Category: Opinion

Doctors’ Orders – Sociology Lens Q&A

Can you give us some background information about the US medical residency system? The US medical residency system is peculiar in the sense that on any given year, there are consistently fewer prospective American MD medical student (USMD) applicants than there are available positions—by between 25 and 40%. This has been true since the about 1950s. So the country relies on international and osteopathic medical graduates (what I collectively call “non-USMDs”) to fill residency positions in fields like internal medicine,...

WHAT DOES BAKING TELL US ABOUT CLASS DURING COVID-19 IN INDIA?

In an unequal and diverse society like India, food has had deep associations with questions of identity, whether that of religion, caste, class, gender, ethnicity, or tribe. The recent COVID-19 crisis has highlighted some of these associations in a newer light, including the relationship between food and class. For most of the Indian middle-classes, the period of lockdown has been spent in experimenting with food as dishes like Dalgona coffee and banana bread became popular ‘quarantine recipes’. Food also became...

Stigma in a Polarized Society: The Case of Trump’s Family Separation Policy.

In June 2018 the United States’ news cycle was dominated by images of distraught children being separated from their anguished parents by uniformed Customs and Border Patrol officers. Although enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico border has long been condemned as draconian by human rights groups, the Trump administration’s move to a “zero-tolerance” border control policy resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of migrant children who were separated from their parents. The shift in enforcement drew much opprobrium, before the...

Lonely patients’ ambivalent engagements with digital media

Feeling isolated or lonely is common among chronically ill people. They may suffer severe pain, have limited mobility, and/or experience stigmatisation—depending on the nature of their condition. Consequently, many will turn to digital technologies to make connections with others. In a recent Australian study on patients’ use of digital media, my colleagues and I found that our respondents often spontaneously mentioned during their interviews that they felt isolated or lonely and that the internet and social media provided valuable tools...

Elections Have Consequences: What Happened in 2016 and What May Happen in 2020

Almost four years, a pandemic, countless protests, and an impeachment later, it seems that the election of Donald Trump in 2016 has had more severe and deadly consequences than many had imagined. While his election over Hillary Clinton was difficult to imagine in itself – for pollsters, political operatives, and the general public alike – and took the entire world by surprise, it was even harder to project what life in the U.S. would be like for the subsequent four...

Dismantling Distrust in Colombia’s Enduring Conflict

The conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC – Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) and the Government of Colombia had a dramatic effect on the country, leading to over 200000 deaths and the displacement of seven million people since 1964. Forming with the stated intention to defend the rural poor, ensure fair resource distribution and overthrow the state, the FARC attracted support from elements of the community. Over time it became increasingly embedded in the licit and illicit...

Rain on the body: Bodies as mere objects

Bodies are inscribed with meaning in and through a web of social and power relations. Bodies are not neutral and object matter; rather, they (re)produce themselves when alone and when with others. The digital world can create bodies from afar and the offline world can do so, too. For example, one interacts with others online through digital platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, shaping how the body is (un)seen and (un)heard; one can also interact with others offline, whereby a...

The Uneven Adjustment to Homeworking Among UK Sex Workers

The shift to homeworking under lockdown raises important concerns for those whose work involves physical and emotional connection, not least forms of work which have been undertaken in a shroud of secrecy. Here, I highlight the work of sex workers, in particular, who negotiate a sexual and emotional experience with clients through physical touch and emotional conversation. Of course, while some aspects of the experience can be – and are – undertaken remotely through online technologies in a burgeoning online...

Coronavirus reflections: Face masks, Islamic dress and colonial differentiation.

Like many countries across the world, France is currently negotiating the coronavirus pandemic and has recently begun to emerge from lockdown by circulating a slogan not dissimilar to the UK government ‘Sauvez des vies, restez prudent’ (Save lives, stay alert). What then is so notable about the French plan to tackle coronavirus and be free from lockdown? Aside from the bureaucratic plan developed in France, the significant and noteworthy method of returning to some sense of ‘normalcy’ is to mandate...

Identity Theory, Emotions, and the “Victim”—“Survivor” Binary

Sociological identity theory concerns itself with the concept of the self: what it is, how societal structures influence it, and how we navigate it. According to the symbolic interactionist tradition, heavily influenced by the work of George Herbert Mead, one’s sense of self or identity is built in and through social interactions with others. As such, there is a reciprocal relationship between the self and the external social world; society impacts the self, and in turn, the self impacts our...

Housing Associations as Third Sector anchor institutions: examples from England and Austria

Housing associations are well-known actors in the provision of affordable housing, not only in England but also in a number of other European countries. Whilst typically being classed as actors of the Third Sector, that is, neither state-owned nor profit-driven, their institutional and regulatory set-up differs widely in different countries. In recent years, there is increasing interest as to the role of housing associations, not just as housing providers but as actors who are influencing and shaping local communities. This...

School Closures During COVID-19: Potential Impacts on Homeschooling Regulation

Life as we know it is rapidly changing in the current coronavirus pandemic. While many Americans are experiencing unprecedented financial hardship as unemployment rates are skyrocketing, others with relatively unaffected jobs are nonetheless worried about other aspects of this “new normal”: no handshakes, no large gatherings, and even moving freely about or visiting with loved ones is restricted. Many, of course, are also falling ill or losing family members and friends. Although some states are more affected than others, the...

No Time for Blind Optimism

The world is facing the most serious health catastrophe since 1918.  A global pandemic—one that many medical authorities warned would happen sooner or later—is here.  The coronavirus travels quietly, widely, and can have deadly consequences.  At this writing, well over 1.5 million people have been infected and close to 90,000 have died.  Compare this to the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003 which infected 8,098 people and killed 774 or the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus which infected 18,000 people and...

Distance as a social vocation

In this article, I explore the habitus of social distancing to critically engage with the different human conditions that grips us amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I also briefly discuss different kinds of distances we practice in our everyday life before I go on to show how distance is turned into a vocation upon which our survival and hope rests.  The foundation of society is also based on distance as much as it is on closeness. Distances complete us. Let me take you...

The Sociology of Medical Guidelines

Allen Frances, M.D, is an American psychiatrist who chaired the DSM-IV taskforce, and later criticized the DSM-5 and American psychiatry for their roles in manufacturing mental illnesses and the epidemic of overdiagnosis. In this blog post he makes a well-founded plea for sociologic contributions to medicine. Before the Flexner report in 1909, medical education and practice in America were chaotic and of low quality. After the report, both were quickly and dramatically reformed in ways that seemed completely wonderful at...