Contexts

sociology for the public

Culture

Making meaning of people making meaning.

Holden’s Hold on the Censors

J.D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye has been on bookshelves since the 1950s—and its presence there has been protested for almost as long. This review explores why that Holden Caulfield can still elicit such social opprobrium in a new millennium. Read More

Gettin’ Down on “Friday”

Rebecca Black’s “Friday” may be annoying and ubiquitous, but it’s also a great example of contemporary cultural production. The author explores the making of a meme and the many hands behind a hit. Read More

Muslim Female Athletes and the Hijab

A revival of the hijab and an embrace of sport among young Muslim women around the world has created a contested space: their heads. Women, negotiating the rules of their teams and leagues, along with their own religious devotion, must make choices about participating—and dressing—for athletics. Read More

Let My People Go

The successful, three-decade-long campaign to free the Soviet Jewry, found its strength in effectively blurring the boundaries among secular and religious acts, symbols, and space. Read More

Lions, Tigers, and Bear Moms—oh, my!

Pushy parenting is a central theme in Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” but Chinese mothers aren’t the only caregivers well-schooled in the business of concerted cultivation. Read More

They Tried To Make Her Go To Rehab

Contradictory views of addiction as both sickness and moral failing have resulted in a broken system in which famous substance users (like their everyday counterparts) are bounced between overcrowded jails, prisons, and rehab centers, all with little expectation of “success.” Read More

The Purchase of Enlightenment

In Eat Pray Love, the film adaptation of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s tale of travel and self-discovery, we see American consumer culture on display. Lucrative industries are ready to help women navigate crises of identity, but these solutions might be nothing more than salves. Read More

Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity

For over half a century, magazines aimed at teens have been teaching girls how to inhabit stereotypical gender roles. Surprisingly, though the celebrities on the covers have changed, the messages have remained the same. Read More

Facebook’s Boundaries

Facebook was established to help students keep in touch after graduation, but now it’s being credited with major roles in everything from domestic elections to international uprisings. In its no-longer-insular world, Facebook transforms the private into the public. Read More

Who are “We the People”?

The Tea Party trumpets itself as a movement of the people. But who is included in “We the People”? Ruth Braunstein tries to answer. Read More