Part 2 of our series on how to be a sociologist! (Listen to part 1 here). Did you know that sociology makes you a better person? Even if you’ve never taken a sociology class, you can still use the sociological perspective to understand the social world. Regardless of where you are in the world and what position you have in society, you do not live in a vacuum. We are all interrelated somehow. Join us this week to learn about how to employ the sociological imagination to see the connections between your personal problems and public issues. Think, don’t accept! Question your assumptions! See the world critically! And don’t be a dumbass.
Sociology, sociological imagination, sociological perspective
- Read the first chapter of C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination
- Watch a video on C. Wright Mills’ concept of the Sociological Imagination
Words may not bring you down, but your looks may bring you to far places.How do you know you’re beautiful? If it is a social construction, where does this all come from? Beauty is a rich and powerful phenomenon and we all participate in this process. Good looks allow you to be upwardly mobile. Carving out a particular aesthetic is part of a culture built on consumerism and superficial ideas about human bodies. We have to challenge this and break it down, of course. So come join us in this week’s episode about beauty–in every single way!
Beauty, body, fashion, consumerism, consumer culture
- The beauty industry is valued at $445 billion
- Historical notion of beauty: “A Look Back at Beauty Through History”
- Scientific notion of beauty: How symmetry indicates good health from The Economist (2012), “On The Face Of It”
- Sociological notion of beauty from Anthony Synnott’s (1989) “Truth and Goodness, Mirrors and Masks”
Beauty is… a rich and powerful phenomenon, with many meanings at different levels or in different dimensions at different frequencies… The significance [of beauty] is immense, psychological and sociological, economic and literary, philosophical and even theological; they are entwined with non-verbal communication, mood and character assessment, social mobility, helping behavior of all sorts, sexuality and a wide range of personal and moral qualities; furthermore beauty may be seen as physical or spiritual, inner or outer, natural or artificial, subjective or objective, positive or even negative (p. 610-611).
- “Beautiful People Make More Money”
- On the halo effect from W. Gerrod Parrott’s (2014) The Positive Side of Negative Emotions
People judge a good looking person as having a more desirable personality, or perhaps infer that a young unorthodox-looking female is less likely to be a competent philosopher than a middle-aged male.
- How women were convinced they needed to shave their legs (Vox)
- Hugh Hefner’s obituary
- If you’re interested in the notion of Beauty as a Status, here’s a good journal article by James Driskell
- “Skin Bleaching: Why Black Women in a Predominately Black Culture Are Still Bleaching Their Skin” (Marie Claire)
Skin bleaching is “deeply rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism. Historically, “brown” Jamaicans were the product of relationships between black Jamaicans and white slave-owners or colonial rulers, and often received greater access to land and resources as a result of their white ancestry. Today, lighter brown skin is still read as a marker of privilege and access—class is often divided among racial lines, with wealthier and more powerful Jamaicans generally being white and brown, while poor Jamaicans are mostly black. In this context, Charles says, skin bleaching becomes a strategic choice.”
What’s your favorite brand? Do you believe in retail therapy? What about how ‘a diamond is forever’? Consumer culture surrounds us in every aspect of our social lives, and is virtually impossible to ignore, especially with the development of the internet and new media technologies that bombard us with ads while providing us with the tools to be creative and powerful consumers. But are you, the consumer, being exploited by big name corporations? Join us to find out!
Consumer culture, consumption, prosumption, internet, brand loyalty, exploitation
- Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
- “How Retailers Trick You with Their Amazing Black Friday ‘Discounts'”
- Production, Consumption, Prosumption by George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson (2010)
- Justin Knapp, the super Wikipedia prosumer
- Thorstein Veblen on conspicuous consumption
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments.
- Definition of Exploitation from the Blackwell Encyclopedia
Exploitation occurs when someone or something (e.g., a material resource, an opportunity) is used or taken advantage of. Social scientists are chiefly concerned with the exploitation of people and classes, who are generally considered exploited if they are required, by force or by circumstances, to contribute more to some process than they receive in return.
- Lil Yachty’s diamond chain of his own face
- Adam Ruins Everything on the De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” marketing scam
- Blood Diamonds (Time Magazine editorial)
- “Escalating Sweatshops Protests Keep Nike Sweating”
- “Life and Death in Apple’s Forbidden City”, an article on Apple’s Foxcon factories
- “Yes, prisoners used to sew lingerie for Victoria’s Secret”
- Juliet Schor’s The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need (1999)
- The Tiny House Movement
- The Minimalists on Minimalism
- Keeping up with the Kardashian pregnancies article
Why does Kim K get to “break the internet?” Do celebrities reflect our exaggerated imaginations? Where does all that money go? Why does Woody Allen get to make movies and Ben Rothlisberger get to still play football? In this week’s we tackle Celebrity status and its presence in contemporary society. Trust us, there is no other status with this much power and mystery…let’s break it down.
Status, Celebrity, American Culture, Popular Culture, Entertainment, Celebrity culture
- Short biography on Max Weber, one of the founding fathers of sociology
- Weber on Class, Status, and Power
- Jonathan Turner and Jan Stets’ (2004) The Sociology of Emotions – On Theodore Kemper’s theory on structure and emotions, status, and power.
Within social situations, individuals possess relative power (authority), or the ability to tell others what to do, and status (conceptualized as prestige or honor rather than as a position in a structure).
- Quote from Kurzman et al.’s reading on Celebrity status
“Celebrity is an omnipresent feature of contemporary society, blazing lasting impressions in the memories of all who cross its path. In keeping with Weber’s conception of status, celebrity has come to dominate status “honor,” generate enormous economic benefits, and lay claim to certain legal privileges. Compared with other types of status, however, celebrity is status on speed. It confers honor in days, not generations; it decays over time, rather than accumulating; and it demands a constant supply of new recruits, rather than erecting barriers to entry.”
- Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out
- Ben Rothlisberger’s wikipedia page, if you’re interested in the scandals discussed
- Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List: Season 1
- Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality (2000)- very good critical read on how real life drama (i.e. celebrity lives, reality tv shows) have become our primary form of entertainment
- American Crime Story: The People VS O.J. Simpson
- ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America
- Boston bombing movies – there are already two of them! Patriots Day and Stronger.
- Jennifer Lawrence and the gender pay gap in Hollywood
- Special Envoy Angelina Jolie for UNHCR
- Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity (2013) – Evaluates the many taxonomies of “celebrity” and how the title has evolved with society and technology. He also devotes quite a bit of time to discussing how
“the celebrity industry is one that spends a great deal of its time masking the fact that it exists at all.”
- Here’s a cool illustrated guide to Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. And here’s the actual text, if you want to dig deeper! (P.S. It’s actually pronounced GEE Debord!).
- Hell’s Kitchen
- Read the script for the “Our Town” play here
- Jay-Z’s website, his book Decoded, his documentary TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, if you want to become like Omar
- Arashi’s wikipedia page and official website, if you want to worship them like Penn
- Forbes 2017 list of “The World’s Highest-Paid Celebrities List”, showing Kim Kardashian made $45.5 million and Jay-Z made $42 million.
- Kim Kardashian-West’s instagram page, if you want to fangirl like Ellen
- The Jay-Z produced documentary on Kalief Browder titled, “Time: The Kalief Browder Story” is on Netflix.
Last week, we talked about culture and the elements that make up culture. We expand on that notion this week by discussing cultural appropriation – something that happens in all aspects of our social life, from music to fashion, and even history. Cultural appropriation, from a sociological perspective, is inherently tied to the notion of profit-making in our capitalist society. But how can we, as everyday individuals, appreciate culture without appropriating it? Join us as we try to tease apart this hairy question!
cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation, society, sociology, bourdieu
- Bari Weiss’ New York Times article, “3 Cheers for Cultural Appropriation”
- Rich Juzwiak’s rebuttal to Weiss on Jezebel, called “Oh Cute, The New York Times is Endorsing Cultural Appropriation”
- Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Routledge Classics) (1979)
- Chance the Rapper’s large donation to Chicago-area public schools
- Other rappers discussed in this episode: Kendrick Lamar, Juvenile, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme the Loot”, Jay-Z
- News coverage on dreadlock incident in San Francisco
- The 2013 movie 12 Years A Slave
Have you struggled with this notion of appropriation VS appreciation? How do you navigate such a choice? Let us know in the comments below!
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In this episode, we tackle the concept of culture. ‘Culture’ is one of the most complex words in the English language, and every field has its own way of defining it, including sociology. We break down the various elements that make up culture from a sociological perspective, and focus on American culture– which is broad, yet rigid– as our main context. Then, we take a more personal look at how the three hosts have experienced American culture growing up. What do you think it takes to be an ‘American’? Join us as we search for an answer!
Culture, America, sociology
- American Sociological Association’s definition of culture
- The number of languages (and maybe cultures?) in the world
- United States of America’s Declaration of Independence
- Alexis de Tocqueville’s (1840) Democracy in America
- Ideal culture VS Real culture
- If you’re interested in how culture affects emotions, Jonathan H Turner and Jan E. Stets’ (2005) The Sociology of Emotions is a good, academic place to start!
- Ta-Nehisi Coates on Barack Obama – My President Was Black (The Atlantic)
- Jennifer Love Hewitt’s 1998 movie, Can’t Hardly Wait
- Louis C.K.’s bit on Time Travel is Exclusively a White Privilege
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Our podcast begins TODAY! Our debut episode is live!! You can listen below. Today’s episode is SOC100 – “You’re all sociologists!”
A note on how our podcast is structured. We’re going to be operating on a semester schedule, just as any class at any university. Essentially, the semesters will be our ‘seasons’. Our first season that we’re doing is the Fall 2017 semester, and we will continue into Spring 2018 and so forth. This means that we’ll be following the college schedule and taking the same holidays, etc. since we are students and teachers ourselves.
For each episode, we will be providing an abstract (a short summary), a list of keywords, and resources (readings, scholars, websites, etc. that we discuss in the episode). This is is similar to what an academic journal article provides the reader for additional information. Now, onto the debut episode!
We are all part of the social world, but what does that mean and, wait, what is sociology? This week’s episode includes personal perspectives from Dr. Penn Pantumsinchai and 2 Dr’s in training, Ellen Meiser and Omar Bird defining sociology – what it is and what it isn’t, as well as explaining the goals of public sociology. If you’re concerned with the human condition and examining the social world, this is the podcast for you! We’re all sociologist one way or another – want to know how? Tune in by streaming or downloading the episode below!
Sociological imagination, public sociology, the sociological perspective, sociology, society
- Murray Edelman’s Constructing the Political Spectacle (1988): “Meaning springs from interactions with others, not from inside an isolated individual’s head” (p. 107)
- Herbert Gans (2015) “Public Sociology and its Publics”(PDF file):
- “Any sociological writing or other product created by sociologists that obtains the attention of some of the publics that make up the general public. The writing can be a book, or an article, or even a few paragraphs reporting a new idea or finding. The other products may be created in any of the ever increasing number of communication outlets, from radio and television to the latest websites, search engines and social media. A podcast lecture, and even a summary of a lecture may already reach more of the public than anything we write.”
- Dr. Karen Kelsky’s website TheProfessorIsIn.com
- Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet about sociology and physics
- A quick bio on Auguste Comte, the creator of the word, “sociology”
- Examples of Public Sociology:
Comment down below what you thought of the episode! What would you like to hear about in the future? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates!
The teaser to our podcast is now live!
Introducing a brand new podcast – The Social Breakdown! The sociology podcast that nobody wants, but everybody needs! Our goal for this podcast is to breakdown the complex world one topic at a time using our sociological imagination. Check out our short teaser today and tune in for our grand debut on September 20th! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates!
Leave a comment down below and let us know what you think! Are there any topics you’d like us to discuss? What about the world or society has puzzled you? We’re here to help!
Coming soon! The sociology podcast that nobody wants but everybody needs – THE SOCIAL BREAKDOWN run by two graduate students and one former graduate student, now doctor!? We aim to break down the complex social world one topic at a time using our sociological imagination.