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January 26, 2020

Lizzo and Sociocultural Constructions of the Body

author photoBy Angelique Harris

Anyone listening to the radio or pop or hip-hop steaming stations lately certainly were aware that 2019 was the summer of rapper, singer, songwriter, and flutist, Lizzo. Born Melissa Vivianne Jefferson in the late 1980s, Lizzo had been writing and producing music for several years before her music began topping the charts over the past year.

One of the key aspects of Lizzo’s work is the focus on acceptance and diversity. Her songs promote confidence (“Truth Hurts”) while celebrating race (“My Skin”) and diverse bodies (“Tempo”). For many, her frank and open discussion of her body, sexuality, and her overall musical abilities has led her to have an immense following. Her fans, dubbed “Lizzbians” include former Malcom in the Middle actor, Frankie Muniz, who tweeted a request to Lizzo, asking her to make him her “purse.”

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January 20, 2020

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fight for Equality

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is highly celebrated this time of year, with a national holiday in his name occurring on the third Monday of January, and as a heroic figure recognized during Black History Month in February. We revere King for his incredible “I Have a Dream speech” delivered in August 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. To remember King, I also like to teach my students about some of his other activism and speeches they may not know. It’s a way of appreciating more of what King valued and fought for, and contemplating what else he might have been able to accomplish had his life not tragically been cut short by assassination in 1968 at the age of 39.

It’s fitting that we honor King in the sociology community--he earned a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Morehouse College where he was president of the sociology club. In sociology courses we learn about racism, injustice, inequality, social change and so many other subjects that King spoke poetically about and worked on while being at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. A summary of his achievements can be viewed at The King Center website, where we can gain understanding about his leadership and Gandhi-inspired philosophy of nonviolent resistance.

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January 13, 2020

The Social Life of Physical Fitness

author photoBy Jonathan Wynn

I’m not what you would call a health nut. I only started going to the gym after I threw out my back. To be honest, I mostly hate it. I need to have Netflix on my phone (which is why a disproportionate number of my posts are about Netflix shows), have a few other televisions on ESPN, CNN, and HGTV above the mirrors, and a room full of people to watch. It’s then, and only then, that I can press the awareness of physical exercise out of my mind and run a few miles. Blah.

But it seems like most folks really like that kind of thing. If you think of health is a big deal right now, you’d be right. According to Forbes, the fitness industry is a $30 billion business—growing at an annual rate of 3-4% since 2010. If hashtags are a more meaningful metric for you, how about this: the Harvard Business Review, asking “How Did Self Care Become So Much Work?” noted that the hashtag #selfcare exploded on Instagram between mid-2018 to mid-2019, from 5 to 17 million posts.

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January 06, 2020

A Strong Economy?                  

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

How long does it take you to get to work? Would you drive an hour to get on a bus for a four-hour round trip to make $13.26 an hour?

This is what people are willing to do to travel from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis, Tennessee, to work at FedEx sorting and loading packages (FedEx covers the cost of the bus ride). As explained in this Wall Street Journal article, workers have been recruited in places with high unemployment rates at a time when the national unemployment rate is low. In one example, the $13.26 starting wage was a big improvement compared to the $7.85 hourly wage a person was making at a previous job. These part-time jobs, with some overnight shits, offer health and retirement benefits.

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December 30, 2019

Afrofuturism Can Save us All

Myron strongBy Myron Strong

“The world of ‘what is’ can be supplanted by the world of what never was or what could be.”

I spoke these words to an audience of college students during a presentation on pop culture and Afrofuturism this past spring. As I explained Afrofuturism, I shared the story about the many times I stargazed as a kid, but how this one time in particular that my mom and I actually saw a UFO. My memory of the experience isn’t as clear now, but I do know that it triggered my imagination.

Immediately after my presentation, students came up to me and I began to further connect the ideas between black people and science fiction and sociology. That experience left me thinking about ways to integrate Afrofuturism into my classes as a way to both reach students and to complicate the many long held canonical teaching beliefs.

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December 23, 2019

Fear and Fire

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Twice in a period of eight days, people in my zip code were affected by brush fires. While I have been fortunate and haven’t had to evacuate, I live in a community surrounded by a state park and therefore by lots of trees, so fire is always a threat here.

Needless to say, seeing plumes of smoke and having helicopters swirl overhead is a scary experience. Fire reminds us that we are not completely in control of our environment, or our lives, for that matter.

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December 16, 2019

Thinking Like a Sociologist: Is Minimalism a Social Movement?

author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Minimalism” seems to be everywhere, with advice on decluttering, living in tiny houses, or the promise of early retirement through frugal living seemingly endless online. Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was first published in 2014 and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, making the Japanese consultant a one-woman industry with her own Netflix series.

I confess that I have never read Kondo’s book, but am still drawn to the idea of simplifying and decluttering (but not living in a tiny house, although the HGTV series can be fun to watch). I spend less time online or watching television; I try to minimize mental clutter as much as physical clutter. I like going through my closet and donating little-used items, which also reminds me that I can do with less. I rarely go shopping. When I do, I try to be very conscientious about whether this is something I need. I prefer not to exchange gifts during the holiday season, especially because receiving stuff I don’t want or need from family and friends is awkward. My spouse and I decided a few years ago not to mark special occasions with gifts but rather with fun experiences like travel; when we travel I challenge myself to travel light.

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