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Study Presented at ASA Reveals Link Between Marriage and Alcohol Consumption

New research finds long-term marriage linked to lower alcohol consumption in men, but higher alcohol consumption in women. The study was presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver, CO.

Based on survey data and interviews, researchers revealed that married men reported consuming the lowest number of drinks, compared with single, divorced, and widowed men, in part due to their wives’ lower levels of drinking. However, married women consumed more drinks than long-term divorced or recently widowed women, probably because they lived with men who had higher levels of alcohol use.

The study was conducted by Corinne Reczek, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Cincinnati, and University of Texas at Austin alum; Tetyana Pudrovska, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Demography at The Pennsylvania State University; Deborah Carr, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University; and Debra Umberson, Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin.

For a feature of the study, visit CBS News.

Minority Reports: Asian Americans in Class and at Work

Sharp-eyed readers will recognize a well-known character from an acclaimed NBC 2006-10 drama in this TIME cover photo taken in 1987.

Regular Session on Asians and Asian Americans: Economic and Educational Processes. ‘Discrimination and Psychological Distress among Asian Americans: Exploring the Moderating Effect of Education’ (Wei Zhang, University of Hawaii; PhD, UT-Austin, 2008); ‘Are Asian American Women Advantaged? Labor Market Performances of College Educated Female Workers’ (ChangHwan Kim, University of Kansas; PhD, UT-Austin, 2006).

Zhang and Kim, respectively, revealed surprising findings about correlations between education level and psychological distress from discrimination, and between nationality and workplace inequality, among Asians and Asian Americans.

Zhang discovered that Asian Americans with higher levels of education experience more psychological distress from racial discrimination than those with lower levels of education. In addition, Asian Americans who received their education outside the US experience more distress from discrimination than those who received their education Stateside. One possible explanation is the disparity between others’ perception of the individual and the individual’s self-perception or expectation is exacerbated when the individual’s education level contributes negatively to his or her cognitive stress.

Wei Zhang (University of Hawaii; PhD 2008, UT-Austin) presenting during session.

Studying Asian and Asian American women in the workplace, Kim found that Asian American women do not hold an advantage over Asian-born women working Stateside in terms of employment, compensation and professional upward mobility, and both fare worse than white women in these aspects.

These results show the real discriminations and inequalities that Asians and Asian Americans face are often overlooked in favor of a model-minority stereotype that emphasizes only the positivity of educational attainment and cultural assimilation while ignoring their stress effects in context with other psychological and economic factors, and that, perhaps, it is still a ways to a racial and socioeconomic utopia realized.

Sociology of Ghosts

ASA Session on Visual Sociology.
‘Representing Social Invisibility: Aesthetics of the Ghostly in Rebecca Belmore’s Named and Unnamed’ (Margaret Tate, The University of Texas at Austin); ‘Visual Representations of Abu Ghraib: Fashionable Torture, Gender and Images of Homoerotic Power’ (Ryan Ashley Caldwell, Soka University of America).

From Tate: During the 1980’s and 1990’s, more than 65 women went missing from the Downtown East Side area of Vancouver, British Columbia. As the poorest neighborhood in Canada, this inner city space is conceptualized within Vancouver as an unproductive space. A majority of the women who disappeared were First Nations women and thus were historically marginalized from the imaginary of Canadian citizenship. Because some were also sex workers and drug addicts, their disappearances garnered little attention from the police or from official media outlets. They had already disappeared from the respectable Canadian social body by being situated in this area. This paper analyzes a street performance by a First Nations artist named Rebecca Belmore, who was haunted by the disappearance of these women and by their invisibility as bodies that mattered. The artist produces a haunting, a concept described by Avery Gordon as “an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known” (2008, xvi). In relation to the history of colonialism in Canada, it is significant that the performance is both embodied by the artist and situated within Downtown East Side Vancouver. This paper considers problems of representation that some social events pose and suggests that Belmore’s performance rethinks representation and points to possibilities for transformational aesthetics in relation to vulnerable or marginalized subjects.

From Caldwell: Approaching society, culture, and art in a critical manner allows for the questioning of power, value, and authority—allowing for a critique of some contextual reality. Critical art allows for an evaluation of existing power structures, and an opportunity to change the world through its interpreted and exposed messages. Critical art is also a means for further informing the public about situations that are unfair, illegal, or unethical—it can give a voice to those who have been marginalized. In this piece, I analyze power in relation to gender, homoerotic torture, and the depiction of women by interpreting representations associated with the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison—from aesthetics to advertising.

Ontology, since its inception as the science of being qua being, has always been a project of division, of delimitation, of inclusion and exclusion. If the purpose of a door or gate by definition is to keep others out, then the ascent of the kingdom of being is inextricably bound up with the animals, the barbarians in the pagus beyond Athens, the demons and ghosts, and the shadows it leaves behind on the very horizon of intelligibility.

Ernest Jones saw in human symbol-making a return of the repressed under improper signifiers. It is the coded speech of the Sphinx in face of the ‘ultimate stupidity’ or dumbness [Urdummheit] of man (Cassirer). Contrary to the banal formulation, the essence of art does not lie in a ruse of technique or even a cunning of imagination (the pedestrian flash or stroke of genius), but rather in its very stupidity, its inexplicability, its futility, its silent smile amidst a clamor of injunctions to speak, to write, to paint, to think, to render visible.

Marx had said alienation is first and foremost a ‘feeling.’ But if the malaise of modernity is not our dispossession, as Marx said, by the other, but of the other, the other in ourselves, then art as the exercise of pure potential can perhaps finally open up, render sublime, those affects mercilessly suppressed and forever trailing in the torrential wake of being.

People Watching with Feynman

ASA Section on Mathematical Sociology: Models and Model Adequacy. ‘Models of Interacting Particle Systems for Social Processes’ (Joseph Whitmeyer, University of North Carolina-Charlotte).

In Metaphysics Aristotle proposed the idea that a whole may be greater than the sum of its parts, meaning that from a simple set of relations the workings of a much more complex phenomenon can be described or predicted.

In the 1970s sociologists began avidly looking to biology, physics and mathematics to model social phenomena from population migrations, the spread of disease and terrorism, revolutions, to fashion and social media today. The key is in identifying the components or ‘particles’ of an event and seeing how they interact to achieve overall change, equilibrium or formation of new ways of operating, with varying factors such as the speeds and sizes of such ‘happenings’–much like how subatomic particles would interact, probabilistically speaking, under a given set of conditions. Research continues today as part of a vanguard of sociology into new models and new applications of these models to human social processes.

It seems to me that there is a fundamental level of metaphoricity that needs further address within such investigations. In determining the parameters of these models for application, what can sociology bring to the table–or is it relegated to being a secondary discourse, capitalizing on, ‘interpreting,’ the findings of other disciplines? Of course its pragmatic uses are great, but sociology as a field should have a metaphoric primacy, a unique perspective it offers not as a mere theoretical supplement to, but in possible competition with other ‘ways of looking at the world’ and speaking about the world. Perhaps the modeling of a ‘social physics’ (Comte) needs itself to be subject to a ‘feedback system,’ wherein the point of such a sociology is not merely to interpret the models, but to change them.

We’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain (in Denver)!

ASA 2012: Real Utopias officially kicks off Friday, August 17, in Denver, CO. We are proud to say UT Sociology is represented by more than 80 faculty, students and alumni this year!

Detailed program information will be available for participants upon arrival and registration at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. Join us for Department Alumni Night (DAN) on Friday from 9:30-11:30 pm–and pick up some fabulous Texas swag!

Don’t forget to check this blog for live coverage of the event by Evelyn Porter and Kevin Hsu, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

See you there!

“Lives at the Urban Margins”

Katherine Jensen and Javier Auyero review Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity (2012), Sebastián Hacher’s Sangre salada (2011), and Josefina Licitra’s Los Otros: una historia del conurbano bonaerense (2011):


“Every great city,” wrote Friedrich Engels, in The Condition of the Working Class in England, “has one or more slums, where the working-class is crowded together. True, poverty often dwells in hidden alleys close to the palaces of the rich; but, in general, a separate territory has been assigned to it, where, removed from the sight of the happier classes, it may struggle along as it can … The streets are generally unpaved, rough, dirty, filled with vegetable and animal refuse, without sewers or gutters, but supplied with foul, stagnant pools instead.” More than a century and a half later, the subproletariat still inhabits treacherous, dreadful grounds in today’s megacities. With close to a third of the world’s population living in informal settlements, many of them mired in misery and violence, the need to understand and explain their lives is as imperative as it was when Engels first wrote these words. Three recent books here under consideration take up this task in two very distinct cities, Buenos Aires and Mumbai, dissecting the material and symbolic dimensions of life on “the other side.” These vivid portraits convey the external and internal forces that shape and sustain the slum’s challenges, its struggles, its relentlessness, and its cruelty.

A dexterous combination of detailed, in-depth reporting and crisp, dynamic writing heeds the calls that urban ethnographers have been making for the past three decades: calls for capturing the viewpoint of those living under oppressive conditions, calls for thick descriptions of their lives and circumstances, calls for narrative writing that appeals to larger publics and politics. These are not only engaging books to read, however. While teaching about the trials and tribulations of residents of stigmatized territories, these three texts provide elements to outline a much-needed political sociology of urban marginality. They describe many of the ways in which the state is deeply implicated in the fate of what sociologist Loïc Wacquant calls “territories of urban relegation.”1

Privileging the showing more than the telling, authors Boo, Hacher, and Licitra not only allow readers to make the connections between structural forces (such as informalization of the economy or deproletarianization or changing labor markets dynamics) and the lives, behaviors, and beliefs of those at the bottom of the sociosymbolic order. They also demonstrate how the state regulates poor people’s lives sometimes overtly (in the form of police repression, forced evictions), other times covertly (through extortion and intimidation) reproducing much of the precariousness, vulnerability, and violence that define them, and ultimately keeps the dispossessed in their (to a large extent) invisible place.

Click here for the full review at Public Books.

ASA 2012: Receptions

A number of ASA Sections and Units will be holding individual or joint receptions this year. Here is a sampling if you are planning to attend (search for more here):

(On-site at the Hyatt Regency Denver unless noted otherwise–locations TBA)

Joint Reception: Section on Sex and Gender; Section on Sociology of Sexualities; Section on Race, Class and Gender (offsite)
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Joint Reception: Section on Global and Transnational Sociology; Section on Comparative and Historical Sociology
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Section on Marxist Sociology Reception
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Section on Sociology of Culture Reception
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Reception for Scholars with International Research & Teaching Interests
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Student Reception
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 6:30pm – 7:30pm

Section on Asia and Asian America Reception (offsite)
Time: Fri, Aug 17 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Section on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Reception (off-site)
Time: Sat, Aug 18 – 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Section on Latino/a Sociology Reception (off-site)
Time: Sat, Aug 18 – 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Joint Reception: Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements; Section on Political Sociology; Section on Human Rights
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Joint Reception: Theory Section and Section on History of Sociology
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Joint Reception: Section on the Sociology of the Family; Section on Sociology of Population (off-site)
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Section on Animals and Society Reception
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Joint Reception: Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology; Section on Body and Embodiment (offsite)
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 6:30pm – 8:00pm

Utopia Reel: An Evening of Dancing and Music-Making
Time: Sun, Aug 19 – 7:30pm – 11:55pm

We hope to see you at some of these events!

ASA 2012: Section on Aging and the Life Course

Professor Mark Hayward, Chair Elect of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Aging and the Life Course (SALC), would like to share SALC’s exciting program for the ASA annual meeting in Denver next month (SALC’s days are August 17-18):

This year, SALC has also partnered with the Section on Children and Youth, as well as the Section on Culture, to create some special sessions to bridge our interests.

Please consider attending the annual meeting and joining the Section!

For more information about the Section on Aging and the Life Course, see:

The Obamas and the New Politics of Race

With the 2012 US presidential election campaign in full swing, the meaning and significance of Barack Obama and his presidency are once again in the spotlight. Has the election of Barack Obama served as the watershed moment for American politics and race relations that many predicted? A number of experts in the field of critical race theory attempt to answer this question in a special issue of Qualitative Sociology: The Obamas and the New Politics of Race, published by Springer and available to the general public. This series of six articles showcases the most recent critical sociological work on race, racism, and politics through the lens of Barack Obama’s presidency.

One article provides a timely examination of how the concept of “family” has been used to both address and mask social inequalities generally, and racial inequalities in particular. In her article entitled “Just another American story? The first Black First Family,” former American Sociological Association president Patricia Hill Collins shows—by highlighting their own “family stories” during the 2008 campaign and in the post-election years—how the Obamas have been able to reintroduce race, gender, labor and equality into public policy discussions in a time when such debates are often deemed risky.

Public debate over Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy as President is analyzed by Mississippi State University Professor Matthew Hughey, in his article, “Show me your papers! Obama’s birth and the whiteness of belonging.” Hughey identifies “birtherism” – the belief that by virtue of birthright, Obama is disqualified from presidential office – as a practice informed by the history of slavery. According to Hughey, much of what is “new” about the politics of race and racism is oriented around discussions of citizenship, belonging, authenticity and identity. Hughey concludes that while Obama may be a legal citizen, he is still viewed by some as an equivocal American, suggesting that the question of who is “the real” Obama will remain a factor in the 2012 election.

Wellesley College professor Michael Jeffries’s article “Mutts like me: multiracial students’ perceptions of Barack Obama,” explores how other multiracial US citizens understand Obama’s racial identity, race and “race relations.” In his interviews with multiracial students, Jefferies finds that respondents reject the concept of “post-racial idealism” and do not view Obama’s election as signaling an end to racism. Instead, Obama is viewed predominantly as black rather than multiracial, even though his multiracial origins are acknowledged. His findings suggest that racial schemas birthed by nineteenth century racial science continue to have a powerful effect in shaping popular perceptions of race today.

The election of Barack Obama—and his bid for re-election in November 2012—allow us to consider how race and race relations have, or have not, changed; both in and outside of the electoral sphere. With a synoptic essay on the multiple meanings of Barack Obama and the Obama family in a putative post-racial age by guest editors Simone Browne and Ben Carrington of The University of Texas at Austin, the June issue of Qualitative Sociology demonstrates the importance of critical sociological analyses for understanding contemporary racial speculation in US politics. This issue is essential reading for anyone interested in how the wider cultural politics of race shaped the 2008 US Presidential election, the current election, and the future of race in the US.

Qualitative Sociology, Special issue: The Obamas and the New Politics of Race, Vol. 35, No.2. The special issue is freely available online to the general public here.