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July 30, 2015

Consuming Home

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Would you be excited to have a high-end brand of shower valve?

Most of us probably wouldn’t know the brands of shower valves to be excited one way or the other. I certainly don’t. But when a contractor came to give us an estimate for replacing our shower, he said he had connections and could “upgrade” us to a specific brand, assuming that I knew it signaled high-end plumbing. He promised that if we hired him we could have fancy branded tile at a discount too, giving us “the wow factor I know you’re looking for.”

The only “wow” came when we saw how much he would charge us for our new high-end branded shower, which we passed on.

This experience reminded me of sociologist Juliet B. Schor’s book The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. She has a chapter called “The Visible Lifestyle,” where she explores how consumption is connected with identity. We make statements about ourselves through the products that we consume, and the more visible the product, the more brands matter to consumers.

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July 27, 2015

Empowerment Zones, Heritage Tourism, and Gentrification in Harlem

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

A recent article in the Guardian discusses the ongoing gentrification of Central Harlem. As I mentioned in a previous post, gentrification in the United States is not only about one ethnic or racial group replacing another one. There is also a social class element, as higher-income residents displace lower-income residents. The active involvement of local city officials and real-estate developers make this happen, through targeted policies and investment.

So how does Harlem fit into this?

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July 10, 2015

Social (Re)Construction of Place in Columbia, South Carolina

Colby kingBy Colby King

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Bridgewater State University

The ongoing debate about the confederate flag on the grounds of the South Carolina State House reminds us of the power of the symbols we put in our places, and the way we talk about those symbols and those places.

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July 08, 2015

Racial Construction and Appropriation

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you heard about the woman in Spokane, Washington, the former head of the local NAACP chapter who resigned when people discovered that her identified race did not match her ancestry?

I’m talking about the case of Rachel Dolezal. With white ancestry but a strong identification with African American realities, she maintains that her racial identity is black. She passed as black by changing her appearance until her parents spoke to the media about their confusion with her mismatched self-identity.

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July 01, 2015

Water and Inequality

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

All living beings need water; it is perhaps the most universal of all needs. Water is also one of the key markers of inequality, locally and globally. It may be easily taken for granted, but when there is too little or too much water, it usually impacts people disproportionally based on wealth.

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June 26, 2015

Religion, Climate Change, and Poverty

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

There is a new sociologist on the block: he does not have a Ph.D., does not teach at a university, and as far as I know, may have never even taken a sociology course. In fact, he attended a technical secondary school where he graduated with a chemical technician’s diploma and worked for a time in a chemistry lab (as well as working temporarily as a bouncer). Who is this new sociologist?  He’s an Argentinian named Jorge Mario Bergogli or, as he is commonly referred to, Pope Francis.

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June 22, 2015

Internships and Inequality

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s summer break now for most students, many of whom are using this time to do a summer internship. Internships can be a great way to learn firsthand about what it’s like to work in a particular industry. They might be a foot in the door for future employment. Or they might be a costly waste of time.

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