Politics, politics, politics– what a fascinating part of our society that feels all-consuming sometimes. This week we’re going to explore politics using a Symbolic Interactionist lens and the fantastic work of Dr. Murray Edelman to make sense of what’s going on in our state and federal governments every day. Is politics an earnest attempt at changing our society for the good? Is it just a spectacle meant to distract us? Or maybe somewhere in between? Tune in here to learn more and stay healthy out there!
For a refresher on what Symbolic Interactionism is, check out:
Edelman argues that politics is made up of two types of symbols:
Referential Symbols: “economical ways of referring to the objective elements in objects or situations: The elements identified in the same way by different people. Such symbols are useful because they help in logical thinking about the situation and in manipulating it” (Edelman 1967:6).
Condensation Symbols: “evoke the emotions associated with the situation. They condense into one symbolic event, sign, or act patriotic pride, anxieties, remembrances of past glories or humiliations, promises of future greatness: some one of these or all of them” (Edelman 1967:6).
Kellyanne Conway’s misleading ignorance of where COVID-19’s name comes from can be read about here.
Ellen’s sci-fi obsession was recently quenched with VOX by Christina Dlacher, which has relevant themes about the power of language in politics
Other great dystopian sci-fi books surrounding politics and power? The Power by Naomi Alderman, The Handmaid’s Tale & The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, and many many more. If you wanna geek out or have more recommendations, contact Ellen!
Sociology is obviously concerned about connecting private troubles to public issues, as C. Wright Mills once said. Sociologists are also deeply interested in the relationships between people, and the intimate relationships we have with family members. This week, we have a fantastic guest, Dr. Sarah Patterson, who is helping us make sense of these connections. Sarah will be talking with us about families, family demography, and Intergenerational Solidarity Theory. What makes families work or struggle through their interactions? And do families promote positive social solidarity among all its members? Come join us for the conversation!
You find Sarah on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/spattersearch
And find her research at: http://thespattersearch.com
Check out the podcast she co-hosts, New Books Network’s Sociology
I-Fen Lin and Hsueh-Sheng Wu’s 2017 article on how children tend to overreport the time and money they spend on their parents, “Intergenerational Transfer and Reporting Bias: An Application of the MIMIC Model”
Also, here is a source on family solidarity after a parent has passed (a question Ellen posed mid way through the conversation) that Sarah emailed us after we finished recording, from Matthijs Kalmijn and Thomas Leopold titled, “Changing Sibling Relationships After Parents’ Death: The Role of Solidarity and Kinkeeping”
Medical error– defined as unintended or failed plan of actions related to treatments– is an understudied in medical sociology. Patient harm from medical error can occur at the individual and systemic level however, and it might shock you to learn that it happens more often than not– it’s technically the third leading cause of death in the United States! Listen to our discussion on what societal factors contribute to medical error. Leave us a rating and review if you enjoy our podcast!
Medical error, medical sociology, medicine, hospitals, doctors
We’ve got a new series for you where we answer listener questions about sociology, theory, grad school, and more! So, in our inaugural episode we’re answering a HUGE question: How do you define “society”? Sounds easy, but trust us (and the ~20 min length of this episode), it ain’t! Tune in here to learn how we define society and its close connection with culture! And if you have your own question to ask, don’t be shy and send it to us. We’d love to try to answer it!
We’re building off of last week’s episode on pop culture today with a deep dive into film analysis with a special guest, Prof. Brian Brutlag from The Sociologist’s Dojo! Brian talks with us about two seemingly unconnected concepts– Zen Buddhism and the White Male Savior Complex– and how they’re now being used together in film narratives. Tune in here to learn more about how we can use sociology to make sense of film trends and stories, and also how we can use it to analyze cinematic flaws. You can check out Brian’s blog at thesociologistsdojo.blogspot.com, and you know where to find us!
Popular culture, Zen Buddhism, white male savior, film, masculinity
We’re getting light-hearted in these crazy times and introducing you to the sociology of pop culture! In this episode, we use Dr. David Grazian’s work to explore what popular culture is and how it’s different from high culture. Then we make sense of culture’s role in globalization, and show how pop cultural products– like sitcoms, Taylor Swift songs, and anime– can act as forms of soft power. Tune in here to hear Penn and Omar nerd out on the intricacies of Naruto and Studio Ghibli, and to understand just how powerful and important pop culture is to our society!
Popular culture, society, music, entertainment, globalization, soft power, anime
Some earlier related episodes that you may find helpful!
Soft power is a term coined by economist Joseph Nye to refer to “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment” (JSTOR).
Japan has been especially good at navigating soft power in popular culture with the use of mukokuseki or items/characters that lack in group membership, nationality, race/ethnicity, etc. They are stateless!
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is rapidly developing around the world and so are our thoughts, emotions, and of course, our sociological perspectives! We have an unplanned, talk story episode on this topic for you today. Join us as we try to put the hysteria and facts into sociological context. We discuss infectious diseases, quarantining, politics, stress, and public health. Share with us your thoughts, comments, and concerns. Be safe out there and wash your hands!
Sociological imagination, public health, politics, epidemics
Have you ever taken a class and been forced to buy a $100 textbook? Have you ever been a teacher and was forced to assign a $100 textbook? It’s difficult to manage for both sides but don’t sweat it – we have the perfect PhD’s Guide to BOOK$ for you. Here at The Social Breakdown, we are all about accessibility! In this episode, we discuss cost saving ways for both teachers and students to navigate textbook assignments in college. There are cheap and FREE ways you can get a lot of your textbooks. Listen to the episode and then go visit your local library to check out a book!
Search your library! (Not only your university’s library, but also your county/city/state library. You’d be surprised by what you can find on their shelves!)
If it’s for a course, likely your prof has put the text on “reserve” at the library.
Learn how to use their online databases (when you’re looking for articles) and what access your school has. Your librarian is a good person to turn to if you’re having trouble here.
Use Interlibrary loans!! ILLs are when you can request a book that your university library doesn’t have from another school’s library. FOR FRIGGIN FREE. Your local county or city libraries also have this feature.
Still can’t find it? Ask your librarian– specifically your department’s librarian– if they can purchase a copy of the book you’re looking for to “add to the sociology collection”!
Ask your professor. Profs are given the option to get a “desk copy” of the books they assign to their classes.
Ask your classmates.
Many courses are offered repeatedly, so you probs have a classmate who’s taken the course before. Ask them if they have a copy to borrow. If you really want it, ask if they wanna sell. It’s a win-win.
Work with your classmates in that particular course to “share” books. By “share” we mean “scan”. Yes yes yes, there are some ethical and legal implications here. Be careful please!
Also, if you’re looking for a specific journal article but you’re blocked by a pay wall, ask classmates (social media is a great tool for this too), but you can even go as far as asking the AUTHOR of the article! They’ll prob be happy to send it to you, so finallllly someone’s reading their hardwork!
Use the app Libby for to turn your phone essentially into a free Kindle that can access your local library’s collection
Or do the ever illegal Google search of “TITLE OF BOOK free PDF”. You might come up illegally lucky!
Check out the book/publishers area at conferences. You’d be surprised how many books you can get for free over there. *Shout out to you, Penguin, for being liberal with your giveaways!*
Last, check out good ol’ exploitative Amazon or eBay for cheap, used copies of the book. But If your town has used book stores, we recommend those more.
Now all you teachers out there, what can you do?
Place a copy of the book your assigning on “Reserve” at the library. If you’re just wanting your students to read one chapter, did you know you can get your library to digitally scan the chapter and put it on “Electronic Reserve” where your students have 24/7 access?? YUP! So do that, and you don’t even have to do the scanning yourself! The library staff does.
Assign older editions of the book (because they’re cheaper!), and supplement it with additional materials, like articles and reports, to update the information.
At the start of the semester, encourage students to talk to you if they’re having a hard time with book costs. You can be the conduit between new and old students for book sharing/purchasing.
Purposefully Use FREE materials, and that includes those things outside of books, like documentaries, newspapers, websites, radio, and of course, podcasts!
Don’t be that prof that assigns a $200 textbook unless it is truly necessary– and we get it, sometimes you really need to. So if you have to, DO NOT change the textbook every semester, so you can give your students a chance to resell or share with future students.
Clickers! In large lectures, some profs will use clickers to gauge and quiz students. There are now plenty of free apps/websites that you can use in lieu of clickers that students can access if they have a smartphone or laptop. Some include:
“If you wanna be my lover, you have got to–” listen to this breakaway episode! Today, Penn and Ellen get together to talk about all things girl power, from the #Girlboss movement to feuds between celebrity women (which scream, “Georg Simmel’s concept of dyads!”) to how some women don’t want to be called “female.” Tune in here to learn more, and find out which Spice Girl Penn and Ellen wanted to be growing up. Also, send us a rating when you have time, and be sure to subscribe!
Social movement, girl boss, feminism, girl power, female empowerment, culture
It’s almost the most romantic day of the year – good ol’ V-Day. While the gang has looked at family and romantic relationships from a sociological perspective, we’re taking an inner deep dive into ourselves this week with a PhD’s Guide to Relationships! Graduate school is a weirdly autonomous yet lonely time, so this week we discuss our experiences with managing romantic and platonic relationships while balancing a full course load, TA/GAships, and of course, writing a dissertation. Tune in to see how we do it and remember, you’re not alone!
Relationships, romance, friendship, graduate school
Here are the tips we covered this episode that we’ve found particularly helpful in our own lives. Hope they are for you, too!
Find a person that is equally busy and tired. No explanation needed– you’re both tired and just happy to grab a bite to eat together every now and then.
Communicate how busy you are! Explain to loved ones that you’re crazy busy, and give them actual concrete examples, like, “Sorry I’d love to, but I have 2 books to read, one response and a bunch of grading to complete by Monday.” Just saying, “I’m busy, I can’t,” can make it seem like you’re using school as an excuse to avoid them, rather than it being a real issue that’s getting in the way of you spending time with them.
Purposefully make time for them. REAL ASS TIME, QUALITY TIME– not time where you’re staring into the screen of your phone or computer 50% of the time. Try not to be distracted and enjoy your time with your fam, BFF, or significant other. Another tip to this is to schedule a routine time for that person.
Talk to them about your research! Don’t bore them or use them as a test audience for your next conference presentation, but try to include them in what your brain is consumed with right now. Plus they might make some poignant observations that you can use!
Invite them to your grad student events. In Hawaii, we have beach days and BBQs where we gather, eat, drink, gossip, and play with our dogs. Bring your partner, friend, parent, sibling, or whoever! This will give them a glimpse into and appreciation for your grad school existence.
Understand that every relationship requires work. It’s a two-way street baby, and you both need to give, so you can take. So, do your part and make sure your other half is doing theirs. Hold each other accountable!