sase mini-conference on economic racism & racial capitalism (deadline 1/25/22!)

I’m very excited to be co-organizing a mini-conference at the upcoming meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) on the theme of “Economic Racism, Ethnic Chauvinism, Racial Capitalism: Foregrounding Race, Ethnicity and Immigration in a Fractious Economy.” The full call is below. Submissions are due January 25th and the mini-conference will take place as part of the larger SASE meetings in Amsterdam July 9-11. To submit, send an 500-or-less word abstract through the SASE system here (requires creating an account and logging in). If you have any questions, leave a comment or shoot me a message!

Continue reading “sase mini-conference on economic racism & racial capitalism (deadline 1/25/22!)”

what is a field?

The following is a guest post by Joe Karaganis.

Thanks to  Jeff Lockhart for inviting this post.  Over the past couple years, he and I have discussed, on and off, the technical and ethical issues surrounding the development of statistical accounts of gender balance in the curriculum of different fields — potentially using data from Open Syllabus, which I direct.

I don’t want to focus on that here, however.  I’ll defer to Jeff’s excellent discussion of the issue from last summer and simply note a couple of our hand-coded forays into the topic with respect to business school assignments and assigned movies.  (In both cases, the percentage of assigned titles attributable to women is around 10%.)  Instead, I’d like to explore a question that has motivated Open Syllabus since its early days: What is a field?  I’m aware of the sociological history surrounding this question but will stick, mostly, to our brutally simple version of it, which for me begins with a story.

Continue reading “what is a field?”

defending democracy: institutions and principles

In the leadup to the anniversary of last year’s January 6 insurrection, a couple of Tweets combine into some interesting questions about the relationship between support for democracy in theory; support for extant institutions of “democratic” governance; and frank policy failures. How should scholars support democracy and to what extent?

Continue reading “defending democracy: institutions and principles”

comments on rodríguez-muñiz’s “figures of the future: latino civil rights and the politics of demographic change”

Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz recently published an excellent book on the population politics of Latino civil right advocates: Figures of the Future: Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change. I had the chance to comment on the book at the Social Science History Association meetings, alongside Emily Merchant and Debra Thompson. Below are my comments for those interested in learning more about the book.

Continue reading “comments on rodríguez-muñiz’s “figures of the future: latino civil rights and the politics of demographic change””

comments on krause’s “model cases: on canonical research objects and sites”

Monika Krause recently published a fascinating new book at the intersection of sociology and philosophy of social science: “Model Cases: On Canonical Research Objects and Sites.” I had the chance to comment on the book at the Social Science History Association meetings this week, alongside Fiona Greenland and Julian Go. Below are my comments for those interested in learning more about the book.

Continue reading “comments on krause’s “model cases: on canonical research objects and sites””

fuck advice columns

The following is a guest post by Victoria Reyes.

I used to write columns for Inside Higher Ed, for example, that pinpointed practices that can help grad students, postdocs, and faculty not just survive, but thrive in the academy, even in the midst of crises. 

Why is it, then, that I’ve recently become so angry when I see similar, recent essays? Like the one describing the habits of successful faculty during the pandemic. Here the author stated: 

Continue reading “fuck advice columns”

who writes social science?

Both the academy generally and the social sciences specifically are rife with inequality. Black and Latine people are underrepresented among sociology PhDs and faculty; people who’s parents have PhDs are dramatically overrepresented; women are awarded less grant funding than men; and academia can be a hostile environment for LGB and especially trans scholars. Yet, despite considerable interest in these issues, it is remarkably difficult to study demographic inequality in critical parts of the academy like publishing for the simple reason that the necessary data either do not exist or cannot be linked. The NSF collects data on students and faculty. Professional associations collect data on members. But journals and publishers generally don’t collect and share data on authors. Christin Munsch and I are changing that.

Continue reading “who writes social science?”

the “how many publications does it take to get an academic job?” redux

Every year as the academic job market gets going, someone posts online about what it “takes” now to get a job (or tenure). Think you needed a top-3 publication? Think again: now you need 20! People predictably flock to the post, sending waves of anxiety across graduate students, both those on the market and earlier cohorts watching the horizon. This week, twitter (as always) delivered the panic.

Underlying this roiling are real increases in productivity demands. As my colleague rob warren recently demonstrated, the volume of work produced by recently hired and tenured Assistant Professors at the top-20 Sociology programs has gone up significantly (and will probably inch upward again this year due to the pandemic-related hiring freezes). New Assistant Professors hired at these schools in 2015-17 had, on average, published 0-1 articles in the top-2 sociology journals (AJS and ASR) and 5 articles and/or book chapters. That is a lot of work to complete in the usual 6-8 years of graduate school (and, for some, a post-doc). But those averages mask a significant amount of heterogeneity that make it difficult (and even counter-productive) to give “one size fits all” advice to graduate students seeking academic jobs.

Continue reading “the “how many publications does it take to get an academic job?” redux”

the racial blinders of assimilation theory

The following is a guest post by José Itzigsohn.

I was recently reminded of the racial blinders of assimilation theory while reading an article by Richard Alba, Morris Levy, and Dowel Myers published in The Atlantic. The article is titled “The Myth of a Majority-Minority America”. The article argues that the “narrative that nonwhite people will soon outnumber white people is not only divisive, but also false.” I find the authors’ argument problematic and revealing of the racial unconscious (or not so unconscious) of assimilation theory.

Continue reading “the racial blinders of assimilation theory”

on leaving unc

Last week was my last week at UNC.

I never thought I would leave; I’ve loved my 20 years on the UNC faculty. I was hugely fortunate to be hired at UNC directly out of graduate school, and I’ve stayed since. I’ve had fantastic students (undergraduate and graduate), amazing colleagues, and great opportunities to learn and grow. Despite the seemingly never-ending string of crises UNC keeps facing, particularly since some big changes around 2010 (more on that below), it’s a wonderful, truly mission-driven, important place, and I’m proud to have been part of it.

Continue reading “on leaving unc”

values are not science-free, trans justice edition

Last month, Sociologists for Trans Justice released a statement condemning the wave of anti-trans legislation that has been proposed in state legislatures across the United States. The statement includes a link to a new reader titled #ProtectTransYouth which collects valuable resources for those interested in learning more.

One section of the statement struck me as especially well-phrased and useful for thinking through the relationships between science and activism and between facts and values. This topic is of perennial interest but has been especially salient in sociology in the wake of, among other things, the 2016 election and the Trump administration, the 2019 American Sociological Association annual meeting theme on “Engaging Social Justice for a Better World”, and the growth of the Du Boisian Scholar Network with its mission of “scholarship at the service of emancipation & liberation.”

Continue reading “values are not science-free, trans justice edition”

one year later: policing, violence, and public safety in minneapolis

Image Credit: Ben Hovland

Tomorrow marks one year since the murder of George Floyd at 38th and Chicago in South Minneapolis, sparking a rebellion that burned a police precinct and much of a nearby commercial strip. In the days that followed, a veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council declared their intention to “dismantle” the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). This declaration seemed to place the city at the forefront of a national conversation to reimagine public safety and redress racialized police violence. And yet, although the people of Minneapolis largely agree about the need for systematic changes in policing, residents, activists, and policymakers continue to disagree about the nature and scope of those transformations. These political struggles have complicated efforts to dismantle  the MPD.

As I wrote on scatterplot last summer, periods of upheaval rarely produce total abandonment of the status quo, but political leaders, activists, and community members can use such openings to shift the direction of policies, practices, and institutional and cultural arrangements. Those words ring even truer today. Nearly a year following the declaration, the MPD remains standing, but changed, as the city continues to struggle over how to create “safety for all” in a starkly unequal society. Fights over public safety are central to the upcoming election, where city residents will vote on a new charter amendment to replace the MPD with a Department of Public Safety and re-elect or vote out of office the council members who have fought for (or resisted) these changes and the Mayor who has rebuffed calls to dismantle the MPD.

Continue reading “one year later: policing, violence, and public safety in minneapolis”

say their names: ida b. wells and the humanizing of data

The following is a guest post by Allen Hillery.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was an American investigative journalist, educator and early leader in the civil rights movement. Born July 16, 1862 she dedicated most of her life combating prejudice and violence with the goal of achieving African-American equality. She researched and documented lynching in the United States in an attempt to bring awareness across the country and the world. Using data, she exposed the increasing use of lynching of African American men following the emancipation proclamation. 

Continue reading “say their names: ida b. wells and the humanizing of data”

what about du bois? a response to prasad’s critique of emancipatory sociology

The following is a guest post by Rory Kramer.

I highly recommend Monica Prasad’s recent piece in Socius advocating for problem-solving sociology as our era’s pragmatism. I cannot emphasize enough how smart it is and how much I love the idea of pragmatism as an escape from philosophical debates that are fun to have late at night, but more often than not lead nowhere in terms of getting stuff done. And I think the examples at the end, like Aliza Luft’s work on genocide, are great examples of sociology done well and summarized in the piece fantastically.

To try to summarize a complicated, in-depth piece in a quick paragraph or so (please read the whole thing), Prasad convincingly identifies three themes in how sociologists conceptualize the goal our work: rationalist, skeptic, and emancipatory. The rationalist studies for the sake of knowledge itself—the ultimate and exclusive goal of study is to understand society, regardless of whether or not society improves (or gets worse) thanks to that knowledge. The emancipatory studies for the sake of improving society—arguing that we should search for knowledge to create a better society, else it be squandering our efforts. The skeptic questions both whether or not sociology and academic discourse itself is at all useful, merging in some ways the critiques of rationalists toward emancipation and emancipatory scholars’ critiques of rationalist inaction into an almost meta-analysis of why and how we study and how that explains why reason is inadequate both as a driver of social change and as a means toward truth.

Continue reading “what about du bois? a response to prasad’s critique of emancipatory sociology”

lovecraft and american history behind the veil

H.P. Lovecraft was an influential science fiction/fantasy and horror author in the early 20th century United States. His popularity has been on the rise for some time now, with his work and ideas featured in everything from board games to TV shows. My morning walk to the office in Providence passes though H.P. Lovecraft square, and monuments to him litter the East Side of Providence where he lived.

Lovecraft was also a massive and unapologetic racist. And his racism was not somehow an incidental and unrelated aspect of his persona, it was central to the themes of his work: xenophobia, fear of the unknowable other, threats to civilized men lurking at the edges of the Earth, and so on. Recognition of Lovecraft’s racism has led to two interesting and parallel kinds of reevaluations: on one hand, trying to remove him from a pedestal like a Confederate monuments (e.g. in 2015 the World Fantasy Award was changed to no longer resemble Lovecraft) and, on the other, producing a set of modern “Lovecraftian” works that explicitly reject his racism and xenophobia and re-read his works in that light. Two notable projects are Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, a book and then TV show that offers a kind “Get Out” rereading of Lovecraft where the real horror is racist white people, and Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy series, so far containing a pair of novels that reimagines a classic Lovecraft story by connecting it to the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII and retelling that story from the perspective of the marginalized racial others whom Lovecraft so feared.

What I want to do in the rest of this post is, in that spirit, offer a re-reading of a fairly popular Lovecraft quote (from the opening “The Call of Cthulhu”) through the lens of Du Bois’s understanding of the veil to make sense of a recurrent dynamic in discussions of American history. First, here’s the quote:

Continue reading “lovecraft and american history behind the veil”