time? In fact, the German word auf Wiedersehen literally means until we see each other again. But what if we won’t be able to see this person again or do not want to? Do we always part our ways harmoniously? If you had known that you will never see a person close to you again, how would you have said goodbye?

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