Departmental News Archive
Publications, honors and creative works: A. Javier Trevino
February 14, 2015
Sociology professor Javier Trevino publishes a new book: Investigating Social Problems.
Insight. Experience. Connections. - Ana Brenes Coto ’15
Ana Brenes Coto ’15 flew to South Africa to work at a nonprofit supporting AIDS and HIV research.
Graduates head into the world of work - Mollie Lane '14
October 17, 2014
Sociology major Mollie Lane ’14 takes on new responsibilities as the meeting and events planner for the CM Group in Hingham, MA.
Going Places - Allison Cormier-Jonaitis ’13
Cormier-Jonaitis, now a student at Mykolas Romeris University, will investigate organized crime in Lithuania with her Fulbright Research Grant.
A visual ethnography journal appears
August 29, 2014
Sociology now has a peer-review process for non-fiction film. By John Grady
By John Grady
Back in the day (fifteen years ago), I was a lonely voice fighting for social scientists to recognize non-fiction film as real scholarship. Finally, in 2012, I was able to convince the International Visual Sociology Association (IVSA) to endorse a proposal to create a peer review process for certifying sociological films. Whew! But that was just a start and I still faced the challenge of actually making it happen. Fortunately -- and completely independently -- Greg Scott from DePaul University in Chicago took a different approach to this particular problem of creating a “more visual” sociology. He just went out and did it! And so on September 15th issue of the online Journal of Visual Ethnography (JVE), which he edits, will be launched and available to teachers, students and the general public for free.
In a letter to the JVE’s board of directors, which includes yours truly, Greg brings us up to date about the process:
“Just to let you know: For the first issue we had 21 complete submissions. Each of them underwent rigorous peer review by a panel of 3-4 social scientists (at least two of whom also make films). The reviews were comprised of a traditional narrative critique (of the sort written for print journal articles) as well as in-film frame-specific annotations through our dedicated secure platform on ReviewStudio. Having read all of the reviews for all of the submissions, I feel confident saying that overall these reviews were more carefully done than any I've seen, written, or received for print articles that I've reviewed or submitted myself. I'm very happy with the quality (and timeliness) of the reviewers' work.
“Here's the breakdown of peer review outcomes: Of the 21 submissions, we will be publishing five in this first issue. Twelve of the submissions received the designation of "Revise and Resubmit." The remaining four were rejected.“We're super excited about this first issue in which we'll be publishing five really terrific ethnografilms, including the first film ever to be considered a doctoral work of "filmic sociology" in France. These are exciting times!”
You can subscribe to the Journal at: http://www.videoethno.com/jveSubscription.html
The next Call for Submissions will be opened on September 15 for the second issue of JVE to be published on March 15, 2015. Guidelines for submissions are available at http://www.videoethno.com/authGuidelines.html
Investigating Social Problems
August 22, 2014
Prof. Trevino’s groundbreaking new text thoroughly examines all aspects of social problems.
Professor A. Javier Treviño, working with a panel of experts, has published a groundbreaking new text, Investigating Social Problems, which thoroughly examines all aspects of social problems, providing a contemporary and authoritative introduction to the field. Each chapter is written by a specialist on that particular topic. The text is framed around three major themes: intersectionality (the interplay of race, ethnicity, class, and gender), the global scope of many problems, and how researchers take an evidence-based approach to studying problems. It is also infused with balanced and contemporary coverage of theory.
During the American Sociological Association meetings in San Francisco, August 2014, an exclusive cocktail event celebrating the publication of Investigating Social Problems was sponsored by SAGE Publications. The event was held in the Vista Lounge of the San Francisco Hilton. The book was also featured at the ASA book exhibit.
June 5, 2014
What do photographs of cats have to do with the history of civilization? A visual sociologist reveals the connection. by John Grady
Have you ever wondered why in the world people starting letting cats into the house instead of keeping them outside where they belong? Well this is the book for you.
John Grady has written the Forward to Arnold Arluke and Lauren Rolfe's The Photographed Cat: Picturing Human-Feline Ties, 1890-1940, published by Syracuse University Press. The book is based on an in-depth study of "real picture postcards" that document many varied aspects of life in thousands of American communities at the beginning of the last century. Arluke -- a sociologist at Northeastern University -- is an eminent student of the sociology of human-animal relations. He and Lauren Rolfe have used hundreds of forgotten images to tell the story of how people let cats into their homes and families and were transformed by the relationships that they built with their animals, who gave up many freedoms by becoming pets.
Lies, Damn Lies and Obamacare
May 20, 2014
If Obamacare doesn’t seem to be working it’s because “the vandals took the handles”. In this case the villains are the Koch brothers by Sam Hammond ’15
by Sam Hammond ‘15
Misconceptions have plagued The Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, since the law was first debated in Congress. Remember the pundits and politicians who proclaimed that the government was setting up “death panels” to euthanize every grandma in America who had caught a cold. Obamacare is now the law of the land and, while the act may not be popular, the public has realized that the government will not be killing anyone anytime soon. Still too many people remain misinformed about the specific policies of Obamacare and how it will affect their lives. Of course it is not unusual for Americans to be uninformed about complex bills and laws. However, the misconceptions about Obamacare are distinctly different from other political confusions. Obamacare has been the center of a campaign of disinformation, and specifically several widely run TV ads that have sought to defame and criticize the policy. More importantly, these ads deliberately distort who benefits from Obamacare.
Several months ago Julia Boonstra made the news for exceptionally unfortunate circumstances. She had recently received the devastating diagnosis that she had leukemia and only had an estimated 20% chance of surviving. Julie began fighting the disease and was comforted by having a good doctor and health insurance plan. Her situation went from bad to worse, however, when she received a letter from her insurance provider saying that her plan would be cancelled because of new regulations put in place by Obamacare. As a result, Boonstra was left with no way to pay for her treatment since the out-of-pocket cost for the one drug that could have cured her illness was astronomically high. In this case, it could be claimed that Obamacare literally was killing her.
The organization Americans for Prosperity quickly circulated the news of Boonstra’s circumstances by featuring her story in a prominent television ad that criticized her representative, Michigan’s Gary Peters, for supporting Obamacare. It’s easy to see why people would be so drawn to Boonstra’s story. It is hard to imagine a more damaging account of how Obamacare could hurt average American citizens in need. There is, however, a big problem with the ad. It’s simply not true.
First of all, Boonstra is a real person who does in fact suffer from Leukemia and deserves a great deal of sympathy and respect for battling it. Beyond Boonstra’s name and circumstances – according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column – the advertising spot is littered with errors. As it turns out, Boonstra was actually offered a very similar plan by her old insurance company that would have allowed her to see her old doctor (Kessler). True, she would have to pay more out of pocket up front, but once she reaches the limits of the deductible, the cost of the treatment would be offset by the lower premiums she would have to pay. Further investigation revealed that under Obamacare Boonstra would actually save an estimated $1200 a year
Americans For Prosperity (AFP) has been one of the most active and organized voices of opposition to Obamacare. AFP is a conservative advocacy group that supports economic freedoms and is largely funded by the Koch brothers, who are oil billionaires with a history of using their wealth to further their political agenda. In the past few months the Koch brothers have spent $30 million to underwrite ads -- including Boonstra’s story -- in battleground states where democratic congressmen are facing challenges for re-election With so many people uncertain about the effect that Obamacare will have on their healthcare, these ads pose a grave threat to the popularity – and smooth implementation -- of the new law. People who were confused or ambivalent about the reform are now being bombarded with images of honest Americans proclaiming that Obamacare is devastating their lives and health. This has the unfortunate side effect of increasing opposition to the bill even among the low-income and middle-class families who it primarily benefits. It is a truism today to lament that politics is broken in America. Well, if “the pump don’t work,” to quote Bob Dylan, it’s probably “cuz’ the vandals took the handles.” the sentiment certainly covers the Koch brothers and their antics.
So What's the Big Deal with Cuba?
May 14, 2014
Why can Cuba provide health care coverage to its people, while Peru and the United States can’t? It’s a matter of political will. By Melanie Collins ’16
By Melanie Collins ‘16
It was a beautiful afternoon day and I awoke in a dimly lit, smelly Peruvian clinic. There were large horse flies buzzing around my head and a dusty blanket keeping me warm. The nurses wore dirty jeans and prodded me with needles, attempting to locate a suitable vein for intravenous fluids. I was terrified.
It was my second week in the Peruvian Andes when I succumbed to the typical traveler’s sickness that afflicts most foreigners. Bodily fluids were rapidly departing from every orifice of my body and I was unconscious within five hours of experiencing the first symptoms. To this day I thank the twelve-year-old boy (see picture) who spotted the deranged, smelly blonde girl and flagged down help to get me to the clinic. From the hospital bed I was able to experience, up close and personal, the Peruvian healthcare system.
Within the small clinic in this Peruvian village I saw and experienced many things that frightened me. There was a clear lack of sanitation, an absence of competency among the staff, and a failure to respect my medical privacy. Nonetheless, perhaps the most frightening occurrence was at the end of my stay when I went to pay my bill. The total cost came to 12.5 Peruvian Nuevo Soles. The nurse promptly asked how long I would be staying in Peru in order to set up a payment plan for this bill. I was dumbfounded, realizing that the bill amounted to less than five American dollars. I paid the bill in full and left the clinic – a bit queasy, but thankful I was hydrated and conscious.
As I began to slowly regain my health, the question about the payment plan lingered in my mind. The reality is, most people in that village would not have been able to afford the five American dollars, out-of-pocket, to pay for this substandard treatment. I wondered - would they have even treated someone whom they knew could not pay the bill? My experience in this clinic illuminated more than global economic inequality, but also the harsh disparities in healthcare systems around the world. It may not come as a shock that life expectancy and GDP per capita of nations around the world correlate lockstep, trending upwards. In other words – the richer the nation, the longer people will live. What is startling is the outlier to this trend: Cuba.
The average Cuban per-capita income is $4,000 per year, but its health statistics are on par with some of the wealthiest countries in the world. Life expectancy is equivalent to the United States at 79 years and infant mortality rates are actually lower in Cuba. Cuba boasts these statistics under a healthcare system owned by the government and available for everyone. Cuba provides us with a revolutionary (no pun intended) concept: a right to healthcare irrespective of personal income. If Cuba is able to achieve this goal, what is preventing other nations from doing so?
With the exception of the United States, universal healthcare is a right in many wealthy, industrialized nations – but why should it be limited to these countries? Cuba demonstrates the possibility of universal healthcare without dramatic economic growth. In Cuba, people live modestly, but still have access to doctors and medicine. Thus, we must stop accepting disparate healthcare as a necessary consequence of global economic inequality. Cuba demonstrates that it is possible to provide people with adequate healthcare, a right to life even, without tackling the larger problem of restructuring global economics (at least not just yet).
There is, however, an important lesson for the United States. It is first necessary to reform healthcare domestically in the United States before we can contribute to meaningful change around the world. Our own failures with healthcare – and a lack of universal access -- prevent us from being able to add much to the international conversation about health care. There is no reason that a Peruvian – let alone an American -- should be denied healthcare because they cannot afford an out-of-pocket payment for treatment. It is time to recognize universal healthcare as a right to life, and attack this problem on a global scale.
Thinking About Obamacare
May 7, 2014
A family that hasn’t benefitted much from the Affordable Care Act, keeps the big picture in mind. By Samantha Scott ’16
By Samantha Scott ‘16
My family is typical of the “Happy Valley” right outside Northampton, Massachusetts. We are pretty liberal and progressive thinking. So, naturally, when The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed our neighbors and we were overjoyed. But has Obamacare done much in particular for my family to warrant this happiness?
Honestly, not a whole lot!
Obamacare may be a great idea and helping many people, but my family is not really one of them, at least not to any great extent. We are lucky enough to live in a state that more or less already has it’s own version of Obamacare. You are required to have health insurance in Massachusetts and, for those who aren’t so well off, the state helps subsidize your insurance payments. So, most of the benefits we already have are thanks for Governor Mitt Romney and the state legislature and not to Obamacare. Nevertheless, my family is still very much excited by its prospects.
But how can we feel that way even if it is not benefitting us?
Obamacare is exciting because, finally, we have a national plan that gives a lot more people the opportunity to have health insurance and care. This is a huge leap in the right direction. So, while it is not directly helping us much, it is making a difference in the lives of millions of other people in our country. That makes for a country that is healthier and happier, which benefits all the rest of us.
Obamacare represents opportunity and equality as well. No longer are women discriminated against under this plan. Women do not pay more for health insurance under Obamacare, an alarming and astounding truth that unfortunately happened under many other health care plans. Also, birth control is now completely free to those women who have Obamacare and wish to have birth control. This is not only a step toward more equality, but also for reproductive rights as well. This provision of Obamacare also diminishes the prevailing stigma against birth control, other safe sex measures, and the women who choose to safely utilize them. What’s more, you can no longer be discriminated against for a preexisting condition. Under many other plans, an insurance provider could reject your application for insurance or deny you service if you had a preexisting health condition. But isn’t that the point of health insurance? To help those in need of medical assistance who cannot afford it? Obamacare eliminates this unfair double standard. Health insurance is for the sick; it should not make it easy to discriminate against them.
Obamacare is the next big step in a long pattern of American health care reform throughout the years, and arguably one of the biggest ones yet. It seeks to unify American citizens and help them live fulfilling and more equitable lives without worrying about being able to pay for medical bills at some point down the road.
So, why are so many Americans upset by its passage into law?
A big part of the answer is the specter of big government, and Obamacare is definitely an instance of that. It is a government-run program with hundreds of billions of dollars poured into it. Also, it makes it mandatory to have health insurance, which many believe is downright unconstitutional. But then again so are Social Security, Medicare and taxes that pay for highways and schools. So, what’s the big deal?
Isn’t it truly unconstitutional, for people to be discriminated against for things they have no control over, such as their biological sex, or more limited control, like medical problems? Private health insurance has had the power to discriminate in that way do with no repercussions until now. Health care and insurance is something that everyone should have anyway, so why should it be such a problem to make it mandatory? It is for the betterment of the entire country and those who reside in it. Almost every other advanced industrial society has some kind of mandatory health insurance, and, while not as wealthy as the United States, their populations are usually healthier. In addition, many of these societies have more upward mobility than the US, less economic inequality, and more guarantees on privacy. Finally, these big government programs in other countries spend, on average about half what we do for health care! Well-designed program by big governments have played an important role in these outcomes, so maybe the issue is not whether a government is too big, but how well its serves its people.
Using that yardstick Obamacare is doing a good job because it is offering access to health care and peace of mind to so many people. It is also exciting because it is taking a big step against discrimination and towards a more progressive nation.
So… that is why my family is very happy with Obamacare, even though it hasn't done all that much for us personally. Sometimes you just have to think about the big picture.