Sociological Analysis

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Final exam review session? On Wed., 5/18, 10am or 9am?

May 12th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · 6 Comments

If there is interest, I’m willing to come to campus on Wednesday to run an extra review session for the final.  If you are interested, please comment here — and tell me what times on Wed DO NOT work and what time slots are preferable.

UPDATE: So far, all requests are for a morning session.  10am is looking promising.

UPDATE II: the earlier, the better for folks, it seems.  Maybe 9am?


Reading questions for GLFD, Chs. 6-8

May 11th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

  • Both J.T. and Ms. Bailey can be considered “power brokers” in the context of the Robert Taylor Homes, as presented in the book, Gang Leader for a Day.  A power broker is a person who is important by virtue of the people they control, by virtue of his/her ability to influence others. Compare and contrast the nature of J.T.’s and Ms. Bailey’s motivations and influence in the Robert Taylor housing projects.
  • Why did so many women at Robert Taylor seem to consider Ms. Bailey a hero?
  • After contacting a lawyer on the advice of his advisor, what sort of legal advice did Venkatesh receive?
  • Ms. Bailey tells Venkatesh, “You’re a hustler, I can see it” (p. 188).  Is she right?
  • One of the main ethical criticisms leveled at Venkatesh concerns disclosure of confidential information about residents’ economic activities to JT and Ms. Bailey, criminals he already knew were extorting money from some of the interviewees. Was this disclosure justifiable?
  • Autry tells Venkatesh that he “need[s] to understand that there are two gangs in the projects…The police are also a gang, but they really have the power” (pp. 238-239).  What does he mean?  Do you agree?

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GLFD reading questions, Chs. 3-5

May 6th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

Below are some questions to think about as you read Chapters 3 – 5:

  • Representatives of both “the gang” and “the community” at Robert Taylor talk a lot about how “the gang” helps “the community.”  What are they talking about?  Do you agree?
    • How would you conceptualize the relations between/among “the gang,” “the community,” and “family,” “home,” and the “buildings” where people live?  In other words, are they the same thing?  To what extent do they overlap?  To what extent are they different?
    • Venkatesh writes: “Strangely, while most people think of a gang as a threat, for me—an uninitiated person in the projects—the gang represented security” (p. 84).  What does he mean by this?
    • Various characters in the book make claims about the relationships among these categories, of course.  Are their claims persuasive?
    • Approaching this as a social researcher studying gangs, how would you conceptualize gangs?  What would your “conceptual definition” and “empirical definition” be?
  • Why and how is the gang involved in politics?
  • Who is Autry?  What is his relationship to the gang?  When Autry says “the club played a broad peacekeeping role in the community” (p. 98), what does he mean?
  • What are the (specific) responsibilities of a gang leader?  What kind of (general) skills do they require?  Compare them to the responsibilities and skills required in a managerial position inside a legitimate business.   What would you say constitutes “success” in these leadership positions?  What contributes to success or effectiveness?
  • Based on Venkatesh’s reporting, how is life in the projects different for women as compared with men?  What circumstances pose particular difficulties for women?  How have women responded, with what kind of “survival strategies”?
  • As Venkatesh asks, “Was it possible…to be in the projects for any length of time and remain neutral, an outsider, an objective observer” (p. 179)?  What do you think?

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Reading questions for GLFD – Chs 1 & 2

May 4th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

Here are some questions to guide your reading of the first two chapters of Gang Leader for a Day:

Chapter 1: How Does it Feel to be Black and Poor?

  • Why does Venkatesh describe the attitudes of the old black men he spoke with in Washington Park as “fatalism” (p. 8)?  Why did such attitudes seem “foreign” to him?
  • What’s wrong with the survey question, “How does it feel to be black and poor?”  Why does Venkatesh prefer ethnography as a research technique to study inner-city poverty?
  • What can you tell about the gang landscape of Chicago?  Who are the Black Kings?
  • Why do you think JT agreed to meet with Venkatesh again?

Chapter 2: First Days on Federal Street

  • What was JT’s unlikely route to the gang life?  Where is he in the gang’s hierarchy?  Was he getting rich?  Try to map out the gang hierarchy.
  • What is the “culture of poverty” view of gangs and inner-city life?  Why does JT question its validity?
  • What are the Robert Taylor Homes?  Who lives there?  What is it like?
  • How does Venkatesh justify entering into a relationship with JT, the “leader of a major crack-selling gang”?
  • A number of Venkatesh’s informants refer to “community.”  How do they understand that concept?  Who makes up “the community”?
  • When JT sets off to “survey the building” (p. 44), what does this entail?
  • Describe the evidence of corruption within the CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) presented in the chapter.
  • Who is C-Note, and why does JT beat him up?  How does Venkatesh respond?  Was his response ethical?  Understandable?

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‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback -NYT

May 3rd, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

“Scholars return to ‘Culture of Poverty’ Ideas,” according to a article in the New York Times (10/17/10). Such ideas link persistent urban poverty to “culture,” typically understood as sets of norms and values.  In Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh explores the subject using ethnographic techniques.  Click the link above to read the article, which provides a great map of current academic debate on poverty, useful background for GLFD.

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Final exam scheduled for May 19th, 8:30-10:30am

May 2nd, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

The final exam will take place on May 19th, 8:30-10:30am, in our regular classroom.

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Is “Bitherism” Racism?

April 28th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · 1 Comment

On the topic of whether the “Birther” movement is motivated by racism, this video by Baratunde Thurston, a comedian and cultural critic, is going viral.  While the video is not an example of dispassionate social scientific analysis, it’s worth watching to get a sense of why some interpret Donald Trump’s and others’ claims as “racism.”  For our purposes, we need to first think about how we would conceptualize “racism” and then how we’d go about finding evidence of it.

The full version of the video can be found here (Warning: it contains some expletives) :

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‘Study Ties Suicide Rate in Work Force to Economy’ – NYT, 4/15

April 16th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention just released findings from a study examining suicide rates per 100,000 Americans for every year from 1928 to 2007.  Like Durkheim, who relied on data from an earlier historical period, researchers found suicide rates increase in times of economic decline; however, the government study did not find that rates also increased in economic boom times, as Durkheim theorized.  The one possible exception is the pre-1930 “boom” period preceding the Great Depression. The NYT report is here.
The New York Times
April 15, 2011

Close Window

Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company


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‘Texting May be Taking a Toll’ – NYT 5/25/2009

April 12th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · 1 Comment

According to the New York Times, ‘Texting May Be Taking a Toll’

The phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation.

And here’s a radio interview with the NYT writer on the story:  ‘Teenage Wasteland? How Teen Texting Affects Behavior‘. Any comments on the ‘texting epidemic’ are welcome…

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How ‘Millennial’ Are You?

April 12th, 2011 by Prof. Hala in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · No Comments

Here are some of the more interesting findings from our in-class “Millennial Quiz” (link to the Pew Center quiz here)And here are the results in graphical form (Millennial Quiz results_212W-SPR2011) Note how results for the last two questions (on parental marriage and religiosity) are out of step with typical ‘Millennial’ responses [sample size (n) = 24]

In the past 24 hours, about how many text messages, if any, did you send or receive on your cell phone?

[1] No text messages on your cell phone in the past 24 hours [1] 1 to 9 text messages [3] 10 to 49 text messages [19] 50 or more text messages

How important is being successful in a high-paying career or profession to you personally?

[8] One of the most important things [10] Very important but not the most [6] Somewhat important [0] Not important

Do you think more people of different races marrying each other is a…

[7] Good thing for society [2] Bad thing for society [15] Doesn’t make much difference for society

In general, would you describe your political views as…

[3] Conservative [10] Moderate [11] Liberal

Were your parents married during most of the time you were growing up, or not?

[20]Married [4] Not married (includes divorced, separated, widowed or never married)

How important is living a very religious life to you personally?

[9] One of the most important things [4] Very important but not the most [8] Somewhat important [3] Not important

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Extra Credit

April 5th, 2011 by asanchez in Uncategorized · No Comments

I never watch this show before but this episode was pretty funny and interesting. How much of the truth is in it.
I didn’t get a little lost in the start whether the Liz’s lost her job or not. Since she was running around questioning everyone on staff is it good it’s only temporary. Jack, her boss, basically tells her that she doesn’t have any good new ideas for their show to keep going does not believe her. But he thinks Banks can have better ideas for TGS. Jack told her he has been telling her for two years she should have a Plan B incase and now that day has come and Liz has no Plan B all she has a fall back is a degree in Writing & Theater. Liz wines up getting fired anyway even after trying so hard to prove herself.
This situation seems very gender favoring because he believes in a man not on a women to handle the job. Goes to show you men and women aren’t equal and this relates to real life society. This situation will always be around anywhere in the world. Women still have certain standard to meets as well as men, depending on what fields or level of society which in your expected.
Then it’s like the script flips because they show Devin attending the meeting with his baby. That’s about the biggest shock. Because it’s like saying all the sudden Men take care of their children, when women are the one’s taking care of the children and keeping the household together.
Overall, shows how women or men can accomplish school. It gives us the real life check that having a degree doesn’t been you are guaranteed a job for life and that even with a degree a job a very difficult to find. Especially with the way economy is right now. Which is why everyone should always have a Plan B like Jack calls it.

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30 Rock Response- Kareem Ali

April 5th, 2011 by kali101 in Topic statement · No Comments

I haven’t watched much 30 Rock episodes, but from the episodes I’ve seen, it seems to be a pretty funny show. This episode in particular was actually pretty funny, but in the same light, a little disrespectful towards certain groups of people. Many times throughout this episode, references are made about African Americans, homosexuals, and Asians. In one scene, the man who plays Alec Baldwin’s boss, asks him, “How is your baby?” In turn Baldwin responds by saying, “Blacks, Asians, bi-sexuals, and youths.” Although I understand that the story of this episode was for them to come up with a new show, in which Alec Baldwin attempts to suggest a show about homosexuals, “Twinks.” I believe that 30 Rock used this episode as a platform to poke fun at homosexuals and other ethnic groups, and succeeds at doing so by using comedy. I know this is the United States and people have freedom of speech, but I believe that shows like 30 Rock and other shows like Family Guy, should not be allowed to say certain things that seem like hate, or discrimination towards certain groups. I’m not saying that I agree with certain moral values that some people live by, but again this is America and everyone is free to live the way the please.

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Stephanie Georges Extra Credit Assignment

April 5th, 2011 by stephaniegeorges in COURSE ANNOUNCEMENTS!!! · Uncategorized · No Comments

Extra Credit Assingment
Stephanie Georges
I have never watched this show before but this episode is funny . I had to watch the episode twice to understand it .   I observed many gender streotypes .
Forced hiatus, which is a  gap or interruption in space, time, or continuity  .In the workplace I see the women (liz) working underneath man (jack) which is her boss. The woman is seen but not heard and her boss doesnt think that she can contribute ideas to keep the show running . Banks was opposite from a streotypical gender role . He was caretaking an infant  and listening to nursery rhyme sing alongs . That is not the typical male  role  . A father is mostly seen in the office while the mother is taking care of the children . Liz doesnt have a plan B she only has a degree in theater and writing . Its obvious that wriitng is irrelevant in this sitcom tp help Liz get far  . Liz is still in hiding and most of TGS staff is fleeing from company. Liz not having a plan B she is trying to hide and save her self from getting fired. Unfortunately she gets fired.   Jack believes that Banks can contribute an idea to keep TGS running .  Throughout the show I notice many humorous comments about todays society and how its viewed. This show is poking fun at typical college graduates . The message is you can accomplish as ,nay degrees as you want. Its not guranteed that you will have a secure job none the less a job at all . This episode definetly portrayed gender stereotypes.

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30 Rock, EC – Roshnee Sukhnandan

April 5th, 2011 by roshnee in Uncategorized · No Comments

In this episode of 30 Rock, there is a bombardment of cultural stereotyping, throughout the dramatization of a major current sociological theme:  the economic/job issue many of us face.

The TGS team may undergo a “forced hiatus.” Jack notifies Lemon first, and assigns her the position of informing all the other TGS employees about it. Lemon soon discovers that almost everyone on the team has a “Plan B” if ever their job at TGS is at stake. Lemon becomes anxious that she may be the only one who does not have a “Plan B.” This dramatization very accurately depicts a common, current sociological issue. This is that currently many people have the fear that they can lose their job at any time, and must have some sort of back-up plan if it does happen.

It’s simply amazing how many cultural, political, and other social stereotypes embedded within this episode as well. They include stereotyping of African Americans, Asians, gender roles (women being scientists, men being main caretakers of children), achieving “useless” majors in college, conservative “conspiracies” against President Obama, over-exuberance of vampire stories, and the emergence of the gay sexuality in society.

I’ve chosen a couple of the stereotypes I felt were major in the episode to expand on. African American dialect is used by Tracy Morgan as “click, click” when he tells Lemon he just cursed her out in African. Also the flashback scene of Lemon in LA, with all the young African boys rocking the car back and forth, in what looked like an normal occurrence of violence in LA. A stereotype of Asians is shown when another TGS employees pulls out her Plan B of “jenna babies” where she has the Asian baby saying that she is smart in math. The character Devon Banks plays important roles in showing the stereotyping of gay men and of men who are the main care takers of their children. He is recruited as the worker on Jack’s new gay network “TWINKS.” He comes to his first business meeting with one of his “sexy babies” (because of high cheek bones) trying to win over the head boss Hank, who is fond of babies. Jack himself, has also been spending all his time in the office and none with his new baby, Liddy. Hank asks him at one point “how’s the baby?” and he responds talking about “black asian bisexual youths.”

By the end of the episode there is some hope for recovery when we see Jack looking at his daughter’s picture, as if ready to go home to spend time with her, and Lemon exclaiming that she is now “hungry again!,” (after giving away her pizza since she had lost her appetite with the stress) because the company will be saved with Tracy Morgan coming back.

30 Rock accentuates stereotyping (cultural, social, political) in the show, as it is a satire, to make comedy out of real issues our society faces. I feel that the shows ultimately serves to reinforce these stereotypes because they use them comically, and while it is funny to watch, it only dramatizes the stereotypes more and doesn’t do much to reverse the effect. However, they do a service in making awareness, I suppose, of these issues and showing how trivial and sometimes stupid, for lack of a better word, these situations are, because they are masked with societal bias.

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30 Rock- Angela Katsaros

April 5th, 2011 by akatsaros in Uncategorized · 2 Comments

I must admit in the beginning I was a confused about the story line, towards the end It began to all tie together. In this episode of 30r Rock, they made many comic references to cultural stereotypes. It was easy to relate to the episode, because it relates too much of which is going on in today’s world. They were poking fun at our society’s obsession with social networks, phone games, and back up plans.

                The main focus of this episode was the employees of “TGS” and there back up plans. Everyone had prepared for the worst and therefore were not left unemployed (except Lemon) if the company were to close down. I also noticed in the scene where Lemon states she still has (twofer) he corrects her and states that with his degree from Harvard he can go into architecture or medical nanotechnology. I believe this pokes fun at all the graduates who graduated in the past two years with degree’s but find themselves unemployed , so therefore are forced to work wherever they find a job.  In lemon’s search to find a job she is advised to pursue something with vampires. This is aimed towards the American obsession with Vampires –nearly all movies, books, and sitcom serious about Vampires recently. Although this episode poked fun as our trends, entertainment, and economy it was an entertaining episode to watch.