Category Archives: Austin

Rethinking Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

by Karen Lee

 

On March 30, 2017, President Gregory L. Fenves released the University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan (UDIAP). Within it, he describes the crystallization of policies that his administration has already put into action to promote diversity and inclusion at The University of Texas, as well as the inclusion of new initiatives outlined in the plan.

In March, I had the opportunity to participate in one particular ongoing initiative designed to train teaching assistants on cultivating inclusive classrooms. This essay offers my thoughts of the Inclusive Classroom Seminar in the context of a broader university-wide effort to live up to professed ideals of equality and inclusion.

The tables were positioned in a roundabout fashion so that graduate student participants from all divisions of the university could face one another as we talked about why we had decided to attend the two-day seminar. The atmosphere was serious as aspiring engineers, educational psychologists, physicists, microbiologists, historians, and sociologists spoke honestly about goals such as better facilitating difficult discussions, acquiring empowering language to engage our students, reflecting upon our biases, and setting inclusive classroom tones. More often than not, our own experiences with discrimination and bigotry were woven into our motivations for being at this seminar. Some spoke about their ordeals with sexism, others about their experiences with micro-aggressions, while other students talked about the continuous questioning of their knowledge and ability.

An activity from a 2015 Inclusive Classrooms seminar. SOURCE: Division of Diversity and Engagement (DDCE)

The facilitators came equipped with carefully prepared and theoretically informative material and led a two-day seminar designed to educate and facilitate discussions on identities, classroom climate, micro-aggressions, and self-awareness. During the seminar, we also participated in scenario reflections where we considered potential solutions and responses to a variety of situations. Situations ranged from leading classes in the aftermath of a bomb threat to grouping students in gender binary categories. They provided important information on cultivating inclusivity in our roles as teaching assistants across a number of dimensions including racial, LGBTQ, disability, veteran, and gender diversity. They also placed particular emphasis on reflecting upon our own biases, prejudices, and assumptions because as they said, “we may not be experts on all our students, but we are able to be experts on ourselves.” Overall, it was clear to me that the seminar was thoughtfully designed to provide participants with knowledge of diversity and inclusivity concepts and to have us reflect on our role as teaching assistants in building safe spaces for our students.

Though the seminar was helpful, it also exemplified a nagging concern of mine, which is that in this seminar and in other situations, conversations about diversity and inclusivity are stunted. Sometimes the conversations feel like everyone is stepping on egg shells. Other times it sounds like an orchestra of impressive rhetoric with no productive meaning. Then there are times when outrage and cynicism seem to exist simply to exist. That is not to say that feelings of outrage and cynicism are unwarranted. However, we also cannot expect to have productive conversations about equality and social justice when outrage and cynicism dominate the room.

It’s clear that the university must continue to ask the hard questions about discrimination and intolerance, refrain from a politics of appeasement, and decidedly move from their masterful grasp of diversity and inclusivity rhetoric and theory into real, substantive institutional change. However, I also recognize that in our position as students and citizens, we must constantly reflect on what diversity and inclusion truly are, how change can be achieved, and continuously articulate these ideas with sharp precision, clarity, and determination. Otherwise, institutional leaders and their constituents have unproductive conversations and change becomes befuddled in a sticky web of outrage and appeasement. Reflections about change are futile without action, but action is futile without reflection. Our collaborative efforts must not merely skim the surfaces of the problems. They must be given the appropriate resources and depth in attention to materialize into bold steps that powerfully advance our ideals of equality and social justice.

 


Karen Lee is a rising second-year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests center around race and ethnicity, inequality, and political sociology. She is currently conducting an analysis on the effects of race on public perception of protest.

Travel Ban Sham

by Andrew Krebs

Alternative fact: We’ll be safer if we ban Muslim travelers and deport undocumented immigrants.

Fact: Terrorism and terroristic threats are most likely to come from radical right-wing, white nationalist groups within the United States.

 

A “Not My President’s Day” rally drew several hundred protesters to the Texas Capitol on Monday (Source: American-Statesman).

February 20th was “Not My President’s Day” for many people who continue to be dissatisfied with the current administration. Here in Austin, TX, folks gathered for an afternoon rally at the state capitol to lament the otherwise renowned holiday, and similar demonstrations occurred across the U.S. Indeed, over the course of the past month – President Donald Trump’s first in office – oppositional rallies and protests have been a large piece of an even greater resistance movement. For myriad reasons, #manypeoplearesaying they are unhappy with the new administration… from the unqualified Cabinet nominations to feuds with foreign leaders and every little concern about the security of our nation’s intelligence in-between. Perhaps most upsetting are the recent executive orders (EOs) pertaining to travel and immigration.

President Trump’s administration received huge backlash following the EO that was signed on January 27th. This specific EO, titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”, called for 1) a 90-day temporary bar on all entrance into the US from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), 2) a 120-day hold on all refugees seeking asylum in the U.S., and 3) and an indefinite hold on refugees from Syria. While the full text of the EO can be read here, it is important to note that The White House published a misleading version of the EO on its own website. Nonetheless, as the title suggests, President Trump and his aides contend that the travel measures outlined in the EO are necessary to secure public safety. Critics, in response, have challenged that assertion and successfully argued against the EO in federal court. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the lower court’s temporary restraining order against the Trump Administration, effectively freezing the Department of Homeland Security from enforcing the travel ban. While the technical and legal justification for maintaining the temporary restraining order against the Trump Administration is in line with the “immediate and irreparable harm” caused by the travel ban, there is a separate empirical question pertaining to whether or not travelers coming from these countries actually pose a real threat to public safety. In these terms, the Trump Administration has failed 1) to provide evidence of a terroristic threat from the seven countries named, and 2) to prove that the current refugee vetting process is insufficient.

People at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Jan. 29, 2017 protesting President Donald Trump’s immigration plan. (Photo: Jason Puckett, KVUE)

To protest the EO, I joined a group of several hundred for a rally at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on January 29th. There, I heard from other people who were sharing their own frustrations, fears, anger, and resentment towards the Trump Administration. One by one, individuals in the crowd passed around a megaphone and shared why they had come to protest that day. Some folks proudly disclosed that this was their very first protest and that the recent EO had galvanized their political action.

Standing outside of the airport that day, I imagined what it looked like behind the scenes of airport security. Most ominous to me was the fact that some of our nation’s top law enforcement agencies (specifically the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Patrol) proved willing and able to carry out President Trump’s likely unconstitutional agenda, and that this authority went unchecked for a not-inconsequential-period of time before the federal court’s ruling. This made me think generally about power, and specifically about the transfer of authority. It made me think about the excuse of, “I am just following orders”. And it made me think of the classic Milgram Experiment, which tested human obedience to authority. Perhaps I’ve grown cynical in these times, but it was Stanley Milgram (1963: 371) who referenced Nazi Germany as inspiration for his research: “Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time… Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded… These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only be carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of persons obeyed orders.” Yes, Donald Trump signed the EO, but he had to rely upon other agencies and officers to enforce it.

As it stands right now (with the original EO blocked by the courts), it seems the Trump Administration has resigned to drafting a new order. In the meantime, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers continue to carry out massive raids in dozens of cities across the nation (including Austin), searching for undocumented immigrants because – you guessed it – President Trump signed an EO on January 25th titled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States”. This is, of course, despite no real evidence to warrant such action. In fact, the research on crime and immigration in the United States is unequivocal 1, 2, 3, 4, 5: Immigrant populations are less likely to commit crime compared to the native-born population, and areas with high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of crime. In other words, undocumented immigrants do not pose a specific or immediate threat to public safety or national security. The crime just isn’t there, but the fear of crime and public anxiety towards ‘the other’ is real and has been fostered by a culturally and historically deep sense of racism and xenophobia that has never been or yet to be truly reconciled. Until then, we have to resist the fear and misinformation. As scholars, teachers, and researchers, we are poised to let our work be our resistance.

References

Milgram, Stanley. 1963. “Behavioral Study of Obedience.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4); 371-378.


Andrew Krebs is a 4th year doctoral student in the Department of Sociology. His research examines peer influence in crime, and the particular benefits of mental health peer support in the community re-entry process. You can follow him on Twitter at @A4Andrew.

Cultivating Resilience – a COLA Mental Health workshop

ER3aMany thanks to the College of Liberal Arts Office of Research and Graduate Studies  for hosting a broad based conversation on Resilience and Mental Health. Associate Dean Esther Raizen started the conversation by noting an increase in the number of graduate students who are seeking accommodations from the Office of Students with Disabilities.  Kelli Bradley, SSD Executive Director confirmed that thirty four percent of new applications from  over 240 graduate students cited mental health and anxiety related concerns.

This is a steep rise in graduate student request for services that have traditionally focused more on undergraduates.  Some thoughts on why graduate numbers also continue to rise at the Center for Mental Health Counseling include: fear of and the stigma of failure, financial and academic stress  and more students who have been engaged with psychological counseling.  To encourage self-care,  CMHC has launched a new iPhone app Thrive at UT. Thrive consists of seven topic areas. Topics include community, gratitude, self-compassion, mindfulness, mindset, thoughts and moods. In each topic, students will find an inspirational quote, a short video of a UT student sharing their own story, some light reading and an interactive activity.

The job market may intimidate those who already carry the burden of student loans, including grad students who may not have a tenure track trajectory. International Students face additional anxiety stemming from language insecurity, living far from home and limited access to external funding sources.  The CMHC also offers cultural adjustment resources to offset the potential for isolation, loneliness and depression.

Dr. Leonard Moore of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement talked about the micro aggressions and feelings of being in a very small minority that students of color experience, both in their cohorts and in seeking minority mentors.  He suggested admitting students of color who can cluster in cohorts, so they do not feel so alone.  Encouraging students of color in administrative directions as well as tenure track positions would help to build a more diverse and inclusive culture in the academe and should be encouraged.

Susan Harnden, from the Employee Assistance Program recommended Susan Dweck’s Mindset, The New Psychology of Success as a resource for encouraging resilience in the face of challenges.

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1075722Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez has given talks on health and well being in the Sociology department, orienting incoming students as they transition into graduate school and encouraging them to find a balance between work and life. She shared tips on cultivating resilience as students face the challenges of completing their PhD.

  • learn to tolerate some suffering
  • resolve to be healthy and have a real life while working on a PhD
  • create a small network of good friends
  • get a life, don’t forsake your humanity
  • take care of yourself – sleep and eat
  • schedule fun without feeling guilty
  • have at least one supportive faculty mentor who really cares
  • become more comfortable with uncertainty – transitions are a part of life
  • keep the big picture in mind, the reason you came to make positive changes in the world
  • learn to accept a certain amount of pressure and take breaks
  • be receptive to help and advice
  • cultivate basic emotional intelligence and be honest
  • find your unique rhythm for productivity
  • remember to reach out for help if you need it
  • do not routinely overwork
  • practice compassion for yourself and others

It is getting harder to avoid the feeling that our world is in turmoil. The  tension between the old and the new can be overwhelming, particularly when uncertainty and negativity are part of the 24 hour news cycle.  Cultivating the resources we need to survive and thrive during these time of transition are not only advisable, they are necessary.  UT Austin has so many resources, for both the individual and the community, please use them and share generously.

 

Athletes as Activists: Lessons from Black Lives Matter and Beyond

by Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up before an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in New York. Professional athletes have worn "I Can't Breathe" messages in protest of a grand jury ruling not to indict an officer in the death of a New York man. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James warms up at the Barclays Center, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in New York. He and his teammates wore “I Can’t Breathe” messages in protest of the grand jury ruling not to indict an officer in the death of Eric Garner. (Source: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

The last few years have seemingly seen a rise in outspoken “activist” athletes. In late-2014, LeBron James and most of the Cleveland Cavaliers wore “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up shirts in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement to protest the murder of Eric Garner, a 43-year old Black man who was choked to death by Staten Island police in July 2014. Similarly, the University of California – Berkeley women’s basketball team took to the court wearing homemade black T-shirts with the names of Black Americans who were either lynched or killed by the police in the Golden Bears’ game against California State University – Long Beach. Also in 2014, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins entered FirstEnergy Stadium with a black sleeveless T-shirt worn over his uniform and pads inscribed with the message “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.”

On the left, Andrew Hawkins entering the Browns’ stadium with his “Justice” shirt; on the right, Cal’s Lady Golden Bears in their homemade t-shirts before their game. (Source: Tony Dejak/Associated Press, Cal Women’s Basketball/Twitter)

In 2015, in a show of solidarity with other students, the University of Missouri football team refused to take to the field unless their university system president, Tim Wolf (who had not adequately addressed issues of racism on campus), resigned. Within 36 hours Wolf was gone, prompting Missouri state legislators to engage in what sports journalist Dave Zirin terms “plantation politics”; in putting forth a bill that would revoke scholarships for any scholarship athletes who fail to perform for “any reason unrelated to health,” Missouri legislators aimed to silence Black dissent, specifically the actions of the Mizzou Tigers football players.

It is in the midst of this particular activism-inclined sports climate that several journalists, activists, academics, and former athletes gathered in Austin this March to discuss the relationships between sports and politics. On March 11th, the co-sponsored event (co-organized by UT-Austin Sociology professor Ben Carrington), “Athletes as Activists: Lessons from Black Lives Matter and Beyond,” brought together a panel of athlete-activists. Moderated by British journalist Keme Nzerem, the panelists Shireen Ahmed (athlete, writer, activist), Michael Johnson (former English Premier League and Jamaican national team football player), and Etan Thomas (former NBA player) facilitated a discussion about the role of athletes as activists. The room was full, with an audience of faculty, students, staff, sports writers, and curious residents of Austin, as well as SxSW visitors. The panel began with each panelist discussing their personal experiences as both athletes and activists and the intersections therein. From there, Nzerem asked a few more pointed questions to facilitate discussion, and then opened the floor to the audience itself.

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The panelists discussed the ways in which athletes have acted as activists throughout history, while simultaneously connecting their own experiences to contemporary instances of athletes as activists. One of the central stories shared was that of the Mizzou Tigers football team, and their successful stand against former university-system president Tim Wolf. The Tigers operated in solidarity with the student population of the university, including one student who had engaged in a hunger strike against the president. What their stand contributed, as noted by Etan Thomas, was a form of collective power. As student athletes, the football team generates revenue for the university, and by refusing to play, that revenue was put in jeopardy. Though their actions were later met with backlash and antagonism, they showed in that moment that power that comes from a unified front of student athletes—the power to get things done.

The panel highlighted the Mizzou action as a recent example of athlete activism, but also made it clear that taking such measures is not an easy thing to do. The act of being both an athlete and an activist simultaneously provides a platform and runs the risk of taking serious heat. Nevertheless, each panelist, in their own way, made clear the value of being both an athlete and an activist, especially in instances of solidarity and support.

The conversation was rich and varied, drawing on topics such as the lack of representation of people of color and women on athletic organizational boards, the continued issues faced by women in sport – particularly as they intersect with race, religion and sexuality – as well as the importance of all students (athletes and non) advocating for their own rights. The panel brought to the fore many diverse voices – faculty, student athletes, graduate students, sports writers and more.

One thing that was made particularly clear during this panel discussion was the intersection of sport and politics, and the interconnectedness of social movements and sports. Athletes have the ability to bring attention to larger societal issues on a major scale, and though using their voices to bring issues of injustice is often met with backlash, it is important to remember that the platform, power, and privilege does exist.


Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown is a 6th-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include race, embodiment, social relationships, food practices, and sport. Her dissertation explores middle-class Black American food practices in Austin, TX. 

 

Advice to prospective colleagues from UT Austin graduate students

12828924_483543678495471_1359198197756623076_oOn March 23-24 we will welcome  our prospective 2016 cohort members!  Spring is such a beautiful time to come to Austin and we look forward to sharing our city with visitors who may become  new friends and colleagues.

I asked our Sociology graduate students what advice they would give to those considering a move to UT Austin. Their responses and cohort years are included below.

Julie (2012)

Two of the greatest strengths of our department at UT are the sense of community and wealth of resources. So, take advantage of them! Immerse yourself in the department by joining lab groups, attending brown bags, having lunch with guest speakers, and participating in the various events the department holds. In this way, you’ll make connections and become part of a broad network of scholars that will share knowledge, give feedback on your work, and inspire you to grow professionally and personally.

Robert (2013)

As far as Austin is concerned, it’s an incredible city. It’s a pretty big one with a small city vibe. There’s a ton of outdoor space and events because the weather is wonderful.

Everything else here is also pretty affordable. There are a lot of two dollar happy hours around town and you can have a good night out for under $20. Barton springs / deep eddy during the summer cost $3 for the whole day and every other Wednesday there’s a free outdoor music festival called Blues on the Green. Some of my favorite events include Eeyore’s Birthday, the Pecan Street Festival, movies at the Long Center or Central Market and Bat Fest. Long story short, Austin’s pretty awesome and definitely worth the visit.

Caitlin (2015)

  • trust your gut feeling and emotions based on correspondence and the visit. Social warmth matters.
  • location and context matter, don’t overlook them. This is your life.

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Be open-minded when it comes to training and opportunities, even if you come into a graduate program and you know what you’d like to learn and work on.  If a faculty member is willing to work with you or gives you an opportunity to get training in an area you are unfamiliar with, be open to widening your networks and your skill set.

Robyn (2011)

1. Be open to all methodological approaches and take as many methods classes as you can
2. Always have a Plan B
3. Make friends beyond the academy
4. Exercise
5. Meditate / Journal
6. Set boundaries between work and non-work
7. Run, don’t walk, to a therapist’s office
8. Read fiction
9. Don’t be an jerk
10. See number 9

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson has some great advice on resilience and Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Lopez continues to inspire us to maintain a proper work/life balance and to understand how making the decision to come to graduate school will result in many life changes.

(Un)Soundness of Being: Feminist Approaches to Health and Healing

The Center for Women’s and Gender Studies will be hosting its 23rd Annual Graduate Student Conference on March 23rd, 2016.

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Several members of the Sociology Graduate Community will be presenting! See their papers and abstracts below and go support your fellow graduate students:

Anna Banchik: Photography and the Spectacle of Race

In 2008, families in Libya began protesting in order to seek information about male relatives who had been forcibly disappeared, and subsequently killed, by the government. Despite the prevalence of forced disappearance cross-nationally, these mobilizations in response have seldom been studied from sociological point of view. This paper seeks to understand mobilizations in response to forced disappearance from a sociological perspective that considers the role played by mourning and trauma in social movement organizations. Social movement scholars have recently considered the significance of emotions in collective organizing but have focused primarily on dynamics related to pride, shame, anger, and indignation, among other emotions. While some scholars have addressed grief, there has not been a sustained focus on issues of mourning and trauma in social movements. I focus on the case of Libyan mobilizations around disappearance to argue that grievances over the disappeared body are characterized by expressions of mourning and the experience of collective trauma, which serves to sustain their movement. Families engage in protest tactics that both commemorate and reframe the lives of their loved ones and express grief for their loss. This study contributes to our understandings of how the missing body and protracted mourning have the potential to motivate and sustain social movements.

Shantel Buggs & Ryessia Jones: Disciplining Olivia Pope: Race, Gender, Family, and the Power of Whiteness

While much of the discussion regarding race and gender in Scandal is reserved for its portrayal of interracial relationships – specifically the sexual relationship triangle between Olivia Pope, President Fitzgerald Grant, and Jake Ballard – the majority of Olivia’s interactions are informed by, and enacted through, whiteness. Olivia has relationships with White men, wears the “white hat,” associates mostly with White colleagues, and consistently uses her resources to save the careers and lives of White political figures. This essay explores the ways in which whiteness emerges in the television show, Scandal, a scripted show created by Shonda Rhimes and starring Kerry Washington, both Black women. More specifically, this chapter reveals how whiteness is utilized as a mechanism for policing and disciplining the Black female body, specifically through an analysis of Olivia’s relationships with Fitz, Jake, Mellie Grant, Abby Whelan, and Olivia’s father, Rowan (Eli) Pope. As Frankenberg (1993) argues, “whiteness” is the means of producing and reproducing dominance, normativity, and privilege (236); thus, White people have a “possessive investment” in its success (Lipsitz 2007). Because whiteness is a social construction, it informs not only how we understand constructions like gender and race in the “real” world, but it our fictional worlds as well.

Prisca Gayles: Re(membering) the Past and Recovering the Present: Black Activist Responses to Controlling Images and Stereotypes of Black Women in Argentina

This paper examines Black activism in Buenos Aires from a Transnational Black Feminist and Subaltern perspective. The present project is necessary because Afro-Argentine women have either been erased from or misrepresented in Argentine historiography and are currently situated in a system that threatens to reproduce this injury. I begin with a review of the ways hegemonic historiography in Argentina has contributed to the present day myth of non-existence of Afro-Argentines. I then examine the trivialization of actions, assumptions, and practices in Buenos Aires that violate the black female body by assigning her a static and/or stigmatized role. I do this with an analysis of the vendedora de empanadas (the empanada seller), the most reproduced image of the Afro-Argentine woman of the nation’s past, who today is represented with blackface practices. I ask in what ways this controlling image is related to the injurious experiences of black women in Argentina today. Although I locate the simultaneous invisibilility and hypervisibilty in the figure of the vendedora de empanadas I do so as an example, only one in a myriad of ways in which this is true for black women in Buenos Aires. Finally I draw on Black activist responses to contest the relegated role of black women paying particular attention to “recovery work” in the visual field and the experiential knowledge of Black female activists. The intent of this paper is to argue that subaltern analyses are incomplete if they only write about subjugated groups. The gaps that subaltern projects seek to fill are enriched when they not only interpret the silences but also draw upon the experiential knowledge and transgressive practices of the groups they seek to represent. Thus, a Transnational Black Feminist approach to understanding the work of black female activists in Buenos Aires must necessarily be coupled with the subaltern approach.

Emily Paine: “Not…dead lesbians”: women’s experiences of sex in the midlife across same-sex and different-sex couple

I examine the experiences of women navigating sex amidst midlife transitions within same-sex and different sex long term couples. Data from in-depth interviews with women in 18 same-sex and 18 different-sex couples were analyzed to reveal how transitions related to caregiving, health and aging work to change women’s intra- and interpersonal experiences of sex and sexuality. I extend theories of gender and sexual scripts to examine how women framed and made sense of their changing sex lives in light of larger cultural schemas of gender and sexuality. For example, lesbian women negotiated their discordance from heterosexual scripts by framing their changing sex lives as either similar to those of heterosexual long term couples or too different to be understood through such scripts. Whereas straight women cited their alignment with the script of sexless long term heterosexual marriages, lesbian women negotiated stigmatized heterosexist scripts of lesbian asexuality. I introduce the term of lesbian “bed work” to describe the sense of responsibility and work undertaken to keep up sexual relationships discussed by lesbian women.

Samantha Simon: Male Strip Clubs as Revolutionary Sexual Spaces

In this paper, I argue that male strip clubs offer women an opportunity to destabilize normative forms of heterosexuality by actively and publicly desiring sex and that some of this transgressive behavior can become sexually violent. The existence and popularity of male strip clubs and bachelorette parties denaturalizes women as asexual by demonstrating that women actively desire sexual experiences. Though scholars disagree on whether these spaces either reinforce or disrupt gender norms, I argue that the mere existence of these spaces and their acknowledgement of female sexuality destabilize normative expectations of gender and sexuality. Some of women’s transgressive behaviors in male strip clubs could be described as violent. Interestingly, male dancers and the researchers who study these spaces do not describe them as such. These researchers may inadvertently be reinforcing conceptions of women as non-threatening and passive by describing patrons as “wild” and not “violent.” I argue that social discomfort with these transgressions is corrected for in the description of these events as not violent. Though I certainly do not condone this kind of behavior, I do argue that if we are able to acknowledge the existence of violent women and vulnerable men, we can contribute to the disruption of gendered norms of sexuality that lead to violence against women.

Maro Youssef: The Algerian state’s creation of terrorism and the “Islamist ghost”

The Algerian civil war, which lasted from 1991 to 2002, consisted of infighting among various Islamist militant groups that also were also engaged in warfare with the Algerian state. There were between 200,000- 300,000 deaths and at least 10,000 disappearances (7,000 of which the state later recognized). Following the civil war, the state created the “Islamist ghost” as Algerians demanded answers about the disappearance, abduction, torture, and death of at least ten per cent of the population during the war. The state constructed narratives of haunting and trauma using the “Islamist ghost” in order to create a docile population that would later re-elect the same president four times since the war.

Amina Zarrugh: “This vigil of ours is a vigil of truth”: The Role of Mourning and Trauma in Social Movements

In 2008, families in Libya began protesting in order to seek information about male relatives who had been forcibly disappeared, and subsequently killed, by the government. Despite the prevalence of forced disappearance cross-nationally, these mobilizations in response have seldom been studied from sociological point of view. This paper seeks to understand mobilizations in response to forced disappearance from a sociological perspective that considers the role played by mourning and trauma in social movement organizations. Social movement scholars have recently considered the significance of emotions in collective organizing but have focused primarily on dynamics related to pride, shame, anger, and indignation, among other emotions. While some scholars have addressed grief, there has not been a sustained focus on issues of mourning and trauma in social movements. I focus on the case of Libyan mobilizations around disappearance to argue that grievances over the disappeared body are characterized by expressions of mourning and the experience of collective trauma, which serves to sustain their movement. Families engage in protest tactics that both commemorate and reframe the lives of their loved ones and express grief for their loss. This study contributes to our understandings of how the missing body and protracted mourning have the potential to motivate and sustain social movements.

 

On Jane Ward’s “NOT GAY”

On February 25th, the Department of Sociology and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies had the pleasure of hosting Professor Jane Ward for a public job talk on her most recent book, Not Gay: Sex Between Straight Men (New York University Press, 2015). The talk entitled “NOT GAY: The Homosexual Ingredient in the Making of Straight White Men,” traced the historical relationship between same-sex behaviors and practices and the construction of (white) masculinity, particularly addressing arguments around the increasingly more common phenomenon of “heteroflexibility.”

Her entire talk is available on YouTube via the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies:

As evidenced by the packed room (with undergraduate and graduate students spilling out the door!), Dr. Ward’s work has inspired a lot of excitement, thoughtfulness, and reflection. Additionally, Dr. Ward shared some of the reactions to her work, with critiques (surprisingly) mainly being directed at her by self-identified gay men. Overall, the talk and subsequent discussion were a useful and important intervention in how to think about white “heterosexual” masculinities and what implications and/or possibilities might exist for men of color’s sexual identities.

 

Holiday Cheer from UTAustinSOC

Happy Holidays from the Sociology department at UT Austin!  Many happy returns and best wishes for 2016!