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racism review blog

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When I lamented the decline of sociology blogs, a number of people gently reminded me that some blogs kept going and had active readerships. One such blog is Racism Review, which is very active. I want you all to go check it out and leave some constructive comments. Here are a few recent posts:

Recommended!

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BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

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Written by fabiorojas

May 24, 2019 at 12:25 am

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book spotlight: the mindful elite by jaime kucinskas

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Jaime K book cover

It’s a real pleasure to write about the scholarship of Jaime Kucinskas. She’s one of those amazing A+ Indiana sociology graduate students and a good friend. So I was thrilled when she finished her doctoral degree and began teaching at Hamilton College. Her new book, The Mindful Elite, is really great contribution to social movement studies and the social scientific analysis of religion.

Her basic puzzle is this: Religious change is usually a very contentious process, but Buddhism and meditation in America appeared with relatively little struggle. Why? Based on field work at meditation organizations and interviews with leaders, she argues that Eastern meditative practices appeared in America as a result of a quiet mobilization among elites in academia and science.

The basic story is this. Meditative practices, associated with various non-Western traditions, have been in America for a while but it wasn’t until the 1960s that it was picked up by scientists, scholars, and business leaders. Then, they engaged in a sort of “stealth mobilization” where meditative practices were “laundered” through high status institutions, such as universities. They created an “elite circuit” of conferences, workshops, and institutes that were designed to develop a more palatable version of meditative practices for American audiences. Once they got some traction among elites, meditation could be talked about in the media and it could incorporated into daily organizational practices.

The story is more nuanced than my summary admits, and not every attempt at “back door” institutionalization worked, but it’s a good story that all social movement scholars should pay attention to. Recommended!!

++++++++

BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 22, 2019 at 12:19 am

Posted in uncategorized

my own private lantern law

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lantern law sculpture

This sculpture by Kapwani Kiwanga is an abstract representation of a Black person carrying a lantern in early America. From the show at MIT’s Visual Arts Center

In colonial America, lantern laws required that African Americans travel at night with candles. The law, presumably, was designed to address the fears that people had of Blacks. Simone Brown, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, describes these laws further in an interview about her work on surveillance of Blacks:

Lantern laws were 18th century laws in New York City that demanded that Black, mixed-race and Indigenous enslaved people carry candle lanterns with them if they walked about the city after sunset, and not in the company of a white person. The law prescribed various punishments for those that didn’t carry this supervisory device. Any white person was deputized to stop those who walked without the lit candle after dark.

I was reminded of lantern laws recently, as I have had to confront these issues. Last year, I was walking home from teaching my night class on social theory. I was on the sidewalk, about four blocks away from my home. It was in the evening, approximately 9:30 pm. I was briskly walking along and a car pulls up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

May 20, 2019 at 5:54 am

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torch of the mystics

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++++++++

BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 19, 2019 at 12:14 am

Posted in uncategorized

contexts magazine & sociology at the brookings institution

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Brookings announce

It is my pleasure to announce the first ever Contexts policy event. The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. is one the premier non-profits in the nation that develops and debates public policy. They graciously agreed to host a panel focused on the Winter 2019 issue of Contexts Magazine, which focused on racial differences in wealth. It is Monday, June 3 and it is free and open to the public. Please join us. Register here!!!

The panel will feature Thomas Shapiro of Brandeis sociology and Sasha Killewald of Harvard sociology. We will be joined by Tonia Wellons of the Greater Washington Community Foundation and Camille Busette, director of the Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative at Brookings. My dear friend and co-editor, Rashawn Ray, will help guide the discussion and talk about the role of sociology in the policy process.

In addition to focusing on this one specific issue, we hope that this sets the stage for future dialogue between academic sociology and policy focused institutions. We hope that this will begin a discussion for how forge more durable between connections between the sociological community and the non-profit sector. So if you are in DC on that day, please come by! You might also register for the webcast if you are out of town.

++++++++

BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 16, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Posted in uncategorized

steven lubet vs. the entire field of ethnography

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Contexts magazine recently published an article by Northwestern law professor Professor Steven Lubet where he argued that ethnographers should seriously be interested in verifying claims reported in ethnographies. This is part of his bigger effort to critique ethnographic practices, not only in terms of truth making but also in terms of research ethics. Here are the links, some critics of Lubet, and then I’ll give you my brief opinion:

My take: Overall, I am on “Team Lubet.” I won’t relitigate earlier issues, but I will say that ethnographies are not exempt from the ethical principles that govern human behavior in general and social research in particular.

In terms of his specific issue in the Contexts article, I am mostly in agreement. This isn’t about legal standards vs. social science. It is about the robustness of research. If ethnography is to be taken seriously as a form of data collection, then we should be confident in the individual datum. In other words, if you said X happened, then when people check it out, given available resources, it should check out.

I have actually published some ethnography (see here, for example) but I am mostly an outsider to the ethnography community in sociology. From my “near outsider” view point, I sense that people are conflating Lubet’s fairly sensible criticisms with people who think that ethnography is junk science. Some of the response reflects this sore spot. Michael Burawoy’s point brings up empiricism and positivism, which I think is not quite right. You don’t need to be a hard core positivist to believe that ethnography might be strengthened with verification.

I am not an ethnographer hater. I take the opposite view point. Ethnography is one of the most powerful tools that can be used to study human behavior. But it only works if, within reason, the individual data points are valid (e.g., they report truth) and reliable (e.g., others who investigate report similar data). This is the same standard we hold for any research. Without this standard of evidence, ethnographic field notes are no more valuable than a survey filled out by randomly choosing answers.

++++++++

BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 15, 2019 at 12:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

why not give it away for free? a response to michael bishop on cost and content

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I recently announced “Sociology Experiment” on the blog and on Twitter. The idea is simple. A team would write an intro text book and make it available for a whopping $1 per chapter. Since the book only has $14 chapters, no student would ever pay more than $14 for the course. Now that’s a bargain!

On Facebook, Michael Bishop asked a question – why not give it away for free? A few short notes before I give a more developed answer. First, I welcome anyone who wants to put out their own free book. It is something that someone should definitely try. Second, Michael isn’t crazy. A lot of content and software is open source and free to the public – Wikipedia, R, Python, Open Culture, GitHub, and so forth.

Now, let me give an answer for why a sociology textbook might not be best served by a free, open source model. What are the main reasons that someone would contribute to an open source project? Why would someone put in serious labor for free? Here are the big ones:

  1. Love of the subject – Example: You love chess, so you add your knowledge to wiki.
  2. Future job prospects – Example: Many programmers contribute to share ware and open source because employers may see it as a sign of skill.
  3. Small contribution – Example: You contribute a few sentences to a Wikipedia entry and improve it.
  4. Small marginal cost – Example: Adding your contribution to an open source project is pretty easy because you’ve already done most of the work. If, say, you have already spent a lot of time on a tool for quickly searching Reddit, why not produce an open source one and get some credit?

Here is why these incentives don’t apply in much text book writing, in my opinion.

  1. There is no love for writing textbooks or course materials. Few people do it for fun.
  2. Academic don’t get rewarded – in terms of jobs or raises – for writing textbooks. In fact, it is the sort of activity that will probably set you back.
  3. Writing a text book that lots of people will enjoy and use is, in absolute terms, a very big investment of time. It will absolutely displace your regular work.
  4. Even writing a single chapter requires a lot of time and it is rarely the byproduct of some other project. The marginal cost is large.

Finally, on a philosophical level, I am not against free content. I think it’s lovely. But when some of the finest scholars set out to write a textbook for the discipline, they have earned their reward. If you use what they make, give them money! Decency requires nothing less.

++++++++

BUY THESE BOOKS!!
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

May 13, 2019 at 12:16 am

Posted in uncategorized