Violence can seem very personal and easily attributed to biological tendencies. The recent trend in mass shootings have often been explained by issues related to mental health. It’s easy to blame the individual for acts of violence, but that’s only one way of looking at violence. In sociology, violence actually takes many different forms from verbal to physical to symbolic to systemic. And sociologists have interesting theories to explain why violence occurs. This week we discuss the classic debate of nature VS nurture in regards to violence, and how theorists have posited that there is no such thing as violent individuals, but simply violent situations. Join us as we pick apart this gnarly debate!
Sociology, violence, nature, nurture, psychopaths, collective violence, mob violence
- Defining violence by Elizabeth Stanko (2001)
Violence is “any form of behaviour by an individual that intentionally threatens to or does cause physical, sexual or psychological harm to others or themselves”
- Texas Shooter’s History Raises Questions About Mental Health And Mass Murder (NPR 2017)
- Symbolic Violence
- Pierre Bourdieu’s (1979) Distinction“It is the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”
- Structural Violence
- Johan Galtung’s “Violence, Peace, and Peace Research” (1969)“a form of violence wherein some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.”
- Hawaii Still Has a Leprosy Colony With Six Patients (The Daily Beast 2015)
- Donald Black’s (2010) The Behavior of Law, Special Edition
- Donald Black’s (2011) Moral Time
- Donald Black’s (2004) The Geometry of Terrorism
“Violence might appear to be an unpredictable outburst or unexplainable explosion, but it arises with geometrical precision. It is unpredictable and unexplainable only if we seek its origins in the characteristics of individuals (such as their beliefs or frustrations) or in the characteristics of societies, communities, or other collectivities (such as their cultural values or level of inequality). But violent individuals and violent collectivities do not exist: No individual or collectivity is violent in all settings at all times, and neither individualistic nor collectivistic theories predict and explain precisely when and how violence occurs”
- Randal Collins’ (2009) Violence: A Micro-sociological Theory
“violence is a set of pathways around confrontational tension and fear. Despite their bluster, and even in situations of apparently uncontrollable anger, people are tense and often fearful in the immediate threat of violence—including their own violence; this is the emotional dynamic that determines what they will do if fighting actually breaks out.”
- Youths and Gun Violence: Chicago’s Challenge
- Nature vs Nurture in regards to violence
- Bad to the Bone: Are Humans Naturally Aggressive?
- Why We Fight
- The violent gene
- Two genes linked with violent crime
- A Gene For Violence?
- The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry (Jon Ronson 2012)
- The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (James Fallon 2014)
- Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing?
- 2011 Stanley Cup Riot – Riots erupt in Vancouver after Canucks loss (CBC News 2011)
- Racism, A History 1 – Slavery To Segregation
- Turner and Killian’s (1987) Collective Behavior
- Honolulu first US city to ban texting while crossing road
- Top 5 Misconceptions About Columbus
- The Truth About Thanksgiving: What They Never Taught You in School
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Is health a privilege or a right? As a society, how do we come to understand health and its social origins and outcomes? Though medicine has been understood as a social science that dates back to Hippocrates–the Hippocratic Oath–medical sociology is not even 70 years old yet! The climb to intellectual legitimacy and sound research is recent. When it comes to matters of stress, food, doctor-patient interactions, racism and sexism, medical sociologists have a lot to say and a lot to do…come join us as The Social Breakdown begins its journey in everything health!
Sociology, medical sociology, health, policy
- The Importance of the Study of Medical Sociology (Charles McIntire 1991)
- Quick brief on medical sociology of the last 50 years (Rosich and Hankin 2010)
- The Anti-Vaccine Generation: How Movement Against Shots Got Its Start (National Geographic 2015)
- The sick role by Talcott Parsons in The Social Systems (1951)
- A doctor’s “people skills” affects patients’ health (CBS News 2014)
- Cultural Competency in Healthcare
- Losing culture on the way to competence: the use and misuse of culture in medical education (Gregg & Somnath 2016)
- National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care (US Department of Health and Human Services 2001)
- Emergency department workers face high stress, burnout (Reuters 2016)
- Freakonomics’ series on Bad Medicine
- Part 1: The Story of 98.6
- Part 2: (Drug) Trials and Tribulations
- Par 3: Death by Diagnosis
- Doctors told to dispense with confusing medical jargon (The Guardian 2014)
- Global Life Expectancy ranking and data (World Health Organization 2017)
- Why Sharing Your Progress Makes You More Likely To Accomplish Your Goals (Fast Company 2015)
- The Psychology Behind a Grocery Store’s Layout (Notre Dame College 2013)
- Surviving the Sneaky Psychology of Supermarkets (National Geographic 2015)
- Access to healthy foods worse in poor areas (Reuters 2009)
- The cost of organic food (Consumer Reports 2015)
- The Word as Scalpel: A History of Medical Sociology (Bloom 2002)
“A doctor can damage a patient as much with a misplaced word as with a slip of the scalpel.”
- From Social Structure to Gene Regulation, and Back: A Critical Introduction to Environmental Epigenetics for Sociology (Annual Review of Sociology 2013)
- Healthcare.gov 2018 Open Enrollment
Resist! It’s such a buzzword with deep historical roots, but what exactly is resistance? What does it mean to resist and to struggle? How can we resist? What are some strategies or ways to resist? Many social issues are now at the forefront of the global conversation, especially with Trump’s presidency, from racism to sexual harassment, to basic human decency. Resistance is a difficult and long-drawn out process – it’s not for us, it’s for our children. It’s not for today, but for tomorrow. Change can’t happen without resistance, so join us this week to learn more!
Sociology, resistance, social movements, social change, protest
- Maria Hynes (2013) “Reconceptualizing Resistance: Sociology and the Affective Dimension of Resistance”
- Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (Angela Davis 2016)
- “#MeToo: Social media flooded with personal stories of assault” (CNN)
- “How to Make Fun of Nazis” (New York Times)
- Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia Studies in Terrorism and Irregular Warfare) (Chenoweth & Stephan 2012)
- Peter Norman, the Australian Olympic athlete. “The third man: The forgotten Black Power hero” (CNN)
- “Colin Kaepernick, Who Began Anthem Kneeling, Files Complaint Against N.F.L.” (New York Times)
- Compassion Fatigue (Psychology Today)
- Matt Buck playing the sousaphone alongside a KKK rally.
- Ellen’s Spotify playlist to blast when you’re resisting a protest (a.k.a. counter-protesting).
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Planned Parenthood
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
- “In Search Of The Red Cross’ $500 Million In Haiti Relief” (NPR)
- Breast Cancer Awareness month is in October (that’s when we recorded the episode, even though the episode was released in November!)
- Check out some of these websites to make sure your charity is legitimate and effective!
- Dapper dogs in bow ties – can you resist this??
Sociologists might not be able to make a time machine, but we’re certainly good at mythbusting! Social mythbusting that is! Our first topic to bust: Crime. Citizens of any society have preconceived notions of crime, and these ideas can tell us something about the dominant social order, morality, and normative behavior. So, let’s discuss! Are we living in the most violent time? Trump wants to blame everything on “undocumented criminals,” but are undocumented immigrants accountable for a large portion of crime? Oh– and prison/jail, that’s the same thing, right?
Crime, criminology, criminal justice system
- Criminology by Edwin Sutherland (1974) defines the field as, “the study of law making, breaking, and law enforcement.”
- Franklin Zimring’s (2011) book, The City That Became Safe: New York’s Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control (Studies in Crime and Public Policy) outlines the huge drop in crime in New York City.
- Another good source on the national crime drop is Steven Pinker’s (2011) The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
- Lorna Rhodes’ Total Confinement: Madness and Reason in the Maximum Security Prison (California Series in Public Anthropology) (2004) talks about how detrimental incarceration is on humans.
- Definition of Antisociality: “a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, [and] the rights of others” (American Psychiatric Association)
- Trump’s false dialogue on immigrants (Washington Post)
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
- Immigrants do not actually commit more crimes than native-born Americans.
a.Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes
b. The Mythical Link Between Immigrants and High Crime Rates
c. Immigration Myths – Crime and the Number of Illegal Immigrants
“both illegal immigrants and legal immigrants have incarceration rates far below those of native-born Americans—at 0.85 percent, 0.47 percent, and 1.53 percent, respectively….Immigration restrictionists cannot have it both ways. They cannot assume that illegal immigrants are super-criminals and that their population in the United States is several times higher than it really is. No matter how you dice the numbers, their incarceration rate falls as their estimated population increases. For consistency’s sake, it’s time for immigration restrictionists to choose which myth they want to believe.” (“The first myth is that illegal immigrants are especially crime-prone. The second myth is that there are actually two to three times as many illegal immigrants as is commonly reported.”)
- Statistics on the crimes committed by incarcerated population
- “Stronger Hand for Judges in the ‘Bazaar’ of Plea Deals”(New York Times) talks about how 97% of Federal cases and 94% of state cases are plead out.
- Our suggested texts if you’re interested in criminology:
a. Amy Bach’s (2010) Ordinary Injustice: How America Holds Court
b. Michelle Alexander’s (2012) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
c. Marcus Rediker’s (2008) The Slave Ship: A Human History
d. Robert Perkinson’s (2010) Texas Tough (The Tylers of Texas)
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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