Public Sociology

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The toll of 50 years on death row


Every day, in any weather, 82-year-old Iwao Hakamada walks around the small Japanese city of Hamamatsu for up to six hours. A volunteer follows a few steps behind to be sure he doesn’t get hurt and can find his way home.

Hakamada suffers from a mental condition diagnosed as “prison psychosis,” the result of spending nearly five decades on death row — thought to be the world record — for a quadruple murder that evidence suggests he did not commit.

In 1966, he was a 30-year-old former professional boxer working at a miso factory, when the manager, along with his wife and two children, were found stabbed to death in their home, which was then set on fire. Hakamada lived on-site and was the only suspect. No one could corroborate his alibi that he’d been in his dorm room and rushed to the fire to help put it out.

Police detained him for about three weeks and according to records from the detention center, interrogated him for up to 14 hours a day. He alleged they beat him with nightsticks, pricked him with pins to keep him awake and denied him adequate food and water until finally he confessed. He later retracted the confession in court.

“It’s striking, almost stunning, how long the interrogations went. Day after day after day, before finally on day 20, Hakamada confessed,” said David Johnson, professor of sociology and an expert on the Japanese justice system at the University of Hawaii. He said false confessions are a major source of wrongful convictions in Japan.

Overall, Japan’s conviction rate is above 99 percent, meaning almost every criminal case that goes to trial ends in conviction. In part, that’s because prosecutors only bring cases they think they can win, said Johnson, and many of those cases are built on confessions.

Hakamada was imprisoned for 48 years — 30 of them in solitary confinement. Every morning, he awoke at 7 a.m. to find out whether that would be the day he would die by hanging. Japan does not give prisoners advance warning of their executions.

The U.S. and Japan are the only G7 countries that still have capital punishment. The UNHRC has urged Japan to consider abolishing it, pointing to the large number of crimes that can carry a death sentence, the lack of pardons and the execution of elderly and mentally ill convicts.

For Hakamada, decades of living in existential limbo took a toll on his mental health. His decline can be charted in the letters he wrote his family that his sister Hideko keeps in a box at her house, where he now lives.

The earliest letters from the 1960s, are written in neat rows of Japanese characters and filled with hope.

“The report about the first trial showed evidence was faked and the court misinterpreted the facts, so I truly believe there will be a retrial and I’ll be cleared,” one reads. “I’m doing okay, so don’t worry.”

Then in 1980, after 12 years of appeals, the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence. Hideko says that was a turning point for her brother.

“Not long after that, he told me the man in the cell next to his had been taken away and on the way out, he said, ‘so long, hope you stay well,’ then never came back. And that was when the death penalty became real to him, and it was very scary.”

His letters from that time show his mind starting to unravel; he writes about devils tormenting him in the shower.

“I could tell he was getting seriously mentally ill,” said Hideko. “So I visited every month, but sometimes he refused to see me. I kept going though, to tell him his family hadn’t abandoned him.”

Then nearly 50 years after he was first imprisoned, Hideko filed for a retrial based on new DNA evidence: Hakamada’s lawyers said his blood did not match blood from the crime scene.

A district court granted the retrial in 2014, writing it was “possible that key evidence had been fabricated by investigators” and that it was “unjust to detain him because of the clear possibility he was innocent.” Hakamada was released to his sister.

“I remember that day so clearly. I was 81 and I smiled for the first time since I was 33,” Hideko said. “It was like I became myself again.”

It was also a joyful day for a judge in the original case. Norimichi Kumamoto was chief of the three-judge tribunal that heard Hakamada’s case in 1968. He later said he believed Hakamada was innocent but couldn’t convince the other two judges. Still, as head of the panel, he had to write the death sentence. He said the look on Hakamada’s face when he heard the sentence haunted him. So he quit the bench a few months later, became estranged from his family and wandered the country.

When Hakamada was released, Kumamoto met him to apologize. The judge was so frail he couldn’t speak but Hideko still thinks the visit meant something to her brother.

That is not the end of the story, though. Because in Japan, prosecutors can appeal rulings and this past June, the Tokyo High Court overturned the decision that set Hakamada free.

The case now goes to the Supreme Court. If Hakamada loses his appeal, he could be sent back to death row.

“Obviously it’s a tragedy for him if he goes back to death row after being released,” said attorney Kiyomi Tsunogae, a member of Hakamada’s defense team. “But it’s also a tragedy for this country. I don’t know any other nation that has done this. They don’t want to admit that they fabricated the evidence and made a mistake 50 years ago.”

Tsunoga said judges are political appointees and can sometimes be more concerned with satisfying the government than administering justice.

Still, there were concerns about how the DNA evidence was handled — the expert witness failed to keep records, for example. Despite that, Johnson at the University of Hawaii said he thinks the court made the wrong decision and Hakamada should have been granted a retrial.

“I believe he’s actually innocent but I can’t be 100 percent sure of it,” said Johnson.

Johnson said it’s possible Hakamada could be sent back to death row but then granted executive clemency, and that it could actually increase public support for the death penalty because the government would be seen as acting mercifully.

For now, the court has allowed Hakamada to remain free on bail at his sister’s house and a community group formed to help care for him. Every day, a volunteer named Ino drives over an hour from her house to cook lunch and make sure there is always someone to accompany him on his walks.

Hakamada himself doesn’t seem to fully grasp his situation but remains upbeat.

“I feel good, I’m healthy,” he said. “The world is developing and becoming a good world — the companies tell you, you can make a lot of money and the authorities don’t punish you anymore.”

His sister just listens and doesn’t push him to talk about his time in prison.

“Even death row inmates, they’re not animals. They’re still human and they should be treated with humanity — so I do think Japan should get rid of the death penalty,” she said. “As for my brother, of course, I’d like the Supreme Court to say he’s innocent but if he gets to stay out of prison, that’s better than nothing.”


By: Abigail Leonard
Date: January 19, 2019
Source: The Week

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Opportunities for students making career in Sociology


If you are sincere to make a career in Sociology, there are several avenues for you to excel. Some of such avenues are urban sociology, political sociology, ethnic and race relations

The study of Sociology entails the exact and orderly investigation of various customs and cultures of society, while incorporating study of social interactions, social relationships.

It is a science to formulate a skeleton of knowledge pertaining to the social order, acceptance and social change or evolution of a society. For this purpose, sociology employs investigation methodologies incorporating empiricism and critical analysis.

Whereas some of the sociologists carry research that relates to welfare and various social policies, others work to refine the theoretical comprehension of social processes.

To sum it up all, sociology deals with answering questions as, but not limited to, these:

How to formulate an ideal society?

What are the ingredients for it?

How the culture of a society (or, societies) is created?

How does this culture progress to a generation, from the earlier one?

What are the differences and similarities between various groups of people?

What impact do various social institutions cast on people?

If you are sincere to make a career in Sociology, there are several avenues for you to excel. Some of such avenues are urban sociology, political sociology, ethnic and race relations. Similarly, they are the sociology pertaining to the family and the sphere of social psychology.

In a nutshell, Sociology incorporates study of all facets of human activity and experience. For this, it employs a variety of social disciplines like psychology, history, economics, anthropology and political science and many more.

This way, Sociology proves to be an attraction for the students contemplating studying a variety of subjects and academic spheres.

Eligibility Criteria and the fields for pursuing Sociology as a career

As a subject, Sociology can be pursued at all levels. From high school to the doctorate level, an aspirant can choose the discipline anytime. Below is the mention of various fields in which such aspirants can look forward to their brighter prospects, when taking it as a tool for their career.

The sphere of Journalism

Critical and analytical thinking along with the capacity to communicate well are indispensable for being a journalist of repute. The branch of Sociology trains one in the former two skills. The Universities containing the discipline, teach various scientific approaches and theories of calculations to the pursuers of Sociology. This approach is essentially required for arriving at the mathematically exact conclusions for data pertaining to various communities. Moreover, the institutions also teach the conduct of case studies, interviews and surveys, as supplements.

Moreover, generally, a class of sociology entertains quite thought-provoking debates and discussions. Thus, the exercise opens the opportunities for the students, for participating in them and broadening their horizons of thinking. Thus, a class of Sociology proves to be a platform to propel a journalist’s career, fast enough.

Sociology in Human Resource

A human resource person, in any organisation or firm, interacts with the representatives of every community and culture via his/her fellow workers and the interviewees he/she has to meet daily. Interacting and working with such a variety of people carrying a representation of their own culture becomes easier for a sociologist turned HR person.

This is because, the care taker of the HR sphere, via the course of Sociology, learns to be open to the individuals from several countries, communities, and tribes, irrespective of their race, gender or class.

The sphere of academics

A sociologist cum academician can also have bright prospects in academics. As, being a student of Sociology, such academics are well versed in skills of research. Hence, their skill can be used to recognise problems in a sphere and carry studies for it.

These sociologists cum academicians later provide their services as the teachers and professors in schools and colleges. These teachers then, not only teach the subject but, more importantly, encourage analytical and critical thinking in students, besides providing in-depth knowledge about the society.

The sphere of Public Services/ Social Work

Working as a sociologist in the field of social work, you will work for people that would be going through certain problem(s). You, therefore, can provide immense help as you, being a sociologist, are equipped with the eye for these problems. Besides, such sociologists connect with the organisations like the World Bank, the United Nations, various NGOs and charities, much faster.

A social worker having studied Sociology at the levels of the masters and doctorate, can carry the researches related to their fieldwork, much better and faster. This is because, a scholar of Sociology much quickly and effectively understands many facets of a problematic solution.

The sphere of connecting with the consumers

Having gone through the training for understanding behaviours of groups of people, Sociologists are apt to read the requirements of consumers and various factors involved in it. This is the skill they can acquire in much easier way and quite faster.

Besides these spheres, there are several others where Sociologists are essentially required. Like, for instance, policy making, public litigation, and so on.

Owing to the technological revolutions and globalization in the last few decades, the sphere of Sociology has recently received greater thrusts. Hence, a career in it looks quite promising. Therefore, one hopes the best for future Sociologists.


By: Rohit Manglik
Date: January 20, 2019
Source: The Indian Express

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Study reveals high prevalence of quiet corruption in Lagos’ public schools


A study has revealed that there is high prevalence of quiet corruption in public institutions in Lagos State.

A lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, Dr. David Akeju, disclosed this yesterday at the presentation of a pilot study on ‘Quiet corruption in public education institutions in Lagos State’ jointly carried out by Trust Africa and Human Development Initiatives (HDI).

According to the study, “quiet corruption in schools manifests in teacher absenteeism, students’ sexual harassment, lack of knowledge of subject matter, favoritism, examination malpractice among others.

Akeju said: “By the indicators, we first talked about perception generally, for the primary secondary and tertiary institutions and over 60 percent, some about 70 percent said quiet corruption is prevalent. When you talk of their experience, even among university students, we have as much as 60 per cent of respondents saying that it has affected them in one-way or the other. There is none of the indicators that is lower than 50 percent.

The Executive Director, Human Development Initiatives (HDI), Mrs. Olufunso Owasanoye stated that it is a pity that school administrators and government agencies saddled with the responsibility of taming corruption were shielded from investigating the occurrence and prevalence of quiet corruption within the school system.


By: Gbenga Salau
Date: January 20, 2019
Source: The Guardian

Study reveals high prevalence of quiet corruption in Lagos’ public schools

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Women First Marched to Challenge Trump. Now They Are Challenging Each Other


When millions of protesters flooded the streets of Washington, D.C.; New York; Los Angeles; and dozens of other American cities as part of the Women’s March in January 2017, and again in January 2018, the organization became a powerful symbol of mass, unified opposition to the new Trump Administration.

But on the third anniversary of the Women’s March on Jan. 19, the group has come to represent something else entirely: the fractious and often discordant relationship among those who oppose President Trump.

“There have been broad progressive coalitions on the left before whose main goal was to get as many people out in the streets as possible,” says Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin. “But all the ones I know about were focused on a single issue. There was thus a basis for unity which may not exist in the Women’s March.”

Women’s March, Inc., the umbrella organization that formed after Trump’s election in 2016, has faced increased scrutiny in past months, after its leaders failed to adequately address allegations of anti-Semitism and racism among their ranks. Top sponsors, including the Democratic National Committee and the National Organization for Women, have vanished from the group’s online list of benefactors, and dozens of women have announced on the group’s Facebook page that they will no longer attend the third annual Women’s March on Saturday.

A group in Humboldt County, California, canceled their planned march over concerns participants would be “overwhelmingly white,” and the main Women’s March, which was originally scheduled to return to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, will now take place at a smaller venue.
The backlash to the Women’s March began over a year ago after Tamika Mallory, the organization’s co-president, posted an Instagram photo of herself and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, taken at an event he had hosted. In the photo’s caption, Mallory described Farrakhan as “the GOAT,” meaning the “greatest of all time.” In the past, Farrakhan has compared Jewish people to termites and described them as “satanic.” In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated Farrakhan’s organization as a hate group.

The Women’s March responded to criticism over Mallory’s association to it in an online statement, saying, “[w]e do not support or endorse statements made by Minister Louis Farrakhan about women, Jewish and LGBTQ communities.” But Mallory herself repeatedly defended her relationship to Farrakhan, saying she has long attended events hosted by the Nation of Islam and crediting the organization for helping her overcome personal tragedy. This month, Mallory again stopped short of condemning Farrakhan during an appearance on “The View.”

“I didn’t call him the greatest of all time because of his rhetoric. I called him the greatest of all time because of what he’s done in black communities,” she said on Jan. 14.

Linda Sarsour, a prominent board member of Women’s March, Inc., has also refused to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism. “People are asking us to take responsibility for commentary made by someone else, and in particular a man, which is actually quite antithetical to feminism,” she told NPR on Jan. 17. “We have our own agency; we should be judged by our own work.”

Teresa Shook, one of the original founders of the Women’s March, formally broke with the organization in November 2018 and called for its leadership to resign. “Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course,” she wrote in Facebook post. “I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs.”

The unraveling of Women’s March, Inc. is partly the result of its individual leaders’ decisions and public comments. But it’s also indicative, experts say, of a broader dysfunction that often affects generalized, fast-growing social justice movements. In organizations with a myriad of loosely defined goals, such as the Women’s March, leaders will emerge with conflicting visions and priorities.

“If you think about the history of the women’s movement in this country, it’s full of divisions,” says Jo Reger, a sociology professor who researches social movements and gender at Oakland University. “Sometimes [fractures] allow movements to develop more organizations. They allow people to find the groups that have the beliefs, the strategies, and the ideologies they’re most comfortable with.” But sometimes, she warns, the divisions rob the larger movement of its momentum.

Janni Aragon, an expert in feminism and current adjunct professor at University of Victoria, says that even an organization theoretically unified by support for women’s equality is not immune to discord. “Feminism is really like Baskin-Robbins,” she says. “There’s 31-plus different flavors.”

The failure of Women’s March, Inc.’s leadership is tied in part to its leaders’ inability to negotiate tensions over U.S. policy toward Israel, an issue that has long roiled left-leaning social justice organizations. Sarsour, who has been critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, failed to distance her own views from those held by people like Farrakhan, who have been overtly anti-Semitic.

Vanessa Wruble, a social justice activist and early organizer at Women’s March, Inc., told TIME she was driven out of the organization and believes her Jewish identity was a factor. Women’s March, Inc. failed to respond to multiple requests this week for comment regarding Wruble’s allegation.

“Every member of our movement matters to us — including our incredible Jewish and LGBTQ members,” the group said in a November statement. “We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused, but we see you, we love you, and we are fighting with you.”

The Women’s March eventual disjuncture can be traced largely to its broad-based, grassroots origins, experts on social movements said. Shook, a Hawaiian grandmother, first floated the idea of a large protest march in Washington, D.C., in a Facebook group after the results of the 2016 election began trickling in. When she woke up the next day, the event page she created almost on a whim had amassed thousands of RSVPs. The Women’s March, in other words, was born of collective concern over the new administration, rather than a coherent set of legislative or policy goals.

Thousands of miles from Washington, Shook enlisted the help of women that had reached out to her, who subsequently enlisted the help of more women. Eventually, Shook took a backseat role, as other leaders came on board. Mallory and Carmen Perez were brought on after Wruble raised concerns that women of color were underrepresented.

The Women’s March, which was intended to express unity and inclusion, has now spawned dozens of other disparate groups, both local and national.

Reger, the Oakland sociologist, says discord within an enormous organization like Women’s March, Inc., can prove positive in the long run. “Sometimes the ways we begin to change these things is when we begin to talk about them,” she says, “and to examine the world around us to see: What have I been allowing? What have I not noticed? What have I been accepting? What has my privilege blinded me to? And how can I begin to address it?”

March On, a national umbrella organization that spun off of the original Women’s March movement and is not associated with Women’s March, Inc., will host dozens of events this month. Last year, nearly 2.7 million people joined March On protests across the country.

The original Women’s March organization may unraveling, but at least this year, activists say, the spirit that first gave rise to it will go marching on.


By: Abby Vesoulis
Date: January 19, 2019
Source: Time

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Academic Affirmative Action Is a Really Bad Idea. Here’s Why


If professors like Elizabeth Warren want to be taken seriously, then they should admit what every academic knows: race matters.

In 2003, with my doctoral dissertation approved and my PhD certificate in the mail, I went on the academic job market looking for an assistant professor position in sociology. I applied for more than eighty jobs and got just three interviews. One of them was at the sociology department of the University of Pittsburgh.

It was the middle of winter, I had a chest infection, and Pittsburgh was very cold. I was flying in from Arizona. There was a two-hour time difference and the Pittsburgh recruiting committee wanted me to start my day by meeting the director of the Center for Latin-American Studies at 7:30 a.m.

I pleaded for a later meeting since my next appointment wasn’t until 10:30 a.m. I pointed out that, due to jet lag, a 7:30 a.m. meeting would be like 5:30 a.m. for me, that I was very sick, and that I didn’t study Latin America. But the center’s director wanted to meet me, and he couldn’t meet me at any other time.

The chair of the sociology recruiting committee told me that he thought it was “very important” for me to meet with the Center for Latin-American Studies. I pointed out that I didn’t study Latin America in any way whatsoever, but he was insistent. He wouldn’t tell me why it was important. But when I threatened that, given my illness, I might just have to cancel the interview, he relented.

Over the course of my interview day in Pittsburgh, several people gently probed my family background. What sort of name was Babones? Was I perhaps from Argentina, a Latino of Italian origins? I readily told everyone the truth: my paternal grandparents came from Greece, my maternal great-grandparents came from Italy, and I came from New Jersey. Babones was just an Ellis Island misspelling of Bebonis, our proper Greek family name.

When the hiring decision came, I was informed that I was rated “exactly equal” to one of the other candidates. Since that candidate was African-American, and I was unremarkable-American, the university’s affirmative action policy dictated that the other candidate be offered the position first. If he or she declined the job, then it would go to me. (What would happen if we had both been minority candidates and had been rated “exactly equal” was left unsaid.)

That we were rated “exactly equal” was a funny bit of bureaucratic posturing. If I had been rated second, and the minority candidate turned down the job, then the sociology department would have had to admit that it was “unable to attract its preferred candidates”—i.e., that they had a problem. So we were both the preferred candidate. The department got to have its affirmative action cake and eat it, too.

What Did the Senator Know—And When Did She Know It?

Senator Elizabeth Warren has copped a lot of flak for claiming Native American heritage on the basis of old family stories of the kind that circulate in many white American families that have been in the country for a long time. Some of this criticism, like when Donald Trump calls her Pocahontas , is boorish bordering on racist. But inappropriate criticism doesn’t exonerate Warren for her own behavior. And that behavior has been questionable, if not outright duplicitous.

Warren first publicly identified herself as “Native American” in 1986 in the directory of the Association of American Law Schools. She was thirty-seven years old at the time and had been a law professor for eight years. By that point in life, and having been not just a professor, but a law professor, she must have known that publicly identifying as a minority scholar could have a dramatic impact on her career prospects. Only the most disingenuous or dimwitted academic could claim to be ignorant of this, and Elizabeth Warren is certainly not dimwitted.

Quite the contrary: in true lawyerly fashion, she officially identified herself as Native American only after receiving employment offers from both Penn State and Harvard. In 1987, she was hired at Penn as “white,” then updated her forms three years later to become “Native American.” Even stranger, in 1995, while legally identifying herself as Native American at Penn, she marked herself as “white” on her job application at Harvard. Only after winning the position did she change her Harvard status to “Native American.”

As a result, so far as all of the public records are concerned, Warren’s minority status never played a role in her career advancement. And maybe it never did. But when Senator Warren flatly states in her video defense that “my background played no role in my hiring,” she is making a claim that, as she has carefully ensured, cannot be disproved. Harvard law professor, indeed.

The Mendacity of Truth

Elizabeth Warren is, no doubt, a highly accomplished legal scholar and educator. She certainly seems to have merited the confidence placed in her by her academic peers. But any professorship at Harvard attracts hundreds of highly accomplished applicants. Undergraduate admissions at Harvard attract tens of thousands. In both professorial hiring and student admissions, the truth is that most of those rejected could do the work just as well as the lucky few who are accepted.

And not just at Harvard. As American society has become more open and democratic, it has become more competitive. Rising inequality has further increased the payoff for winning the Ivy League sweepstakes. Even subtle advantages can produce massive rewards. No Harvard professorship, no Senator Warren, no President Warren. It may not be quite that simple, but it’s not much more complex.

When I applied at the University of Pittsburgh, I never asked to be considered as a minority applicant. I checked “white” on all my forms. But the pressure to hire minority hiring targets is so strong that I was still interviewed as a possible Hispanic. Universities routinely use foreigners from Spain, Portugal, or Latin America to meet Hispanic hiring targets, just as they use African immigrants to meet African-American targets. If you can pick up a “Native American” while hiring a woman, too, then all the better.

But opponents of affirmative action must reckon with the consequences of identity-blind admissions and hiring. Is it really acceptable to have an all-white law faculty or an all-male engineering school? There are so few female economists that when the Nobel Prize committee finally recognized a woman’s contribution to the discipline, they turned to a political scientist , Elinor Ostrom. Whatever your opinion about affirmative action, that’s a problem.

If Elizabeth Warren wants to be taken seriously, then she should admit what every academic knows: race matters. Gender matters too. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, and maybe it should. Either way, it does. If she doesn’t realize that, then she is too clueless to serve as a United States senator—never mind contend for the presidency of the United States.

As for myself, I am now an associate professor at the University of Sydney in Australia. I’d like to return to the United States, and I just applied for a job at City University of New York. The CUNY system is distinctive for extending affirmative action protections to Italian-Americans, a long-time disadvantaged group in New York City. As a result, in addition to other races and ethnicities, candidates can self-identify as Italian-American. And yes, I checked that box.


Salvatore Babones is the author of The New Authoritarianism: Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts.


By : Salvatore Babones
Date : October 23, 2018
Source : The National Interest

Posted in Education, Latest Post, Public Sociology | Leave a comment

Cultural stereotypes drive negative perceptions of undocumented immigrants


Study uncovers how biases shape Americans’ perceptions of what it means to be ‘illegal’

Heated political rhetoric on immigration has dominated the media for the past few years, with politicians including President Donald Trump often portraying undocumented immigrants as dangerous criminals.

According to new University of Chicago research, that kind of dialogue may be fostering a national sentiment of fear and hostility toward already disadvantaged populations.

“They are promoting the perception that if someone doesn’t have papers, they must be very bad,” said René D. Flores, the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology. “The actual data show a consistent, negative correlation between immigration and crime. All of that political rhetoric is data-free.”

Flores explores the shifting idea of what it means to be “illegal” in his latest research, published by the American Sociological Review. The paper, which he co-authored with sociologist Ariela Schachter of Washington University in St. Louis, uncovers stereotypes among white Americans about who is most likely to be “illegal.”

In the study, Flores and Schachter applied a survey experiment to a nationally representative sample of more than 1,500 non-Hispanic whites. These respondents were shown profiles of different immigrants with randomly assigned traits including national origin, age, gender, occupation and criminal history, among others, then they asked the subjects if they thought these immigrants were undocumented.

The study reveals that national origin, social class and, especially, criminal background powerfully shape perceptions of illegality. On the basis of these traits, some people are being classified by others as “illegal,” regardless of their actual documentation status, a condition Flores and Schachter refer to as “social illegality.”

The results show that Mexicans and other Latin Americans, but also Africans and Middle Easterners, were significantly more suspect than immigrants from Europe or Asia—despite the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented European and Asian immigrants in the country. Flores noted that many Asian, European and Canadian immigrants are “invisible illegals.”

“They are able to live their lives without being constantly confronted about their immigration status,” Flores said.

Subjects’ opinions also were shaped by immigrants’ class background. When immigrants were described as low-educated, and working in informal roles as gardeners or nannies, they were more likely to be considered undocumented than those with formal, white-collar jobs, he said.

The most dramatic results were respondents’ reaction to criminal background. Keeping other traits constant, subjects consistently believed that if someone committed crimes like rape or murder, they must be illegal, he said.

Flores said that in all of his years as an experimentalist, he has rarely seen such dramatic effect sizes in his research. “It tells us that the American public is increasingly internalizing the idea that undocumented immigrants are in fact criminals, even if this is not supported by empirical facts.”

Fear mongering

These engrained biases have led to countless scenarios in which individuals, even some who are born in the U.S., have come under scrutiny from immigration authorities, Flores said. He points to a recent story of ICE agents flagging individuals with Latin-sounding last names from guest lists provided by Motel 6 workers, or the State Department refusing to recognize birth certificates of some U.S. citizens who were born along the U.S./Mexican border. “It’s a hot-button issue that politicians use to inflame people,” Flores said.

“Social illegality” may also negatively influence the decisions of hiring managers, landlords and other members of the public, potentially affecting access to jobs, housing, health care and education for people who happen to “fit the profile,” regardless of their actual citizenship status. “If a teacher thinks a student is undocumented, they may decide not to invest in that child.”

For a long time being undocumented was considered a mere labor infraction. But some politicians have figured out that they can use immigration to activate their bases. “Immigrants make great punching bags,” Flores said. Nativist politicians use them to incite fear in voters because they know they face minimal backlash in the short term. “Undocumented folks can’t vote, so unlike prior immigrant waves, they have limited power to fight back politically.”

Flores hopes this research will highlight how national rhetoric may be negatively affecting some of the most disadvantaged people in our society, and that future scholars will use it as a baseline to track future immigration biases. He is optimistic that it will contribute to creating a more equitable society for immigrants in the future.

“The first step is becoming aware of the biases that shape perceived illegality and how they may affect immigration enforcement,” he said.


Citation: “Who are the “Illegals”? The Social Construction of Illegality in the United States.” René D. Flores and Ariela Schachter, American Sociological Review. Oct. 1, 2018. doi: 10.1177/0003122418794635


By : Sarah Fister Gale
Date : October 23, 2018
Source : UChicago News

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Life & Death


Every year in early November, Mexican citizens celebrate Día de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead,” a celebration that honors the death of loved ones and remembers those who have died. The holiday has gained popularity with the movie “Coco” and in popular culture.

“The tradition is pre-Hispanic, before Christopher Columbus arrived in America,” Jaime Retamales, LU assistant professor of Spanish, said. “The tradition dates to when Mexico was ruled by the Aztec empire and is probably older than that because ancient Mesoamericans celebrated Día de los Muertos over 3,000 years ago.”

Retamales said the older Mexicans were not all part of the Aztec empire and were made up of different groups like the Zapotecans and Mayans.

“They believed that death is a transition into the eternal life,” he said. “When someone dies their souls will go to Mictlān, the underworld in Aztec culture. The translation of Mictlān means ‘the place of the dead.’ Mictlān is ruled by a god named Mictlāntēcutli, the god of the dead, and his wife Mictēcacihuātl, the queen of the dead.”

Retamales said souls go on a difficult four-year journey through Mictlān’s nine levels to move on into eternal life.

“In pre-Columbus times, the nine levels depended on how you died,” he said. “During the journey the souls must pass several challenges like crossing mountain ranges and traveling across a blood-filled river with jaguars.”

The ancient people would celebrate during the month of August and hold festivals for the dead, Retamales said.

“During the four years that the soul journeys through Mictlān, the people prepare the dead bodies in celebration of the dead,” he said. “Sometimes they burned dogs to go along and travel with the dead body to help the soul find their way through Mictlān. They also keep the skulls of the dead to celebrate the lives and aid in the journey of the soul. The queen of the dead, Mictēcacihuātl, presides over the ancient festivals and watches over the bones of the dead.”

The ancient traditions were celebrated before the Spanish came to introduce the indigenous people to Catholicism, Retamales said.

“When the Spanish saw the Mexicans celebrate this way they were shocked,” he said. “The Spanish did not like them celebrating the dead and said that they were acting like savages. They tried to stop the celebration but couldn’t because the natives said that if the Spanish did not allow them to celebrate the dead then they will reject the Catholic church.”

Jessie Garcia, assistant professor of sociology, said the Spaniards incorporated Catholic beliefs as a way to get the indigenous people to convert.

“The Spaniards moved the day as a way to incorporate the indigenous beliefs into Spanish society with All Souls’ Day,” he said. “The indigenous people were incorporated as the lowest of society. Mexican history pretty much ignores them and anything about their culture as Mexico is trying to be a modern society. Mexico thinks of the beliefs as a past that they do not want to bring up. In the 1820s is where the prevalent attitude was recognized. Only indigenous communities celebrated the holiday and it wasn’t as spread as it is now.”

Garcia said that commercialization of Day of the Dead grew its popularity and spread the celebration throughout the region.

“Mexico, in about 1960, tried to promote itself on the world stage because they were going to host the Olympics in ’98,” he said. “During this time, the government put a concerted effort to incorporate the indigenous culture and turned the day into a national holiday. They also included it in the public school curriculum. At the time, only from Mexico City downward celebrated the holiday, but with the integration of the holiday in schools it spread north and throughout the country.

“Movies have also been a part in the commercialization of the holiday. The Mexican government realizes that there is money to be made from this, so they continue to incorporate new ideas and traditions every year. Immigration has played an integral part in its spread to America.”

Garcia said that certain communities within Mexico have their own interpretation to how Day of the Dead is celebrated.

“Some use different incense or the different characters that they utilize,” he said. “The most common character is La Calavera Catrina, who is the queen of the dead, and is based off the goddess Mictēcacihuātl from Mictlān. Some light candles in their homes or put them on the graves with food. Of course, they make the sugar skulls that you see around, but none of what they use goes to waste, so after the celebration they end up taking the leftovers and eating them.”

There are differences between what is celebrated in Mexico and what is celebrated in the United States, Garcia said.

“In Mexico, they hang out in the cemetery, have a picnic and commune with the dead,” he said. “Here in America, we just have an altar to celebrate the dead — we don’t go all out like they do in Mexico. The Mexicans believe that death is just another phase in life and here in the United States, we see death as the end of life and don’t really talk about it afterwards.”

Garcia said most people do not know that Día de los Muertos is a three-day long celebration that runs Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.

“The first day is for the kids, the second day is for the departed and the third is for all souls,” he said. “In the hometown that I grew up in, the people one year decorated the Catholic church in the community with flowers and have since left it there year-around.”

Retamales said people decorate altars to preserve the memory of loved ones and the legacy they left behind.

“Some altars include the person’s favorite things they enjoyed when they were alive,” he said. “The altars have pictures of the person to show the souls that they are remembered and are an invitation for the dead to join the living in celebration. People put food and drinks at the altars to invite the dead. It is a celebration of life. When Día de los Muertos takes place is the time of the year where flowers appear — people use the flowers as representation of life and death.”

Most Latin American countries don’t celebrate Day of the Dead, Retamales said.

“For example, I am from Chile and we don’t have Day of the Dead,” he said. “Rather, we have All Saints’ Day which is very different. On All Saints’ Day, we just go to the cemetery where we clean the graves and pray.”

While Americans enjoy the fun of decorated sugar skulls and brightly-colored costumes borrowed from their neighbors to the south, the celebration is more to remember the ones who you love and cherish the ones that are living.


By : Cade Smith
Date : November 1, 2018
Source : Lamar University Press

Life & Death

Posted in Latest Post, Practice, Public Sociology | Leave a comment

Sociologists are using the Bachelorettes’ Instagram posts to study modern Femininity


Many reality TV fans watch to unwind from the stress of their workday. Reality TV is where Evie Psarras’s work begins.

Psarras, a PhD candidate in media studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, studies reality TV and celebrity culture; her master’s thesis was on the Real Housewives franchise, and in her most recent work, she’s turned a critical eye towards The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

It’s easy to write off these shows as just brain candy, but for sociologists, they offer a unique lens on how society operates. Shows like The Bachelorette and their stars can reflect current norms and values, like what we believe is beautiful or how we think we should behave. In Psarras’s latest analysis, presented at the Association of Internet Researchers’ annual conference last weekend (Oct. 13-14), she and fellow UIC PhD student Nicole Nesmith examined the Instagram accounts of Bachelorette contestants for clues about how they craft their online identities to appeal to fans.

Image can make or break the career of a Bachelorette contestant. To stay in the limelight after they give their final rose, Bachelorettes need to have a relatable social media presence. That’s a cultural phenomenon that’s developed over time, Psarras says. When the franchise first started in 2002, contestants often returned to their pre-reality show lives when their season ended. But by now, the franchise has become such a cultural touchstone that many contestants use their appearances as springboards into other careers as TV hosts, entrepreneurs, or spokeswomen.

For their analysis, the researchers compared and contrasted Instagram accounts of three “early” Bachelorettes— Trista Rehn (Season 1), DeAnna Pappas (Season 4), and Jillian Harris (Season 5)—with three more recent ones—Andi Dorfman (Season 10), Kaitlyn Bristowe (Season 11), and JoJo Fletcher (Season 12).

They found that all six of these Bachelorettes projected a specific type of femininity: conventionally beautiful (white, thin, made-up, and trendily styled), and effortlessly balancing relationships and careers.

But there were some differences. The researchers found that the newer Bachelorettes had “more evolved” strategies for projecting the image of the ideal modern woman. For instance, they were more likely to post on Instagram about their relationships. Presumably, the researchers argue, these more recent Bachelorettes were aware of the fact that people today are fascinated by women’s love and sex lives, and want an inside look at successful coupledom.”It’s just how capitalism operates [today]; the more they post about their relationships, the more likes and followers they’ll get, and that fills out their fame,” says Psarras. For example, JoJo Fletcher has an upcoming web-series about her relationship with fiancé Jordan Rodgers, who she chose as the winner of season 12 of The Bachelorette.

More recent Bachelorettes were also more likely than those of earlier seasons to blur the line between the personal and professional by using their brand to sell products. These ads are often posed-yet-candid-looking paparazzi shots; Psarras points to Andi Dorfman as especially adept at this. “She posts all these pictures of her walking the streets, not looking at the camera, but a photographer very clearly takes these photos, and she tags designers in them,” says Psarras. While the earlier Bachelorettes do also have partnerships and sponsors, their promotional posts are generally more obviously posed or taken on a professional set.
Social-media posts that glorify loving your flaws were another common theme among newer Bachelorettes, but less so among the previous generation. Psarras points out that these in these posts, the more recent Bachelorettes often share images that convey the opposite of the accompanying captions. Take, for instance, make-up-free selfie Kaitlyn posted to Instagram on Jan. 10 this year. She gets down on herself about not looking done-up (and tags it “#Realstagram!”) but still looks more chic than I do when I’m full-out trying.

Overall, says Psarras, it seems the generational divide among the Bachelorettes reflects how younger women have developed new social-media strategies that play up the feminine identity we, as a society, like to see. ”The earlier Bachelorettes did the show at a time when they didn’t know what was going to happen after; it was more experimental,” says Psarras. “The newer Bachelorettes came in knowing how to perform.”


By : Jane C. Hu
Date : October 21, 2018
Source : Quartzy

Posted in Internet, Latest Post, Public Sociology | Leave a comment

What Sports Reveal About Society


Sociologists find that sports are inextricably intertwined with the people, countries, and politics surrounding them.

Sports have been in the news lately, from Serena Williams’s controversy at the U.S. Open to Caster Semenya’s fight to be allowed to race as a woman. Perhaps most dramatically, Nike and Colin Kaepernick have set some parts of the country aflame (sort of) as they force consumers to reckon with questions of power structures, race relations, and patriotism.

In traditional views, sports are a recreational pastime and often positioned as the cultural antithesis of intellectualism. But anyone who is actively engaged in sports knows that they’re far from simple. Any sport is inextricably intertwined with the people, countries, and politics surrounding it, as sociologists Rick Eckstein, Dana M. Moss, and Kevin J. Delaney writing in Sociological Forum discovered.

Eckstein and colleagues posit that sports extend beyond games and individual athletes. They also found that sport fed into “ideologies of gender, affect gender relations, and support or challenge racial and social class hierarchies.” They examine how micro-studies in sports could yield profound structural insights if broadened in scope, and urged the field to see how small-scale athletic culture and phenomena have important underlying statements about our world.

For example, one study examined how women athletes balanced intensive training with other obligations. Most of the study participants were upper-middle-class, with access to subtle but powerful privileges. They might be able to afford sitters or outside help. They might have jobs with flexible hours, or private transportation that cut down their commute.

In contrast, the scholars point out, “working-class women (who may or may not have a domestic partner) who cannot afford sitters, and who must take three buses to reach their tenuous minimum wage job, do not have the option of training for such an intense sport even if they so desired.”

Another athletic phenomenon with eloquent subtext that they point out is the seeming arbitrary nature of whether a certain country prefers baseball or soccer.

Our students inevitably focus on cultural preferences and argue that some people just seem to like certain sports. But when we introduce the macro notion of imperialism and empire, those micro-level decisions take on a whole new meaning and the students begin to see the interrelationship between agency and structure.

There are myriad examples, but the authors come to the same conclusion that we can see reflected in our newspapers, our talk shows and our social media: that sports are a powerful reflection of ourselves, and that they warrant investigation both up-close and on an international, global scale.

They conclude: “we believe that sports sociologists, perhaps more than most sociologists, have a great untapped potential to practice meaningful public sociology.”


By                            :               Farah Mohammed

Date                         :               October 4, 2018

Source                     :               JSTOR Daily

What Sports Reveal about Society

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Kavanaugh is lying. His upbringing explains why.


The elite learn early that they’re special — and that they won’t face consequences.

Brett Kavanaugh is not telling the whole truth. When President George W. Bush nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, he told senators that he’d had nothing to do with the war on terror’s detention policies; that was not true. Kavanaugh also claimed under oath, that year and again this month, that he didn’t know that Democratic Party memos a GOP staffer showed him in 2003 were illegally obtained; his emails from that period reveal that these statements were probably false. And it cannot be possible that the Supreme Court nominee was both a well-behaved virgin who never lost control as a young man, as he told Fox News and the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week, and an often-drunk member of the “Keg City Club” and a “Renate Alumnius ,” as he seems to have bragged to many people and written into his high school yearbook. Then there are the sexual misconduct allegationsagainst him, which he denies.

How could a man who appears to value honor and the integrity of the legal system explain this apparent mendacity? How could a man brought up in some of our nation’s most storied institutions — Georgetown Prep, Yale College, Yale Law School — dissemble with such ease? The answer lies in the privilege such institutions instill in their members, a privilege that suggests the rules that govern American society are for the common man, not the exceptional one.

The classical root of “privilege,” privus lex, means “private law.” The French aristocracy, for instance, was endowed with privileges, primarily exemption from taxation. Today’s equivalents are not aristocrats, yet they have both the sense and the experience that the rules don’t really apply to them and that they can act without much concern for the consequences. Elite schools like Georgetown Prep and Yale have long cultivated this sensibility in conscious and unconscious ways.

What makes these schools elite is that so few can attend. In the mythologies they construct, only those who are truly exceptional are admitted — precisely because they are not like everyone else. Yale President Peter Salovey, for instance, has welcomed freshmen by telling them that they are “the very best students.” To attend these schools is to be told constantly: You’re special, you’re a member of the elect, you have been chosen because of your outstanding qualities and accomplishments.

Schools often quite openly affirm the idea that, because you are better, you are not governed by the same dynamics as everyone else. They celebrate their astonishingly low acceptance rates and broadcast lists of notable alumni who have earned their places within the nation’s highest institutions, such as the Supreme Court. I heard these messages constantly when I attended St. Paul’s, one of the most exclusive New England boarding schools, where boys and girls broke rules with impunity, knowing that the school would protect them from the police and that their families would help ensure only the most trivial of consequences.

This narrative of the exceptional student rests on a fiction with pathological consequences: Economist Raj Chetty has shown that children whose parents are in the top 1 percent of earners are 77 times more likely to attend an Ivy League school than are the children of poorer parents — meaning that, in cases like this, admission is less about talent and more about coming from the right family. In that way, privilege casts inherited advantages as “exceptional” qualities that justify special treatment. No wonder that, when the poor lie, they’re more likely to do so to help others, according to research by Derek D. Rucker, Adam D. Galinsky and David Dubois, whereas when the rich lie, they’re more likely to do it to help themselves.

Such selfish tendencies extend well beyond the way the privileged use untruths to their advantage. According to research by psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, elites’ sense of their own exceptionalism helps instill within them a tendency to be less compassionate. This may have its roots in the fact that there seem to be two different sets of consequences for the rich and the rest. Take drug use. While the poor are no more likely to use drugs (in fact, among young people, it’s the richer kids who are more likely to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana), they are far more likely to be imprisoned for it, and they experience vastly disproportionate imprisonment for all crimes compared with the wealthy. In the end, it is impossible to separate success from class.

Kavanaugh’s privilege runs deep, and it shows. He grew up in a wealthy Washington suburb where his father spent three decades as CEO of a trade association. There has been a sense among his supporters that his place is deserved, which mirrors the climate of aristocratic inheritance he grew up around. His peers from the party of personal responsibility have largely rallied around him, seeking to protect his privilege. As a Bush-era White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, put it: “How much in society should any of us be held liable today when we lived a good life, an upstanding life by all accounts, and then something that maybe is an arguable issue took place in high school? Should that deny us chances later in life?” American Conservative editor Rod Dreher wondered “why the loutish drunken behavior of a 17 year old high school boy has anything to tell us about the character of a 53 year old judge.”

This collective agreement that accountability doesn’t apply to Kavanaugh (and, by extension, anybody in a similar position who was a youthful delinquent) may help explain why he seems to believe he can lie with impunity — a trend he continued Thursday, when he informed senators that he hadn’t seen the testimony of his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, even though a committee aide told the Wall Street Journal he’d been watching. In his furious interview with the panel that afternoon, Kavanaugh appeared astonished that anybody might impugn his character or try to keep him from the seat he is entitled to. “I’m never going to get my reputation back,” he complained.

Yet we cannot ignore that instead of dedicating his life to the relentless accumulation of wealth, Kavanaugh has pursued a career of public service. As a Justice Department aide to Kenneth Starr and, later, a judge, he earned a fraction of what he might have in the private sector. This represents another critical lesson of elite schools: servant leadership. The mission statement of my alma mater, for instance, professes “a commitment to engage as servant leaders in a complex world.” You are bred to be a leader who serves a higher ideal than your own advantage. Whatever you believe of his politics or his background, Kavanaugh’s commitment to public service cannot be denied.

While they seem contradictory, servant leadership and privilege are often bedfellows. Both suggest not a commonality with the ordinary American, but instead a standing above Everyman. Both justify locating power within a small elite because this elite is better equipped to lead. (Retired justice Anthony Kennedy, according to some reports, hand-picked Kavanaugh as his successor — a rather astonishing circumvention of the democratic process and the separation of powers.) Both have at their core not a commitment to shared democracy but a moral imperative to lead because of one’s exceptional qualities. And both allow space for lying in service of the greater good. Privilege means that things like perjury aren’t wrong under one’s own private law.


Shamus Khan, the chair of the sociology department at Columbia University, is the author of “Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School.”


By            :               Shamus Khan

Date         :               September 28, 2018

Source     :               Washington Post

Posted in Latest Post, Public Sociology | Leave a comment
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