“Truth,” “Beauty,” and the Sociological Photograph

From left to right: Paul Kasun, Emily Paine, Shantel Buggs, Anima Adjepong, Amias Maldonado, Eric Borja, Professor Ben Carrington, Vivian Shaw, and Katie Jensen.  Front: Professor Max Farrar
From left to right: Paul Kasun, Emily Paine, Shantel Buggs, Anima Adjepong, Amias Maldonado, Eric Borja, Professor Ben Carrington, Vivian Shaw, and Katie Jensen. Front: Professor Max Farrar

by Maggie Tate

In The Aesthetics of Uncertainty (2008), Janet Wolff challenges the assumption that images exposing social injustice for political disruption must also abandon, or work against, standards of beauty and aesthetic pleasure.  Her claims attempt to reopen the possibility that it is not inherently wrong to “provide aesthetic pleasure in the face of moral or political wrongs” (18).  Thinking of aesthetic qualities is not often the terrain of Sociology, and for this reason Wolff raises more questions than her book alone can answer.  It is, therefore, perhaps fitting that her most poignant suggestion appears in the title: approach visual imagery with an attitude of doubt, uncertainty, or incompleteness.

At the heart of Wolff’s project is the idea that at the very least, images are rich with sociological information and ought to be taken seriously.  It was to this end that the Sociology department’s Race and Ethnicity Group and Urban Ethnography Lab collaborated on a photography workshop in late March.  Traveling all the way from Leeds Metropolitan University, Professor Max Farrar brought his years of photographic experience to begin a discussion about what photography can add to sociological inquiry.  The event included a talk on Friday, March 21, by Professor Farrar.  This was followed by an all-day workshop on Saturday, March 22, led by the combined photographic expertise of Max Farrar and the award winning photojournalist, and professor, Donna De Cesare.

Professor Max Farrar with one of his cameras.  Donna De Cesare in the background.
Professor Max Farrar with one of his cameras. Photojournalist and Professor Donna De Cesare in the background.

Farrar’s talk laid the foundations for Saturday’s workshop by engaging with theorists of photography, including Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, John Berger, bell hooks and Les Back.  Their theoretical work suggests a range of ways to consider the political possibility of the photograph.  Susan Sontag represented the most critical voice with her claim of the danger inherent in the act of aestheticizing the political image therefore rendering it impersonal and unable to invoke empathy.  John Berger’s ideas were also introduced as a critique of the depoliticizing effect of some photography, in particular photography that depicts human atrocity through pictures of agony and despair.  Yet, Berger was also mentioned for his interest in photography’s ability to tell sociological stories by representing the universal in the particular.  Photos of particular people provide images that become part of a collective social and political memory.

Amidst these challenges to photography’s ability to have political import, bell hooks’ writing provided a powerful reminder that the political is not always a measure of whether there is a change in public sentiment.  Instead, she described the importance of the private space of the home as a site of personal self-definition, a privilege of which was long denied black Americans in public culture.  Farrar’s own writing also asserts that the politics of photography are not just about reception, but lie also in the relationship that develops (or doesn’t) between the photographer and the photographed.

Photograph of presentation by Anima Adjepong, workshop attendee.
Photograph of presentation by Anima Adjepong, workshop attendee.

Roland Barthes’ semiotic theory of representation gave us clear language to describe the sociological relevance of photography through its transmission of myths.  A photographic representation almost always stands in for broader ideological meanings.  Yet, Barthes also recognizes the affective dimension of the photographic image, which is often the unexpected impact that a particular image or combination of images has on a viewer.

Therefore, the intention of the photographer is perhaps not always the most telling or sociologically relevant aspect of a given photographic image.  This reveals one of the central tensions of the photograph; that it is at once a private moment frozen in time and a reproducible image that takes on a social and political life of its own.  Les Back’s writing was referenced to remind us that these tensions can themselves become objects of sociological inquiry, such as the tension between detachment and intimacy that he reads in the photographs taken by Pierre Bourdieu during his fieldwork in the Algerian fight for independence.

With this theoretical background, attendees of Saturday’s workshop spent the day trying to engage in these critical theories while also gleaning tips in photographic technique, methodological strategies, and rules of composition from both Farrar and De Cesare.  Some of the distinctions between photojournalism and visual Sociology became at times more clear and at other times more blurry during these discussions.  Through a presentation of photographs from De Cesare’s recent book Unsettled/Desasosiego (2013), attendees were given a window into the making of photographs that are both beautiful and complex.  De Cesare’s photographs representing youths living amidst war and gang violence in Central America are heartbreakingly complicated in that they convey a wide range of emotion.  They are at times peaceful, at times distressing, and most often an image will shift from the former to the latter as the viewer begins to realize what they see.

Thinking of De Cesare’s photographs in relation to Janet Wolff’s claim about the aesthetics of uncertainty, it becomes clear that the images are so emotionally provocative (and perhaps therefore so politically provocative as well) because they operate initially at the level of uncertainty and doubt.  Captivated by the serene and sweet face of a young child, for example, the viewer only slowly begins to realize that the body lying on the sidewalk next to the child is a casualty of war.  The composition created by the two figures is beautiful, but only because of the angularly distorted posture of the one lying down, which the viewer comes to realize, is lifeless.

Emily Paine looking through Donna De Cesare’s book Unsettled/Desasosiego
Emily Paine looking through Donna De Cesare’s book Unsettled/Desasosiego

From De Cesare’s photographs, we learned that indeed “beauty” and pain (“truth”) can exist simultaneously, and can be represented as such in a photograph.  Not all photographs produced by visual sociologists need to meet this challenge in order to be insightful representations of social phenomena.  Nor do they all need to be about pain in order represent the affective or political dimensions of doing sociological work.  As Farrar has told me since, “photography is, basically, a relationship – between you and the person/people but also between you and the physical world.”  Like all relationships, this one quickly becomes fraught with power dynamics, ethical concerns, aesthetic dilemmas and (perhaps productively) feelings of uncertainty.




2014 UT LGBT Families Lecture

Tey Meadow


Being a Gender:

Transgender Children, Their Families and Social Institutions

Monday, April 7, 2014

4-5 pm, CLA 1.302E

A reception from 5-6 pm will follow.

Tey Meadow is a sociologist and the Fund for Reunion-Cotsen Fellow in LGBT Studies at the Princeton Society of Fellows. In 2014, she will join the Department of Sociology and the Program in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Harvard University as an assistant professor.

Tey’s scholarship spans the domains of law, politics, the family, sexuality and gender. Her current project, Raising the Transgender Child: Being Male or Female in the Twenty First Century, under contract with the University of California Press, is an ethnographic and interview-based book about the first generation of families affirming and supporting their gender nonconforming and transgender children.

Tey received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at New York University in 2011. In recent years, she served as a research assistant at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge, a consultant for the Social Science Research Council, and a fellow at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute. Tey holds a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College and a Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law.

Sponsored by the Department of Sociology.

On Sympathy in Sociology: (Re)reading Through the Classics


by Adrian Popan

Little attention is paid today to the social thinking of Harriet Martineau. Martineau was a well-respected writer who left her mark on the philosophical debates of the nineteenth century, and one of the few women who achieved a high status in a world considered the almost exclusive playfield of men. Some of the textbooks and syllabi of classical Sociology in the 2010s present her work, but most of the time the effort seems merely a convenient means to address University requirements of diversity, at the expense of allowing the necessary time for discussing the more serious, bearded sociologists[1]. What are we losing by not discussing Martineau? A whole paradigm, I argue.

In How to Observe Moral and Manners (published in 1838, where she elaborates for the first time a systematic method for Sociology), Martineau writes:

The observer must have sympathy; and his sympathy must be untrammeled and unreserved. If a traveler be a geological inquirer, he may have a heart as hard as the rocks he shivers, and yet succeed in his immediate objects: if he be a student of the fine arts, he may be as silent as a picture, and yet gain his ends: if he be a statistical investigator, he may be as abstract as a column of figures, and yet learn what he wants to know: but an observer of morals and manners will be liable to deception at every turn, if he does not find his way to hearts and minds.

So many questions come to mind: What makes sympathy so important for Martineau to place it at the very heart of the sociological approach? And why should we care about it today? Isn’t it opposed to objectivity, and thus isn’t it delegitimizing our discipline? Isn’t it synonymous with Weber’s verstehen, and thus part of our discipline anyway? Should sympathy be employed in contemporary sociology, if so, what would it look like?

Sympathy, to be sure, is not a concept first introduced by Martineau. In fact, she cites Adam Smith, with whom she agrees, partly, but also departs in important respects. As this is old stuff, not central to my line of reasoning, it suffices to say that for Smith, sympathy is primarily a concept to be studied (i.e. on others), while for Martineau it is first and foremost a necessary quality of the student of society.

And no, it is not the antonym of objectivity. In fact, Martineau also recommends objectivity as a necessary quality of the observer. For Martineau, sympathy safeguards objectivity. On the other hand, sympathy for Smith stems from the capacity of a person to imagine the others, but this implies the lenses of one’s own culture, class, etc., therefore objectivity is severed by one’s known or unknown biases. For Martineau, sympathy “means that the action of the heart will meet a corresponding action, and that the nature of the heart will meet a corresponding nature.”  Sympathy, therefore, emerges from direct interaction, and is in fact mitigating between culturally different moral systems on the basis of two very basic statements:  “to torment another without any reason, real or imaginary, is considered wrong all over the world”; conversely, “to make others happy is universally considered right.”

What is the antonym of sympathy? The notion, emerged later from the work of Karl Marx and best summarized by Friedrich Engels, that the populations we study have a false consciousness dictated by social structures via ideology. “Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.” In other words, it is the task of the researcher to identify the real motives, and consequently the real wants and needs of the researched. Sounds like a good legitimizing basis for Sociology. But isn’t it patronizing? And is it really helping? And furthermore, doesn’t it legitimize, rather than the discipline as a whole, the preeminence of the researcher’s specific biases as a member of academia over the real people we study, but who through this lens, become merely objects to be studied, like the rocks for a geologist? Clearly, Engel’s statement, if taken to heart, excludes sympathy from Sociology’s paradigm. To be sure, the apparent lack of sympathy from today’s Sociology is nothing more than a methodological issue. It is not a sort of self-selection directing only those who lack sympathy to embrace careers as sociologists. By contrary, everybody I know in Sociology (a convenience sample, I know) are sympathetic toward the people they study. However, to admit it, what an outrageous sin!

But hey, what about the rational choice theorists? Don’t they assume that everybody makes decisions rationally, and isn’t this the sympathy I am talking about? No, not really. In fact, it is the same practice of projecting the motives from theory to people, and assuming a rationality that we, hyper-educated members of the academy, perhaps understand.

And no it’s not the same as verstehen, although there is certain overlapping between the two concepts. While verstehen is a cognitive tool which requires a certain degree of sympathy to be accomplished, sympathy goes beyond verstehen in that it unifies the curiosity of the scientist with the theory of moral sentiments, plus a touch of ineffable humanness.

How should we interpret sympathy as a useful tool for our own research? I suggest we think of a backwards reading of C. Wright Mills’ famous preface to The Sociological Imagination – the Promise. Its main message is that Sociology can help us better understand our own problems by integrating them into the larger social structures and historical processes that shape our lives. The backwards reading which I suggest is to keep in mind that at the other end of our theories there are always real people with names, desires, joy and sorrow, wants and needs. And albeit most of the time only at the level of ideas, our theories can hurt or relieve suffering. Sympathy, therefore, is the urge to turn sociology upside-down and place people before theory!


The wisdom of the classics didn’t pour miraculously onto my longhaired head, so I am fixin’ to fix the injustice right now by revealing my sources:

a)     Primary readings:





b)    Other resources:




[1] Note the progressive loss of facial hair as we consider the founding fathers of Sociology in the order of their importance, regardless of the period they wrote: Marx and Engels -> Weber, Durkheim and Simmel -> Mead -> Parsons -> Comte

Fun with our prospective 2014 cohort members

It’s always exciting to recruit new colleagues and greet the spring in Austin. We hope to see many of our visitors back in 2014 to begin a new semester and another 100 years of Sociology! Future colleagues, when choosing among your many options, consider these wise words.

Remembering the Alamo


by Amias Maldonado

As a child born and raised in San Antonio, I too remember the silence.  On one side of the muted chasm, there was the Alamo of the Texas history schoolbooks; the Alamo of the class field trip; the Alamo in “Alamo: The Price of Freedom,” displaying the nefarious dictator Santa Anna and the independence-loving Texans.  On the other side, there was life in San Antonio: diverse, multiethnic, celebratory of Mexican culture, coexistent.  How these two worlds informed each other was something you decided for yourself.  The meeting of history and memory and how they inform our present(s) is something any visitor to San Antonio must uncover for themselves; that is, until a reading of Remembering The Alamo.

Richard Flores’s Remembering the Alamo is not so much an attendant to historical inaccuracies – although it certainly does that as well – as an examination of why and how inaccuracies were produced and codified in the service of changing socioeconomic power relations between Anglos and Mexicans during the beginning of the period Flores terms “The Texas Modern.”  According to Flores, post-annexation Texas utilized the Mexican ranching social structure to manage increasing ethnic tensions, producing a peace that allowed new systems of relations – specifically racial and labor segregation brought upon by capitalism and technological advance – to eventually reify by the late 19th century.  These new systems of social inequality required a rationale: they needed a devalued Mexican Other to justify the new structures which privileged Anglos.  In to this breach, argues Flores, steps the Alamo.

The brilliance in Flores’s scholarship lies in his positioning of the Alamo as a place and as a project.  The Alamo and its accompanying “approved legends” are doused in the baubles of historical evidence, but it exists not as a historical site but as a living cultural memory that “reinforces a collective memory of Texan superiority” (Flores 33).  The Alamo narrative, presented as fact, is actually a cultural production representing the interests of the elite – which of course would come as no surprise to Marx.  Furthermore, as an active site, the Alamo invites the viewer to produce connections between the lived present and the past – creating an ahistorical space in existing social relations that are rechristened and rejustified.  Flores’s detailing of the Alamo’s dialectical relationship between history and culture, as well as the importance it plays in shaping the ways Anglo-Mexican society interacts, was to me the most illuminating section of the book.

Flores spends the remainder of the book introducing evidence that supports the theoretical claim outlined above.  The relocation of Mexican cultural space to the Alamo area as well as the repurposing of open plaza space under the rubric of private property helps Flores demonstrate other ways in which the “Texas Modern” used spatial relations to signify and reify social inequalities.  A careful mapping of the political fights between the De Zavala and Driscoll wings of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas gives the reader a tipping point at which the romantic, rugged individualist Alamo narrative was codified.  While I was originally skeptical, Flores’s analysis of both women’s literary works does indeed bolster his case, demonstrating Driscoll’s social outlook and need to absolve herself from the economic displacement of Mexicans as well as the ways in which De Zavala’s legends and letters demonstrate how she used her pursuit of history to manage contradictory identities.  I found Flores’s rumination on “Texan” as an identity that holds the contradiction between Mexican and American in tension highly perceptive here.

After demonstrating what the Alamo represents, why it is used as representation, and who benefits, Flores moves to the “how” of the question through a content analysis of prominent Alamo movies.  Flores shows the ways in which the Alamo is refashioned according to the historical moment, although always justifying existing social relations between Anglo and Mexican is central until the 1960 John Wayne picture, where Flores argues the Alamo has already arrived as a master symbol and instead serves as a Cold War endorsement of American liberty and personal freedom.  The depiction of Mexicans as sexually deviant strongly connects the cinematic narratives with Driscoll’s own project.  Theoretically, I found this section equally insightful, especially his point that “the partialities of the visually projected are taken as complete or whole truths” (Flores 98-9) and his discussion of the role of voice in producing whiteness through cinema.

Unlike other works that rely heavily on deep literary or cinematic analysis, I found little to disagree with in Remembering the Alamo.  Flores goes to pains to create connections between the work of Driscoll, De Zavala, or the filmmakers and the lived social and economic conditions, thereby bolstering their case.  He produces a vision of an Alamo that is superficially historic.  After his analysis peels this veneer away, however, we are left with a cultural production, a master symbol that justifies and produces domination.  Like Flores and me, and like generations of children after, part of being Texan is to come to this mission and expose yourself to a collective mythology, a mythology that is draped in the past but is enacted every day in the streets of San Antonio.  Thanks to Flores, Sam Houston’s call to “Remember the Alamo!” takes on new meaning.  The Alamo – the project, not the place – is now something I will never forget.

Re)Membering the Body: the 21st Annual Conference on Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies.

Re)Membering the Body: the 21st Annual Conference on Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies.

From March 20-21, 2014


The CWGS graduate student run conference offers both undergraduate and graduate students at any recognized university the opportunity to share their research highlighting issues in women’s, gender, and/or sexuality studies with the students and faculty affiliates of CWGS, The University of Texas at Austin community, and CWGS community partners.

CWGS’s 2013-2014 conference theme is “(Re)Membering the Body.” What are the limits of history and memory? How do we remember/recover that which the archive has erased? What are the implications of embodied history, embodied storytelling, embodied memory? Proposals for papers or posters that address these questions (or pose related ones) using the lenses of gender, race, sexuality, ability, performance or other feminist, womanist, queer or anti-racist methodologies will be presented. Abstracts of Presentations

What does Justice look like?


by Andrew Krebs

Just over two years ago, on February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old mixed-race Latino man, did not deny killing Martin, a 17-year-old black teen, but claimed he had shot Martin in self-defense. Along with at least 20 other states, Florida has a “Stand Your Ground” law, which says that a person may use deadly force if they perceive they are at risk of great bodily harm in a confrontation. Although Zimmerman’s attorneys did not invoke “Stand Your Ground,” which would have given Zimmerman immunity from prosecution, the judge was required by law to read the “Stand Your Ground” provisions into the jury instructions. This was a key issue in the case because Zimmerman had  identified, pursued, and confronted Martin as a threat.

Ultimately, George Zimmerman was acquitted on charges of murder in the second degree and manslaughter. To many, the verdict was a great injustice, but not necessarily a surprise. Moreover, the verdict reinforced the historically violent and oppressive notion that the life of young black men in the United States is inconsequential at best.

What does justice for Trayvon look like? Does it come in the form of a second-degree murder conviction? Does it come in the form of a long prison sentence? Or is it something else altogether?

About nine months after the untimely death of Trayvon Martin, another black teen was shot and killed by a grown man in Florida. On November 23rd, 2012, Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old white man, murdered 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Davis was sitting in the front passenger seat of his friend’s car when Michael Dunn opened fire into the vehicle. For Dunn, Davis posed a threat. But Davis didn’t have a shotgun, he was merely “riding shotgun.” Regardless, what do grown men in Florida do when they feel threatened by black teenagers? Answer: they shoot and kill them.

Similar to Zimmerman’s case, the judge presiding over Dunn’s case read the “Stand Your Ground” provisions into the jury instructions. Dunn was tried and convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder for the three other people in the car who survived Dunn’s assault. However, the jury failed to convict Dunn of murder in the first degree for the killing of Jordan Davis. So even though Dunn will spend the rest of his life in prison for attempting to kill Davis’ friends, no one will be held criminally accountable for the loss of Davis’ life.

So I ask you again, what does justice for Jordan look like? Does justice come in the form of a first-degree murder conviction? Does justice come in the form of a long prison sentence? Or is it something else altogether?

Some people will look at these two cases and conclude that there is no justice for young black men in America. And they are right, but not for the obvious reason. George Zimmerman was not held criminally accountable for the death of Trayvon Martin, and Michael Dunn was not held criminally accountable for the death of Jordan Davis. But I wonder, had Zimmerman and Dunn been found guilty of murder would young black men be any safer as a result?

Is justice about prison sentences or is justice about bringing respect and closure? Those are two different questions, although navigating victim ideology is not easy and deference should always be given to self-determination. Still, we have to be open to the idea that prisons may not be able to solve the issue we have in this country with regards to the perceived value of a black man’s life. As Mariame Kaba suggests, “We must consider other models perhaps based on transformative justice instead of our current failed system of punitive and retributive justice.” These cases highlight the racist assumption that young black men in America need to be watched, told what to do, and surveilled.

We cannot seem to realize that violence is a result of hierarchical structures and institutions that pit people and groups against each other. We live in a country where justice is adversarial, and does nothing to promote actual understanding. In our everyday interactions, people assume disrespect. We live in a world where a black man’s innocence must be qualified (and contested).

Both Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis would be 19 years old by now. They would both be eligible to vote. They would both be eligible to serve on juries. They would both be rights-holding citizens of the United States of America. But, as young black men, they would still be subject to violence, assault, and discrimination. As a nation, we cannot seem to figure out the answer to the question: what does justice for black youth look like?






Latinos in an Aging World

by Ronald and Jacqueline Angel, July 31, 2014, Routledge.

AngelCover In 2010 during a speech in Potsdam, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the audience that the nation’s attempt to create a multicultural society had been an utter failure.  During his failed 2012 reelection campaign President Nicholas Sarkozy of France proclaimed that France had too many immigrants.  Recently, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain pledged to restrict the use of social services by immigrants.  These are only three examples of the growing rejection of foreigners and the threat to national cultures and identities that they represent that is a growing part of political discourse in Europe.  The nations of Europe are having to face the fact that they are increasingly multicultural and are heavily dependent on immigrants from the developing world, yet that reality is not easy for many to accept.  The fact that many of the newcomers are Muslim adds to the fear and rejection.

Unlike Europe, the United States has always thought of itself as a nation of immigrants, although new arrivals have not always been welcomed warmly by those who came earlier.  Immigration to the United States is not new, but its nature has changed.  Today immigrants come from Latin America and Asia rather than from Europe.  The result is a truly multicultural nation in which race and ethnicity intersect social class and other factors to influence various groups’ wealth and political power.

Although many Latinos have been in the United States for generations, much media coverage and political reporting focuses on immigrants, and many Latinos remain outside of the economic and social mainstream for generations.  As in Europe, many Americans fear the newcomer and like Political Scientist Samuel Huntington believe that Latinos are not assimilating as did previous immigrants, and that they reject the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream and are creating separate societies that threatens the nation’s cultural unity.

After thirty years of research on and writing about Latinos and other vulnerable populations we  have written our first textbook, which is scheduled for release on August 1, 2014 by Routledge.  The book consists of ten chapters that deal with all aspects the Latino experience in the United states.  It deals with demographics, education, employment, wealth, and income for the major Latino subgroups and compares them to Asians, African-Americans, and non-Hispanic whites.  The book also deals with social and psychological issues related to neighborhood quality, fear of crime, and the determinants of well-being.  It summarizes the most current and authoritative research on Latinos available and presents some of our more recent work.

The book takes a life course perspective on the welfare of the Latino population.  Low levels of education early in life lead to restricted employment opportunities, low income, little wealth accumulation, and inadequate retirement savings.  Since the Latino population is aging rapidly, the book deals with issues related to family structure and the sources of care for older parents.  Latinos depend heavily on their family for care and support in old age and tend not to enter nursing homes.  The book summarizes findings on the phenomenon of “caregiver burden,” a term that refers to the physical and psychological demands associated with caring for a seriously ill parent.

One might ask about the process of writing a book, especially a co-authored book.  This is the fourth book that we have written together, so we have some insights.  The fact of the matter is that it is not always smooth sailing.  Writing a book, or even an article with anyone requires a logical division of labor that capitalizes on everyone’s strengths, as well as a willingness not to have everything one’s own way.  Determining what those strengths are and how they complement others is a necessary first step.  Luckily, after four books and numerous articles we seem to have found the formula.  We would be happy to talk to anyone about the topic or the process of writing or finding a publisher.

Underlying Assumptions of Regnerus’s Claims

Our own Brandon Andrew Robinson has recently published a piece in the Huffington Post entitled “Underlying Assumption of Regnerus’s Claims.” In it, Brandon challenges the recent public claims made by Dr. Mark Regnerus.

This is the introduction to his piece:

Dr. Mark Regnerus, a professor in the department where I am a graduate student, has recently returned to the media forefront with his claims about heterosexual anal sex at Franciscan University and with his testimony in Michigan at a federal court trial on gay marriage. At Franciscan University, Regnerus claimed that the rise of gay marriage would lead to the “normalization of gay men’s sexual behavior,” which will somehow then prompt a rise in heterosexual people practicing anal sex. In Michigan, Regnerus testified on Monday that historically and cross-culturally marriage has been between one man and one woman. He also said that there was “notable instability” in same-sex relationships, though the two children in his study who were raised from birth to 18 years of age by intact same-sex couples “looked pretty good.” Putting somewhat aside the veracity of these claims (which should ultimately be empirically investigated by scholars and researchers), I am somewhat perplexed as a sociologist-in-training by the fact that the underlying assumptions in these statements are left unquestioned.

Here is the link to the rest of his piece: Underlying Assumptions of Regnerus’s Claims.

Statement from the Chair regarding Professor Regnerus

Like all faculty, Dr. Regnerus has the right to pursue his areas of research and express his point of view. However, Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department of The University of Texas at Austin. Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families. We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.

The Sociology Department at The University of Texas at Austin aspires to achieve academic excellence in research, teaching, and public service at the highest level in our discipline. We strive to do so in a context that is based on the highest ethical standards of our discipline and in a context that actively promotes and supports diversity among our faculty and student populations.

The Sociology Department resides in the College of Liberal Arts, which has issued a statement regarding Dr. Regnerus.

The Sociology Department has no affiliation with the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.