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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 colonial American. 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.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 20, 2019 at 5:54 am

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torch of the mystics

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The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
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Written by fabiorojas

May 19, 2019 at 12:14 am

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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katerina ballerina, covered by eunah cho

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A very slow, mellow approach to one my all time favorite jazz tunes. Sometimes slow cooking is the best cooking.

++++++++

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 12, 2019 at 12:37 am

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three easy and low cost ways to improve academia

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When people talk reform, they often talk about really big changes. Here, I’ll offer three simple policies that are low cost and easy to implement and would make academic life way, way easier:

  1. Do not require letters of recommendation for job applicants unless they are a finalist. Reason? First, as I noted before, research shows that letters do not predict future performance. They have low value, so ditch ’em. If you must use them, then only for people who have made the cut. Second, letters are not crucial for most applicants. Most of the action comes from PhD program prestige, publications/working papers, teaching portfolio, and awards. Third, lots of faculty fail to write them anyway. Fourth, letters encourage us to look at your friends, not your work.
  2. Limit the number of articles in your tenure or promotion file to five articles or one book plus three. Reason? Most tenure cases revolve around your best work, not your 12th best work. Also, if one really believes that academic CV’s are bloated, then this is a simple way to reduce the incentive for over production. Finally, it provides a relief for tenure committee members. A committee can genuinely read all five papers, but if you have 20 articles, it can be hard. Why five? Most people only have a few ideas to begin with. It is also enough space for a few big hits or a series of articles that lead to a big point.
  3. Multiple submission for articles. I have made this argument in the past many times. Books can be submitted to multiple presses, which usually prevents “hostage taking” that you find in journals, where an editor can hold a paper for years. It’s low cost in that it involves no new technology. If you are worried about reviewers doing too much work (e.g., reviewing a paper for journal A and B), the solution is easy – editors should just read papers, decide which ones should be “sped up” and let papers with slower reviews go to other journals. Thus, an editor can tell a reviewer “don’t bother writing the review, the paper went to another journal.”

Do you have a low cost and easy academic reform? Use the comments!

++++++++

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 10, 2019 at 12:31 am

Posted in uncategorized