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The social implications of Zika

 

U.S. responses to the Zika crisis are fundamentally flawed. Headlines like “The War on Zika in Miami Turns to the Air” and “Genetically modified mosquitoes newest weapon in war on Zika” may be intended to signal the seriousness of the response, but the world is more complicated than that.

Even if military and medical might could eliminate every single trace of Zika, the social, environmental and political conditions that made Brazil, Florida, and Puerto Rico vulnerable to the rapid spread of a new infectious disease remain in place.

These conditions include, global warming, movements of populations into overcrowded urban areas, and attitudes and policies that restrict women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Patterns of spread of the Zika virus highlight the reality that the world’s poorest families disproportionately bear the burdens of global warming.

In Brazil, residents of shantytowns are exposed to Zika virus due to crowded living conditions, substandard sewage systems, and reliance on public water pumps that often are surrounded by pools of standing water (and mosquitoes).

Here in the United States, Zika virus-bearing mosquitoes have shown up in Florida and other southern states that have inadequate public health resources and in which many low-income people are unable to access basic healthcare because their state governments have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Wars on disease too easily turn into wars on those who embody the disease (as has been the case in our disastrous “war on drugs.”) In the case of Zika, the military language is more than metaphorical. While the virus is the presumptive enemy, it’s an enemy that takes cover in human populations that become “military” targets. Naled, the pesticide used to spray communities in Florida, has been deemed to pose unacceptable health risks to humans by the European Union. Respected scientists point out that “the family of chemicals naled belongs to can harm a growing fetus — which means [spraying] could be harming the very same pregnant residents it’s trying to protect.”

Declaring war on disease sends the message that the sufferer is somehow at fault, placing far too much responsibility in the hands of sufferers who have little power regarding their circumstances. The CDC has urged pregnant women not to travel to areas in which the Zika virus has been reported. Most recently, this included the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, a majority Hispanic neighborhood with a median income of $11,000 per year. Local woman are unlikely to be able to afford to live elsewhere to avoid both the mosquitoes and the sprayed pesticides.

One woman I interviewed in Mississippi (one of the states in danger from Zika) explained that she doesn’t know what to do about sex. She is hearing “everywhere” that women should not get pregnant because of the danger of bearing babies with microcephaly, but in Mississippi it’s nearly impossible to get an abortion. She even has trouble getting hold of reliable contraception. Indeed, few women in the states most likely to be affected are currently using the most reliable forms of birth control.

While media and public health sources encourage women in Zika-affected areas not to fall pregnant, the prevalence of both stranger rape and intimate partner violence force many women into pregnancies that, in the wake of Zika, are not only unwanted but also likely to carry the extra stigma of failure to obey “sensible” public health directives. Recent reports that Zika can be carried in male sperm for at least six months after a man was infected add new layers of terror to a sexual landscape that is already stacked against women.

The problematic history of public responses to viruses such as HIV-AIDS that may be spread through sexual contact, especially when the virus initially impacts disenfranchised or stigmatized groups, is further cause for concern. For women in Brazil and other countries that prohibit abortion, women are forced to choose between illegal, backstreet abortions and the fear of carrying a pregnancy to term in a setting in which pictures of tiny-headed babies grace the front pages of newspapers nearly every day.

I hope that the Zika crisis will drive progress on addressing global warming and environmental conditions, particularly in low-income communities. At the very least, shocked and saddened by the pictures we are seeing in the press of babies born with microcephaly, the Zika crisis should serve as a wake-up call for making contraception and abortion universally available and extending healthcare access to all people.

 

Susan Sered is a professor in the Department of Sociology and senior researcher at Center for Women’s Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University. 

 

By           :               Susan Sered

Date       :               August 19, 2016

Source    :               http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/healthcare/291985-the-social-implications-of-zika

Posted in Latest Post, Public Sociology | Leave a comment

The Democracy of Everyday Life

 

Nancy Rosenblum studies neighbors and the power of proximity

IT STARTED WITH A BULLY. “The noise bully,” Nancy Rosenblum calls him, a man who lived in her Cambridge loft building years ago and tormented the family next door with a rooftop air conditioner whose roar and vibrations shook their apartment day and night. They couldn’t sleep. They tried earplugs and insulation; they tried moving their bed to the back of the room. Finally they tried selling their place. They received no offers.

Meanwhile, the noise bully refused to move the air conditioner, even after Rosenblum and other neighbors confronted him on behalf of the sleepless family, even after they got together and offered to help pay for the cost of relocating the AC unit to a quieter spot on the roof. Instead he hired engineers to certify that the sound and vibration were within legal limits and posted the paperwork in the hallway. “This was malice,” Rosenblum says. “It was an act of deliberate cruelty.” In part, he liked the attention. “Some people will accept even negative attention.” But, she believes, he was also enjoying the power of proximity: “There’s a saying that goes, ‘No man can live longer in peace than his Neighbour pleases.’”

Eventually the bully moved away, and things more or less resolved. But the episode stayed with Rosenblum ’69, Ph.D. ’73, who until her retirement this past May was the Clark professor of ethics in politics and government. She kept thinking about the particular social sphere that neighbors inhabit, distinct from family or friends or citizenship at large, a separate moral identity with its own ethos and structure and set of norms. Neighbors’ daily encounters—their feuds and friendly nods, barking dogs and blaring televisions, unkempt yards and usurped parking spots, tools borrowed and returned, plants watered in one another’s absence, silences kept or broken—make up what Rosenblum has come to describe as “the democracy of everyday life.”

That idea anchors her book Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America, released this past May. In it, Rosenblum lays out her theory of neighborliness: “both a supplement and corrective,” she says, to American democracy’s more formal frameworks and institutions. The concept of “good neighbor” (and its opposite) goes back as far as the country itself. Writing A Model of Christian Charity on board the Arbella in 1630, before he reached what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop insisted on the foundational significance of “love thy neighbor”: “Upon this ground stands all the precepts of the moral law.” In her introduction to Good Neighbors, Rosenblum extends Winthrop’s argument. “The democracy of everyday life rises from the ground of day-to-day reciprocity and neighbors’ responses to ordinary kindnesses and ordinary vices,” she writes. “We give and take favors and offense; we assist, speak out, monitor, scold and rebuke, and rally others to enforce ‘what anyone would do, here’; we live and let live.”

Good Neighbors is a curiously gripping book, with its amalgam of political philosophy, moral psychology, and stories drawn from literature, journalism, and Rosenblum’s own life. In its pages, she roams a wide terrain. There are the sleepy (or sinister) suburbs and troubled urban neighborhoods where danger and distrust make it harder—and all the more important—to “live and let live,” a practice that in Rosenblum’s formulation is not a shrug of indifference but a deliberate way of letting neighbors know that you mean them no harm. She digs through oral histories of Japanese internment camps and early twentieth-century lynchings, atrocities in which the social framework broke down and neighbors betrayed and murdered one other. She explores the rescue that neighbors offered in the rising floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina.

Rosenblum also spends time with fictional neighbors: Willa Cather’s frontier settlers, Robert Frost’s mending-wall repairers, the Polish immigrants jostling together in Saul Bellow’s Chicago, the suburbanites in John Cheever’s and Raymond Carver’s short stories. She devotes a whole chapter to Henry David Thoreau and the neighbors around Walden Pond to whom he gave such attentive and sustained observation. “Literature gives you what anthropologists get when they do field research,” Rosenblum says. “If you want a good description of the phenomenology, the felt experience, of neighbors in different contexts, and over different times—where else are you going to get it?” The stories and novels and poems don’t merely illustrate her ideas, she adds—they influenced them. She couldn’t have written the book otherwise. “The phenomenon of neighbor relations so infuses American literature that our greatest writers and thinkers have written about neighbors.” And small wonder: “Neighbors are not just people living nearby,” she writes. “Neighbors are our environment. They are the background to our private lives at home.”

A Fence and a Neighbor

Home. That word expresses perhaps the most deeply felt theme in Good Neighbors. The idea of home is not explicitly a part of the book’s core philosophical argument, but it suffuses every page, a shadowy undercurrent, a beating heart. Home is the place with “no exit,” Rosenblum tells us, whose refuge is precious and fragile, where people—neighbors—are at their most vulnerable. In political theory, home is an “underappreciated moral and psychological phenomenon,” she says. “We can’t overestimate what it means to have a home, even if it’s a shack under a bridge. A place that’s yours, that you can control, that you can close the door on, that you can keep people out of. And that you can let people into.”

Four years ago, Rosenblum moved to New York City. On a one-year fellowship at New York University, she rented a little apartment right off Washington Square Park, at Macdougal and Bleecker streets—the heart of Greenwich Village and a place with, among other things, a whole new cast of neighbors. She loved it. “The youth I never had,” she says. After that, she never really left. When she returned to teaching at Harvard the following year, she commuted back and forth by train.

Most of Rosenblum’s youth was spent in Cambridge, where she arrived as freshman at Radcliffe in 1965. The rest was in suburban Teaneck, New Jersey, in a neighborhood of schoolteachers and social workers. “I used to say that ours was a mixed neighborhood—Orthodox and Reform Jews,” she deadpans. Rosenblum’s parents were divorced; her father was an economist, her mother a social worker, and her stepfather taught math at a junior high school in the Bronx. As the oldest of seven, Rosenblum helped raise her brothers and sisters; she was 13 when the youngest was born. “Our most remarkable neighbors lived across the street,” she recalls. “It was one of those developments where the houses are all alike, and these two identical twin brothers had married identical twin sisters, and they lived right next door to each other in identical houses.”

Then at 17 she came to Radcliffe, and in the five decades since, Cambridge became an anchor, emotionally, intellectually, and geographically, even as her home life moved beyond its borders. “Almost every physical bit of this campus—the Law School, the Yard, the river Houses—are part of my life,” she says, sitting in her office on Cambridge Street one April afternoon, midway through the last semester of her teaching career. “I mean, I had my first love affair in Winthrop House. It’s odd, this kind of personal archaeology as you walk through the campus.” The decades have deposited new layers of remembrance: faculty seminars and meetings with the dean and other business of grown-up academic life. “But still,” she says. “It’s there. And every once in a while, an emotion comes over me with some memory that surfaces.”

The neighborhoods around campus, too, inhabit that sphere of memory. She recalls the shabby Green Street apartment in Cambridge where she lived as a political-science graduate student in the early 1970s, before she and her husband married and decamped for Somerville. Her grandmother, a Polish immigrant, visited once. Her grandparents “were people who had truly worked themselves up in the world—I mean, they really had lived on potatoes,” she says. Her grandmother walked in the door of her apartment, took one look around, and started to cry. Rosenblum laughs about it now. “It was like, shtetl to shtetl in two generations.”

She and her husband, Richard Rosenblum, a sculptor, spent most of their married life in Newton, Massachusetts. “A replication of Teaneck, New Jersey,” she says, “except a little more affluent, a little less mixed.” They raised their daughter there, moving from one house to another. It was also during those years that Rosenblum’s academic life detoured from Cambridge to Providence. She had joined the Harvard faculty in 1973, right after receiving her doctorate; in 1980 she moved to Brown University’s political-science department, returning periodically to Harvard and Radcliffe for fellowships and visiting professorships before coming back for good in 2001.

While living in Newton, Rosenblum and her husband got into a scuffle with neighbors over a gate her husband wanted to build at the edge of their property, with a Chinese-inspired imperial roof. Rosenblum and her husband called it a “fence,” which municipal rules sanctioned; their neighbors insisted it was a “structure.” In the end, a city inspector came out and declared their gate a fence, and that was that. It stayed. “But it did sour relations between us and our neighbors,” Rosenblum says. “It was never quite the same. That’s almost always how it is once you have some sort of negative relationship with a neighbor—it’s really awkward in ways that are hard to repair. And it’s not a major life event, but it alters the experience of home.”

On Cape Cod, where she and her husband owned a house for a time, an uglier dispute engulfed their community. She describes it briefly in Good Neighbors: in 1997 her homeowners association sued and was countersued by a wealthy buyer whose construction plans for a new home violated the association’s covenants. The lawsuit dragged on for nearly a decade (“He thought he could out-lawyer us,” she says), before a district court ruled in favor of the homeowners association and the wealthy buyer sold and moved. The fight “transformed us from stakeholders,” Rosenblum writes, “into neighbors united by a common adversary—a reliable source of solidarity. We always had something to talk about.”

Stories of disputes between suburban neighbors are easy to come by, abundant both in literature and in life. Rosenblum could have filled her whole book with them. And it makes sense, she explains, when you consider Americans’ striving perfectionism. “The United States has always been a country of utopian communities,” she says. “We’re ground zero.” All that cheap land and wide open space, plus the bursting eclecticism of the American population. Decades after the communes of the 1960s and ’70s and almost two centuries after Fourier Societies—inspired by the early French socialist Charles Fourier—first flowered across the Northeast and Midwest, utopianism remains deep in our bones. “I think there’s a spillover from that to suburban life, where you’re, in a sense, designing a community,” Rosenblum says. “The peril is, when you move in, you think you’re getting like-minded people and that the rules are going to protect and buffer you.” But often they don’t, and disappointed expectations lead to anger and acrimony and lawsuits. “People don’t understand that you can only resist randomness so far, and then there are just the people who actually live up the street.”

Rosenblum moved back to Cambridge after her husband’s death in 2000 from cancer, to the loft building where the noise bully would earn his nickname. The building was fertile ground for lively neighbor relations. A former nineteenth-century elevator factory in Porter Square—Rosenblum moved there for the high ceilings that could accommodate her husband’s massively tall sculptures—it had originally been converted into cheap lofts for artists. “So that they would have neighbors who appreciated that they might work all hours of the day and night,” she says, “that they would use welding machines, that there would be noise.” But as the neighborhood began to gentrify, so did the building. And the new residents “didn’t necessarily want the noise and the smells and the acid from the etching plates,” she says. Sometimes their building’s particular democracy of everyday life all worked out; sometimes it didn’t. “It was this changing, dynamic mix of people.”

“We’re Not of a Piece”

THAT Good Neighbors arose so directly from Rosenblum’s own daily experience makes it unusual in the world of political theory, but not in her oeuvre. “Something happens, and I’m startled into thought,” is how she puts it. “It’s not a straight line, but neither is a research agenda.” That everydayness is one of the threads tying together her work, in a career of few obvious ones. Rosenblum’s subjects are eclectic and contrarian and deceptively ordinary; they often set up a tension between the formal aspects of political theory—institutions, rights, analytic categories—and the personal and psychological. Almost always her subjects have gone unnoticed by the rest of her field.

In 2008, after discovering to her alarm that most of the students in her course on election law rejected party labels, calling themselves not Democrats or Republicans, but Independents—years later, she still sputters in disbelief telling the story of that discovery—she wrote On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and Partisanship. The book traces the history of American anti-partyism and defends the “moral dignity” of partisanship and party identity. She wound up arguing that parties constitute a fundamental and historic achievement of liberal democracy, and that they give structure and coherence to politics and regulate its conflict.

Ten years before Angels, Rosenblum wrote Membership and Morals: The Personal Uses of Pluralism in America. It grew out of her observations about civic groups that had come under fire for being illiberal and undemocratic—the Boy Scouts with its ban on gays, the Jaycees with its all-male membership. On the way to an argument in favor of unfettered pluralism and freedom of association, even when those associations are authoritarian or outright oppressive, the book surveys a vast landscape of Americans’ voluntary civic attachments: prayer groups and bowling leagues, homeowner associations, self-help groups, secret societies, and book clubs—as well as hate groups, paramilitary organizations, and racial identity groups. “People are complex,” she says. “We have the capacity for holding and entertaining—as parts of our moral identity, not just superficially—a variety of practices and political and moral aspects. We’re not of a piece, and neither is our society.” She argues that people navigate this motley landscape by having a certain kind of freedom. “I’m always guided by a love of liberty, and particularly freedom of association. I would say that’s our most important constitutional freedom.”

At an event in early May celebrating Rosenblum’s work and marking her retirement, her former student Emma Saunders-Hastings, Ph.D. ’14, described how Rosenblum’s scholarship “takes up one of the neglected tasks of political theory: capturing our intuitive reactions to political life.…This is the thing she does better than anyone.” Now a postdoc at the University of Chicago, Saunders-Hastings was discussing Rosenblum’s 1987 book, Another Liberalism: Romanticism and the Reconstruction of Liberal Thought. Rosenblum calls it her first “real” book (her dissertation gave rise to her actual first book, Bentham’s Theory of the Modern State, published in 1978). Another Liberalism considers the inherent conflict between what Rosenblum calls the “romantic sensibility”—heroic individualism and self-reliance and self-improvement—and the strictures of liberal democratic government. During the discussion, Saunders-Hastings elaborated: “Nancy’s work expresses a particular kind of hope: that we might be able to see reflected in political theory the experiences and emotions of real human beings. Exceptional people, ordinary people. That we be able to see the blood in the veins.”

For many years, Rosenblum taught Government 1061, “Modern Political Philosophy,” which she herself took as an undergraduate. The course begins with Machiavelli and progresses through Hobbes and Locke, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, and Marx, on its way to Nietzsche. In other words, it covers the canon. Her introductory lecture for that course was titled “The Anchored Book, the Needy Reader, the Eternal Truth, and the Jumping Mind,” and it offered four ways of reading: historicist, utilitarian, traditionalist, and something closer to aesthetic. She would tell her students that if they paid attention to how they read and what attracted and excited them, then they would learn something about themselves, not just about the works. Rosenblum herself is the fourth kind of reader, she says: the jumping mind. “What I respond to in these texts is just the sheer creative genius of these writers. I find them inspiring, both for their pictures of political greatness and their pictures of evil.…The jumping mind response to these books is, I think, what makes you want to do political theory. The idea of trying to understand your time politically in this way.”

She recalls two lines from Wordsworth that she frequently quoted in meetings with new graduate students: “What we have loved, / Others will love, and we will teach them how.” She laughs. Wordsworth got it wrong, she says: you can’t teach someone to love anything. “But you can explain to them why you do. And you can suggest to them the different ways that they might. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.”

There is something of Rosenblum’s beliefs about liberty in her teaching, too. At the event in May, Cornell law professor Aziz Rana ’00, Ph.D. ’07, another former student, noted the breadth of research subjects and opinions among Rosenblum’s graduate students over the years. “Nancy’s really had no desire to replicate her own arguments,” he said. “That’s quite rare.” Describing what he called her generosity and warmth as a mentor, he talked about her ability to “think within the terms of her students, to produce arguments in conversation that are the natural extension of how they’re conceiving of their own project.” Looking up at Rosenblum sitting a few rows away in the auditorium, he added, “That’s why so many students gravitated toward you.” McGill professor Jacob Levy, who was Rosenblum’s student as a Brown undergraduate, said that she had “deeply shaped my sense of the possibility of political theory.” At the end of the evening, a handful of current graduate students rose up from the audience to present Rosenblum with the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award, established by the Graduate Student Council; she is one of five Harvard faculty members to receive it this year. One of the students handed her an engraved silver bowl. “From many grateful students,” he said.

Rosenblum’s own mentors at Harvard were political theorists Michael Walzer, Ph.D. ’61, now a Princeton professor emeritus, and Cowles professor of government Judith Shklar, who died in 1992. Walzer advised Rosenblum on her undergraduate senior thesis, and years later his 1983 book Spheres of Justice opened up a concept that’s become fundamental to her work: the idea of “giving dignity to the autonomy of different spheres of life and the experience we have in them and the norms that should guide our behavior. Those things came to lie behind everything I wrote.”

Shklar was Rosenblum’s graduate adviser, and she still rereads Shklar’s 1984 collection of essaysOrdinary Vices, a “deep phenomenology” of cruelty, hypocrisy, snobbery, betrayal, and misanthropy. Like Rosenblum, who was then a young professor working on Another Liberalism, Shklar plumbed the depths of literature to bring out truths about her subjects. And like Rosenblum, Shklar drew on moral psychology. “She gave me permission to do what I was already doing, already experimenting with,” Rosenblum says. “I saw that you could go somewhere with it.”

From Lynching to Katrina

ROSENBLUM SPENT the better part of a decade researching and writing Good Neighbors, teasing out the norms and customs and regular principles that govern neighbor relations. But the passages that come back to her now are not the norms, but the outliers, the extremes: violence and rescue, murder and deliverance. She’s haunted by what remains unexplained, and unexplainable, the “deep ethic,” as she calls it. “People who save other people talk about being a good neighbor,” she notes, “and I think there’s a sort of double resonance there. There’s a moral take-home about the significance of being a good neighbor, the internalization of that idea.” And it goes back to the notion of home and why its disruption is so catastrophic. “Neighbors hold our lives in their hands,” Rosenblum writes again and again in the book, and it is true. Narrating what happened to Japanese citizens in 1942 when the order was given to evacuate them to internment camps, Rosenblum describes how so many were assaulted by people they knew in drive-by attacks, how their neighbors vandalized and set fire to their property, “swooped down like scavengers” to profit from the forced sale or abandonment of Japanese shops and businesses, farms, machinery, property, homes. And heartbreakingly—and in some ways just as cruel—they turned away. Rosenblum describes how, seeing their Japanese neighbors herded off with overstuffed suitcases, some people didn’t even wave goodbye.

Even worse is the “unique horror” and “intimate violence” of neighbors lynching neighbors. In a chapter called, simply, “Killing,” Rosenblum describes the chaos and terror and wounded confusion. Often enough, “victims knew the people who mutilated and killed them,” she writes. “Murderers knew their victims. Locals knew who the killers were.” Rosenblum quotes the testimony of an Alabama freedman who saw his son cut to pieces with a knife. “I knew him,” he said of the perpetrator. “Me and him was raised together.”

Civil-rights activist James Cameron’s survival memoir chronicles a 1930 lynching attempt in Marion, Indiana, when he was 16 years old. He and two friends had been accused of killing a white man in an armed robbery and of raping his girlfriend. A mob stormed the jail the same night the three were arrested and grabbed the other two boys, whom they beat and hanged; one of them died even before the noose was around his neck. When it was Cameron’s turn, an unidentified woman interceded on his behalf. He was beaten but returned to the jail alive. Rosenblum quotes his memoir: “It is impossible to explain the impending crisis of sudden and terrifying death at the hands of people I had grown to love and respect as friends and neighbors,” he wrote. And of the crowd at the lynching: “I recognized a few faces from homes near my own neighborhood. I saw customers whose shoes I had shined many times. Boys and girls I had gone to school with were among the mob…neighbors whose lawns I had mowed and whose cars I had washed and polished.”

At the other end of the spectrum are the rescuers and protectors: local sheriffs who faced down lynch mobs, neighbors who did not take part, the woman, whoever she was, who saved James Cameron from hanging. “Even in a caste system, some neighbors signaled ‘I know you’ and ‘I will do no harm.’” Rosenblum writes. “During the Florida massacre in 1923 that killed six blacks, burned the entire black section of Rosewood to the ground, and sent people running for refuge in the swamps, white neighbors took in women and children to protect them from the gunfire, hid them, and got them onto trains to safety. Moving firsthand accounts describe the interruption of viciousness as men and women recover their own identity as a neighbor.…A memory, a familiar gesture in the present, the appearance of a person they know from home—something mundane returns me to the person I am there where I live.”

In modern memory, Hurricane Katrina looms large, both for the massive governmental failure to protect the most vulnerable citizens, and for the way those citizens—neighbors—looked after one another. “Neighbors’ presence on the deranged terrain around home…provides more than physical orientation,” Rosenblum writes. “Congregation on the street stimulates an awakening.” People with boats rescued neighbors from rooftops and trees; neighbors shared food and water and siphoned off gasoline and drove people out of immediate danger. They scared off alligators and rescued each other’s pets; they found liquor and cigarettes, diapers, medicine, mops, bleach. They comforted one another and kept each other safe. They told each other that it would be OK, and they made it true. Rosenblum describes people “venturing out into a chaos that was unimagined, with no instructions or protocols, judging immediate necessity and taking action.” Mutually vulnerable, neighbors were defending their lives and homes.

* * *

IN NEW YORK CITY, Rosenblum recently moved in with her companion of the past few years, Robert Jay Lifton, a psychiatrist and scholar who studies war and political violence (his best known book is The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide). Lifton’s place is on the West Side, but Rosenblum’s own apartment, the one she bought and still uses as a studio, is back down in the Village, in a white-brick high-rise just around the corner from Union Square Park. Her living-room window gazes out to the Empire State Building in the distance and, in the blocks in between, to dozens of brick apartment buildings, both facing and facing away, their low, square shoulders stacking up one behind another, with aging water towers perched on every rooftop. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, a view of the layered Manhattan neighborhoods laid down in the nineteenth century. “This is old New York,” she says. “This is New York as I imagined it.”

Her neighbors in this building are physically closer to each other than she’s used to. “I’m from suburbia and Cambridge,” she says. “The accident of proximity was brought home to me when I got this place.” The smell of meat, distractingly intense, emanates all day long from the kitchen across the hall, whose door backs up catty-corner to Rosenblum’s—a problem she hasn’t yet figured out how to broach. She’s learning new norms, new etiquette, the democracy of everyday life in a building like this one. “The elevator is a phenomenon,” she says. “I’ve begun to see that many, many people relate to one another through the elevator.” They know little things about each other, the kind of information you would get from traveling together for 20 stories. One day, Rosenblum got on the elevator and about two floors down another woman boarded. She was elderly, and Rosenblum noticed she was barefoot. “And she says to me, ‘I can’t put on my shoes.’” So Rosenblum helped her put them on. “I get the sense that there are a lot of people in this building who are older and living alone.” Neighbor relations have a different urgency here, a different rhythm. “This woman was riding down in the elevator to find somebody who could help her put her shoes on.”

In this new environment, Rosenblum is learning again what kind of a neighbor she is. During the dispute with noise bully all those years ago, she was struck not only by the feeling of pride in being a good neighbor and comrade, but also the growing awareness of other neighborly traits she hadn’t realized she had: a limited capacity for friendly exchange in the hallway, a judgmental attitude toward neighbors’ disarray, a reticence that was hard to shake. In Good Neighbors, she writes that those living nearby “can illuminate our reluctance to know ourselves and they can spur self-understanding.” In her Greenwich Village building, she’s discovering herself all over again: sympathy, patience, attention.

Improbably, amid the commotion of old New York and the closeness of a high-rise apartment building with a shoeless old woman and a neighbor’s kitchen that smells of meat, she thinks of Thoreau and his years on Walden Pond. An intellectual polestar for Rosenblum (in 1996 she edited a book of his political writings, and her own writing returns to him often), Thoreau occupies 15 pages toward the end of Good Neighbors. A reviewer for her publisher, Rosenblum says, suggested leaving him out—in some ways that chapter feels out of synch with the rest of the book—but she kept him in. “All the complexity of the neighbor relationship was right there, in the mind and the writing of a great American thinker,” she says. “His somewhat odd relations with people were basically relations with neighbors”: the woodchopper, Irishman Seeley, the inhabitants of a poor shanty where he sought hospitality. She’s particularly moved by what she calls a “romantic bit” in Walden: “the importance of seeing people, neighbors, as not just familiar—his phrase is, ‘the old musty cheese that we are’—but foreign. As unique individuals and interesting.” Thoreau claimed that we rarely see our neighbors for who they are: “We live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another,” he wrote. Appreciating their separateness is a way of taking neighbors as they take themselves. “Thoreau has this beautiful line,” Rosenblum says. “‘They are our Austrias and Chinas, and South Sea Islands.’” She pauses a moment to let that sink in, Manhattan unfurling out the window beside her. Finally, she says, “Neighbors are our distant places, and they are right in front of us.”

 

Lydialyle Gibson is a staff writer and editor at the Harvard Magazine.

 

By           :               Lydialyle Gibson

Date       :               September-October 2016

Source    :               Harvard Magazine

http://harvardmagazine.com/2016/09/democracy-of-everyday-life

Posted in Latest Post, Public Sociology | Leave a comment

Ramen Noodles Are Now The Prison Currency Of Choice

 

Once upon a time, cigarettes were the currency of choice when those behind bars needed to barter. But these days, America’s prisoners are trading with ramen.

So says Michael Gibson-Light, a doctoral candidate in the University of Arizona School of Sociology. He spent a year interviewing nearly 60 inmates and prison staffers at one men’s state prison (which he kept anonymous to protect his sources) housing thousands of inmates. He presented the findings this week at the meeting of the American Sociological Association.

“There was an entire informal economy based on ramen (which the men often referred to as ‘soups’),” Gibson-Light told me via email. Prisoners use it to hire other inmates for services, like cleaning out their bunk or doing their laundry, or purchase goods on the black market, like fresh fruits or vegetables, which aren’t sold in the commissary but are sometimes smuggled from the kitchens, he says.

“As one inmate told me: ‘You can tell how good a man’s doing [financially] by how many soups he’s got in his locker. ‘Twenty soups? Oh, that guy’s doing good!’ ”

So what’s behind ramen’s rise as a de facto prison currency? It’s supercheap, supertasty, rich in calories and readily available in prison commissaries — at a time when cost-cutting at detention facilities has many inmates complaining they’re not getting enough to eat.

“Inmates shared countless grievances about serving sizes as well as the quality, taste or healthiness of the food,” Gibson-Light says. “It was common for some to compare their meals to those that they received during previous prison stays, sometimes years or decades prior, which they claimed contained more and better food.”

Gibson-Light’s findings echo the experience of former inmate Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez. He spent more than a decade locked up on a weapons charge, among others, and co-authored a book published last year called Prison Ramen: Recipes And Stories From Behind Bars. Gibson-Light says Alvarez’s book helped inspire his research.

Ramen is “everybody’s staple in prison: No matter who you are, you’re cooking with ramen,” Alvarez told NPR last year. “You can use it to barter,” he told us, adding, “Some people don’t like them, some people will never eat them, but they use them — that’s their funny money.”

And ramen is also the backbone of some creative prison cooking, from “dirty ramen” (made with Vienna sausages, green beans and carrots, among other things) to ramen pot roast. As Alvarez told us last year:

“In most cases, if you’re lucky enough to know somebody that works in the kitchen, they can bring you back some raw onions, maybe some chives, some jalapenos, fresh vegetables. And then there’s times when you don’t have much but tap water, a bag of Cheetos — Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at that — and a couple of soups. And you know what? You make a little tamale.”

Jails and prisons in a number of U.S. states have been the target of accusations and lawsuits that they are underfeeding inmates, according to a report last year from The Marshall Project, a nonprofit journalism outlet focused on criminal justice. For instance, inmates at the Gordon County Jail in Georgia are fed twice daily. As The Marshall Project reported:

“While the jail maintains they are providing sufficient calories (the recommended daily intake is 2,400-2,800 a day for men, and 1,800-2,000 for women), prisoners said they combated their hunger by licking syrup packets and drinking excessive amounts of water.”

Gibson-Light says the state prison he studied had also cut its meal services: Inmates used to get three hot meals a day but now get only two, with an additional cold lunch served during weekdays (but not weekends).

Says Gibson-Light: “One inmate, who had worked in a prison kitchen, told me: ‘There’s so many people in prison now that [the prison] can’t afford to feed all these people. They’re following the [calorie] guidelines, but they’re right on the line of that.’ ”

 

By           :               Mary Godoy

Date       :               August 26, 2016

Source    :               http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/26/491236253/ramen-noodles-are-now-the-prison-currency-of-choice

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Third ISA Forum of Sociology (10 to 14 July 2016, Vienna, Austria)

 

Please visit the Third ISA Forum of Sociology page (http://www.isa-sociology.org/forum-2016/) for more information and updates.

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Kansas State University Researchers Study Immigration From Central America to Rural Kansas

 

Immigrant workers from Central America are influencing rural Kansas’ society and economy, according to a Kansas State University sociology professor who is conducting a study of the workers with her student research team.

Alisa Garni, associate professor of sociology, and her team are conducting long-term, in-depth ethnographic research. Their methods include qualitative interviews with dairy owners, public servants, longtime residents and Central American immigrants — regardless of legal status — as well as quantitative data analysis of census reports.

Garni is especially interested in how dairy farmers in remote, depopulated areas of the U.S. are recruiting immigrants to settle and work permanently in their towns. Based on her study, she said most of the farmers in Dairy City — a name used to protect study participants’ confidentiality — have tried recruiting locally and do employ some longtime Kansas residents, but because the work is labor-intensive and their farms are growing quickly, they find it helpful to hire immigrants.

“They need workers with very specific skills, and they are encouraging them to settle with their families in the area. How do you do that in remote areas that have previously experienced significant population decline, as well as the loss of local services and businesses?” Garni asked. “It’s interesting, puzzling and challenging, but they are doing it.”

In addition to previously well-understood methods of recruitment that include word-of-mouth to friends and relatives in Central America and the United States, and state-based programs providing workers with short-term visas, Garni has discovered various ways in which farmers are improving their operations to attract excellent employees who will continue to work on their dairies for as long as possible.

To further hone their skills as employers, farmers consult K-State Research and Extension agents; attend national dairy conferences; offer competitive wages and benefits — including housing, paid vacation and housing assistance; provide on-the-job vocational training; administer bonus pay based on clear performance standards; and sponsor or participate in off-farm celebrations to foster a sense of community.

“The relationships employers form with the workers and their families are so important in helping the farmers’ dairies and towns to grow,” Garni said.

Societal change because of immigrant labor is occurring in the midst of aging populations and depopulation, which are common phenomena in remote, rural communities. Garni said one of her most surprising findings is the extensive quality of the intergenerational, intercultural relationships that form between immigrant workers and aging populations.

“The residents who are retiring welcome newcomers who aren’t as familiar with the area, and some of the newcomers assist some of the retirement-age population if they need help with something, or just to learn and share life stories,” Garni said. “It’s been pretty powerful to see that connection.”

Garni observed that migrant labor has boosted the economy of Dairy City. She said migrant labor and economic development go hand-in-hand.

“Immigrant labor strengthens local housing markets and businesses that relate to farming — everything from consumer retail, food and clothing, and home supplies to farm implement manufacturing — because it supports the dairies and agriculture, which then support other industries,” Garni said. “It has a chain reaction.”

Though Garni refers to the immigrant population as significant, she said Hispanics still comprise a small minority of the predominantly white communities in rural Kansas. Most of the influx of Central Americans to rural areas of the U.S. can be traced to the farm crises and rising interest rates of the 1980s, when many small farming communities experienced out-migration to cities.

“In rural Kansas communities in the last 10-15 years, we’ve seen a movement in which dairy farmers are changing their hiring practices to rely more heavily on immigrant labor,” said Jill Applegate, a May 2016 bachelor’s graduate in political science and modern languages, Shawnee, whose work with Garni was funded through the university’s Undergraduate Research Award. “We started to see this phenomenon occurring about 10 years ago, but the actual process that led up to this movement has been happening for decades.”

The sociology, anthropology and social work department is in the College of Arts & Sciences.

 

Date         :               July 7, 2016

Source     :               Kansas State University

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Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture considers public opinion on same-sex marriage, parenting

 

It has been nearly a year since the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act put Indiana in the national spotlight and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in its landmark case on same-sex marriage.

The reactions to RFRA and the Supreme Court ruling reflect a turnaround in American public opinion that is “one of the most striking changes in public opinion social scientists have ever witnessed,” said Brian Powell, the James H. Rudy Professor of sociology and chair of the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.

This striking change, and the future directions of public opinion, are the topics of the 2016 Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, “Public Opinion after Obergefell: What Americans Believe about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Marriage Equality, and Same-Sex Parenting.”

Powell will present the lecture on Monday, April 18. The lecture will take place from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in the Indiana University Cinema, 1213 E. Seventh St.

“Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, many questions remain about Americans’ views and beliefs,” Powell said. “Do Americans count same-sex couples as a ‘family’? What do Americans believe about same-sex parenting? Do Americans believe businesses should have the right to refuse services to same-sex couples? Is the unprecedented change in American views on same-sex marriage a sign of how public opinion on other social issues will change in the future? I plan to answer these and other questions during the lecture.”

A member of the IU Bloomington faculty since 1986, Powell conducts research focused on family, education, gender and sexuality. He has studied how families confer advantages — or disadvantages — to their children and how family structure influences parental investments in children. He is especially interested in atypical family forms: families with older parents, bi/multiracial families, adoptive families and gay/lesbian families.

Powell’s award-winning book, “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family” — coauthored with IU Ph.D.s Catherine Bolzendahl and Claudia Geist and with Lala Carr Steelman from the University of South Carolina — documents the transformation in how Americans define family and their views regarding same-sex families. His current research explores Americans’ views regarding the role of parents, children and the government in college funding.

The Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture series is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President at IU Bloomington. Begun in 1980, this annual event recognizes the research achievements of an IU Bloomington faculty member and is accompanied by a $5,000 award to support the distinguished lecturer’s continuing research. Past awardees include Elinor Ostrom, David R. Williams, Rebecca Barthelmie and Richard DiMarchi.

 

Date:                      April 6, 2016

Source:                  Indiana University Bloomingto

http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2016/04/brian-powell-distinguished-faculty-resource-lecture.shtml

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Disturbing details of sexual harassment scandal at UC Berkeley revealed in files

 

Documents offer redacted versions of investigation reports and disciplinary actions for cases involving staff that substantiated allegations of misconduct

Eleven employees at the University of California at Berkeley have been fired or resigned after facing accusations of sexual harassment, according to new records that provide disturbing details on numerous misconduct allegations and dramatically expand a scandal plaguing the prestigious institution.

The hundreds of pages of records – which include extensive documentation of harassment cases involving 19 employees and were released on the heels of multiple high-profile controversies – show that men in powerful positions avoided discipline after the school substantiated harassment complaints from students and employees.

The new documents, provided to the Guardian and other media outlets, offer redacted versions of the public university’s investigation reports and disciplinary actions for every case in the past seven years in which the office for the prevention of harassment and discrimination (OPHD) substantiated allegations of misconduct.

Notably, the documents show that all the employees who were fired for violating sexual harassment policies were staff members – and none were tenured professors.

Three faculty members included in the reports remain at the university, said UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof.

The revelations come months after Geoffrey Marcy, a well-known UC Berkeley astronomer, resigned in the wake of reports that the school had found that he had repeatedly sexually harassed students over the course of a decade yet did not face serious discipline.

Last month, Sujit Choudhry, the dean of the law school, resigned from his position after the university faced significant backlash for allowing him to keep his job following a campus investigation that substantiated his executive assistant’s sexual harassment allegations.

Choudhry remains a faculty member.

The new documents revealed that Howard D’Abrera, an adjunct faculty member who eventually resigned, repeatedly sent sexually harassing emails to an undergraduate student. In one, he invited the student on a “dirt smoke filled weekend of unadulterated guilty pleasure and sins” and offered to “whisper sweet nothings in your ear”. The email said: “I should get to know you … and explore the daring [redacted] dark side of you. Bring me a shirt from your wardrobe.”

In a short phone interview on Wednesday evening, D’Abrera said he never made sexual advances toward the student and that his comments were taken out of context. He now claims that he did not send the email in question, though during the investigation, as the report shows, he confessed to writing the message.

Blake Wentworth, a faculty member in the department of south and south-east Asian studies, whose case is still pending, allegedly told a graduate student: “I could lose my job over this … but I’m so attracted to you.” At one point, he allegedly came up behind the female student and cupped his hand over her ear.

Jeffrey Topacio, a general manager of Cal Dining who was found guilty of “gross misconduct” and eventually was terminated, repeatedly made comments about his penis size, even after meeting with a complaint resolution officer, according to the records. He also allegedly used a homophobic slur to describe a male employee who was crying.

The reports further revealed that Alan Wong, a fired university massage therapist, sexually assaulted a female undergraduate student, repeatedly touching her underwear and genitals during a massage, including after she said: “Can you focus on my shoulder?”

Nori Castillo, a staffer in Berkeley’s startup accelerator SkyDeck, was terminated after the university determined that he repeatedly harassed a male student intern, subjecting him to unwanted sexual advances, making statements such as “I want you so badly” and “I’ll blow your mind”.

Scott Anderson, a disability specialist who worked with students with psychological disabilities, repeatedly sent sexually inappropriate emails to a female student, according to the documents. In one he joked about spanking her, and in another he referenced punishing her for not finishing an assignment and said he would bring handcuffs.

In 17 total reports – involving accusations against 19 employees – 11 cases resulted in termination or resignation. Six cases resulted in other forms of discipline, and two of the disciplinary proceedings are still pending. In seven cases students had filed the complaints, and in six of the investigations faculty were accused of misconduct.

On Wednesday, Michael Burawoy, professor of sociology and co-chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association, said the new reports raised concerns that there are disparities in the way the university responds to complaints depending on the status of the accused. “The most significant part of this revelation is the difference in the punishment,” he said. “Tenured faculty are basically not dismissed … That theme runs through all of this.”

There are troubling power dynamics in all of the cases, Burawoy added. “Men are often in more powerful positions than women. It encourages that sort of behavior if it’s not … sanctioned or if it’s somehow kept secret.”

Leslie Salzinger, a professor of gender and women’s studies at Berkeley, said the cases have shed light on the kind of harassment that is common in universities and workplaces across the country. “The issue with Berkeley is not that there’s more harassment, but one would expect an institution like this to do a better job responding. I hope that we will.”

Mogulof, the university spokesman, noted that the school has recently formed a committee on sexual violence, harassment and assault to review policies and make recommendations for changes.

“There needs to be improvement in our policies and our practices and our culture on this campus,” he said.

Mogulof also noted that other universities have not released this kind of data, meaning there’s no evidence that the problem is worse here. But, he added: “We have been explicit in our acknowledgement that one is too many.”

Naomi Rustomjee, Choudhry’s lawyer, said in an email Wednesday that the former dean “is confident that he will be vindicated in court”, adding: “He should be judged on the basis of his conduct, not on that of others accused of sexual harassment.”

Choudhry has apologized to his former assistant “for his mistakes”, Rustomjee added.

The other faculty and staff named in the reports did not respond to requests for comment or could not immediately be reached.

 

 

By:                         Sam Levin

Date:                      April 7, 2016

Source:                  The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/06/uc-berkeley-staff-sexual-harassment-scandal

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“Conversations on Race and Other Diversities: Its Not Just About Black and White”

 

Where: The Graduate Center, City University of New York (365 Fifth Avenue, C200: Proshansky Auditorium)

When:  March 21, 2016, 6:30PM

As America continues the conversation around race in our society, ideas about an individual’s multiple identities have grown increasingly nuanced. The discussion now looks at how different identities (such as race, gender, and sexuality) intersect and combine. Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, president emerita of Spelman College and Bennett College, sheds light on these complexities with a dynamic panel.

Featuring:

Cristina Beltrán, NYU professor working at the intersection of Latino politics and political theory; author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity; and MSNBC commentator.

Wade Davis, a former NFL player who came out as gay and is now executive director of the You Can Play Project, an organization working to end discrimination, sexism, and homophobia in sports.

Vivian M. May, associate professor of women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University; author of Pursuing Intersectionality, Unsettling Dominant Imaginaries; and president of the National Women’s Studies Association.

Arun Venugopal, host of Micropolis, WNYC’s ongoing examination of race, sexuality and identity; contributor to NPR’s Morning Editionand All Things ConsideredPBS Newshour, and more.

 

This program is part of the Graduate Center’s ongoing series exploring race and diversity — issues at the forefront of current national debate — with leading thinkers and cultural figures. Presented by GC Public Programs and the Advanced Research Collaborative.

 

http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Public-Programming/Calendar/Detail?id=34625

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University of Tennessee: Lecture Explores Upward Mobility Issues for Black Male Professionals (March 3)

A UT lecture will explore the interactions of professional black men in a predominantly white male workplace at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 3.

Adia Harvey Wingfield, a professor of sociology at Washington University, will present the lecture, “No More Invisible Man: Professional Black Men’s Gendered Interactions in Predominantly White Male Workplaces,” in the McCarty Auditorium, Room 109 in the UT Art and Architecture Building.

The Department of Sociology is sponsoring the lecture.

The lecture is based on Wingfield’s multiple-prize-winning book, No More Invisible Man, which explores how professional black men navigate promotions, occupational networks and upward mobility under conditions where they are often viewed as tokenized minorities.

Earlier that day, at noon, Wingfield will present a colloquium titled “Professional Work in a Post-Racial Era: Black American’s Everyday Racial Realities in the Health Care Industry” in 1210 McClung Tower.

The lectures are free and open to the public.

Wingfield joined Washington University last fall. Previously, she was on the sociology faculty at Georgia State University for nine years. She is also a contributing writer to the Atlantic.

Wingfield specializes in research that examines the ways intersections of race, gender and class affect social processes at work. She is an expert on the workplace experiences of minority workers in predominantly white professional settings, specifically on black male professionals in occupations where they are in the minority.

Visit the Department of Sociology website for more about its events.

CONTACT:

Stephanie Bohon (865-974-7019, sbohon@utk.edu)

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lola.alapo@tennessee.edu)

 

Source: http://tntoday.utk.edu/2016/02/26/lecture-explores-upward-mobility-issues-black-male-professionals-march-3/

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Public Sociologies Symposium from Boston College

Public Sociologies: A Symposium from Boston College which combines theory and practice of public sociology

http://burawoy.berkeley.edu/PS/Social%20Problems.pdf

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