Saturday, December 8, 2012

SIP Orals

Greetings all!

As Christmas approaches, it means a lot of things. For Covenant students, it means final exams and (eventually) Christmas break. For Covenant sociology seniors, it also means SIP Orals.

At Covenant, seniors are required to research and write a Senior Integration Paper, which is essentially an undergraduate thesis. Though nowhere near as long and detailed as a graduate thesis, it still gives the student a chance to practice researching and writing a formal research paper in their chosen field(s) of study. At Covenant, it is also the culmination of your studies here.

In addition to the paper, students are also required to give an oral presentation of their topic paper. While the format for these orals varies from major to major, in the sociology department it consists of a short presentation and a question-and-answer session with the presenter.

As a sociology senior myself, I am happy to report that our SIP orals are officially over! Presentations covered a wide variety of topics, including how introverts use technology, serial killers, and the institutions surrounding care for orphans in Africa.

Here are some pictures from the first group of presenters! The others went just this morning, so hopefully pictures of them will be uploaded soon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stay Safe for Thanksgiving!

The Covenant College Sociology Department hopes you all have a good Thanksgiving. If you're into that kinda thing, try not to get too stressed out finding the best deals on Black Friday.

We will return after Thanksgiving with more sociological nourishment for you! Until then, stay safe while traveling.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Website!

!أهلا و سهلا
Welcome! (in Arabic)

Today's post is to inform you that the Covenant College Sociology Department has a new website! Created using Weebly, we hope to eventually use this template as our permanent online base of operations!

You can check out the new website here. On it you'll find pages about our full-time professors, information about the college and department in general, and tons of links to helpful resources. These include blogs, websites, and research tools for the aspiring sociologist.

Check it out!

If you have an idea for an article, please for the love of all that is holy send it to You can find Austin, the author of this post on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest. He might be busy chasing a chicken off his porch with a tennis racket, but he'll answer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Ringing Endorsement

Hello all!

Today's post is less hard-hitting analysis (sorry to disappoint) and more of an endorsement for another site. Surely you're all aware of the posts we've made about Peter Berger's blogPatrolmag, and the Aquila Report. Point is, we here at the Covenant College Sociology Department love religion, and the academic discussion of it. It's great.

So here, to continue what is turning into a series, is another religion website to look at. It's called Religion News Service, and you can find the homepage here. Less a news agency, and more an aggregate for religion-themed news from most major faiths around the globe, RNS is a great site to keep up with for the religious or those interested in studying religion from any angle.

A particularly useful feature of this site that I've found is the daily religion roundup. You simply submit an email of your choice, and they send you a daily email that links you to a page on the site. On the roundup page, you can scroll through the headlines and summaries of a number of religion articles form around the web, and follow the links to read the full article if you should so desire. This is useful for those of you that want to stay informed, but don't or can't take five hours out of your day to browse the web.

For those of you readers on the East Coast, stay safe. If you have an idea for an article, please feel free to send it to You can find Austin, the author of this post on Twitter, where he is currently busy being disappointed in the Discovery Channel for this tweet.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Metaphorically Military

Greetings everyone!

This week's post is about the word we use. As I'm sure you're aware, words and language do more than just communicate meaning. They can also communicate emotion, and shape us subconsciously in ways we might not even be aware of.

For example, in her classic book The Argument Culture, Deborah Tannen devotes a section of her studies to the use of military language in everyday life. She says that we in the West (and especially in America) tend to use military metaphors in everyday life. Things like the "culture wars" and "gender wars" are obvious examples, but this practice shows up in more subtle ways as well (If someone were to eat their dinner rather quickly, we might say they "demolished" their food, or something of that nature).

Politics is one arena where this tendency can be seen most clearly. For example, look at the title of this article in the Religion News Service, specifically the phrase "cover his right flank". Cover his right flank? Are we advancing on the enemy? Gaining ground over our opponents? Calling for a temporary cease-fire? Don't these all sound like phrases we might use to describe events happening in the political sphere?

While these may just seem like a nifty metaphor to some, Tannen and others argue that this actually sustains this "argument culture" that we live in, causing us to view everything from an election to an academic debate as a war between two diametrically opposed sides. Everything comes to be viewed in this paradigm of conflict, this battle between right and wrong. Consequently, Tannen argues, we become less inclined to things like compromise and agreement, instead wanting nothing short of total domination for our side of everything from Congress to the Twitter-sphere.

Just something to think about.

If you have an idea for an article, please for the love of all that is holy send it to You can find Austin, the author of this post on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest. But not Facebook. Please. He doesn't have time to check that, as he's too busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, and the realization that zombies in riot armor is something he hadn't considered before.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gender, Higher Education, and Visual Sociology

Today's post will be using an article (shocking) from a fellow blog.

The blog is called "Graphic Sociology" and we've referenced it a few times before. It is one of the more prominent blogs out there instructing others in what's called "visual sociology". Put simply, visual sociology takes the stats, figures, and knowledge gained through things like surveys, and puts them into visual displays that demonstrate the concepts or changes the research is trying to explore.

This particular article is about gender and ethnic ratios in American higher education. Specifically, it is about the gains that women (of any ethnicity) have made in higher education in the past five decades.

Here's a sample.

As some of you may disagree that gains have been made, it is important to note that this article was written by a woman. Not that I don't trust your judgment, good readers; I just want to clear up any suspicions of "male apologetics" or bias in the beginning.

So with that in mind, enjoy the article. Click here to read it in it's full.

If you have an idea for an article you'd like to see posted, feel free to email us at But please, stop sending us pictures of albino koalas. We're not getting any work done. They're just too darn cute.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Afghanistan and Cultural Gaffes


The Vos family is safely back, for those of you who kept up with our sister blog (If you're curious about their adventures in China, go to to read all about it. It'll be up for a little while longer).

Today's post derives from a recent article in the Washington Post. If you keep up with international news at all, you may have heard that the number of deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan has been spiking recently. What you may not be aware of is the fact that the majority of these deaths have not been at the hands of the Taliban or other extremist groups. Rather, the majority of these incidents have been caused by Afghan police and security forces, the people that the US Army is training to handle the situation once the US combat forces largely withdraw (hopefully sometime in the next decade).

While this may seem distressing and confusing to many of you, it is important that you understand why this has been happening (which apparently the US Army doesn't). Put simply: it's because the NATO troops and their Afghani counterparts don't understand each other or their habits. The article I referenced from the Washington Post, which you can find here, states that most of these killings have happened because the Afghani soldiers felt deeply insulted by the Americans. Consequently, the Afghan government has recently published a booklet to educate its soldiers about the habits of the NATO troops that they might find insulting, which they do out of ignorance rather than a desire to deliberately insult a soldier or his family.

If you read the article, some of these things may seem a bit ridiculous to you. Things like burping in public or propping your feet up on the table are seen as insulting in Middle Eastern, Central Asian culture. Even something as commonplace in the West as asking about the health of female relatives can be seen as creepy or suggestive in this culture. 

While these killings may be an extreme reaction, it is important to remember that it is not ridiculous that the Afghan soldiers feel this way. It is simply a product of their culture. To put this into perspective, many Americans may find it creepy if a male you didn't know were to walk up and kiss you, then your sister, on the cheek after you just met. But in Latin America and other parts of the world, this is commonplace, and it borders on rude to not do so if you know someone at all.

Many of you may find it distressing (as I did) that this kind of cultural training is only just now happening, nearly 11 years after the war began.

The moral of the story is this: if you are going to be visiting a foreign culture, you should spend some time preparing for the journey. And by preparing, I mean less figuring out which shorts to take (not a good idea in some places) and more figuring out how not to radically offend most everyone you meet. Googling it, like I did here, is simple enough. While I doubt anything will actually happen to you, as most people can be rather forgiving about ignorance, it will still make your transition a bit smoother.

Also, if you're planning on fighting a war against an insurgent group in the mountains of Afghanistan for over a decade, you may want to brush up on your Dari or Arabic or something.

Also also, sorry I didn't put any pictures on this one.

If you have an idea for an article you'd like to see posted, feel free to email us at If you're trying to sell us more bottles of hedgehog antivenom, just don't.

Monday, September 24, 2012

We're back! And we brought Big Macs!

Greetings everyone! Sorry we kind of dropped off the face of the earth there. We have another blog that we started and have been maintaining, which I believe we referenced in the last post. You should check it out, by the way, if you're interested in how the process of international adoption works. The link is here.

Anyhow, with that sister blog winding down, we can get back to posting on this one more. So to kick things off all proper like, here's a recent article from the Covenant College student newspaper, The Bagpipe. It was written by Austin Shelton, who also conveniently happens to be writing this. I'm so vain.
No seriously guys, put them away.

So anyways, the article I wrote is about some recent changes in the establishment we all know: McDonalds. For your viewing pleasure:

McDonalds is an interesting phenomenon. It’s one of the largest companies in the world, spanning nations and cultures like nobody’s business, ranking right up there with companies like Shell and Walmart for having the most fingers in the most pies. The McDonalds model is the envy of smaller companies, and the effect of McDonalds on the world is something that sociologists love to write and talk about (even going so far as to coin the word “McDonaldization”).

Love it or hate it, one of the things that makes McDonalds great is its ability to adapt. McDonalds doesn’t sell Big Macs and fries worldwide. In Indonesia you get rice with your meal, while in the Middle East you could get falafel or something equivalent to a gyro, and in India there’s an all-vegetarian McDonalds. Also, you should look up the McDonalds Bubur Ayum. It’s great. Point is, McDonalds adapts to its customers, and isn’t afraid to try radical things.

Which brings me to my point: McDonalds is adapting to the new needs of the American consumer. A few days ago I read an article in the Washington Post about how McDonalds is going to start posting the calorie count for its menu items nationwide, so now you’ll finally be able to see the unforeseen consequences of 20 McNuggets for $5. McDonalds is doing this voluntarily, mind you, and not due to a federal mandate.

But why? Well, because it looks good for them to do it, and will probably get the health-food mafia off their back for a few weeks. They’re doing it for the same reason that they opened up the confusing juxtaposition that is “McCafe”. Think of how much we as Americans love to go to Starbucks and string as many coffee/drink related words together and then pay for the Harry Potter-esque concoction that comes out. How could they not get in on that action? That’s the same reason they’ve started providing free Wi-Fi at most locations. It’s also why most McDonalds restaurants have somehow undergone the transformation from a whitewashed and tiled building that stinks of disinfectant, cooking oil and dirty children to a hip café with mood lighting and flat screens tuned in to CNN. I can’t even find a not-hip McDonalds where I live anymore, and believe me, I’ve tried. 

Basically, McDonalds is trying to follow the Starbucks model. I doubt it’ll work anytime soon, as it was only a few short years ago that they were suffering the backlash from Super Size Me and the countless spin-offs and angry Youtube videos it spawned. And they have yet to get into the world of slacktivism by offering free-range chicken McNuggets and coffee never touched by underpaid workers’ hands. But the point is, McDonalds sees that while we may buy pseudo-food to shove in our faces, we want to do it in style. We want to feel like we’re eating that sandwich in a place with class, rather than a droll establishment made of tile and plastic seats.
 So there you have it. While this is obviously just an opinion article written by an undergraduate sociology student, it does have some connections to actual sociological theory. In particular, the concept of "McDonaldization" is a big thing right now, explored most extensively by George Ritzer. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page for McDonaldization, and another link to a lecture outline on the subject from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. If you're that interested.

If you really feel motivated to contact Austin, you can email him at If you have an idea for an article or topic you want researched, feel free to email the owners of this blog at Thanks!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Vos of Grace: Update

Earlier this year we posted a short essay written by a student here about our very own Dr. Vos. As you may remember, the paper talked about the Vos family's adopted children, and their plans to adopt a third child, a young boy from China.
Wu Ming, soon to be Alec Vos.

Originally, the Vos' were going to fly to China over the summer, and pick up the child, currently named Wu Ming. But due to a communication error and other uncertainties that come with international adoption, they were unable to leave as soon as they thought. However, they found out a few weeks ago that they would be able to pick him up in September. As such, the Dr. Vos,his wife Joan, and their two daughters are leaving next week for China! They will be gone for just over two weeks, returning on the 26th of September with one more person than they left with.

Please keep the Vos family in your prayers, as this is only the beginning of their relationship with this little boy, whom they are going to rename Alec once he is here safely.

 If you have an idea for a post or something you would like to see researched, feel free to email us at

Monday, August 27, 2012

ACTS 2012

Greetings to all you loyal followers, Covenant College students, and others who have somehow or other stumbled upon this post!

After a brief (not really) hiatus, classes are back in full swing here on the mountain. Students going to class, chatting on the lawns, sitting 3+ to a hammock designed for one 5'3 person's a weird, beautiful sight.

However, one thing you may NOT be aware of is what happened over the summer. While there are many camps, meetings, and conferences hosted on campus while most of the students are away, this year our campus played host to a meeting of special significance. 

The Association of Christians Teaching Sociology, or ACTS, chose to meet at Covenant this year. Started in 1976 by Russell Heddendorf, a mentor and friend of our own Dr. Matthew Vos and a professor at Geneva College, ACTS seeks to provide a community and a place of dialogue for Christians teaching in the social sciences. They meet annually at a college where a member teaches, spending a few days each summer reconnecting with friends and colleagues, discussing current issues in the field, and seeing some of the host college's local area (this year they went to the Chattanooga Aquarium).

You can learn more about ACTS, including their purpose, history, and upcoming events at their website, which you can reach by clicking here.

Below are some photos from this year's meeting. Enjoy!

At the Vos' home in Chickamauga.

From the overlook pavilion on Covenant's campus.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Diversity vs. Attendance

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that Sunday morning was the most segregated time in America. While the amount of progress we have made since the 50s and 60s is arguable, it is undeniable that there are certainly many religious groups in America (Christian and otherwise) seeking to amend the wrongs pointed out by King and other Civil Rights leaders over the years.*

While weeding out things like racism from the church seems like a noble idea, anyone who thinks that it is a clean, painless process is sadly mistaken. Take, for example, a recent article tweeted by Patrolmag discusses some of the negative side effects of a conscious effort to diversify the church. The article, which can be found here, details some of the struggles of the Episcopal Church when it comes to diversity.

While the Episcopal Church may be somewhat controversial among Protestant Christians for its stance on things like female ordination and homosexual marriage, it is hard to deny that it has not been more active than most other denominations in combating racial discrimination in the church and society. As such, it is recognized by some to be one of the most diverse denominations in the United States. However, its aggressive stance on diversity seems to be driving many of its members away, which is sad but interesting. If you missed the link earlier, you can read the full story here. It is an opinion article, but a good entry into such a complicated issue.

Also, here's a picture of the arms of the Episcopal Church.
Yes that's right, this church has a coat of arms.

If you want to read more about the Episcopal Church in America, click here and here. The first link is to the Wikipedia page if you're into freefalling (look it up), and the second is to the homepage of the Episcopal Church, which has links to all of their official statements and histories. Check it.

*Random: did you know they were planning to cut a chunk of the MLK Memorial in D.C. out to fix a phrase they didn't like? Yes, they really are. Seriously guys wasn't it just put in, like, a year ago?

If you have a suggestion for an article, please feel free to send it to Someone (me) should respond fairly quickly. If you want to learn more about what the author of this post has to say (no pressure) feel free to follow him (pressure) on Twitter. Or Google+. Or Pinterest. Or even LinkedIn. But please, not Facebook. He's never on there anymore.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Defending Social Research

If you're anything like me, meaning that you're a student, you sometimes want to feel that the choices you're making are the right ones, especially when it comes to your studies. I'd imagine that every student serious about their studies goes through this at some point; the need to feel validated is something that all humans need at some point.

While all students may go through this at some point, or even frequently, it seems that there are some areas of study that must be more rigorously defended than others. The social sciences, for example, seem to come under attack more so than others, like here in this New York Times opinion article.

At first, the reasons for this seem intuitive. For better or worse, we largely go to college in order to increase our chances of success in the job market, and even those of us who are in it for the pure thrill of learning (#nerdalert) cannot help but keep the practical applications of our studies in the back of our minds. That being said, it is not very hard to think of applications for a degree in, say, computer science, chemistry, or health services. The demand for tech jobs, jobs in the "hard" sciences, and jobs in health departments is expected to continue increasing (as predicted here, here, and here).

But what about the social sciences? Like English degrees, is there any hope for someone with a degree in the social sciences to do anything other than teach or be a professional in whichever field (i.e. literary critic, writer, professional sociologist, etc.)?
Picture is mostly unrelated.
Well luckily for you, the applications and benefits of the social sciences are many, even if they are (granted) a bit harder to find sometimes. Our own Dr. Vos has a few podcasts (like this one here) where he talks about some of the career paths that sociology students have found after graduating. In fact, the Sociology department recently hosted a career night, to inform soon-to-be graduates about options they have for their degrees.

But this kind of support is not coming from just the professors, who are perhaps a bit biased towards their students' success. To finally reference the article that was the inspiration for this post, support for the social sciences and its worth to society can be found all over the place, if you know where to look.

This article, written in the Harvard Business Review by Duncan Watts, was very encouraging to me, the author of this post. Mr. Watts addressed certain things that I have thought of on my own in reference to public opinion towards social research.

I won't quote the whole article, but the main thrust of Mr. Watts' article is that the results of social research are not always as "tangible" as some might like, particularly when it comes to those in the government funding such research. And part of the reason the benefits don't seem tangible is that oftentimes it seems like the results of social research are merely common sense. To quote Mr. Watts: 

In brief, we don't have any experience being ants or atoms, so if I tell you something about them that you didn't know, it sounds exotic and non-obvious. It sounds like science. But everyone has experience being human, and so the vast majority of findings in social science coincide with something that we have either experienced or can imagine experiencing. The result is that social science all too often seems like common sense.

Nevermind that common sense, as Mr. Watts points out in another article linked to the one above, is a problematic concept in itself, something that social science researchers have pointed out several times. I feel like it should be pointed out that while Mr. Watts is an advocate for social science, he has a physics degree, and works for Microsoft at the moment.

So in short, go sociology.

If you have any ideas for articles or topics, feel free to send us ideas at If you're really interested, you can follow the author of this post on Twitter, and even Pinterest and Google+ if you're that motivated. He tries to say interesting stuff.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012



Apologies for (another) delayed absence. Hopefully after this week the posts will be more regular. This particular rant post is not so much my own musing as it is links to other articles. With that said, enjoy!

The first article, which I found while perusing Twitter, comes from a website called, written by a man named Derek Hunter. The post, entitled "Race Matters...To Racists," explores how (in the author's opinion) the political "left" are simultaneously the ones who blow the whistles about mistreatment of minorities, and the ones who perpetuate most of this oppression, through practices like. Click here to read it. I will warn you, it is a bit inflammatory.

Seriously guys, you should read by
Bagpipe article about inflammatory speech.
Click here to find that.

The next article comes from the blog Racialicious, which is still one of the coolest titles I have yet heard for a blog. The article, which you can find here, is about how young adult literature, and young adult books specifically, need to diversify the perception of female beauty they portray on their covers away from the stereotypical skinny white girl.

While these may seem largely unrelated, they do present both sides of this perceived argument,and touch on a few important points in the general debate about race, like is colorblindness the best way to deal with this, or would something like affirmative action be better?

Hopefully the next post will not be so far off. Going back to, perhaps the next post will be about the kind of imagery different news agencies try to convey with their titles, depending on their particular political or religious leaning.

If you have an idea for an interesting article or topic you would like us to research, or a post you already have cooked up (that would be great), please feel free to send it to us at We'll give you credit and everything. If you would like to follow the author of this particular post on Twitter, you can find him @Habitualbe. He's also on Google+ and Pinterest if you're that motivated.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Brasil with Love

Ola! Tudo bem!

After a longer than planned break, we are finally back, and ready to feed you the sociological knowledge you so crave. Our apologies for the delay, but the primary writers for this blog were either graduating college or traveling, both of which are important life steps, or at the very least put you in situations without Wifi access.

As this is our first blog post in awhile, it may get rather lengthy. Please bear with me.

Speaking of travelling, today's post comes to you from South America! More specifically, from the city of Ivoti in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. If you want to know exactly where that is, click here. A team of students from Covenant College, led by the fearless Dr. Antonio Chiareli, are staying here for almost three weeks.

For those of you who may not be aware (probably most of you), these kinds of trips are a yearly thing for Dr. Chiareli. Every May, he leads a group of students somewhere in the world, seeking to give them practical field experience in group ethnography and ethnographic research. Though the research performed on the trips is a bit rushed by ethnographic standards, it is important to note that it is more for practice, rather than to come to any kind of definitive conclusions about whatever particular subculture is being studied.

Students going on these trips conduct interviews, engage in spatial and social mapping, and record observations, hoping to draw some kind of meaningful conclusions from the research. in addition to learning the language and taking a crash course in the native culture.

This year, the subculture in question is the large German population in the southern states of Brazil. For a brief historical background: in the 19th and early 20th centuries, hundreds of thousands of Germans immigrated from the Fatherland to Brazil, for a variety of reasons. Now, they continue to thrive as a very distinct community, making the south of Brazil one of the most diverse regions in the nation. Though in Brazil, the buildings and towns often look German, and many of the people still speak German, some primarily.

If this seems like a strange mix of cultures, it's because it is.

Believe it or not, this guy is Brazilian.
And German. It's all messed up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Amazing Thailand Revisit

Hello everybody!

Today's post is actually a reference to another post on another blog. As you may or may not already know, the Sociology Department here at Covenant College is very closely associated with the Spring Semester in Thailand Program, run by Dr. Mike Leming of St. Olaf College in Minnesota.

Every year, Dr. Leming, his wife, and a few interns lead a diverse group of students from across the country to Thailand, where (we hope) they'll have the experience of their lives. Students engage Thai culture on a number of levels, learning the language, living with a Thai family, and taking classes at a Buddhist university. They will also participate in an internship at some institution, whether it is the Buddhist University in Chiang Mai or somewhere else.

This particular post comes from one of the students currently in Thailand. She writes about the group's experience in a Karen village, which is an integral part of the experience in Thailand. The Karen are a tribe of people who live in the Himalayan foothills in the North of Thailand. Dr. Leming and his crew have had connections with the village for years, and every year they spend a certain amount of time in the village.

So, without further ado, click this link to go to the blog post.

You can also click here to go to the homepage for the Spring Semester in Thailand program.

Happy surfing!

Friday, April 20, 2012


I've been on an infographic kick lately. If you don't know what that is, it is essentially taking information (usually some kind of statistic or number) and putting it into a series of picture or images. This could be a simple graph, or something more complicated. "Infographic" is a recent word with origins on the internet, and is a a portmanteau of the words "information" and "graphic".

While not particularly in-depth, they are usually used to lay out the results of a study or survey very simply, and in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and interesting to look at. I'm a visual learner, so  this kind of thing is right up my alley.

For example, here's an infographic from about how online gaming is more likely to get you a date than online dating, which seems to be counterintuitive, and goes against the common stereotype about World of Warcraft players. While this may seem silly (because it is) you can't say it's not interesting or mentally stimulating in some ways. But for your serious types, click here for a serious infographic on internet censorship around the world.

For all the infographics your eyes can stand, you can click here to go to Mashable (just type "infographic" into the search bar) or here to the blog Graphic Sociology.

Random fun fact: according to several dictionaries, the term "infographic" is not a real word. Yet.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Masters in Counseling

What exactly can I do with a BA in Sociology, you might be asking yourself. I know I do.

Don't worry, there's always mercenary work.

Well, luckily for you, the American Sociological Association has conducted an enormous amount of research on that very subject. Here's a link to the page with some of the results on career choices and other data.

While there are certainly career choices available for you, even in this tough job market, perhaps you are considering graduate school? It is a legitimate option, and may make your job search a bit easier.

Here is a link to a great Masters program at Milligan College near Elizabethton, Tennessee. While similar in size to Covenant, Milligan has been ranked as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the United States.

Just to add a few more links to the page, click here for the Milligan homepage, and here for the Wikipedia page (for those of you wanting to do some in-depth research).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Go Go Gadget Social Theory

For those Covenant College students currently or soon to be enrolled in a Sociology course, be sure to be on the lookout (see what I did there?) for our new website.

For now, I'd like to share a recent discovery made while working on said website. One of the pages for the new site is a "Resources" tab, which will have links to everything from paper-writing tips to research sites. On of the subcategories is a list of links to helpful websites and blogs that could be used as either support or ideas for papers and research. While researching this, I stumbled upon a page entitled "Top 50 Sociology Blogs". You can look at the full page here.

This was our reaction here in the office.

After cleaning up the drool, I decided to check some of these blogs out, as most of them had helpful descriptions of what the topics were. You might be surprised just how far you can stretch your social and sociological knowledge. These blogs cover everything from economics to the environment to sociopaths.

So, without further ado, here is a list of some of our favorite blogs, from the above page and beyond:

  • PurseLipsSquareJaw - Written by Dr. Anne Galloway, a senior lecturer at the School of Design at Victoria University, and focusing on art and aesthetics. Though she's not actually posting anymore, you can still access the archives of all her posts.

  • Racialicous - Though there are several blogs about race and race relations on the original page (all of them great), this one had the most interesting title.

  • Graphic Sociology - This one is great. It takes data and transforms it into helpful and creative visualizations. If you're a visual learner (like I am), then this is the blog for you.

  • The Grumpy Sociologist - This blog focuses on issues like masculinity and violence, covering everything from #Kony2012 to sports.

  • Religion and Other Curiosities - Written by the famous (sort of) sociologist of religion Peter Berger, this blog covers his thoughts on religion and society in America and the world.

Be sure to be on the lookout (I did it again!) for our new website! Coming soon to a Chattanooga area near you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


This past week, the Sociology Department embarked on a perilous journey through hostile terrain, seeking a mythical land rumored to hold untold riches and danger.

No, we didn't go to Skyrim, or Narnia, or even Peru. We went somewhere better: New Orleans. Oh yes, that place filled that's with danger, strange folk speaking in strange tongues, and millions upon millions of little plastic beads.

Just to recap, last week we went to the annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society (SSS, or S-cubed) in New Orleans, Louisiana. The conference was held at the historic Hotel Monteleone, a confusing jumble of hallways and salons situated in the middle of the French Quarter. If you missed out, fret not! There's always next year.

Here's a few pictures, to showcase some of our experiences.

The view from our
 hotel,the Bienville House

Roughing it in New Orleans.

You might not want to see what they're looking at.

She didn't smile after she
 realized it was alligator.


Bourbon Street...on a Wednesday

Another view from the
Bienville House balcony

Dr. Chiareli & Kate about
to give their presentation

Monday, March 26, 2012

You Mustn't Choose

It seems like such an intuitive answer. As the use of the Internet for things like news and current events, the use of traditional media like newspapers and television decreases. Why would you pay for a newspaper subscription when you can just google it and read it for free? 

Every few weeks, there seems to be a newspaper article or television special (if you use such archaic contraptions anymore) about the decline in readership for traditional medium. Take, for example this article from the New York Times about the drop in newspaper readership, and what companies are doing about it. Or this one in the Guardian. Or here on Wikipedia. I'm not sure if it's ironic that all of those links came from a Google search about "dropping newspaper sales", mainly because I've been informed several times I don't understand how to use the word ironic correctly.


So, reader, you might be asking what exactly this post is about, if the conclusion seems inevitable. It seems obvious that newspaper readership is declining, and perhaps television will be next. Heck, there's even a website dedicated to keeping up with the death of newspapers.

Despite all of this, a recent post on boldly proclaims that "Internet does not make young people abandon traditional media." Really? If that's true, that would sure make the New York Times blush for crying wolf.

But while the title of the post may seem definitive, the reality is much more nuanced. The article states that "Admittedly, people in this age group (9-24) do watch TV and listen to radio and recorded music somewhat less today than 30 years ago." So that trend seems to be undeniable. However, later on in that same thought, the author states that "it seems like people use the internet to complement and not substitute older media" (italics added).

Taking a step back from objectivity (whatever that is), the author of this particular post feels that this matches his experience precisely. While an avid consumer of online media, it's not like I never pick up a newspaper or flip on the television. Indeed, speeches are better to watch live than see on the internet, where the buffering demon knows no mercy. And while this take on the issue may not be taken into account as much in the popular media, that does not mean there isn't any research on the subject.

So how do we explain this? First off, it is helpful to notice that oftentimes the percentages of dropping readership mentioned in the earlier articles are more-often-than-not in the single digits, and usually over a period of the last decade or so. Looking at it that way, it seems less like we need to put the newspaper industry on life support, and more like the market and consumers are simply making space for the rapidly maturing online media industry, which is more convenient for those with internet access, and usually cheaper as well.

And while we will miss the Encyclopedia Britannica, it's not like the New York Times or the Washington Post are going anywhere anytime soon.

Despite what these crybabies may say.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Britannica & the Matrix

Quick! What happened in the year 1768? If you can't name any, it's ok. Unless you're a history major, in which case you might want to do some serious soul-searching.

Only kidding. Here's a bulldog puppy to cheer you up.
But seriously, to name a few events that happened in 1768:
  • Philip Astley staged the first modern circus in London.
  • Saint Isaac's cathedral founded in St. Petersburg.
  • The 1st Methodist church in the US opens in NYC.
  • 1st Edition of the  Encyclopædia Britannica published.

For the rest of the events, visit this page. Did you catch that last one though? Recently it Britannica may have fallen out of vogue with many younger generations, in lieu of the seemingly-omniscient Cyber-trinity of Wikipedia, Google, and Siri (I might be starting to push it with these religion jokes). However, older generations remember Britannica as the encyclopedia that one owned if they were anybody. A definitive source for general knowledge, compiled from thousands of authors and with a history spanning centuries.

No literally, Britannica was in publication in four different centuries, beginning in 1768. Think about that for a minute. This encyclopedia is older than the United States and the modern states of Germany & Italy, and outlived Prussia, the Ottomans, and the British Empire.

Unfortunately, it was just announced yesterday that the Encyclopædia Britannica will go out of print. To quote that article I just linked, this decision comes as "an acknowledgement of the realities of the digital age" not to mention competition from the bane of many purist academics, Wikipedia. The editors of Britannica announced that instead of print, they will instead focus on the online edition of Britannica, which is able to be updated continuously, rather than annually.

This blog has talked before about the effects of digitalization of stuff in the modern world. And while digitizing books may not be a huge shock for many (e-readers have been around for years, after all) it may still be a hard blow to many for something as much a part of Western history as tea (we stole from China) and gunpowder (we also stole from China).

They also release educational material.
And while there may be dissidents to digitizing books - such as this older article which criticizes the e-reader fad - it seems to be a unstoppable tide. While it is doubtful that printed material will disappear entirely, the industry has certainly taken many hits over the last few years. Take, for example, the website While originally a print magazine meant to be a counterpart to the popular MAD Magazine, it was forced to give up the printed part of its production in 2007, and now exists solely as a website (that you should definitely check out). And this is by far not the only example. Most magazines or newspapers worth their salt at least have a website, because they recognize the need for it. Even the newspaper in my hometown has it's own website and even a mobile app, which isn't too shabby for a newspaper of a town of less than 200,000 people.

I'm not sure if there's a lesson in here somewhere. I, for one, am not too crazy about e-readers. Maybe it's just because books are usually cheaper, or perhaps I am just trying to give myself an ego boost by having display cases full of books with fancy titles and authors.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Introverts & the Church

Hello all! We are back from a brief break and ready to start feeding you your daily bread of sociological knowledge (I hope that isn't sacrilegious or anything).

Today's blurb comes from a website known as the Aquila Report. In its own words, the Aquila  Report describes itself as an "independent source for news and commentary from and about conservative/orthodox/evangelicals in the Reformed and Presbyterian family of churches."

This particular article is about introversion, and where people who would describe themselves as such fit into the church. While there are several definitions of what it means to be introverted, the basic premise to remember is that an introverted person is drained by extended social contact, and seeks relative solace in order to "recharge". Though relevant to the social sciences in general, knowledge of different personality types is particularly applicable if you interested in fields like Interpersonal Counseling.

The introvertus solitarius in her natural habitat

Also, if you are especially interested in this kind of thing, here is a link to a blog that deals specifically with introverts in the church. Speaking in third person, as someone who is very introverted, the author of this post considers this kind of resource very helpful and  comforting.
My kind of church.
Here is the first part of the article.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reverse Culture Shock

Here is a paper sent to us by Dr. Mike Leming, Professor of Sociology at St. Olaf College in Minnesota and grand poobah of the Semester in Thailand program. This paper was written by one of his students, and explores the idea of "reverse culture shock".

If you want to learn more about the Spring Semester in Thailand program, you can check out their website or email Dr. Leming for more information. He will be happy to work with you to go on this trip. If he doesn't answer immediately, he may be in the jungle somewhere, and they tend to have terrible Wi-Fi.

Here's the paper, entitled "Reverse Culture Shock: Feeling Foreign at Home." by Carolyn Vermazen. I know it's a little long, but it's worth the read.

“You can go home again… so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.”                                -Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed

            Reverse culture shock is a very valid sociological concept.  “Reverse culture shock is real, it affects every returning sojourner to some degree, and it usually goes unrecognized” (Wang 1997).  Although it may not seem to be a very scholarly sociological topic, it is very relevant and has greatly affected not only my life, but the lives of countless other “homeless” people throughout the world.

            I am not homeless in the sense that most people understand.  I have a shelter over my head, a warm bed to sleep in at night, and am provided with an abundance of food.  However, I feel very lost and exposed in the place that I am supposed to call “home.”  After one spends a significant amount of time immersed in another culture, with little contact from one’s native environment, it is never easy to find “home” again.  Never really apart of one’s host country, and yet forever changed by their experiences and new views on the world, can one ever really be a part of their native country again?

          In Sociological terms, culture shock could be defined as being thrown into anomie and forced to resocialize within a foreign culture.  When a person is stripped of everything they ever knew to be “normal” in society they are in complete anomie, and although the traveler will probably expect some differences, they can never imagine all the possible differences they may find.  Even the things most taken for granted in a home country cannot be expected to even exist in a new environment.  Simple things back home, like making one’s favorite food, may become impossible in a foreign country where the ingredients may or may not exist.  “Norms, values, and beliefs vary from culture to culture, just as language does.  These differences can often result in travelers feeling a sense of ‘culture shock’” (McIntyre 1999).  However severe and disturbing culture shock may be, it is usually not a complete surprise to travelers as they know they often expect to be faced with changes, new things, and diverse, difficult emotions.  As an added incentive, sojourners often tell themselves that no matter how disturbing the new culture is that they will always be able to return home and feel “normal” again.  Little do they know that from the very first moment that they begin to accept the new culture, they are changing and “home” as they knew it is some place they can never go again.

Throughout one’s immersion in another culture, the sojourner begins to resocialize themselves in a way that is conducive to their new living environment.  This process is also knows as “acculturation,” which means
“The adaptation by an ethnic group (or in this case an individual) of the cultural patterns of the dominant or majority group.  Such acculturation encompasses not only external cultural traits, such as dress and language, but also internal ones, such as beliefs and values” (Borgatta & Montgomery, 2000). 
In order for sojourners to survive happily in  their new environment, they must put aside their preconceived notions of culture and make themselves open to the new  culture resocialize themselves to the new environment.  “Socialization is the process by which people acquire cultural competency and through which society perpetuates the fundamental nature of existing social structures” (McIntyre, 1999).   Without even realizing what is happening to them, sojourners slowly lose parts of their old identity as they take on new roles in their new society. 

            After I graduated from high school, I spent one full year in France as a foreign exchange student.  I fully expected to experience culture shock, and I did.  The big differences, such as language, weren’t the hardest part to deal with.  It was the simple, everyday things that I took for granted in my home in Iowa that I missed.  Some of the more difficult obstacles to deal with were simple things such as toilet paper, which was all pink and in individual squares, their milk that was so pasteurized that it did not need to be kept cold and could be kept for up to four months without spoiling,  most notably the incredibly tiny cars that everyone drove at even more incredible velocity. 

            Slowly, throughout my year in France, things stopped seeming weird and I even started to forget about what I thought to be weird in the first place.  I took on new roles and wasn’t simply “the American,” but I was a classmate, a member of the chorus, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.  As I became more fluent in the French language, so did I become fluent in the French culture.  I began to laugh at jokes which would never be funny in the U.S. and I really felt “French” when I was able to tell these sorts of jokes and make French people laugh.  Personality is something one can take for granted until it is stripped away by the inability to relate to others.  Without working with the norms and values of a certain society, one cannot be a part of it and will always feel like an outsider.

            As my departure date approached, I felt good about my adaptation to France and it’s culture.  I was quite proud of my having learned a new language and my becoming “French.”  However sad I was to be leaving France and my new friends, language and culture, I was also looking forward to going home again where things were “normal.”  So as I said goodbye to my French family and boarded the plane to go home, I was filled with mixed emotions of sadness and excitement, but was looking forward to this transition being easier than the one I had made eleven months earlier when I came to France.
Probably the hardest part of reverse culture shock is that it is usually a complete surprise as one does not anticipate to feel culture shock in their native culture.  I was very much unprepared for what awaited me at the other side of the Atlantic.  “When sojourners who are returning from a culture that is generally assumed to be not very different from the home culture… reentry problems are not anticipated and will not be identified as such, and reverse culture shock may be especially severe”  (Wang 1997).  This was very much the case for me, as I had no idea the extent to which I would feel “foreign” back home.

Yes it's a recycled image, but it seemed relevant.
         Probably the hardest part of reverse culture shock is that it is usually a complete surprise as one does not anticipate to feel culture shock in their native culture.  “When sojourners who are returning from a culture that is generally assumed to be not very different from the home culture… reentry problems are not anticipated and will not be identified as such, and reverse culture shock may be especially severe”  (Wang 1997). 

        Exchange students and other international travelers all experience reverse culture shock, and is not something that can quickly be dealt with and forgotten, but rather a lengthy process in which one must continually strive to rediscover and find a place for themselves in their native culture.  Reverse culture shock goes through four stages: euphoria and enthusiasm, disillusionment and negativism, gradual adaptation, and finally they will come to a stable place of bicultural competence (White). 

My initial reaction was one of joy when feet once again touched American soil.  I was overwhelmed by getting to experience things I had missed over the couse of the previous eleven months.  I was ravished to see my family and friends again, although at the same time I was scared that they might not like the new me, or that I might not like the new them.  I was thrilled to get to to eat my old favorite foods, although they didn’t taste as good as I’d remembered.  Along with each excitement came a draw back, a fear that I was doing something wrong or the suspicion that everything had changed while I was away.  I managed to laugh at myself the first few times I made cultural mistakes, such as when I would accidentally respond to questions in French instead of in English, or when I was surprised at the enormity of the junk food selection in the grocery stores, or when people made fun of me for “looking French.”  My friends and family too, thought it was cute the first few times I was surprised by things that are blatantly American, such as my astonishment at the incredible size of vehicles in the airport parking lot, or that road signs in the US are green, not blue, or that in US culture one doesn’t ask “Ma’am, could you please tell me where the toilet is, please?”  But as these seemingly innocent violations of American culture occurred unceasingly throughout the first few weeks of my return I became very frustrated and hostile towards the American culture.  Without my knowing it, I had been completely resocialized in France and didn’t know how to act “American” anymore.

             Slowly, I forced myself to resocialize once again.  I suppressed my new habits in favor of ones that were more culturally sensitive in America.  After continually searching for phrases in English that I hadn’t used in months, they began to come to me more quickly, and I once again was able to communicate.  What made this resocialization process harder than originally “becoming French,” were the expectations of friends, family, as well as myself that I should know how to be American and it was silly of me to act differently.  Nonetheless, I did feel strange, had trouble speaking English, and often felt out of place.  Something just made more sense in French than in English and I initially rejected readapting to American culture.  I liked who I had become in France, someone who was confident, a world traveler and uniquely independent.  Overtime, I have adjusted and readapted to American culture, but I have not forgotten who I was in France.  Slowly and continually, I am going through this process of reverse culture shock, and although it’s affects are less severe than when I first returned home, I still have moments where I feel completely foreign at home.  I am hoping that with time I can finish out my goal from being a foreign exchange student, which was to not only become bilingual, but bicultural as well.

LeGuin, U. K.  (1974).  The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous UtopiaNew York, Harper & Row

McIntyre, L. J.  (1999).  The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in SociologyMountain     
          View, CA:Mayfield Publishing Company.

Wang, M.  (1997).  Reentry and reverse culture shock.  In R.W. Brislin and K.  Cushner    
          (Eds.), Improving Intercultural Interactions: Modules for Cross-Cultural Training    
          Programs.  (Vol. 2).  (pp. 109-128).  Thousand Oaks, CA : Sage.

White, D. (1991). “So you think you’re home again: Some thoughts for exchange students 
          returning “home”.”  Unpublished article distributed through Rotary International.