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Archive for the 'Sociology' Category

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Announcing Three Goodreads Giveaways!

We are happy to announce that we are hosting not one, not two, but THREE book giveaways on Goodreads over the next couple weeks! For those looking to learn more about Einstein, we are giving away Jeffrey Bennett’s intuitive introduction to Einstein’s ideas, What Is Relativity?. Interested in the sociology of atheism in the United States? Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster, is the book for you! If your interests run more towards history of capitalism and finance, you should check out The World’s First Stock Exchange, Lodewijk Petram’s account of the 17th century development of Amsterdam as a dominant financial center. Look below for details on entering!

What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter
Jeffrey Bennett

Goodreads Book Giveaway

What Is Relativity? by Jeffrey Bennett

What Is Relativity?

by Jeffrey Bennett

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Atheists in America
Edited by Melanie E. Brewster

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Atheists in America by Melanie E. Brewster

Atheists in America

by Melanie E. Brewster

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The World’s First Stock Exchange
Lodewijk Petram

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The World's First Stock Exchange by Lodewijk Petram

The World’s First Stock Exchange

by Lodewijk Petram

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, June 20th, 2014

A Contrarian Life Story

Atheists in America

“Dementia has destroyed his thinking over the seven years we have been here…. I still research, diagnose, and try to help my husband of fifty-eight years deal. Everyone prays for him. I guess that is all they have to offer. And that is fine with me. I accept their prayers as well intended.” — Elizabeth Malm Clemens

This week our featured book is Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster. For our final day of the feature, we’ve excerpted a chapter from the final part of Atheists in America: “A Contrarian Life Story,” by Elizabeth Malm Clemens. In her chapter, Clemens describes the intertwining of religion and atheism throughout her long life, and describes in detail how she has chosen to deal with her husband’s dementia.

Enter our book giveaway by 1 PM TODAY for a chance to win a free copy of Atheists in America! Note: For readers in the Northeast, there will be a book release party for Atheists in America on June 25th at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan from 7pm-10pm. Authors from across the country will be flying in to read their works. Open to the public. Email Melanie Brewster for more details.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Atheists in Love

Atheists in America

“My mother was right. It has been difficult for me to navigate my romantic relationships. I also believe that my father was right; I should not apologize for who I am and what I believe.” — Ethan Sahker

This week our featured book is Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster. Today, we have an excerpt from Part 4 of Atheists in America: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Navigating Romantic Relationships as an Atheist,” including chapters by Ethan Sahker and Kristen Rurouni. Sahker and Rurouni describe their experiences with the complexities involved when religion and atheism become important issues in romantic relationships.

Enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Atheists in America! Note: For readers in the Northeast, there will be a book release party for Atheists in America on June 25th at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan from 7pm-10pm. Authors from across the country will be flying in to read their works. Open to the public. Email Melanie Brewster for more details.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

Musings on My Other Closet and Atheists in America, by Melanie E. Brewster

Atheists in America

“The suspicion that my atheism was “wrong” was only validated by pressure to keep my views a secret. Reflecting back, I don’t think that my mother’s explicit directions to remain closeted were intended to make me feel that I was broken or deviant; her response was just a reflection of broader cultural attitudes about atheism.” — Melanie E. Brewster

This week our featured book is Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster. Today, we are happy to present a post by Melanie Brewster, in which she describes her experiences as an atheist growing up in the South.

Enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Atheists in America! Note: For readers in the Northeast, there will be a book release party for Atheists in America on June 25th at the Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan from 7pm-10pm. Authors from across the country will be flying in to read their works. Open to the public. Email Melanie Brewster for more details.

Musings on My Other Closet and Atheists in America
Melanie E. Brewster

Surrounded by the smell of cheddar biscuits, dark wood, and stylized portraits of marine life, I officially “came out” as bisexual to my parents at a Red Lobster while home on spring break during my freshman year at the University of Florida. My father, who had often joined me in ogling celebrity women, knowingly shrugged, whereas my mother became tightlipped, teary, and whiter than the shrimp scampi on the dish in front of her. Her response, a refrain with which I was all too familiar, was “don’t tell Nanny.”

We did not openly discuss my sexual orientation again for over a decade.

Though painful and distancing, “don’t tell Nanny” served as a signifier for all things taboo in my family. Nanny, my kindhearted, very Methodist grandmother served as a beacon of virtue, unsullied by the less savory truths about her grandchildren.

As I picked at my food, slouched in the blue pleather booth and no longer enjoying my crabcakes, I yearned for a time when parts of my identity would not be excised from the whole. “Don’t tell Nanny” was a phrase that I’d heard repeatedly since childhood in direct response to my stubborn nonbelief in a god, gods, or anything supernatural.

Despite her best efforts to indoctrinate me into religion – vacation bible study, youth group, prayers before bed – my mother’s proselytizing never took root. Driving home from church on Sunday mornings regularly yielded tense fights, in which I questioned, critiqued, and belittled what was expressed in the sermon. Unlike many atheist individuals, who were engaged in a religious or spiritual life prior to deconverting from their beliefs, I did not “leave faith” – faith never found me. As a child, I remember wondering what it would feel like to believe that a god was watching over you. I imagined that the presence of a ubiquitous guardian would be both awkward (e.g., does god even watch you in the bathroom?!) and comforting, and I often questioned if there was something wrong with me for not being able to believe. The suspicion that my atheism was “wrong” was only validated by pressure to keep my views a secret. Reflecting back, I don’t think that my mother’s explicit directions to remain closeted were intended to make me feel that I was broken or deviant; her response was just a reflection of broader cultural attitudes about atheism. (more…)

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Michael Dumper on Reparation and Restitution

Jerusalem Unbound

This week our featured book is Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, by Michael Dumper. Today, we are happy to present a 2013 lecture by Michael Dumper given at the First Palestinian Conference on Forced Population Transfer, hosted by BADIL. In his lecture, Dumper discusses the history and future of reparations, particularly as they apply to Palestinians.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Jerusalem Unbound!

Part 1:

(more…)

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Introducing Jerusalem Unbound

Jerusalem Unbound

“Thus at the heart of the study of Jerusalem lays the peculiar conundrum of the city–it has little military or strategic value but, at the same time, it is sought after and contested by many.” — Michael Dumper

This week our featured book is Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, by Michael Dumper. Today, we are happy to present Michael Dumper’s Introduction to Jerusalem Unbound, in which Dumper explains why he felt that he needed to write a third book on Jerusalem and lays out the themes that he intends to explore throughout his book.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Jerusalem Unbound!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Jerusalem Unbound, by Michael Dumper

Jerusalem Unbound

This week our featured book is Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy City, by Michael Dumper. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Jerusalem Unbound. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, June 13th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Fashioning Appetite — Joanne Finkelstein

The following post by Joanne Finkelstein, author of Fashioning Appetite: Restaurants and the Making of Modern Identity, was first published on The I.B. Tauris Blog:

Fashioning Appetitle, Joanne FinkelsteinEvaluating one another’s taste is an ordinary aspect of everyday social life. We look for signs of taste in high fashion goods and social habits. This encourages us to speak to one another through material objects, and even though the definition of taste is constantly shifting, we use it to display who are think we are.

“A person of taste is someone who looks at a sausage and thinks of Picasso” (Dwight MacDonald 1944: 22). This pithy definition of taste was an ironic comment on the newly affluent post-war classes who were struggling with emerging art movements in painting, cinema and literature. The concern with fashionable styles of living was capturing the hearts and minds of the aspirational classes. Mid-twentieth century was an era of tightening conformity and judging people by their lifestyle habits was becoming the prevailing order. Russell Lynes (1949) famously defined taste along three dimensions—highbrow, lowbrow and middlebrow. He employed the antique notions of human physiognomy made popular by Johann Caspar Lavater in the eighteenth century to describe these positions. For Lavater, facial features revealed human qualities; low ears suggested criminality, thick lips were a sign of dissipation and a high forehead indicated intelligence and social superiority. Lynes adapted the metaphor to describe types of taste. Highbrow taste was expressed through well-fashioned appetites.

There was a deep irony in this: after exterminating millions across Europe on the basis of race and ethnicity, the new social order was describing taste and social value using eugenic concepts. This time around, however, the revolution was bloodless. Taste as a measure of human worth was not a killing offense but it was a cause of status panic across the newly affluent classes. According to C.W.Mills (1951) these groups were caught in a constant re-positioning of themselves within an ever-shifting mobile hierarchy defined by fashions, fads and foibles. In the post war era, social ranking was not only based on material possessions such as cars, furniture, art and household goods but also on signs of cultural capital produced by travel, leisure and luxury, and whether indeed individuals could see the influence of Pablo Picasso in the prosaic sausage.

Taste has been a contested idea since the seventeenth century yet it has endured into the present as a means of categorizing people and their habits (Bourdieu 1984: 2). How we handle objects and instruments such as cups and saucers, knives and forks, the habits and styles we develop for eating, drinking, standing and moving, have imposed a mannered overlay on the body and, to those watching our deftness with such objects, this is read as indicative of personal attributes. We see instances of mastery, or lack of them, in displays of individual competency and discernment. The raised pinkie finger holding the teacup and the unclipped vent on the new Burberry raincoat both signal the parvenu.

Taste brings attention to different types of desire. Pursuing an experience for its own sake because it is pleasing or reassuring or elevating, and pursuing a desire in order to gratify it and make it disappear, are two different impulses. The former involves detachment, of being able to recognize value in an idea without it having an immediate application, thus we enjoy art for its own sake; the latter is a more active process, a type of hunger, in which the desirable experience needs to be devoured and captured in order to nullify its insistence. Food, for example, can be both; it can be valued for its aesthetic qualities as well as being good to taste, a life-sustaining fuel. It has appeal as the subject for still life painting, as in the masterpieces of Carravaggio and Luis Meléndez, and it can be treated as a convenience as with the early modern chophouse and now with the food court in the local shopping mall.

(more…)

Friday, April 4th, 2014

What You Can Do to End Slavery

Survivors of Slavery

This week our featured book is Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives by Laura T. Murphy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Throughout the week’s posts, we’ve seen how widespread and difficult to combat slavery is in the modern world, and it’s left us with an important question: what can we do to change things? So today, we’ve excerpted Laura T. Murphy’s epilogue to Survivors of Slavery: “Twenty-first-Century Abolitionists–What You Can do to End Slavery.”

Friday, April 4th, 2014

Nancy Foner on Immigration in Twenty-First Century New York City

Nancy Foner, author of One Out of Three: Immigrant New York in the Twenty-First Century, recently appeared on City Talk to talk about immigration in New York City:

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The Story of James Kofi Annan

Survivors of Slavery

This week our featured book is Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives by Laura T. Murphy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we are focusing on the story of James Kofi Annan, a former child slave in Ghana and the founder of the nonprofit organization Challenging Heights.

First, we have a video of James Kofi Annan accepting the 2011 Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize at Grinnell College, and in his acceptance speech, explaining the practice of modern slavery in Ghana and his personal experiences escaping from it:

Next, we have an excerpt from Survivors of Slavery in which James Kofi Annan writes “the story of his life”:

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Survivors of Modern Slavery Speak

Survivors of Slavery

This week our featured book is Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives by Laura T. Murphy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have a guest post from Laura T. Murphy, “Survivors of Modern Slavery Speak.”

Survivors of Modern Slavery Speak
Laura T. Murphy

This month, the Urban Institute released a government-funded report on “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities” (check out their interactive feature, “The Hustle” as well). The report attempts to describe human trafficking by the numbers, providing the data that begins to answer the question that so many people ask: “How serious is human trafficking in the United States?”

The researchers interviewed sex traffickers, pimps, sex workers, child pornographers, prosecutors, and federal law enforcement agents to determine how big the profits are for human trafficking in seven U.S. cities. What they found was that pimps make between $5,000 and $32,833 a week. And the underground sex economy accounted for between $39.9 and $290 million dollars, depending on which city is raking in the bucks. The Urban Institute provided the data that cities governments and non-profits have been seeking to be able to justify exerting energy and expending resources to try to slow down the most exploitative sectors of the sex trade. Furthermore, the interviews conducted revealed widespread physical and psychological abuse within the industry.

What the Urban Institute research shows us is that listening carefully to the voices of those involved in trafficking is integral to better addressing the issue in all its complexity. Even as we demand better records and more data on the sex trade and other forms of trafficking, those numbers can only give us an abstract portrait of the industry. (more…)

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The Allure of Work

Survivors of Slavery

This week our featured book is Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives by Laura T. Murphy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page. Today, we have an excerpt from the first chapter of Survivors of Slavery: “The Allure of Work.”

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Book Giveaway! Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives, by Laura T. Murphy

Survivors of Slavery

This week our featured book is Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives by Laura T. Murphy. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Survivors of Slavery. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, April 4th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Read the first chapter of The Call of Character, by Mari Ruti!

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

Enter our book giveaway to win a free copy of The Call of Character!

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living, by Mari Ruti

The Call of Character

This week our featured book is The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living by Mari Ruti. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Call of Character. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, January 31th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Interview with Nancy Warner, Coauthor of “This Place, These People”

Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

The following is an interview with Nancy Warner whose photographs accompany text by David Stark in This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains. To view photographs and excerpts from the book click here, here, and here.

Question: What is your own personal relationship to rural Nebraska? How did this shape the project and your choices as a photographer?

Nancy Warner: Coauthor David Stark is my cousin. Our great-grandfather, August Stark, filed a claim under the Homestead Act in Elkhorn Township, Cuming County Nebraska in 1865. Part of that farm is still in our family. I made the first photographs in this series in the old house on the Stark farm place. After that, relatives and people in the area helped me find other places to photograph. The combination of my own emotional connection with such places, dramatic lighting, and richly textured surfaces inspired me from the beginning.

Q: The images and words in the book do not have a direct relationship in the sense that the photos do not necessarily illustrate the words and the words do not explain the photographs. How did you and David conceive of the words and images as working together in the book?

NW: David and I paired the photographs with the text based on the voices themselves: the sounds, rhythms, and emotions that seemed best to set off the feeling of each photograph. We were inspired, in part, by the photo texts of Wright Morris.

Q: Was there a particular rationale for not including photographs of the people who contributed their thoughts about life in rural Nebraska?

NW: The focus of this photographic project has been the buildings themselves. The people are present in their voices, and in the stories told by the photographs. As Wright Morris says in The Inhabitants, “In all my life I’ve never seen anything so crowded,so full of something, as the rooms of a vacant house.”

Q: You cite the photographs of Solomon Butcher and Wright Morris as inspiring your photographs. To what extent do you see these photographs as part of a longer tradition of depicting rural America?

NW: The photographers mentioned in the afterword are only a few of the many who have recorded life on the Great Plains since the middle of the nineteenth century. Solomon Butcher stands out for me in part because, as David says in the afterword, “While Solomon Butcher’s photographs portray objects in familial surroundings, Nancy Warner’s photographs portray objects in abandonment. Almost 150 years after Butcher persuaded the homesteaders to pose outdoors with their possessions, Nancy goes into the decaying buildings to photograph what’s left behind.” Many of Wright Morris’s photographs also feature interiors and the objects they contain.

Q: Many of the photographs capture images of decay and desolation but to what extent do you see the photographs as preserving or providing a documentation of a way of life that is fading?

NW: David’s afterword describes the settlement of the area and changes in farming practices that led to the abandonment of the farm houses. Farming is still very much alive in Cuming County today, but there are fewer small family farms. One way of life is fading, but the farming way of life continues to evolve. The emotions evoked by the photographs help to keep these places and a simpler time alive in the memories of readers.

Q: What has been the reaction of the photographs and the book among people in rural Nebraska?

NW: The book has been well-received in Nebraska. Since the book has come out and articles about it have been published, I’ve heard from many Midwesterners who’ve thanked me for doing it and told me stories about their own home places. The people in Cuming county are proud to have been part of the different stages of the project, and consider the book their own.

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

David Stark on Farming in the Great Plains from “This Place, These People”

In the following passages, which are accompanied by the photographs of Nancy Warner, David Stark from This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains look more closely at the changing practices of farming and their impact on the Great Plains:

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

To the city dweller, there’s something curious in the language of Great Plains farm­ers: they almost never refer to farms. instead, they refer to places: “the stark place,” “the Ott place,” or “the old Feyerherm place.” A place is a farm; but it is more than that, for it is inhabited. It has fields, but it also has buildings, barns, a house, corncribs, farm animals, dogs, and people. crops are grown and animals are raised on farms. But a farm place is more than a setting for agricultural activity. Curtains are mended, windows are re­paired, kids are diapered, and families are raised. That’s what it means to be a place.

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

In the sixty years since mid-century, that pattern has changed. The next time you fly over the plains, look down, and you will see fewer than two farm places per square mile. on many sections you will see only one, and on some sections you will see none at all. The farm places—those clumps of buildings, driveways, and trees—are disappearing. It’s not that agriculture is in decline. in fact, more and more of the land is being farmed. But less and less of it is on places.

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

Drive down a typical Nebraska country road and you may see coming over the low rise of a gently rolling hill a 32-row planter, crawling across the landscape like a giant mechanized insect. or turn to the other side. There’s a chemical sprayer, trailing dust while racing at breakneck speed, its arms extended like the wings of some dragonfly ready for flight.

In the not so distant past, seed corn was dis­persed by a 4-row planter. Today, a 12-row or 18-row planter is on the smaller side—for there are 24-row, 32-row, and 36-row planters. in one pass, the even more gargantuan 48-row planter can cover 120 feet—more than a third the length of a football field.

These high-tech planters have onboard comput­ers with GPS guidance systems. an equipment operator will manually guide a planter around the perimeter of a field. When the planter reaches the starting point, as one of my cousins explained, “The computer beeps, you flip a switch, take your hands off the steering wheel, and it runs itself.” a planter on autopilot can plant seeds on the “a to B straight line” with remarkable precision. With a tolerance of only an inch or so, there are no gaps or overlaps between one passage of the field and the next. Because no further guidance is needed, the equipment operator can use the onboard computer to check on market prices, look for options on grain futures, buy shares of meat-packing firms (as a hedge on falling cattle prices), or just surf the web and play video games.

(more…)

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Aloys Store and Transfer — More Images from “This Place, These People”

Continuing our feature on This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains, photographs by Nancy Warner, text by David Stark, here are some images from Aloys Store and Transfer in Aloys, Nebraska. (Click here for more images and voices from the book) Also, from the book here is a description of its fate:

After a while, we saw that the money was in
running trucks. We kept the bar open.
It was fun, but you can’t live on that. Finally
we stopped pumping gas. Now we have twelve
trailers hauling cattle.

We tore down the old buildings last year in July.
We put up everything on Craigslist. Folks from
Omaha got some of the stuff.

When we tore up the foundations, we found
old car parts, crankshafts, beer bottles, any kind
of old metal thrown into the concrete.

We don’t use it, but we kept the truck scale.
That’s a perfectly straight piece of concrete.
No point in destroying that.

—Bruce

David Stark, This Place, These People

David Stark, This Place, These People

David Stark, This Place, These People

David Stark, This Place, These People

David Stark, This Place, These People

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Words and Images from “This Place, These People”

The following are photographs by Nancy Warner from This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains. Warner’s photographs are juxtaposed with the voices of Nebraska farm people, recorded by sociologist David Stark:

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

We wrapped a chain around that house
and hitched it to a tractor, but we couldn’t
bring it down.

We’d pulled off the boards about waist high
and cut notches on all these beams
here and here and here, wrapped the chain
all around it at the notches.

The tractor died, the house didn’t.

That tractor groaned and wheezed, but it died
and we couldn’t get it started again. It was
a tough old tractor, but an even tougher house.

That was about five years ago. There’ve been
wind storms you would think would’ve done it,
but nothin’s bringing that house down.

It’s still there.

— Les

We had chairs lined up across the way—
not too close, we didn’t want anybody
to get hurt. I don’t know how many chairs,
but it must have been a bunch because
all kinds of people were here.
I can’t think now who was all here.
I know the neighbors came over
for the big show. Nothing happened.

—Ferny

David Stark, Nancy Warner, This Place, These People

I’m proud to be a farm girl.
I’m proud to have been raised on a farm.
Some people don’t think highly of that.
There’s a pretty strong negative reaction.
It’s a dismissive attitude, that’s what I’d say.
It’s not hidden, you can feel it.

I work in the capital.

This county, Cuming County, is the number
one corn-producing county in the whole world.
Or maybe it’s not exactly number one, but it
must be pretty high.

Where are you from? I go, I was raised
on a farm. They go, Ohhhh, long like that,
and then silence.

It’s not all negative. The nice way to put it
would be indifference. I can understand it.
It’s far from their experience and they just
can’t relate to it.

—Katie

(more…)