sociology for the public


Making meaning of people making meaning.

The Roots Of Astroturfing

Political actions by corporations designed to look like bottom-up activism are not a new phenomenon. An example from the early 1900s demonstrates that business leaders have long been promoting the notion that one need not sacrifice doing well by doing good. Read More

Aging, Gran Torino-Style

More than a feel-good story, Gran Torino presents viewers with a realistic portrait of the challenges of growing old in America. Clint Eastwood's Walt represents the possibilities, as well as the obstacles, of old age. Read More

Resurrecting Martin Luther King

Controversy over the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, offers a case study in contested collective memory. Debate over whether or not the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death is the appropriate venue for commemorating his legacy reveals how collective memory is produced even in the struggles over what to remember and where. Read More

To Live and Dine in Kogi L.A.

While praised for being a more youthful, multiethnic, and tech savvy form of food delivery, Kogi trucks providing ethnic fusion street food in Los Angeles also illustrate the persistence of socioeconomic divisions in urban life. According to Oliver Wang, Kogi demonstrates that there are still lines that aren't crossed when it comes to urban ethnic relations. Read More


A closer look at roses reveals that their social significance is more than merely ornamental. Roses not only dominate the commercial cut flower market, but also represent our ongoing quest for beauty and distinction in the mundane. Read More

In Defense of Smokers

This commentary argues that smokers have been wrongly stigmatized and condemned in modern societies as the result of a too-cozy relationship among epidemiology, medicine, and public health policy. Castro-Santos argues that sociologists have a responsibility to recognize, analyze, and (perhaps even) disrupt the public attack on smoking and smokers. Read More

A Game You Can’t Win

Criminologists and socio-legal scholars describe contemporary prisons as places where inmates face boredom, loneliness, and a loss of autonomy, while administrators strive to keep prisoners separate and busy, and finances well-managed. According to Macmillan and Page, the remarkably mundane videogame Prison Tycoon 4: Supermax captures the spirit of today’s large American prisons perfectly. Read More

The Library as (Art)ifact

New York-based photographer Mickey Smith is documenting the books, journals and other printed materials libraries are now eliminating as they reorganize themselves and their holdings electronically. Her project suggests that the digitalization of print resources may help disseminate information, and also changes how we experience knowledge, perhaps making university libraries themselves a thing of the past. Read More

Authenticity at Burning Man

To validate worth or confer esteem, people seek out what sociologists call authenticity—that sense of meaning and dignity, or a connection with other people and experiences. As the desert art event Burning Man enters its third decade, some hard-core “Burners” believe the event’s longevity, exponential population growth, and increasingly complex rules and regulations have eroded its authenticity. Others view change as a creative process crucial to the event’s rejuvenation. Read More

Art and Abu Ghraib

Sociologists interested in U.S. foreign policy, the politics of atrocity, and political culture have much to learn from studying artistic responses to Abu Ghraib. This art poses provocative challenges to the dominant framing of Abu Ghraib and highlights the importance of culture as a realm of political activism. Read More