sociology for the public


In-depth, analytical storytelling about how and why our world works the way it does.

The (Mis)Education of Monica and Karen

Monica and Karen, two typical in-state students starting college at a mid-tier public university in the Midwest, encounter organizational arrangements best designed to serve affluent, out-of-state partiers who can afford to pay full freight. Sociologists Laura Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Armstrong discuss how Monica and Karen's stories reveal the great mismatch between the needs of most college students and what many four-year residential universities offer. Read More

Sex Entrepreneurs in the New China

Based on ethnographic research on the male sex industry in China since 2004, sociologist Travis S.K. Kong examines how male rural migrants become male sex workers (or “money boys”) and explains how to make sense of their lives within the context of China’s quest for urbanization, modernization, and globalization. Money boys have found opportunities opened up in new spaces by the development of the market economy, the burgeoning of the sex industry, and the emergence of the gay community in reform China; however, they are struggling in these new spaces of social exclusion, legal constraints, and cultural domination. Read More

Rosa Parks, Strategic Activist

Accompanying Michael Schudson's feature on Rosa Parks, Aldon Morris provides commentary to enhance our understanding of Rosa Parks and her activism. Read More

Opera Thugs and Passionate Fandom

Using life stories and observing opera fans in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Claudio E. Benzecry shows how passion for a cultural object develops, gets refined and sustained over time and the consequences this has for personal identity. In addition, Benzecry argues that his observations at the opera house serves as a template to understand other forms of fandom, cultural consumption and passionate behavior more generally. Read More

But Madame, We Are French Also

Based on participant observation and interviews in the Parisian metropolitan region, sociologist Jean Beaman discusses middle-class and upwardly-mobile children of North African immigrants in France, who despite their upward mobility feel just as marginalized as other children of immigrants. Read More

Marriage Goes To School

In recent years, policy efforts to alleviate poverty have focused on marriage and relationship education. Orit Avishai's, Melanie Heath's,and Jennifer Randles's research finds that efforts to address poverty via relationship skills training are misguided because this approach does not address the structural causes of poverty. Read More

Telling Stories about Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks has usually been portrayed as a highly principled but non-political person, not the long-time civil rights activist that she was. Sociologist Michael Schudson finds several factors that account for this, including efforts of civil rights movement participants to deflect criticism of the movement as instigated by outside agitators; participants' efforts to explain their own actions to themselves; and their efforts not to present themselves immodestly as morally superior. Read More

India’s Reproductive Assembly Line

Why do working class women in India choose to become surrogate mothers? Sociologist Sharmila Rudrappa explains that these decisions make sense when contexualized within larger changes in the economy, the appallingly low wages these women command for their labor, and the lack of meaningful work.  Read More

Can’t Ask, Can’t Tell: How Institutional Review Boards Keep Sex in the Closet

Insitutional Review Boards (IRBs) pose many challenges for sexuality researchers. Sociologist Janice M. Irvine explores how IRBs marginalize sexuality research and the effects of this process. Read More

U.S. Prisons and the Myth of Islamic Terrorism

There is a great deal of concern that U.S. prisons are generating high levels of Islamic extremism. Sociologist Bert Useem argues that the evidence fails to support this fear. Read More