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Archive for the 'Sociology' Category

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…)

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Q&A with Goldie Kadushin on the new 5th edition of The Social Work Interview

The Social Work Interview

Today we have an interview with Professor Goldie Kadushin, co-author of The Social Work Interview, 5th edition. The Social Work Interview has been a crucial textbook in the social work field in various editions since 1972, and it is still the only textbook to outline the skills social workers need to conduct effective client interviews. In the Q&A today, Professor Kadushin talks about how the newest edition of The Social Work Interview reflects new trends in the social work field and how social work has changed since the first edition of The Social Work Interview came out.

Question: This is the fifth edition of The Social Work Interview. What is new in this edition?

Goldie Kadushin: Every chapter was updated with research published after 1997 (the publication date of the fourth edition) in the social, medical, and psychological sciences. The chapter on cross-cultural interviewing was completely rewritten to focus on culturally competent interviewing of sexual and racial/ethnic minorities and the elderly. Case examples were revised to reflect current practice.

Q: What are some of the most important research findings about the social work interview in the last 15 years?

GK: The importance of the client’s role in the interview is a new finding. Research indicates that clients interpret the interview in terms of their own goals, needs and agenda. Consistent with this finding, adaptation of the interview to client preferences may be helpful in achieving positive outcomes. Research has continued to accumulate indicating that techniques and the helping relationship are inseparable and complementary. Self-disclosure, an effective but controversial interviewing technique, received new attention. Researchers concluded that the question was no longer whether to self-disclose but how to self-disclose. New research on adapting the interview to the needs of lesbian and gay clients and the elderly has also been published in the last decade.

Goldie KadushinQ: What distinguishes the social work interview from the interviews of other helping professions?

GK: The content of the social work interview differs from the interviews of other helping professions in its focus on improving clients’ social functioning and their access to environmental resources. However, the social work interview overlaps with the interviews of other professions in sharing the same structure and techniques. So, while the book emphasizes social work interviewing, it can also be used by other professions such as psychology and counseling.

Q: Can a textbook teach social work interviewing?

GK: No. “Knowing about” is clearly different than “knowing how.” Ultimately, interviewing is learned through doing. However, even though “to know” is very different from “to do,” it is clearly better than not knowing. For every conversational turn, the interviewer must select a technique that is likely to be responsive to the client, while also conveying the interviewer’s intention. Knowledge about interviewing thus informs the clinician’s consideration of relevant choices that determine skill in the use of technique.

Q: The first edition of The Social Work Interview was published in 1972. How do you explain the continuing popularity of this particular textbook?

GK: If I had to guess, I would say there are probably two reasons. One, the book is explicitly concerned with the problems and issues of social work interview and, two, the book is scholarly, yet accessible. We have made an effort to review relevant research and to present the findings in a readable style for both beginning and advanced clinicians and students. These two qualities may explain the continued appeal of this textbook for social work and other audiences.

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Katerina Kolozova on The Real in Contemporary Philosophy

The Philosopher in Meditation by Rembrandt

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a guest post from Professor Katerina Kolozova, in which she discusses what she sees as the state of The Real today and outlines some ideas in her forthcoming book Cut of the Real, to be published by Columbia University Press in the Fall:

What Baudrillard called the perfect crime has become the malaise of the global(ized) intellectual of the beginning of the 21’st century. The “perfect crime” in question is the murder of the real, carried out in such way as to create the conviction it never existed and that the traces of its erased existence were mere symptom of its implacable originary absence. The era of postmodernism has been one of oversaturation with signification as a reality in its own right and also as the only possible reality. In 1995, with the publication of The Perfect Crime, Baudrillard declared full realization of the danger he warned against as early as in 1976 in his book The Symbolic Exchange and Death. The latter book centered on the plea to affirm reality in its form of negativity, i.e., as death and the trauma of interrupted life. And he did not write of some static idea of the “Negative,” of “the constitutive lack” or “absence” as conceived by postmodernism and epistemological poststructuralism. The fact that, within the poststructuralist theoretical tradition, the real has been treated as the “inaccessible” and “the unthinkable” has caused “freezing” of the category (of the real) as immutable, univocal and bracketed out of discursiveness as an unspoken axiom.

(more…)

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

An Editorial and Ontological Insurrection, by Santiago Zabala

Hermeneutic Communism

This week we are featuring the Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture series, edited by Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, Jeffrey Robbins, and Slavoj Zizek. Remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win FREE copies of The Incident at Antioch by Alain Badiou, Rage and Time by Peter Sloterdijk, and Hermeneutic Communism by Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala. Also check out Insurrections on Pinterest!

Today, we have a guest post from Professor Santiago Zabala, in which he discusses the unique nature and success of the Insurrections series, and its significance in critical studies today.

In order for any scholarly series to work there are three indispensable components: a distinguished academic press, a long-term philosophical project, and, most of all, passionate editors. CUP’s Insurrections series not only has all of these, but also has become a model for series from other presses. A few weeks ago I was at a conference in New Delhi called On World Religions: Diversity, Not Dissension (which took place at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and was organized by the distinguished Indian philosopher Anindita Balslev and attended by intellectuals from all over the world, including the His Holiness the Dalai Lama). I was asked by a group of students whether I knew what would be the next titles in Insurrections. I must confess I was not completely surprised to be asked because these researchers, in keeping with the intellectual environment of the event, were already interested in the intersection of religion, politics, and culture. However, the series is known not only within the intellectual circle of political theology as I have discovered elsewhere in Asia and South America over the past years. I’m not interested in writing a report on the series’ editorial success, even though it’s clear the editors (Slavoj Žižek, Clayton Crockett, Creston Davis, and Jeffrey W. Robbins) have managed to create a true editorial insurrection, but rather in pointing out the ontological nature of the series. In order to do this, it is first important to understand who these editors are.

The four editors of Insurrections are truly postmetaphysical philosophers, that is, concerned with what Michel Foucault called the “ontology of actuality,” where existence is not given beforehand but rather disclosed through its own historical disruptions. This is evident not only in the work of Slavoj Žižek but also in that of the other three editors, who merit as much attention as the Slovenian philosopher. While Creston Davis, a long-time disciple and collaborator of Žižek, has been articulating a refreshing materialist-immanent theology for years now, Clayton Crockett and Jeffrey W. Robbins have contributed in a unique way to political theology’s democratic effort to overcome conservative theological articulations (unfortunately expressed by the newly elected Pope Francis in Rome). What unites these editors and what they bring to the intersection between politics and theology is the vision that the truth of political theology in the twenty-first century can no longer be imagined through liberal reforms or anarchic events but only by reconsidering democracy as a form of religious practice and political thought. This new democracy is not simply unconstrained by modern liberal capitalism but actually its greatest enemy, that is, a true insurrection. The fact these editors have so much in common is perhaps the reason why the series, only seven years after its inception, is so successful. Certainly, the books in the series have sold, which is important, but much more significant are its consequences, that is, the issues it has given form to.

(more…)

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

VIDEO: W. Bradford Wilcox on Gender and Parenthood

In the following video, W. Bradford Wilcox, the co-editor with Kathleen Kovner Kline of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives, discusses the different ways in which fathers and mothers parent.

While recognizing that a variety of familial structures (single parents, etc.) Wilcox cites various studies which reveal that on average children fare better when raised by their biological parents. Wilcox focuses on how mothers and fathers each model different behavior for their children:

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

VIDEO: Interview with Robert J. Durán, author of Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider’s Journey

In the following interview with Fronteras, Robert J. Durán, author of Gang Life in Two Cities: An Insider’s Journey, talks about his new book as well as his experiences interviewing members of Latino gangs in Denver, Colorado and Ogden, Utah.

In the interview, Durán also describes his life as a member of a gang while also looking at larger issues, including the societal conditions that lead people to join gangs and the role of persistent racism in American society.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Erica Chenoweth — Creative Nonviolence Can Defeat Repression

Erica Chenoweth, Why Civil Resistance Works

The latest Room for Debate series in the New York Times features a number of scholars and writers discussing what it is, exactly, that makes protests effective. Erica Chenoweth, assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and a researcher at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo and coauthor of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, contributed “Creative Nonviolence Can Defeat Repression,” an article addressing the techniques that have made protests most effective in toppling repressive regimes throughout history.

Chenoweth begins her article with an explanation of what regimes (even repressive ones) need to control in order to stay in power:

Every repressive regime depends on various pillars of support — business elites, security forces, state media, educational elites and bureaucrats. When resistance campaigns impose significant costs on these groups, people begin to question their long-term interests.

Chenoweth identifies the three most important ways that protests can remove the support of these “pillars”:
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Friday, August 3rd, 2012

C. Wright Mills Today

“Is there a place for critical knowledge that is not useful to the prevailing powers? Is there a place for the intellectual who is not in uniform?”—Stanley Aronowitz

Stanley Aronowitz, Taking It BigIn Taking It Big: C. Wright Mills and the Making of Political Intellectuals, Stanley Aronowitz charts the shifts in Mills’s reputation among sociologists, theorists, activists, and American readers. His works such as White Collar, The Power Elite, and The Sociological Imagination found a large audience when they were first published but until very recently had faded somewhat particularly among academics.

While championed by the New Left, many fellow intellectuals and academics were not necessarily so enthusiastic about his work in part because it refused to hew along strict ideological or political lines. In the book’s afterword, Stanley Aronowitz considers what C. Wright Mills means for today:

The enduring legacy of C. Wright Mills relies not on a set of propositions that could be said to hold true for our time. No less than any other theorist, Mills was first and foremost a student of his own time. We live in an era, for example, when once-arrogant industrial corporations such as General Motors and General Electric have yielded their erstwhile sovereignty to finance capital, which has exerted its power more directly than any time since the postbellum Gilded Age. We are also in the midst of a massive shift of global economic power, which, over time, may lead to new arrangements. With only a few exceptions, notably Colombia, Latin America is moving away from the United States’ sphere of influence toward Europe and China. It is not unlikely that, as [Paul] Krugman has observed on a number of occasions, the United States is increasingly a bystander in many of these new features of global relations, especially in the control over natural resources.

Yet Mills’s invocation to study power in all of its dimensions and to ask what a new society based on principles of economic and social equality would look like endures as an unfinished and neglected series of tasks…. His refusal to collaborate in the substance of his intellectual endeavors with the powers that be is surely an example that, although difficult to follow because the state and some major corporate foundations still pay the bulk of the research bills, should become an object of inquiry. The question is: what are the consequences of sciences that have, almost universally, become technosciences? Is there a place for critical knowledge that is not useful to the prevailing powers? Is there a place for the intellectual who is not in uniform?

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