Category Archives: Uncategorized

clashing norms of proper deference

I posted this on FB. “How to be deferential but not excessively deferential: If you have a scheduled appointment with your professor and you can tell she is talking to someone else, knock or stick your head in so you are sure she knows you are there, then back up apologetically and say “I’ll be happy to wait.” Quietly waiting without letting her know you are there is a problem because she may prefer to get rid of the person in her office and stick to her schedule rather than run late with you, and she should be the one who gets to decide this.”

In my office configuration I cannot see the hall from my desk and I have OFTEN been chatting aimlessly with someone, telling them “I’m expecting a student soon” and then even “I wonder where my 3pm appointment is, did he forget?” while, unbeknownst to me, the student is sitting or standing quietly and patiently outside the door, never announcing their presence. This drives me crazy, as it seems going way overboard in the deference direction when you have an actual scheduled appointment with someone not to announce that you have arrived for it. Thus, when given the opportunity, I instruct students (as above) about how one can simultaneously exhibit politeness and deference while also honoring schedules. However,  former students (who are now professors themselves) confirm that their own sense of deference would lead them NEVER to interrupt a conversation a professor was involved with.

Is there any hope for this culture clash? I obviously need to return to the sign on my door that says “please tell me if you are waiting for me.” But even when I used to have that sign on the door, I’d have students who either would not notice the sign or not think it applied to them.



performativity + political economy

There’s a lot of confusion about the “performativity of economics” and along with that confusion a healthy dose of critique. The main line of argument is that the performativistas ignore politics and power, and thus lose the insights of traditional political economy. Benjamin Braun has a nice article in New Political Economy that offers a very nice overview of these debates, and a very savvy summary of the value of the performativity approach questions of political economy. Continue reading

sabermetrics comes to college rankings

Two items in my feed today with one theme: using the new College Scorecard to create college rankings that account for the quality of inputs, so to speak.*
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direct and indirect effects of “citation padding”

Phil has had a couple of posts now about the practice of journal editors encouraging citations to a journal that they edit, and it sounds like there may be more.  I should say that I don’t recall ever having an editor say something as… direct as the statement Phil quotes, and I do remember being on projects where, on our own initiative, we’ve inserted references to a journal or the work of its editor with “can’t hurt our chances!” rationale.

One might think the specific practice of editors encouraging citations to their journal for impact-factor purposes could be curbed by simply eliminating journal-level self-citations from impact factor counts.  But: my suspicion is that when people insert citations in with the idea of pleasing editors at a specific journal, they mostly don’t bother to remove those citations if the paper gets rejected from the journal anyway.  In other words, when journals encourage authors to cite other articles in their journal, there’s a direct and readily observed effect on impact factor as self-citations, but then there is also this hidden and downstream effect of papers that are published elsewhere.  Depending on the journal’s acceptance rate and how early in the process references are added, the indirect could potentially be substantial relative to the direct effect.

On the bright–if somewhat perverse side–the practice could actually be good for anybody who wanted to try to use networks of citations across journals to make inferences about journal prestige.  Because if a publication follows a chain of Journal A -> Journal B -> Journal C -> Journal D in order to get published, Journal D will have the traces of efforts to please Journals A, B, and C, including citations to those journals, whereas if it had been accepted by Journal A, it wouldn’t have traces to please B, C, and D because it was never sent there.  Put another way, the order in which authors send articles would be a good way of sussing out the hierarchy of journal prestige, but that’s private information, but authors including gratuitous citations to those journals and then leaving them in is a way in which that private information can be made visible.

“let me tell you why not to quit”

Academic “quit lit” is a large and probably growing genre. We’ve all seen it, agreed with some bits, disagreed with others. Today, I read a new essay in reaction to quit lit by Matthew Pratt Guterl that I found moving: What to Love. Here’s how it opens:

Let me tell you what to love.

Let me tell you why to stick it out.

Let me tell you why not to quit.

Like Tressie MC’s critique of quit lit, Guterl objects to the hyper focus on work and the individual. Read the whole thing, it’s short, and hopefully you’ll find it as inspiring as I did.

another peer-review horror story

Just in time for Hallowe’en, Phil Cohen has posted an account of a recent experience of trying to publish an article. The account is more striking when one pauses to think that the story is not getting told because it is extreme in a discipline-wide sense, but that it’s extreme for one of the few folks who write blog posts about things like this. In other words, too many people with too many papers are ending up with these sort of stories.

I appreciated Phil’s forthrightness in the account, particular the part where he reproduced one editor’s request to insert citations to more papers from their journal.
Beyond that, I was particular fond of this paragraph of the summary:

Sociologists care way too much about framing. Most (or all) of the reviewers were sociologists, and most of what they suggested, complained about, or objected was about the way the paper was “framed,” that is, how we establish the importance of the question and interpret the results. Of course framing is important – it’s why you’re asking your question, and why readers should care (see Mark Granovetter’s note on the rejected version of “the Strength of Weak Ties”). But it takes on elevated importance when we’re scrapping over limited slots in academic journals, so that to get published you have to successfully “frame” your paper as more important than some other poor slob’s.

asr comparative historical reviewer guidelines

Last month, ASR announced they would be publishing guidelines for reviewers of qualitative, theoretical, and comparative/historical papers. Today, draft versions of the historical guidelines were released (pdf version). Here’s the message that Monica Prasad posted on the CHS list today along with the guidelines:

“The committee to draft guidelines for comparative historical sociology articles in ASR has finished its work, and the draft guidelines are attached here. The committee consisted of Richard Lachmann (chair), Greta Krippner, George Steinmetz, Melissa Wilde, Nicholas Hoover Wilson, and Xiaohong Xu. Thank you to the committee for doing such an excellent job, and let’s all hope that the end result is more fabulous CHS articles in ASR!”

I’d love to know what you all think of them.

the mythical job.

There’s a tenure-track academic job I hear students talk about – one with work-life balance and a forty-hour work week and at least two weeks (but hopefully an entire summer) of carefree, completely unplugged vacation; one where you have all the autonomy and prestige of a professor, along with job security and a professional level paycheck, but there aren’t external pressures on your time except for those that you select because they’re consistent with your values and life goals…that job – that does not exist. And, even if it did, you would not increase your chances of landing such a job by eschewing the professional advice of faculty or colleagues because they are seen as somehow biased toward a different kind of job, one that just doesn’t fit you or your life goals.

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translating habitus from bourdieu to english

The following is a guest post by Steve Vaisey.

Last Friday I was in the airport, coming back from a talk at Emory when I saw this tweet from Paula England.

At one level, I shared her pain. “Structured structures predisposed to serve as structuring structures” is not exactly the clearest phrase ever written. But, that said, I get a lot out of Bourdieu and I think this passage is a pretty good summary of the entire argument of the Logic of Practice.

So, foolishly, publicly, I claimed that, when rendered in plain English, this was actually a pretty good passage. Then, doubling down, I offered to try such a translation. A number of people expressed interest in seeing what I came up with, so here it is.
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the $7bn myth: isis and the antiquities black market

The following is a guest post by Fiona Rose-Greenland.

Last week the FBI posted a new bulletin warning American citizens to be careful when purchasing antiquities of Iraqi or Syrian origin. The risk, according to the FBI, is that “purchasing an object looted and/or sold by the Islamic State may provide financial support to a terrorist organization and could be prosecuted under 18 USC 233A.”

Media outlets responded with a new round of articles, resurrecting the specter of a “$7 billion black market in antiquities”, in which the Islamic State (IS) is apparently making a killing. Continue reading


Kieran Healy has written a paper about nuance and posted it here.  It’s an argument that resonates with my own experience, especially in terms of various forays of reading efforts of social theory to talk about the relationship between what they are doing and psychology or, worse, “biology.” While there’s various colorful language throughout the paper, this unadorned sentence hit home for me in that regard:

there is a desire to equate calling for a more sophisticated approach to a theoretical problem with actually providing one, and to tie such calls to the alleged sophistication of the people making them.

the place of reproducible research

The ongoing scuffles over reproducible (or is it replicable? or robust?) research always seems to miss one point particularly important to my own work: protecting geographic identities of respondents.

I do not wish to argue that we should not replicate or share data. Rather, I wish to suggest that the costs of data sharing are not as low as many make them out to be and that a one-size-fits all policy on reproducible research seems unwise.
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is parenthood really worse than divorce? demographic clickbait in the washington post

The following is a guest post by Aaron Major.

If you’ve seen, or heard about, the Washington Post piece on having a baby being worse than death, read on. Lots of these science/social science articles come across my feed and while most of them bug me in various ways, this one has prompted me to write. Maybe it’s because I’ve got good friends who just had their first baby and, while they’re too tired and blurry-eyed to spend much time on the Facebook these days, I cringe thinking about this stuff becoming part of the many ‘having a baby’ conversations that they, and lots of folks, are having. To start with context. The article summarizes research recently published in the journal Demography as showing that having a baby reduces your happiness more than divorce, unemployment, or death of a partner. Yikes! That is one click-worthy headline. So what’s the problem with this article? A few things.
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in (partial) defense of cultural dopes

The following is a guest post by Jeff Guhin.

John O’Brien has an important new article at Sociological Theory about individualism that everybody should read. It uses a brilliant and incredibly well-handled meta-analytical technique: by combining 17 qualitative studies of religion in America (including his own), he’s able to use others’ data but not take their conclusions for granted. Of course, he’s limited by what ended up in the field notes and then, more importantly, what made it from the notes to the pages, but he still does a lot of his own interpretation. In fact, watching O’Brien shift how an author interprets “individualism” to what he thinks is really going on is some of the article’s best stuff. Continue reading

healy on “the performativity of networks”

Kieran Healy has a wonderful new article on The Performativity of Networks, just published in the European Journal of Sociology. The article is useful for both its empirical claims about how social network analysis has transformed the world, and for its cogent summary of the performativity of economics as laid out in MacKenzie’s work on finance. Throughout, Healy takes a somewhat ambivalent tone towards the performativity thesis itself. That is, he carefully argues that the evidence for the performativity of network theory is as good as the case for financial economics, but does not make a strong claim that such evidence is overwhelming. Anyone interested in the performativity thesis or in the history of social network analysis should give the paper a read. I won’t spoil the empirics here, read the paper for the details. Instead, I want to focus on how we think about performativity.

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