A recent article in the New York Times makes a great case for putting sociologists and the insights of sociology in a more prominent role in the policy making process. Why aren’t sociologists and anthropologists asked more frequently for advice about policy matters? It’s a good question. While the SOAN blog often highlights the impact that our faculty and students are having on, say, the global response to Ebola or climate change policy and environmental justice, we don’t often see a “chief anthropologist/sociologist” in the highest levels of government, think tanks, or NGOs. My theory: the explanations that we provide for many questions of societal import challenge existing conventions and structures, meaning that, while our explanations and data might be valid, they are hard to incorporate without larger conversations about power and inequality. What do you think, SOAN community? Comment here or email me to share your ideas.
submitted by SOAN Prof Chandra Russo
For those concerned with climate change, environmental sustainability, and the needs of the most vulnerable communities, the new administration has offered little in the way of hope. The New York Times classifies the new President’s views on these matters to be “combative, conflicting and confusing.” Trump has promised an “open mind” on climate change yet has proffered statements and actions that suggest he is firmly in league with other climate change deniers. For instance, Trump has promised to get rid of the Clean Power Plan and pull us out of the Paris Agreement. (Without the former, the US cannot meet the Paris Agreement’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.) Scott Pruitt, newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ignored the overwhelming scientific consensus when he argued that we reopen debate as to whether climate change is anthropogenic (caused by humans). Mustafa Ali, longtime head of the EPA program on environmental justice (protecting the most vulnerable from harmful environmental ills), just resigned in response to Pruitt and Trump’s budget cuts and stated priorities. The national horizon for environmental justice indeed looks grim.
Yet the national horizon is not the only one upon which environmental activists, scholars and policy makers have been seeking change for the past several decades. In fact, even before these newest, draconian and ill-conceived federal maneuvers on climate change, a stalemate on real substantive policy change was a feature of politics in the US. In a new chapter on environmental justice, “The pitfalls and promises of climate action plans: transformative adaptation as resilience strategy in US cities,” authors Chandra Russo, in SOAN, and Andy Pattison, in Colgate’s Environmental Studies Program, argue that we should have a distinct interest in city level policy. In the absence of leadership from the United States federal government, cities and states have long been the foremost means for addressing climate change. Some of the most cutting edge ideas and actions being taken by US cities are still in their relative infancy. For this reason, Russo and Pattison argue that there is great potential for such strategies to incorporate social equity objectives in consequential ways, especially if grassroots efforts are present and vocal. This chapter is not about putting on rose colored (sun)glasses, as Russo and Pattison point out real shortcomings and challenges that these cities, and others wishing to follow suit, are going to have to address. The piece does, however, point to some exciting developments and indicates that local and state politics are important for transformative change even in times of massive national setbacks.
Students in SOAN Prof Alicia Simmons’s “Media and Politics” Course Develop Content Analysis ProjectsBy Chris Henke on December 12, 2016
This post submitted by SOAN Professor Alicia Simmons
Students in Media & Politics (FMST/SOC 375) recently completed a two-phase project that combines the dual focus of this course: art and of science. Over the course of the semester, they generated original social scientific research and then created short video reports about their findings. Their videos are an example of public sociology, meaning that they make sociological scholarship accessible to a non-academic audience. You’ll find a link to the videos, which cover topics such as Freddie Gray’s death, the Confederate Flag controversy, the Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, and the San Bernardino attacks, at the end of this post.
This post was submitted by Tim Englehart ’18, Sociology major.
This semester I worked with two other students, Sally Langan ’17 and Valeria Felix ’18, to study the conversation surrounding the use of trigger warnings on college campuses as a project for Professor Henke’s “Media Frame and Content Analysis” course (SOC 251). A trigger warning can be defined as a statement that comes before a piece of writing, a movie, or a speaker or discussion that alerts the audience that the material presented may be stressful or evoke a traumatic response from past experience. Proponents of trigger warnings argue that they protect students from emotionally harmful content and in doing so create spaces in which students can feel safe to engage in critical discussions and learning. Critics of trigger warnings argue that such warnings contradict the ideal of free speech, and that exposure to uncomfortable situations is an experience that facilitates learning and growth—allowing students to avoid discomfort in the classroom detracts from their educational experience.
Post and photos submitted by Professor Jordan Kerber
Students in Professor Jordan Kerber’s course, “Field Methods and Interpretation in Archaeology” (ANTH 253) use a local archaeological dig site as their classroom, excavating artifacts from the Brunk site in Lincoln, NY. The site contains the remains of an Oneida village, dating to the late 1500s or early 1600s and then again during the 1750s. Over the past several fall semesters, ANTH 253 students have found several hundred Native American and European artifacts, including stone chipping debris and tools, pottery, animal remains, glass trade beads, smoking pipe fragments, and metal scraps. Students in the class focus on excavating, processing, analyzing, and interpreting archaeological objects recovered from this site, as seen in the pictures here.
Our new SOAN colleague, Prof. Chandra Russo, has the cover article in the newest issue of Race and Class. Prof Russo’s article, “Witness Against Torture, Guantánamo and solidarity as resistance,” focuses on the group Witness Against Torture, a community that has been calling for the closure of the Guantánamo Prison since 2005. Witness Against Torture is one of three social movement organizations that Prof Russo has studied as part of a larger project examining activism in resistance to US security policies. Prof Russo notes that while her article focuses on how Witness Against Torture is working to close Guantánamo, she also analyzes how they joined with the Black Lives Matter movement during January of 2015 to link militarism and imprisonment abroad to policing and incarceration within the US interior. Congratulations to Prof. Russo on this important new publication!
This post submitted by SOAN Professor Chandra Russo.
On September 30, sociology professor Alicia Simmons joined an esteemed cohort of Colgate alumni working at CBS, The Huffington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Moderated by Tim Byrnes, Charles A. Dana Professor of political science, panelists had a vibrant and timely conversation about the role of the media in American civic life. Audience members at the panel, part of the events leading up to Colgate President Brian Casey’s inauguration, included eager faculty, students, alumni, Hamilton residents and Casey himself. Panelists addressed challenges such as the increased polarization of political thought in American society, the lack of diversity in newsrooms, and the obligations of journalists. These matters feel ever more urgent six weeks before the 2016 presidential election, in which, as panelist Howard Fineman described, “one candidate challenges everything that we thought we knew about the American political process.”