sociology for the public


Making meaning of people making meaning.

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

Post 9/11, But Not Post-Racial

In the popular television shows Heroes and Lost, people of color are well represented among the casts. Although sci-fi television has been a haven for … Read More

A Raw Export

Pro wrestling is often derided for its fake drama, and pageantry, as well as its violence, lack of subtlety, and over-the-top, macho characters. However, pro … Read More

New Fish on the Block

For many young adults, art performances simply aren’t fun. (Le) Poisson Rouge, a multimedia art cabaret in New York’s Greenwich Village, is trying to combat … Read More

Valuing Art

In September 2008, Damien Hirst became the first famous, living artist to sell his work directly through an auction house, bypassing the gallery system. This … Read More

Bring Out Your Dead

George Carlin should be the perfect comedian for sociologists. He was left- leaning, political, and not especially funny. In fact, his earnest concern for social … Read More