why do we need a book about measuring culture?

The following is a guest post by Jenn Lena and Terry McDonnell.

While cultural sociologists have had numerous debates about method in recent years (ethnography v. interviews v. forced choice surveys!), we have been far less attentive to questions of measurement. Our new book, Measuring Culture, aims to fill this gap. We start with the simplest question: Who might benefit from our book?

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medical sociology syllabus project

A few years ago, Neal Caren started the “intro to sociology syllabus project” on scatterplot, and it was such a useful resource for me and many others. Extending that project, this post is a space to share medical sociology syllabuses (or Society & Health, Sociology of Health & Illness, or– as you’ll see below– any of the many other course titles we use for related classes).

Many thanks to everyone who has shared their syllabus with me! If you sent me a syllabus and have an update, I’ll happily post. And if you’d like to participate, please send me your syllabus. If you end up borrowing ideas from any of the syllabuses below, I recommend sending the instructor a note so they can know that their syllabus was useful to you.

Instructor(s)Course Name/ LevelMain Text/Readings
*Additional readings in most cases; see syllabus
Elaine Hernandez
Soc 101- Social Problems and Policies: Medicine in AmericaCockerham. 2017. Medical Sociology, 14th edition.Syllabus
Rachel Donnelly (Vanderbilt)Soc 1020- Contemporary Social Issues: Health and SocietyAssorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Stefan Timmermans (UCLA) Soc 170- Medical Sociology: Caring in the Medical Care SystemAbraham. 1993. Mama Might Be Better Off Dead.
Fadiman. 1997. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
Starr. 1982. The Social Transformation of American Medicine.
Tania Jenkins (UNC)Soc 1576- Introduction to Sociology for Health ProfessionsConley. 2017. You May Ask Yourself, 5th edition.
(Optional: Jauhar. 2008. Intern.)
Alka Menon (Yale)SOCY 127-
Health and Illness in Social Context
Watkins-Hayes. 2019. Remaking a Life.Syllabus
Alya Guseva (Boston)Soc 215- Health and SocietyWeitz. 2020. The Sociology of Health, Illness, & Health Care, 8th edition.Syllabus
Ajlina Karamehic-Muratovic (St Louis University)Soc 2490- Sociology of MedicineWeiss & Copelton. 2021. The Sociology of Health, Healing, & Illness, 10th edition.Syllabus
Shawn Bauldry (Purdue)Soc 374- Medical SociologyWeiss & Lonnquist. 2017. The Sociology of Health, Healing, & Illness, 9th edition.Syllabus
Aida Isela Ramos (UMHB)Soc 3350- Sociology of HealthWeiss & Lonnquist. 2017. The Sociology of Health, Healing, & Illness, 9th edition.Syllabus;
Assignment (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)
Corey Stevens (SIUE)Soc 383- Medicine, Health, & SocietyConrad & Leiter. 2019. The Sociology of Health & Illness, 10th edition.Syllabus; Assignment
Kenzie Latham Mintus (IUPUI)Soc R381- Social Factors in Health & IllnessConrad & Leiter. 2019. The Sociology of Health & Illness, 10th edition.
(Optional: Fadiman. 1997. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.)
Syllabus; Final Paper (Option 1; Option 2; Suggested Timeline; Checklist)
David Russell (Appalachian State)Soc 3600- Medical SociologyCockerham. 2017. Medical Sociology, 14th edition.Syllabus; Presentation Schedule
Tania Jenkins (UNC)Soc 3525- Urban HealthAbraham. 1993. Mama Might Be Better Off Dead.
Fink. 2016. Five Days at Memorial.
Rosenberg. 1987. The Cholera Years, 2nd edition.
(Optional: Klinenberg. 2015. Heat Wave, 2nd edition)
Rene Almeling (Yale)SOCY 390/629- Politics of ReproductionAssorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Ryan Masters (CU-Boulder)SOCY 4052- Social Inequalities in HealthPhillips. 2001. Darwin’s Worms.
Johnson. 2007. The Ghost Map.
Andrea Tilstra (CU-Boulder)Soc 4052- Social Inequalities in HealthCockerham. 2013. Social Causes of Health and Disease, 2nd edition.Syllabus
Anna Zajacova (UWO)Soc 4408- Advanced Sociology of Health and IllnessGawande. 2014 Being Mortal.Syllabus; Video Guides (1, 2, 3); Assignments (1, 2)
Deborah Carr (Boston)Soc 418/818- Social Inequalities in HealthBerkman, Kawachi, & Glymour. 2014. Social Epidemiology, 2nd edition.
Carr. 2014. Worried Sick.
Syllabus; Response Memos (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Deborah Carr (Boston)Soc 418/818- Death and DyingBonanno. 2019 The Other Side of Sadness.
Doughty. 2018. From Here to Eternity.
Gawande. 2014. Being Mortal.
Syllabus; Writing Assignments (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Jennifer Jennings (Princeton)Soc 414- Sociology of MedicineKidder. 2009. Mountains Beyond Mountains.
Johnson. 2007. The Ghost Map.
Daniel Menchik (Arizona)Soc 410- The Hospital: A Small SocietyBosk. 2003. Forgive and Remember, 2nd edition.Syllabus (includes assignment details)
Josh Seim (USC)Soc 475- Medical SociologyAnsel. 2017. The Death Gap.
Seim. 2o20. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle.
Syllabus (includes reading guides/ summaries for assigned articles and chapters)
Patricia Thomas (Purdue)Soc 571- Health & BehaviorAssorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Corey Stevens (SIUE)Soc 590- Health, Illness, & SocietyMetzl. 2019. Dying of Whiteness.
Metzl & Kirkland. 2010. Against Health.
Davis. 2015. Contesting Intersex.
Duffy, Armenia, & Stacey. 2015. Caring on the Clock.
Ellen Idler (Emory)Soc 531- Sociology of Health and IllnessCockerham. 2010. The New Blackwell Companion to Medical Sociology.Syllabus (assignments included)
Brea Perry & Jane McLeod (Indiana)Soc 660- Social Origins of Health InequalityAssorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Elaine Hernandez
Soc 660- Social Origins of Health InequalityAssorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Josh Seim (USC)Soc 658- Sociology of Health and MedicineAnsel. 2017. The Death Gap.
Seim. 2o20. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle.
Syllabus (includes reading guides/ summaries for assigned articles and chapters)
Mieke Beth Thomeer (UAB)Soc 781- Sociology of Health and IllnessKempner. 2014. Not Tonight.
Sulik. 2010. Pink Ribbon Blues.
Hoppe. 2017. Punishing Disease.
Shim. 2014. Heart-sick.
Mieke Beth Thomeer (UAB)Soc 724- Body & HealthAlmeling. 2011. Sex Cells.Syllabus
Magdalena Szaflarski (UAB)Soc 783- Health Care Delivery SystemsBarr. 2016. Introduction to US Health Policy, 4th edition.
Rosenthal. 2017. An American Sickness.
Syllabus; Group mini-projects; Final project
Lilla Pivnick & Faith Deckard (UT-Austin)Health & Society (Texas Prison Education Initiative)Assorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus
Mieke Beth Thomeer (course director; syllabus created in collaboration with other instructors; UAB)Dent 1110- Dentistry & Culture (taught in Dental School)Assorted chapters, articles, & other materialsSyllabus; Debate assignment
*NOTE: Some of these taught post-March 2020, meaning include COVID-19 content or have been adjusted to be taught online (if previously in person) or in hybrid format.

a checklist to reduce your word count and polish your writing

The following is a guest post by Emma Frankham.

“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting” – Attributed to Poet Robert Graves

Academics spend significant time learning research skills. However, little time is devoted to learning writing and editing skills. Through providing academic editing services I’ve developed a checklist for writing improvement. I arm myself with this checklist, the ASA Style Guide, and The Chicago Manual of Style. Following this checklist will reduce your word count, tighten your argument, and improve the flow of your writing. I hope you find this checklist helpful when you wrangle with your next manuscript.

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teaching the new economic sociology of race & racism

In 2018, I taught my first graduate seminar on economic sociology. In general, I was very happy with how the syllabus and course came together. But I struggled to figure out how to best incorporate discussions of race & racism into the course. There just wasn’t very much research on the topic in economic sociology. For the course, I mostly borrowed work that’s usually identified as part of either inequality or organizations research, and then talked about my frustration in not finding a robust conversation within economic sociology proper (to the extent those fields are separable, which is its own important conversation). This frustration is part of what motivated my collaboration with Laura Garbes where we 1) examine the history of economic sociology’s (non)engagement with race, and 2) offer an overview of recent developments in the sociology of race with the aim of guiding economic sociologists who do want to put race & racism at the center of their work. In this post, I return to my initial motivations to offer suggestions about how I would approach teaching race & racism in an economic sociology graduate seminar in light of the work that Laura and I have done, and in light of new research that has emerged in the past couple years at this intersection.

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facing the fall with empathy

The following is a guest post by Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana.

In March, universities across the country shifted to online learning and adopted policies to account for students’ lives in the midst of a global pandemic. Many administrators asked professors to consider students’ circumstances and to teach with compassion. My university advised that “Our students’ lives are already complex, and shifting instructional modes in the middle of the semester will increase complications. Some students may also, unfortunately, become ill. Be prepared to provide more flexibility than usual.” While there were debates about what that should look like, the message was universally one of empathy and compassion. Yet the tone around decisions about the fall has been business as usual. Instead of compassion, the implicit message became one of returning to normalcy. As one university President stated of the decision to go online in the fall, “we will focus our attention on perfecting remote learning, teaching and working. It will not be the same, but it will be good.” This despite that it seems unlikely that anything about the fall will be normal for students or any other university employees for that matter. We can all hope for normal operations by September, but it is imperative to enter the fall with the same compassion with which we finished out the spring. COVID continues to affect Americans’ lives and the frustration and anger of recent BLM protests remains unaddressed.

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15,000+ academics oppose international student ban

Earlier this week, the US government announced a new policy that would prevent international students from staying in the country if their universities offered entirely online courses. This policy was designed to force universities to reopen, even if doing so is unsafe and against public health advice. Harvard and MIT have already sued to prevent the policy taking effect and other universities have condemned the policy.

Sociologist Heba Gowayed organized the below open letter for faculty to express their opposition to this cruel policy. More than 15,000 academics have signed the letter so far. You can sign the letter here and view the list of signatories here. Another petition (for anyone, not just faculty) has garnered almost 200,000 signatures and can be signed here.

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colleges are more like cruise ships and bars than kindergartens and elementary schools

The following post is co-authored with Jessica Calarco.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, policymakers at the national, state, and local level are scrambling to decide what can reopen while limiting the virus’s spread. In some sense, we can think of the overall rate of infection of the virus as a kind of budget constraint. As long as the rate of spread is kept below 1, the virus is under control. If too much opens up, and the rate goes above 1, the virus will begin to overwhelm the healthcare system, as we’re currently seeing in Arizona, South Carolina, and Texas. Keeping everything closed would certainly help avoid that outcome. But keeping everything closed also comes with costs to the economic and social/emotional well-being of individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. Thus, the question that policymakers face – at least assuming they want to avoid massive, unnecessary deaths – is what to reopen given that some things have to stay closed? Or, put differently, which institutions are so critical to society that reopening them for in-person use is ultimately worth the risk? 

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levels of racism: individual, organizational, institutional, and systemic

Discussions of racism tend to get tangled up in issues of level of analysis.1 Sociologists (e.g. Bonilla-Silva) and critical race theorists (e.g. Haney-López), among others, have long argued that we need to understand racism as something that works “beyond” or “above” the individual, building on arguments that go back to Stokely Carmichael’s distinction between individual and institutional racism. In talking through these ideas with friends and students, I’ve found that the terminology can be confusing – in part because sociologists (and non-sociologists) have used terms like institution and structure to mean so many different, overlapping things. In this post, I outline my idiosyncratic terminology for characterizing different levels of racism when trying to explain these interwoven concepts. For me, it’s been useful to break down racism into four levels that are at least partially nested: individual, organizational, institutional, and systemic.2

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anti-racist research practices and the value of teach-ins

The following is a guest post by Nabila Islam.

On Friday, June 12, 2020, fourteen[1] sociology graduate students at Brown University held a teach-in on how to support BLM in academia at the Population Studies Training Center (PSTC), an interdisciplinary center for the study of population issues. The teach-in evolved from the invitation that sociology graduate students (with support of staff and faculty) had extended in the department’s statement in support of BLM. The letter had urged members of the sociology community to have conversations with and beyond each other on how to combat anti-black racism and to produce anti-racist research. Susan Short, sociologist and Director of PSTC, asked graduate students if they wanted to hold an event or a meeting at the center as a follow-up. The students decided on holding a teach-in on race and racism in the academy. In the tradition of teach-ins and public sociology, the event mixed theoretical discussions with conversations about praxis and centered the coming together of the PSTC community to discuss recent political events and possible futures. During the second part of the teach-in, the attendees were invited to participate in facilitated breakout sessions to brainstorm anti-racist practices in research, as well as in institutional and interpersonal situations within the academy. The suggestions below are the result of those collaborative conversations. Recently there have been discussions on how professors in all disciplines can talk to students about race and racism. Teach-ins potentially provide a way to challenge status and generational divides between students, staff and faculty on campus while offering opportunities to rearticulate the meaning of community and to create anti-racist publics within the academy.

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an invitation to abolition for the curious sociologist

gabe-pierce-SgXWBOLUNAk-unsplashThe following is a guest post by Mo Torres. 

Abolition is in the public eye like never before. In five years, we’ve gone from “require body cameras and implicit bias training” to “defund the police.” Longtime abolitionist Mariame Kaba is in the New York Times: “Yes, we mean literally abolish the police.”

As a discipline that has had much to say about racism, policing, and incarceration, where do sociologists fit into this new picture, where abolition is not simply a fringe position, but one front-and-center in current debates?

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dismantling the minneapolis police department

Over the past 4 years, I’ve studied community perceptions of the Minneapolis Police Department. With a team of students, we conducted qualitative interviews with over 100 residents and 20 leaders of police reform/transformation/abolition groups; tracked reform efforts by the MPD; and attended city council hearings, vigils, and community listening sessions. We learned that many in Minneapolis agreed that racialized police violence was a dire social problem, but disagreed on its solution (and whether policing could ever be reformed). Some citizens and groups fought for reform through bureaucratic channels, while others pushed for police abolition or transformation.

As readers are well aware, these questions about reform vs. abolition recently became a national conversation. Following the murder of George Floyd by four now-former MPD officers on May 25, 2020, and the explosion of protests locally (and nationally and internationally), many have looked to Minneapolis to see how this conversation might produce real change.

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should i write an op-ed?

photo of person reading
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

In times of political turmoil, we often wish that there were more sociological perspectives in the popular media. This is especially true when issues of power and inequality are involved. One of the best ways for sociologists to make our voices heard is to write something ourselves, but writing for the public is different than writing for other scholars. How do you know if your contribution will be valuable? What makes a great op-ed? And how do you get it into the right hands? In this blog post, I detail my own process for deciding when and how to write for the popular media.

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sociologists against systemic racism and anti-black police violence

Today, the graduate students of the Brown Sociology department, with support from faculty and staff, put out a statement in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the ongoing protests against police violence. The text of the statement is reproduced below; the full statement including signatures is available here. This statement joins those from the American Sociological Association, Sociologists for Women in Society, and other sociology departments including Temple University, UCSD (in the comments below), University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, and Wake Forest University. Please post links to any other statements by sociology associations or departments that you come across in the comments below, and I’ll add them to this list.

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somber thoughts about possible futures: solidarity or exclusion?

The following is a guest post by José Itzigsohn.

The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the lives of people worldwide. It has certainly increased the level of risk we are all exposed to. Ulrich Beck and others have described our times in terms of a risk society, and the pandemics seem to confirm this view. Of course, exposure  to risk has always been unequal. The marginalized sectors of the world economy have always been exposed to high levels of risk (from illnesses, to violence, to exclusion), while the economic elites and the middle classes have been able to protect themselves and to some extent shelter themselves from risk. And exposure to the coronavirus, access to health care, and the risk of losing one’s life are highly correlated to class and to race in our racialized class system. But the pandemic has increased the risk for all, mounting the risks of people who already live precarious lives, but also putting at higher risk the lives and livelihoods of people who usually enjoy some mechanisms of protection from the “conventional” risks we were used to living with. It is hard to think of a previous crisis that has affected all parts of the world at the same time and in such a radical way (at least within the memory of most living people).

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testing amid turmoil

The following is a guest post by Zach Griffen.

A specter is haunting the U.S. education system—the specter of not being able to carry out the routine administration of standardized tests. While written achievement tests were considered controversial in U.S. schools throughout the 19th century, by the mid-20th century it became acceptable to measure the “merit” of individuals via instruments such as IQ tests. Nowhere was this more true than in the higher education system, where competition between institutions led to shifting definitions of merit and to assertions about the role standardized testing should play in a meritocracy. Today, in the middle of a public health crisis that makes such testing difficult (if not impossible), both critics and advocates of standardized testing are raising new questions about teaching and the measurement of learning in the U.S. What role will academics—and teachers, students, university administrators, and others—play in this process?

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