This post is Linsane!

Eric Borja on Jeremy Lin:

The focus of this post is the social phenomenon that is Linsanity in order to simply get people to think about politics, and race in currently trending sports topics.

For those of you who may not keep up with basketball or watch ESPN constantly, may not know what Linsanity is.

Linsanity is a term coined by ESPN correspondents referring to the phenomenon that is Jeremy Lin- a 6’3’’, Asian American point guard on the New York Knicks. In just two short weeks Jeremy Lin has become an overnight global sensation.  He has turned around a historical franchise (the New York Knicks) and has brought them out of obscurity, transforming them into a globally relevant team. His jersey has become the number one selling jersey of the NBA, his rookie card is estimated to sell for $20,000 to $25,000, and he is now covered 24/7 on ESPN.

Oh, and not to mention he is the first American born NBA player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent.

But the truth of the matter is, there have been a number of ‘Cinderella’ stories similar to Lin’s, present and past, throughout football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Yet their stories did not spark a global phenomenon, so why Lin?

Could it be because ‘Lin’ is a marketers dream? Spawning nicknames such as ‘Linsane,’ ‘Linsanity,’ and ‘Linderalla’? Or maybe it’s because he has taken his new fame and glory with humility? Or maybe because two weeks prior to all of this, he was sleeping on fellow teammate, Landry Fields, couch because he was so unsure of his future?

What really seems to be going on, is his race.

He is Asian American. He graduate from Harvard. He had a Xanga account with the username ChinkBalla88.

Jeremy Lin’s story is not just another story about an underdog, or a story about how hard work and perseverance leads to success, but is a story that brings to light sports, race, ethnic sensitivity in the media and politics.

A number of controversies surround Linsanity; one of the first being a tweet posted by Floyd Mayweather (a famous American boxer) on Febraury 13th, 2012. Mayweather wrote, “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise” (@FloydMayweather). This has sparked a number of public responses, ranging from UFC President Dana White calling Mayweather a racist, to prominent Knicks fan (and Director) Spike Lee replying on twitter, “I Hope You Watched Jeremy Hit The Gamewinning 3 Pointer With .005 Seconds Left.Our Guy Can BALL PLAIN AND SIMPLE.RECOGNIZE.”

Another, and most recent, controversy has been the uproar surrounding an article about Jeremy Lin titled “A Chink in the Armor,” which resulted in ESPN editor Anthony Federico’ termination. In a matter of two weeks Linsanity has brought race, ethnic sensitivity and politics to the forefront of the sports media.

The Huffington Post article, a segment on Jeremy Lin’s appeal in China, the segment aired on ESPN about ethnic sensitivity and the column responding to the article “A Chink in the Armor” can all be found at the end of this post. I strongly recommend you check them out.

I’ll end the post by just pointing to a couple things from the column responding to the article “A Chink in the Armor”.

The first thing I want to point out was the link embedded in the column to a 15 year old Jeremy Lin’s Xanga account. I point this out because it is such a great example of how technology has collapsed the space/time continuum. What I mean is that the photos were taken in a room (space) occupied by a 15-year-old Jeremy Lin (time), under the username ChinkBalla88.

A kid, who had no idea what was in store for him in the future, took some silly photos that are a reflection of what kids do. They play around with identities, and for this 15 year old Jeremy Lin, he was ChinkBall88.

But little did he know, that tho(e)se photos would/are (now) being conjured up 8 years later in an ESPN article about ethnic sensitivity in sports. Here we are, in an age where our past, present and future can be downloaded in an instant.

The final thing I want to point out is something the author of the column wrote referring to an Army Private by the name of Danny Chen. Danny Chen took his own life while on duty because a group of his superiors harassed him on a daily basis. They called him ‘gook,’ ‘chink’ and other racial slurs, threw rocks at him and just generally made his life a living hell. The author wrote, “Perhaps it’s a bit damning that four words about a basketball player sparked such outrage while a tragedy like the death of Private Danny Chen went largely unnoticed, but the fucked-up truth is that the story of Danny Chen might have received its proper respect had it come post-Linsanity.

Linsanity could have made the death of an individual relevant, but instead, the death of Danny Chen went largely unnoticed in the pre-Linsanity world.

Also be sure to check out sociology faculty member Dr. Ben Carrington on the show the Stream. The segment is incredible and insightful and Dr. Ben Carrington does an incredible job.


Video of the debate about Ethnic sensitivity on First Take:

Video of Jeremy Lin’s appeal in China:

Column in response to article titled “A Chink in the Armor”:

Huffington Post article about Floyd Mayweather’s tweet:

Dr. Ben Carrington on the Stream:

Why Non-Academic Need Not Be Un-Academic: Reflections on Working Outside the Academy

Our Brownbag series took a closer look at sociological research beyond the university with an exciting panel, “Un-Academic: Reflections on Working Outside the Academy” on February 13. Following introductory remarks by Professor Mary Rose, graduate students Caity Collins, Kristine Kilanski, and David McClendon convened to share insights about their experiences working at FamilienForschung, the Urban Institute, and the Pew Research Center.

Caity’s summer 2011 work with FamilienForschung, a family-focused research and policy institute in Stuttgart, Germany, provided valuable support to aid her master’s thesis research on working mothers and the opportunities and constraints they face when trying to balance work and family responsibilities. Though Caity had lived in Germany before, she anticipated considerable challenges in conducting her interview research given language and cultural barriers. Taking a risk, Caity contacted FamilienForschung and pitched a collaboration, emphasizing her ability to support the institute’s research on gender and work trends in the U.S. and to assist with their English-language writing. In addition to helping her link up with interviewees for her study, Caity’s invaluable affiliation provided access to the institute’s census data, workshops, presentations, conferences as well as administrative resources (desk and phone line).

Kristine brought up good points from her job at the Urban Institute and the Academy of Educational Development (AED) where she worked as a research assistant and research associate. There, she contributed to multiple education-related projects, including a website on high school reform implementation, co-written with Dr. Nettie Legters and Dr. Becky Smerdon. In addition to assisting with multiple  program evaluations (including the evaluation of the Alabama, Math, Science, and Technology Initiative) and other ongoing research projects, Kristine wrote  evidence-based education briefs for state leaders in the Southeastern Regional  Educational Laboratory. Kristine maintains an interest in education, especially innovative programs for educating youth and preparing them to succeed in the workforce and world.  Her advice when considering research positions in and outside the academy is to make a checklist of their advantages and disadvantages.  For researchers in the academy the security of having tenure is offset by the challenges required to get there: publishing while teaching full time.  Her experience in the world of not for profits taught her the value of working at a well-funded policy relevant institution and staying current by looking for opportunities to publish and network.  However, while it’s nice to work 9 – 5, the uncertainties of grant funding can be a real downside.

David spent the 2011 summer working on the Global Religious Futures Project at the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. Pew is a well-known “fact tank” that provides facts and data that help inform national dialogues. David came across this research opportunity through the help of his advisor, Professor Mark Regenerus. David’s work at Pew focused on demographic projections of the future sizes and locations of religious populations around the globe. Developing his project into a working paper, David used census data to explore a number of factors affecting religious populations including age structure, religion-specific fertility and mortality rates, and “switching.” David also discussed Pew’s media strategies to publicize research findings non-academic audiences and institutional connections to other contacts in the broader field of religion studies.

Research Questions with graduate students Pamela Neumann and Kate Henley Averett

Research Questions (RQ) is Q&A series profiling the faculty, graduate students, and alumni of the Sociology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. In brief conversations, this series looks at the diverse projects, interests, and sources of inspiration within the UT-Austin sociology community.

This week we check out the exciting projects of graduate students Pamela Neumann and Kate Henley Averett.

 Research Questions (RQ): Pamela, what brought you to the field of sociology?

Pamela Neumann: I’ve always been interested in social inequalities, but during undergrad I approached these problems mostly through the study of electoral politics and state institutions. Post-college, I had several formative experiences working for non-governmental organizations–first in San Antonio and later in Nicaragua–which ultimately led me back to graduate school, initially to UT’s Latin American Studies program. When I began my graduate work, I was fairly certain that I would eventually return to the development world, but that all changed after doing fieldwork in Nicaragua for my thesis. I realized that I had a passion for doing ethnographic research, and writing about the daily lives and struggles of women–so, with the encouragement of a couple faculty mentors in UT’s sociology department, I decided to dive in. And I’m so glad I did.

RQ: What’s your favorite thing to do in Austin?

PN: It’s hard to pick just one! Certainly the many warm and sunny days year round make it easy to spend a lot of time outdoors running or hiking. I also have a serious breakfast taco addiction, and there are more than a few great places to grab those around here.

RQ: What brought you to the field of sociology?

Kate Henley Averett: I took a somewhat winding road to get to sociology. When I began my MDiv program at Harvard in 2005, I was really interested in working with teens and young adults around issues of sexuality and spirituality, and was especially concerned about young queer people experiencing religious-based bullying due to their sexuality and/or gender expression. I grew frustrated during my program that I wasn’t able to find enough research about these issues to inform my career path, which was my first clue that maybe a research-based academic career was the logical next step for me. I spent a couple of years after finishing my masters doing a lot of reading and soul-searching, and when I realized that most of what I was reading were books written by sociologists, I decided to start researching sociology graduate programs.

RQ: Kate, do you have any exciting news in the works?

KHA: I’m currently working on a study that I’m really excited about, interviewing LGBTQ parents of young children about their parenting philosophies and experiences with a specific eye toward thinking through the intersections of gender expression, heteronormativity, and parental expectations in shaping the gendered lives of children. I’m doing a conference course this semester with my faculty mentor, Dr. Christine Williams, to work on preparing a paper for journal submission out of these interviews. Not only am I getting great on-the-ground research experience, I’m also getting tons of ideas for dissertation topics.


Pamela Neumann is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at UT-Austin. She earned her MA in Latin American Studies from UT-Austin and her BA in Politcal Science from Trinity University (San Antonio). Her master’s thesis focused on the trajectory and effects of women’s participation in community development in rural Nicaragua. She was particularly interested in how women’s involvement in the public sphere affected their own daily routines and household dynamics. Her broad areas of interest are gender, political sociology, poverty and development, and collective action, with a regional focus on Latin America.

Kate Henley Averett is a second year doctoral student studying gender, sexuality, and childhood. Originally from the Boston area, Kate has a BA in Religion from Mount Holyoke College and an MDiv from Harvard University.

February events showcase student and faculty research

Our Sociology Brownbag series is underway with three events this week and next. Also scheduled: February 24th Power History and Society presents: Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson talking about his new book “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides?

And who can resist a Leap Day (February 29th) taco brunch with Amias Maldonado and Nicholas Reith who present the ins and outs of “Social Networking, both Virtual and In Person”?

March blows in the always exciting and much celebrated 2012 recruiting events, March 21-22, introducing us to our prospective colleagues. Who will join our 2012 cohort?