Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category
Hector Cordero-Guzman is a sociologist at CUNY who writes extensively on immigration, ethnicity, and related topics. In relation to our post on race agnosticism, Hector reminded me that he wrote a post on measuring race for the blog Latino Rebels. In the post, he describes his reaction and analysis to the claim that Latinos were increasingly self-identifying as white. From the post:
A draft presentation at the Population Association of America (PAA) chronicled by a Pew Research senior writer was then picked up by Nate Cohn, writing for The New York Times’ “Upshot” blog. In the eyes of Cohn, his editor David Leonhardt and the Times, and based on a report that the scientific community has not seen or evaluated, Latinos were becoming “whiter.”
Surrounding all the controversy and discussion about reporting on research that was not available for inspection or review by other academics, two explanations to the tentative result from the unavailable census study have emerged: that the people changed (Cohn, Leonhardt and The Times) or that the census questions changed (Manuel Pastor in the HuffPost).
He follows with an analysis that can be summarized as:
A second possibility is that the context where the question is asked matters and that asking about race in Puerto Rico is different than asking the same population about their race in New York City. The question is not changing and the people are not changing—what is changing is the context, the reference point, the broader racial classification schema and categories that are used, how they are interpreted, their subjective meaning, and their social and sociological role.
Cohn further argues that the reported change in the answers given to the race question suggest Hispanic assimilation into the U.S. and into its racial classification schema. If anything, comparing data from Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans in New York City suggests that mainland Puerto Ricans develop a sense of “otherness” as they come into closer contact with the U.S. racial classification regime. In fact, it would be interesting to compare the data from Puerto Rico with data from Puerto Ricans throughout the U.S. (not just New York City), those residing in various regions, as well as looking at the more recent arrivals to see if the categories they pick are different from Puerto Ricans that have been living on the mainland for a longer period of time.
In other words, study context acts as important cue for creating interpretations of race on surveys. The whole post is highly recommended.
Orgheads, I will be travelling a bit in late October and early November. If you want to hang and talk sociology, organizations, or whatever, just drop by! We’ll make some time:
- October 17: Mississippi State University – “More Tweets, More Votes.” New results + a Grad Skool Rulz bonus round.
- October 24: The University of Southern California – “The Four Histories of Black Power: A Sociological Challenge to Black Power Historical Scholarship.” ’nuff said.
- November 10-13: SocInfo 2014!! The conference that bridges computer science and social science. This conference will be held at Yahoo Headquarters in Barcelona.
See you then!
Earlier this week, Ann Morning of NYU sociology gave a talk at the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society. Her talk summarized her work on the meaning of race in varying scientific and educational contexts. In other words, rather than study what people think about other races (attitudes), she studies what people think race is. This is the topic of her book, The Nature of Race.
What she finds is that educated people hold widely varying views of race. Scientists, textbook writers, and college students seem to have completely independent views of what constitutes race. That by itself is a key finding, and raises numerous other questions. Here, I’ll focus on one aspect of the talk. Morning finds that experts do not agree on what race is. And by experts, she means Ph.D. holding faculty in the biological and social sciences that study human variation (biology, sociology, and anthropology). This finding shouldn’t be too surprising given the controversy of the subject.
What is interesting is the epistemic implication. Most educated people, including sociologists, have rather rigid views. Race is *obviously* a social convention, or race is *obviously* a well defined population of people. Morning’s finding suggests a third alternative: race agnosticism. In other words, if experts in human biology, genetics, and cultural studies themselves can’t agree and these disagreements are random (e.g., biologists themselves disagree quite a bit), then maybe other people should just back off and admit they don’t know.
This is not a comfortable position since fights over the nature of human diversity are usually proxies for political fights. Admitting race agnosticism is an admission that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Your entire side in the argument doesn’t know what it’s talking about. However, it should be natural for a committed sociologist. Social groups are messy and ill defined things. Statistical measures of clustering may suggest that the differences among people are clustered and nonrandom, but jumping from that observation to clearly defined groups is very hard in many cases. Even then, it doesn’t yield the racial categories that people use to construct their social worlds based on visual traits, social norms, and learned behaviors. In such a situation, “vulgar” constructionism and essentialism aren’t up to the task. When the world is that complicated and messy, a measure of epistemic humility is in order.
Thomson Reuters has released a press announcement about their predictions for the 2014 Nobel prizes. They project it based on citation patterns. Check out the section on economics:
Mark S. Granovetter
Joan Butler Ford Professor and Chair of Sociology, and Joan Butler Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University
Stanford, CA USA
For his pioneering research in economic sociology
Kewl!!! Even if Granovetter never wins, he’ll always be recognized as a leader in sociological approaches to markets. And remember, if he does win – WE CALLED IT IN 2007. And yes, we just based it on citation patterns.
H/T: Umut Koc, who posted this on the Facebook orgtheory group.