Elena van Stee

Meet Contexts’ New Blog Editor!

Elena van Stee, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the newly-appointed Blog editor for Contexts, the public-facing magazine of the American Sociological Association, currently under the editorship of Amin Ghaziani and Seth Abrutyn in the sociology department at the University of British Columbia.

The Contexts Blog offers timely, snack-sized sociological takes on pressing social issues, providing informed social commentary rooted in research and theory. In this post, Amin and Seth introduce Elena to our community of readers.

AG and SA: Hi, Elena! We are delighted to welcome you as the new Blog section editor! Our readers would love to meet you: who you are, where you are, what you do. Please introduce yourself.

EV: Hi! I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Penn. I study culture and inequality, focusing on social class, families, and the transition to adulthood. I’m currently conducting interviews for my dissertation, which examines how young adult college graduates understand and negotiate parental support.

The inspiration for this project stemmed from my previous study, which looked at college students’ relationships with their parents in the wake of COVID-19 campus closures. In short, I found that class-privileged students became more dependent on their parents, while those from disadvantaged backgrounds generally took on more adult responsibility than ever (their parents sometimes depended on them). I won’t go into too much detail here because I want you to pick up a copy of Contexts’ summer magazine—watch for my feature essay in August!

Anyway, these findings sparked my curiosity about how young adults and parents understand their roles and relationship. We’re living in a period in which young adults face increasing economic barriers to independence and cultural ideas about parental support are changing. How, in this context, do young adults and parents attach meaning to parental support (or lack thereof)? This is the question driving my dissertation research.

As for where I am—my partner and I are dealing with the “two body problem” familiar to many academics (sociologist Jaclyn Wong has a great book on this, by the way), so my answer depends on the day of the week! You can usually find me in Philly, in Boston, or in my mobile office—the Amtrak Acela.

AG and SA: Personally, what do you love about Contexts? What is its unique contribution to the discipline?

EV: Contexts excels at its mission of making sociological research rigorous, readable, relevant, and rad—the 4 Rs of the magazine!—for a general audience. But I think Contexts also plays a second and important, though perhaps less acknowledged role—making sociological research accessible to other sociologists.

As academics, what we read is often highly constrained by the demands of publishing and teaching, limiting our exposure to research beyond our respective subfields. By featuring a range of topics and perspectives in concise, jargon-free language, Contexts provides a welcome remedy to this academic tunnel vision. I’ve discovered fascinating research in Contexts on a variety of topics outside my primary research areas that I would have been unlikely to see had it appeared solely in a conventional academic journal (a good example is Dan Cassino’s recent feature on crypto and masculinity—highly recommend!).

AG and SA: Why are you excited about being the Blog section editor?

EV: The Contexts Blog takes many of the magazine’s best features to the next level—blog essays are timely, jargon-free, and ultra-concise. I’m excited to help authors report their sociological insights in a way that reaches the diverse audiences who stand to benefit from these insights—not only other social scientists, but also journalists, policymakers, and general readers. Your grandmother probably won’t make it through the methodological appendix of your book, but she might actually enjoy reading your Contexts blog post!

As for benefits—there are so many. First, it’s a great way to get the word out about your research. We throw the full weight of our social media presence behind blog posts, and those that have been especially relevant and timely tend to get great coverage.

Second, I think there are intrinsic benefits to the writing process for authors. You only get 750 words. You can’t soften your argument with academic jargon, and you can’t hide your findings behind a literature review. The process of distilling complex research findings into simple and concise language challenges us all to identify the essence of our intellectual contribution and state it boldly.

So, got a fresh sociological take on a social issue? You know where to find me. Start with a pitch if you want to test the waters, or dive right in and send me your full blog post. I can’t wait to hear from you.

Learn more about Elena here.

See our call for blog posts here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *