Contexts

understanding people in their social worlds

Fall 2013

Volume: 12 | Number: 4

This issue covers gated communities in Puerto Rico, Golden Gate suicides in San Francisco, and affirmative action as a gateway to admission in higher education. Also: competition in girl’s soccer, media coverage of Whitney Houston and Lance Armstrong, and the links between HIV and gender violence in South Africa.

Slot Machine Capitalism

What is seductive about casino gambling? Sociologist Jacob Avery reviews the books Addiction by Design and Gambling for Profit in a desperate attempt to win some answers. Read More

The Cultural Life Of The Living Dead

Zombies have become an explosive cultural phenomena which producers, retailers, and governmental agencies utilize to target consumers. Sociologist Denise N. Cook argues that the zombie myth pervades cultural narratives because it helps people distance themselves from criticizing actual social problems yet at the same time the zombie analogy can help to highlight potential social problems. Read More

Inequality and the Growth of Bad Jobs

The share of jobs that are low-skill declined by 15% from 1960 to 2005, yet low-wage jobs have made up an increasing share of total job growth over that period. Scholar Matt Vidal discusses how the manufacturing-based, nationally bound economy of the postwar years allowed employers to pay decent wages for low-skill jobs, but in today’s postindustrial, internationalized economy, wage-based competition has returned with a vengeance. Read More

Gated Communities For The Rich And The Poor

Sociologist Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores discusses how the concentration of class and racial privilege in gated communities takes place alongside the spatial concentration and confinement of the poor. She argues that gates help sort and segregate people, physically and symbolically distinguish communities, and cement inequality. Read More

On (Not) Practicing What We Preach

What should sociologists do when their everyday lives are at odds with their sociological values? Authors Ara Francis and Jill Bakehorn examine the contradictions that stem from trying to live sociologically and consider how scholars might put personal inconsistencies to good use. Read More

Better Not Put a Ring on It

Same-sex marriage is all the rage these days and supporting it is a civil-rights no brainer. But sociologist Suzanna Danuta Walters warns us that we should never imagine that gaining this signals the end of homophobia or the beginning of deep social belonging. Read More

Cool Stores, Bad Jobs

Sociologist Yasemin Besen-Cassino explores the techniques through which employers attract young, attractive, and middle-class workers for minimum wage, service sector jobs. Using in-depth interviews and job ads, she shows that employers focus on social benefits, discounts, and prestige of the brand to attract higher income workers to low paying jobs. Read More

Framing Social Movements Through Documentary Films

Sociologist John A. Stover III highlights the significant impact documentary filmmakers can have on social movement agendas and frames via their production, distribution, and outreach strategies. New Day Films, a cooperative collective of social issue filmmakers, is spotlighted as particularly effective in promoting social change and justice. Read More

Changing Men In South Africa

Sociologist Shari L. Dworkin interviews Dean Peacock, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice (a South-African NGO). This interview attempts to flesh out the ways in which men are critical points of engagement and active agents in reducing violence and minimizing the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The ways in which social science thinking has inspired Sonke's "One Man Can Campaign" is explored, along with the program and policy impact of Sonke's numerous innovative "gender-transformative" projects. Read More

Memes

The funny cat pictures and viral videos known as "internet memes" fill our inboxes and social media sites. Scholar Alice Marwick provides an overview of memes, a history of the term and its overall significance. Read More