Category: Books and arts

By Simons/Staff Sgt. (according to Exif data) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Carbon offsetting: back from the dead

Back in 2006, before ‘foreclosure’, ‘credit default swaps’ and ‘double-dip recession’ became terms we needed to worry about, climate change was an issue that actually had some traction in popular culture. This was the year that An Inconvenient Truth was released, a film which, unusually for an apocalyptic documentary, actually made an impact. Not only did Al Gore’s film highlight the issue of climate change, but it also made viewers aware of they could do to make a difference. That...

‘Fair Play’ & the ‘Level Playing Field’? Gender & Spectacle at the Olympics

It is hard to disavow the wonder and enchantment that watching the Olympics engenders. It’s easy to become engrossed by the spectacle of elite athletes pursuing seemingly impossible, barely perceptible improvements in sports that, for the next four years, you may never again consider. And spectacle is precisely what the Olympics proffer. But as Michael Silk (2011) writes in Sociology, the spectacle of sporting mega-events does far more than merely enchant. In London 2012, sporting spectacle was put to work...

Review of "Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men" by Jane Ward

  Ward’s book, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men is a look at a timeless, but under evaluated phenomena. Sex between straight white men sounds like a paradox: some kind of residual heteronormative notion. Ward’s assertion is that it is not- that for time immemorial otherwise heterosexual white men have engaged in homosexual and homosocial behaviors under a variety of homosocial circumstances (fraternities, the military, pornography, bathhouses). Ward’s thesis is aligned with queer theory and the notion that sexuality...

Star Wars: A New Hope Awakens…

With all the Star Wars hype this past month the fandom seems to have awoken once more. The newest installment of Star Wars not only reinvigorates long-time fans but inspires a plethora of new comers to the franchise. Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives the world a new hope in representation as it showcases two of its main characters, a British woman as its protagonist and a Nigerian Brit as the deuteragonist. From the many hours of fan-made footage to...

Buying Time: Stefano Sgambati’s Sociology of Money, Debt & Finance

Writing for the Guardian’s Comment is Free blog yesterday, David Graeber warned that we may be heading towards yet another crisis of the kind we saw in 2007–08. In his Comment, Graeber takes to task George Osborne’s 2015 Mansion House speech (or rather the logic underpinning it), in which Osborne made a commitment to run a budget surplus in ‘normal times’, much to the consternation of dozens of academic economists. It seems that the utterly misleading and moralizing analogies so...

Prize Winning Fictions

On Tuesday, Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings was awarded the Man Booker Prize for 2015 at the City of London’s Guildhall (an institution about which I wrote for Sociology Lens last year). James’ book is an imagined retelling of the attempt made on Bob Marley’s life in 1976, and the first novel by a Jamaican writer to win the Prize, which now comes with a £50,000 cheque, having been introduced with a purse of £5,000 in 1969....

Robert Tressell’s Gasometers and the Commodification of the Environment

Last year I reread one of my favourite books, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, By Robert Tressell. I first read it a few years ago after one of my undergraduate lecturers, Dr Andy Thorpe at the University of Portsmouth, recommended it. I went back to it last year because it was the 100-year anniversary of its posthumous publication and, though it is an account of working class life at the turn of the 20th century in Mugsborough, an aptly named fictional...

Book Review: Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon

While recently working on a project that examines the representation of BDSM in popular culture, I ran across Danielle J. Lindemann’s new book Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon.  Studies of erotic labor are not uncommon in sociological literature.  The increase in published research on professional erotic dominance illustrates how scholars of gender have turned to dominatrix/client relationships to understand, contest, and complicate erotic hierarchies.  Lindemann expands beyond previous scholarship by suggesting that studies of professional dominatrices are...

Great American City—a book review

  Chicago has long served as a laboratory for sociologists, from the Chicago School to Wilson, Pattillo, Cronon and others. Chicago is also the center of Sampson’s study on the ecological aspect of social behavior with special focus on community level influence on individuals. By allowing space for the effect of social interaction and looking at the macro and the micro influences that shape individual behavior, Sampson explores how place chooses an individual and constrains individual choice.

Julia Serano’s "Whipping Girl": A Review

In Julia Serano’s (2007) Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, the author writes about transsexuality. In particular, she writes about living as a trans woman in today’s society, the immense challenges faced by those in the trans community, and the inability of femininity to rise above the inferior status placed upon it by masculinity. Beyond explaining transsexuality to the reader and detailing the fallacious stereotypes that are often used against trans people, Serano separates...

A Review of Jennifer Baumgardner's Look Both Ways

In Jennifer Baumgardner’s (2007) work on bisexuality, Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics, the author writes about her own experiences as well as recent pop culture events in an effort to discuss the common misconceptions (and hidden benefits) of bisexuality. One of the public’s biggest misconceptions, Baumgardner explains, is that bisexuals do not really exist. Straight people sometimes regard bisexuals as going through a “phase” while gay people sometimes regard bisexuals as being “part-time” homosexuals who want the best of both...

Economies of Review on Amazon.com

Amazon.com provides a number of feedback spaces. These kinds of spaces are the communicative loops that situate digital consumption. Recently we have seen a number of variations in the form of these reviews. Critically, these reviews include ones that take the form of explicit social commentary and go beyond the particularity of a simple product review. This practice drew me to the thinking about economies of review, as parables for digital communication and consumption. Can such reviews challenge spaces of...

Book Review: Latina Activists across Borders Women’s Grassroots Organizing in Mexico and Texas by Milagros Pena

The start of a new academic year is upon us and we are back to hectic days and endless nights. This year will be more busy than usual for me as I plan to defend my M.A. thesis in Sociology.  Anyone who has ever written a thesis knows how much work goes into it. As part of my venture through this exciting (yet very difficult) time I will be using some of my bi-weekly posts to highlight some of the sociological studies that proved...

Book Review – Dean's List: 11 Habits of Highly Successful College Students

It would be nearly impossible to imagine John Bader, a dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs at Johns Hopkins University and author of Dean’s List: 11 Habits of Highly Successful College Students, ever uttering the lines of Larry Summers (fictional Larry Summers, that is, as represented in The Social Network). The Summers character, on the phone with his wife, glares up at two young men in his office and says: “I have to go, dear. Students are here. Undergraduates.” Those moments...

Book Review—The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life by Elijah Anderson

In his newest book, Elijah Anderson turns his micro-sociological attention to those places in the modern US city that foster racial understanding and harmony. In The Cosmopolitan Canopy Anderson claims that a pluralistic embrace of social difference is supported most readily by the titular “canopies” that he explores in contemporary Philadelphia. Over the span of an astounding thirty years of observation, Anderson attempts to convey an image of how people “live race” (xvi) in ways that challenge old forms of...

Beautiful and Pointless?

David Orr half-smiled at me from the pages of the New York Times Book Review this morning. In his dark blue button down shirt, head cocked sympathetically to the side, wire-rimmed glasses gracefully seated at the bottom of a long forehead, this man has clearly selected an author photo of himself that represents his belief in the power of ideas. His own, surely, and those of others so long as they are expressed in poetry. But Orr’s new book Beautiful...