All posts by kar3543

Power, History and Society Kicks Off the New Year

by Andrew Messamore

The Power, History and Society (PHS) network held its Fall Social last week on September 20th  to network and have fun in the field of political, historical and comparative sociology at UT Austin. Founded in 2006, PHS is now entering its 11th year in the Department of Sociology and continuing to foster a space for intellectual exchange around both classic themes in sociology and new subjects including revolutions in the Middle East, environmental issues and land rights in Latin America, call-out culture in queer activist movements and the global politics of disease and epidemics.

With a full room, drinks and pizza in the Glickman Center, PHS coordinators described opportunities for involvement from first-year students in coordinating events and our successful speaker series. Past speakers PHS has brought include Randall Collins, Theda Skocpol and Ann Swidler, to name a few. Interested students and PHS coordinators also considered resurrecting the Middle East Working Group and Social Movement and Collective Behavior Working Group (SMCB), co-sponsoring events with other Sociology working groups and working towards a workshop on applying for funding in historical and political sociology.

For the fall, PHS is preparing to host a workshop with Dr. Rita Stephan, a UT Austin Sociology alumnus and PHS founder in the U.S. State Department on applied political sociology. Stay tuned for another PHS meet and greet off campus in October!

If you are interested in learning more about PHS, make sure to sign up for the listserv with Mario Venegas at Mario.venegas@utexas.edu


Andrew Messamore is ​a first-year doctoral student in Department of Sociology. His research interests center on welfare states, credit markets and political sociology. 

Angela Stroud on Race, Gender, and Concealed Carry

by Katie Kaufman Rogers

Angela Stroud
Angela Stroud, UT-Austin PhD and Assistant Professor of Sociology & Social Justice at Northland College

This October, the UT Austin Department of Sociology and Fem(me) Sem welcomed sociologist Angela Stroud for a public talk and discussion with graduate students about her new book, Good Guys with Guns: The Appeal and Consequences of Concealed Carry. Dr. Stroud completed her PhD in sociology at UT Austin in 2012 and is now an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Justice at Northland College in Wisconsin.

Dr. Stroud opened her presentation with graphs showing rates of American gun ownership. Despite an overall decrease in gun ownership since 1970 (rates have fallen by nearly 20%), the Obama Era has seen a sudden proliferation of concealed handgun licenses. In 2007, she said, 4.5 million Americans held such licenses. But since, more than 6 million additional licenses have been administered, bringing today’s total to a staggering 11 million. But why? To better understand the explosion of firearm sales and spread of concealed carry legislation, Dr. Stroud sought to uncover what motivates Americans to attain permits and buy guns.

University of North Carolina Press
SOURCE: University of North Carolina Press

During the talk, Dr. Stroud shared insights from her fieldwork in gun licensing courses, as well as excerpts from the in-depth interviews she conducted with gun permit holders. The title of the book plays on an old maxim in pro-gun discourse (“only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun”), but as Dr. Stroud explained, it also highlights a key finding: the cultural relevance of the “good guy” trope. She unpacked the construction of the “good guy” identity, arguing that its conflation with whiteness and hegemonic masculinity helps explain the appeal of concealed carry as a symbolic practice for men. She drew on elements of critical whiteness theory and Raewyn Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity to analyze participants’ narratives about the protection they perceive guns to offer.

Ultimately, she found that cultural definitions of “good” gun owners rely on a classed and racialized dichotomy of masculinities. Respondents saw themselves as “good guys” who earned the right to own guns through training and civic service, as opposed to to “bad guys,” whose gun ownership threatened the safety of “good” families and communities. Dr. Stroud argued that this binary paints white men as responsible heroes while casting Black and Latino men as dangerous criminals. Additionally, the trope displaces deviant whiteness onto working-class men (whom her participants dismissed as uneducated “Bubbas”). She also touched on how geographical space is invoked in “good guy” discourse, pointing to respondents’ racialized conceptualizations of sites like the highway, the ghetto, and the home.

Dr. Stroud’s work has a particular resonance within the context of the University of Texas at Austin. Texas’ new campus carry legislation, which took effect this past August, gives students and faculty members the right to carry concealed handguns in university buildings such as classrooms and dormitories. The law has added fuel to an already blazing national controversy about guns. It has also galvanized the UT community, sparking petitions, protests, resignations, lawsuits, several faculty op-eds, and a slew of cancellations from scheduled visitors ranging from famous musicians to guest lecturers.

Good Guys with Guns critically intervenes in gun control debates by illuminating an understudied facet of American gun culture: How gun owners understand the necessity of guns is tied to how they see themselves and their place in the world. Dr. Stroud’s talk added an important voice to the campus conversation about concealed carry, showing how both pro- and anti-gun advocates misunderstand the deeper issues of race, class, and gender that shape how Americans understand guns.


Good Guys with Guns is available through the University of North Carolina Press. You can follow Dr. Angela Stroud on Twitter at @astroud.

Katie Kaufman Rogers is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology. Her research focuses on the areas of gender, race, and sexuality. You can follow her on Twitter at @katiearog.

Better Know a Sociologist: A Conversation with Sarah Brayne

by Ilya Slavinski

Faculty Headshots

This fall, Dr. Sarah Brayne joins the faculty here in the sociology department at the University of Texas at Austin. She comes by way of Princeton University, where she received her PhD, and the University of British Columbia, which she attended for undergrad. Sarah does innovative and interesting work in surveillance, policing, and inequality. Her current project focuses on the use of big data in law enforcement. I was recently able to sit down with her for a cup of coffee, and I can confidently say we are very lucky to have her!

What first drew you to sociology?

As an undergrad, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Then, one of my friends who had taken a sociology class thought it was interesting and suggested I take one with him the next year. I was immediately hooked. I loved how sociology offered a new lens of viewing the world. It made me think of everyday things in a different way; everything that was familiar became unfamiliar. After taking sociology classes on the criminal justice system, I realized that I wanted to study the law rather than practice it. So, I decided to apply to grad school.

What did you do your dissertation on?

My dissertation was on police use of big data. I studied how the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) uses predictive analytics, and what the implications of new surveillance practices are for law and social inequality.

Why did you decide to work here at the University of Texas?

I wanted to work at a large department where faculty and students were conducting cutting-edge research and had diverse interests. When I interviewed here at UT Austin, I was so impressed with everyone I met. The strength of the department, coupled with the opportunity to live in Austin, sealed the deal for me.

What’s your experience of Austin?

I love Austin so far. I’ve only lived here for about a month, but so far I love the food and the weather. I know people complain about the heat, but I spent the last year living in Boston and would take hot over cold any day. I also love how easy it is to find beautiful places to hike and swim nearby. I don’t love the traffic (who does?), but honestly it is not as bad as some other places I’ve lived, like LA.

If you could teach one sociological concept to the world, what would it be?

I’d like to teach everyone the sociological imagination—the ability to see the connections between individual circumstances and broader social forces. I think that developing this quality of mind is crucial to redressing a lot of issues we are facing today.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to learn something new every single day. There is so much variety in this line of work. On any given day, I might be doing fieldwork, writing, teaching, going to talks, reading, or working with policymakers. Also, although it is definitely challenging at times, I am grateful to be working on a topic like police use of technology that is at the forefront of important national debates right now.

What are your current research interests? What are you looking at these days?

I’m currently writing a book about the use of big data within law enforcement. In my future research, I’m planning on broadening the scope of institutions I study to better understand how predictive algorithms and new technologies are (or are not) transforming surveillance practices in a variety of institutional fields, from healthcare to immigration.

What’s one book that you’ve read over the past year that you’ve really enjoyed and why?

Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is an incredibly impressive research project and beautifully written.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like traveling, trying new restaurants, and getting outside whenever I can. I love skiing, but now that I live in Texas, I’m going to have to travel a little farther to find snow. Also, I used to teach sociology classes in state prisons in New Jersey, and would love to do something similar here in Texas. Please get in touch with me if you’re interested!

 

Ilya Slavinski is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology. He is also a graduate trainee in the Population Research Center, Ethnography Lab Fellow, and Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice Affiliate. Ilya received his MS in Non-Government Organizations and Development from the London School of Economics and his BA in Philosophy from Rutgers University. He studies the field of carceral policy decisions in Texas and how these decisions lead to unequal outcomes along class and racial lines.