In Honor of C. Wright Mills’ 100th Birthday

by Kathryn Mills, coeditor of C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings

If my father, C. Wright Mills, were alive today he’d be celebrating his 100th birthday. He was born on August 28, 1916 in Waco, Texas. Birthdays are for celebrating life, which makes me want to quote a letter my father wrote in 1952 to his friend, the historian, William Miller, when Miller was feeling discouraged about a new job he had just accepted. Wright wrote:

“You ask for what one should be keyed up ? My god, for long weekends in the country, and snow and the feel of an idea and New York streets early in the morning and late at night and the camera eye always working whether you want or not and yes by god how the earth feels when it’s been plowed deep and the new chartreuse wall in the study and wine before dinner and if you can afford it Irish whiskey afterwards and sawdust in your pants cuff and sometimes at evening the dusky pink sky to the northwest, and the books to read never touched and all that stuff the Greeks wrote and have you ever read Macaulay’s speeches to hear the English language ? And to revise your mode of talk and what you talk about and yes by god the world of music which we must now discover and there’s still hot jazz and getting a car out of the mud when nobody else can. That’s what the hell to get keyed up about.

The trouble with you and what used to be the trouble with me is that you don’t use your goddamned senses; too much society crap and too much mentality and not enough tactile and color and sound stuff going on. So now if you’re like I was a year ago, you’ve got to coax the sight and sound back, carefully tease it to life again and it will fill you up.”

(from C. Wright Mills: Letters and Autobiographical Writings, edited by Kathryn Mills with Pamela Mills, Introduction by Dan Wakefield, p. 174.)

Mills.CWrightMillsSpeaking of anniversaries, when Barack Obama made his historic visit to Cuba last spring, he stepped off the plane at Havana airport on the 54th anniversary of my father’s death, March 20, 2016.  More than half a century has passed since the U.S. imposed its dreadful embargo against a small, low-income island nation, our neighbor, Cuba, over the strenuous objections of opponents of Cold War hostilities, especially C. Wright Mills.  Although the basic outline of the embargo is still in effect, Obama has managed to weaken its impact and narrow its scope, achieving great progress toward reasonably harmonious relations with Cuba. To quote an old Slavic saying,  “Justice is a train that always arrives late.”

Kathryn Mills works for a book publisher in Boston.

Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill

by Joshua Reno, author of Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill

This guest post is published in advance of the American Sociological Association conference in Seattle. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 23rd.

Massive Waste: Time to End the Confusion About Who’s to Blame by Joshua Reno
Who are the real culprits behind our waste crisis? The answer is corporations. But many people seem to hold consumers primarily responsible, bemoaning our tendency to chase after the latest products, our littering, our failure to recycle better or reuse what we already own. This is no accident. For half a century, corporate-sponsored campaigns have been encouraging consumers to shoulder the blame for waste.

Consider how littering and recycling are usually thought of as opposites. Either you carelessly toss a bottle out the car window or you take it to the nearest recycling bin and do the responsible thing. But both concern what happens to things after corporations have lined their pockets by making and selling goods and only the consumer can be held responsible for their fate.

Journalist Heather Rogers tells this story in her book Gone Tomorrow. As environmentalism gained steam across the country, there was a chance that manufacturers would be held responsible with tighter regulations on production. In response, the “Keep America Beautiful” campaign (which predates Earth Day by seventeen years) funded anti-littering campaigns beginning in the fifties and sixties, including the famous Crying Indian commercial that aired on the second Earth Day in 1971.

It is hard to acquire reliable statistics on waste, especially since waste from agriculture, mining, and manufacturing cannot be tracked as easily as the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) hauled away from our households and communities can. Most figures claim that MSW accounts for barely 3% of the total amount of waste produced, though these figures can be misleading.ASA blog - Figure One

Even without reliable statistics, it is not difficult to argue how this would logically be the case. Consider this: for every single commodity and its packaging a consumer might buy and one day discard, many other ill-fated goods and materials are sacrificed that were never purchased, that were damaged, that were poorly made and didn’t pass quality inspections and so on (see Figure 1). Whether or not that consumer litters, recycles, or reuses, they are simply not responsible for the vast amount of waste that resource extractors, manufacturers, and retailers generate behind the scenes.

True, corporations are trying to maintain quality products to keep us happy and only discard when it is the financially most appealing option. And there is no reason to assume that consumers would tolerate their wastefulness if we were more aware of it. Scholars have recently called into questions overzealous critiques of mass consumption that target consumers. They point out, in particular, that many households expend a great deal of effort in order to secure appropriate routes of disposal for unwanted possessions—including, but not limited to, turning them into rubbish. We should hold corporations similarly accountable.

Most of the waste landfilled is not a consequence of what individual consumers reject but is wasted to make money off of us. Then some of that money made off of us is used to keep us convinced that it is entirely our fault. The fact is that manufacturers are to blame for most of the waste produced in the United States and in the rest of the world. They are also the reason that environmentalism has become confused with anti-littering and pro-recycling.

Joshua Reno, assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, documents his hands-on research studying trash in a new book, Waste Away: Working and Living with a North American Landfill, published in February by the University of California Press.

Understanding Yellowstone

by James E. Meacham, co-editor of Atlas of Yellowstone

9780520271555Understanding a place as complex and as important as Yellowstone is a daunting task. As an atlas cartographer, compelling maps combined with imagery and words are my tools to helping tell Yellowstone’s complicated story. The geographic perspective is the cartographer’s lens to interpret the deep and broad knowledge on Yellowstone that has been collected and analyzed since before the National Park was established in 1872. The goal of creating the Atlas of Yellowstone was to unify that wealth of knowledge and make it accessible. John Varley, a retired career Yellowstone scientist, refers to the Atlas of Yellowstone as a “… synthesis equally useful to the public and scientists alike.” Over the ten years I worked with my co-authors, colleagues, and students in the production of the Atlas of Yellowstone, and we synthesized the knowledge and stories contributed by dozens of scientists, historians, ethnographers, and park managers, that have invested their careers and their hearts in this place that is held ecologically and culturally sacred by so many.

Yellowstone is of course more than what can be scientifically measured, there is a spirit there that artists and poets have been working to capture since it became known to the broader world through the works of painter Thomas Moran, and photographer William Henry Jackson of the Hayden Expedition of 1871 that helped persuade President U. S. Grant and Congress to establish Yellowstone as the first national park. Historical Geographer, Judith Meyer, writes “…the Park houses a genus loci or spirit of place: an infectious, irresistible force that stirs something within so many of us”. Through my decade long experience of collaboratively mapping the greater Yellowstone, I saw in myself a gradual and profound change in my relationship with Yellowstone as a place. Yellowstone evolved beyond being a remarkable place of study, to a place of refuge and connection.

James E. Meacham is Senior Research Associate and Executive Director of InfoGraphics Lab in the Department of Geography at the University of Oregon. He is the Cartographic Editor of the Atlas of Yellowstone (UC Press, 2012). His current project is working on the Atlas of Wildlife Migration: Wyoming’s Ungulates.

New research from Collabra: Why are we so afraid to leave children unsupervised?

This story originally appeared in UCI News and is reposted with their permission. Visit our open access journal Collabra to read the original research article, No Child Left Alone: Moral Judgments about Parents Affect Estimates of Risk to Children.

Kelvin Murray/Getty Images
Kelvin Murray/Getty Images

Leaving a child unattended is considered taboo in today’s intensive parenting atmosphere, despite evidence that American children are safer than ever. So why are parents denying their children the same freedom and independence that they themselves enjoyed as children? A new study by University of California, Irvine social scientists suggests that our fears of leaving children alone have become systematically exaggerated in recent decades – not because the practice has become more dangerous, but because it has become socially unacceptable.

“Without realizing it, we have consistently increased our estimates of the amount of danger facing children left alone in order to better justify or rationalize the moral disapproval we feel toward parents who violate this relatively new social norm,” said Ashley Thomas, cognitive sciences graduate student and lead author of the work, published online this month in the open-access journal Collabra.

The survey-based study found that children whose parents left them alone on purpose – to go to work, help out a charity, relax or meet an illicit lover – were perceived to be in greater danger than those whose parents were involuntarily separated from them.

The researchers presented survey participants with five different scenarios in which a child was left alone for less than an hour. Situations ranged from a 10-month-old who was left asleep for 15 minutes in a cool car parked in a gym’s underground garage to an 8-year-old reading a book alone at a coffee shop a block from home for 45-minutes.

“Within a given scenario, the only thing that varied was the reason for the parent’s absence,” said Kyle Stanford, professor and chair of logic & philosophy of science. “These included an unintentional absence – caused by a fictitious accident in which the mother was hit by a car and briefly knocked unconscious – and four that were planned: leaving for work, volunteering for a charity, relaxing or meeting an illicit lover. After reading each scenario and the reason behind each child being left alone, the participants ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 how much estimated danger the child was in while the parent was gone, 10 being the most risk.”

Overall, survey participants saw all of these situations as quite dangerous for children: The average risk estimate was 6.99, and the most common ranking in all scenarios was 10. Despite identical descriptions of each set of circumstances in which children were alone, those left alone on purpose were estimated to be in greater danger than those whose parents left them alone unintentionally.

“In fact, children left alone on purpose are almost certainly safer than those left alone by accident, because parents can take steps to make the situation safer, like giving the child a phone or reviewing safety rules,” said Barbara Sarnecka, study co-author and associate professor of cognitive sciences. “The fact that people make the opposite judgment strongly suggests that they morally disapprove of parents who leave their children alone, and that disapproval inflates their estimate of the risk.”

This is also borne out in participants’ view of children left alone by a parent meeting an illicit lover as being in significantly more danger than children left alone in precisely the same circumstances by a parent who leaves in order to work, volunteer for charity or just relax.

In scenarios where participants were asked to judge not only how much danger the child was facing, but also whether the mother had done something morally wrong, researchers expected the perceived risk ranking to be lower.

“We thought giving people an alternative way to express their disapproval of the parent’s action would reduce the extent to which moral judgments influenced perceptions of risk,” Thomas said. “But just the opposite happened. When people gave an explicit judgment about the parent’s conduct, estimates of risk to the child were even more inflated by moral disapproval of the parent’s reason for leaving.”

In fact, people’s risk estimates closely followed their judgments of whether mothers in the scenarios had done something morally wrong. Even parents who left children alone involuntarily were not held morally blameless, receiving an average “moral wrongness” judgment of 3.05 on a 10-point scale.

The authors found another interesting pattern when they replaced mothers in the stories with fathers: For fathers – but not mothers – a work-related absence was treated more like an involuntary absence. This difference could stem from the view that work is more obligatory and less of a voluntary choice for men.

“Exaggerating the risks of allowing children some unsupervised time has significant costs besides the loss of children’s independence, freedom and opportunity to learn how to solve problems on their own,” Sarnecka said. “As people have adopted the idea that children must never be alone, parents increasingly face the possibility of arrest, charges of abuse or neglect, and even incarceration for allowing their children to play in parks, walk to school or wait in a car for a few minutes without them.”

Stay connected on the Collabra blog and Twitter, and read more open access articles at

White People Like Hiking? Some Implications of NPS Narratives of Relevance and Diversity

By Laura Schiavo, contributing author featured in The Public Historian 38.4 

This guest post is published in advance of a forthcoming special issue on the National Park Service published by The Public Historian. The full article will appear in TPH 38.4 (November 2016). Sign up here for an email alert when the special issue becomes available.

Photo Courtesy of Ranger Doug's Enterprises
Illustration Courtesy Ranger Doug’s Enterprises

Last summer, an opinion piece in The New York Times asked, “Why Are Our Parks So White?” The lede introduced readers to a 58-year-old African American woman living in Seattle, in view of Mt. Rainier, who steers clear of the associated park for fear of what she knows she will find: “mosquitoes, which she hates, and bears, cougars and wolves, which she fears.” This is, of course, far from the first time the title question has been asked. For decades now, external critics, and the Park Service itself, have expressed repeated, and repetitive, concerns about the lack of diversity among visitors to Park Service units. This statistic, first noted in a 1962 congressional report about Americans’ engagement with outdoor recreation, has experienced a resurgence of attention in the media fueled by Park Service surveys conducted in 2000 and then again in 2009. The more recent survey found that those US residents who could name a unit of the National Park Service they had visited in the two years prior to the survey, “were disproportionately white and non-Hispanic.” As the National Park Service (NPS) approached its 2016 Centennial, articles lamented the failure of the Park Service to engage a diverse public, even given the outreach to communities of color associated with the anniversary. (See here.) This failure to connect with “nonwhite communities” is figured, in a similar article, as a threat to the Park Service’s “own long-term sustainability.”

My article, forthcoming in the November issue of The Public Historian (38.4), explores this prevailing narrative – that people of color do not visit parks “enough”– and argues that it is both reductive in its implications about what it means to visit the parks, and in its construction of race, including whiteness. The desire for a visiting population that better reflects the nation’s racial demographics is surely driven in large part by the admirable value that everyone benefit equally the “scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein” conserved by the directives of the Organic Act of 1916 that established the National Park Service. However, there are consequences to this logic that have not been carefully scrutinized. My paper looks at the argument’s embedded narratives, including the reduction of an appreciation for nature with park visitation and the implication that people of color do not share a concern for the environment. It analyzes the presumed link between park visitation and national belonging, and thus a threatened democracy in the face of unequal attendance. “A democracy can’t flourish without the participation of all of our citizens, yet some people from diverse backgrounds may not feel welcome in the parks,” according to a July 2015 Houston Chronicle article.

Illustration Courtesy Library of Congress
Illustration Courtesy Library of Congress

Such a logic harkens back to Frederick Jackson Turner’s attribution of the “vital forces” that fed the American character to an engagement with the “wilderness.”   Indeed, in 1916, when the Park Service was founded, it had been less than twenty-five years since Turner had delivered his frontier thesis. The Park Service retroactively incorporated national parks and monuments (including Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite, and Mount Rainier) already cherished for their majesty and beauty and already integrated into the national imaginary. Certainly, the conventional understanding of the relationship between landscape and the forging of an American identity was foremost in the minds of the men who created a model for setting aside the most pristine places not only for protection but for communion and rejuvenation. In many ways, then, the cultural logic that defined the National Park Service a century ago was a product of its historical moment, when white men became Americans at civilization’s edge.

One hundred years later, our understanding of the relationship between nature, history, and nation is arguably more complicated. Decades of scholarship have documented the variety of encounters and events significant to the nation’s history. The environmental movement of the twenty first century includes a significant global (expanded from a purely national) orientation. Demographically, we are less homogenous and more urban, and scientists and social scientists are more engaged with the urban landscape and with a widened scope of environmental protection and sustainable practices (that might not include a cross-country car ride to Yosemite!) And yet to hear some who speak for the National Park Service tell it, Turner’s thesis is alive and well: “we” are all inherently products of a “frontier experience,” and the park provides “an opportunity to go home.” My paper suggests that we look more carefully at arguments about race, inclusion, and diversity in the park system, so that rather than relying on the tropes of a century past we might engage with an altered landscape and a new century in ways more attune to all we know about race, identity, access, history, land, and national belonging.

Laura Schiavo teaches museum history and theory and collections management in the Museum Studies Program at The George Washington University. Her two current research projects look at the historic roots of U.S. museums and civic engagement, and the concept of inclusivity and diversity in the National Park Service. Schiavo has years of experience as a curator at the National Building Museum, City Museum of Washington, DC, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

Masculine Compromise: Migration, Family, and Gender in China

by Susanne Yuk-Ping Choi and Yinni Peng, authors of Masculine Compromise: Migration, Family, and Gender in China 

This guest post is published in advance of the American Sociological Association conference in Seattle. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 23rd.
How can this book add to our understanding of the impacts of migration on family life and gender dynamics in China?

Migration is a pivotal event that dramatically alters family life and shapes gender relationships. With a specific focus on changes in men and masculinities, our book shows how rural-urban migrant men in China have actively renegotiated their multiple gender identities as a romantic lover, responsible husband, caring father, and filial son, and how these identities have formed part of their engagement of urban lives post migration, and served as a platform for n trans-local familial networks and responsibilities to be maintained and fulfilled. In some instances, migrant men’s changes in practice are surprisingly big. For example, we have identified nearly forty per cent of migrant men in couple and family migration as active participants in housework and child care post migration. In other instances, our findings contradict cultural stereotypes of Chinese men as emotionally detached disciplinarians and moral instructors of their children. Migrant fathers in our book reflect on rich emotions, including attachment, longing, sadness, guilt, disappointment, pride, satisfaction and joy, for their left-behind children. In summary, our exploration of the subjective experiences, strategies and agency of migrant men complicates the interaction between population movement and gender dynamics in the context of rural-urban inequalities and family changes in post-Mao China.

What do you mean by ‘masculine compromise’? How does this concept contribute to gender theories of change?

Masculine compromise refers to migrant men’s effort to preserve the gender boundary and their symbolic dominance within the family by making concessions on marital power and domestic division of labor, and by redefining filial piety and fatherhood. This concept provides an overall theoretical frame and a new perspective to analyze the ways in which migration has transformed family life and how migrant men have interpreted and responded to these transformations. The concept highlights how changes in gender relationships ushered by migration are characterized by a combination of pragmatic adjustments and the continued salience of male gender identity and traditional ideology. While masculine compromises arguably contribute to the ‘successful’ functioning of migrant families, they have limitations – they arise more out of pragmatism than transformation of equalitarian gender values and ideals.

In what ways are the findings of this book relevant to societies other than China?

We believe that the main themes of the book, including migrant men’s masculine compromises, the diversity of their coping strategies, and their emotional consequences of and responses to migration could also be observed in societies where migration is a prominent phenomenon. Our book shows that despite being viewed as the de facto beneficiaries of patriarchy, migrant men’s experiences are not unproblematic and do not warrant extensive investigation. It offers gender, migration and family scholars a new approach to focusing on male migrants’ agency through a gendered lens. It also provides researchers and students insights into how inequalities between the sexes underpinned by interactions between men and women at the intersection of migration and family dynamics, and the interplay between the interactional and the institutional in specific social and cultural contexts.

Susanne Y. P. Choi is a Professor of Sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her recent research projects examine the intersection between gender, migration, family and sexuality in Chinese societies.

Yinni Peng is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Hong Kong Baptist University.   Her research interests include migration, gender, family, labor politics and social media. She is currently working on a project investigating trans-local parenthood of migrant workers in South China.

A look back at Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

As Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas inches closer to release, we’re taking time to revisit the widely-loved, bestselling first two atlases from Rebecca Solnit and many illustrious contributing essayists and artists. Last week we spent time with Infinite City: A San Francisco AtlasThis week we’re pleased to bring you Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas.

This week we turn our attention to the second “city atlas” from Rebecca Solnit, created with co-author Rebecca Snedeker: Unfathomable City. New Orleans is a city that captures and warps the imagination, is rich in contradictions and enigmas, and is inexhaustible and boundless. Unfathomable City celebrates all that we love, cherish, and mourn about New Orleans.

Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas

Unfathomable City was as well received by the media as Infinite City was. Publishers Weekly called it a “vivid portrait of one of America’s most culturally rich city” in its starred review. New Orlean’s Times-Picayune said it was an “atlas-with-attitude,” as well as naming it one of the top 10 books of 2013 for New Orleans readers.

Click to enlarge

Rebecca Solnit’s co-author Rebecca Snedeker is a New Orleans native and Emmy Award winning documentary producer and filmmaker. She is also currently the Executive Director for the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University. How they came to collaborate, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune tells it:

The editors met, in classic New Orleans fashion, when friends introduced them at Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar. Solnit was here to research a book about community responses to disaster. Snedeker invited the distinguished visitor to stay at her house if work brought her back to town.

“For me, it was natural to extend that invitation,” Snedeker said. “Part of my campaign for living in New Orleans is to welcome outside people and their ideas. I think that’s part of living a healthy and inspired life while remaining dug in here. As a port city, our prosperity always came from importing and exporting — not just cargo, but also ideas.”

You can purchase Unfathomable City, as well as pre-order Nonstop Metropolis (coming Oct. ’16) on our website and wherever books are sold.

Rebecca Solnit is the author of many books, including Savage Dreams, Storming the Gates of Paradise, and Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, all from UC Press.

Rebecca Snedeker is an Emmy Award–winning independent filmmaker and native New Orleanian.



Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States

by Luis Escala, author of Making Los Angeles Home: The Integration of Mexican Immigrants in the United States with Rafael Alarcon and Olga Odgers

This guest post is published during the American Sociological Association conference in Seattle. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 23rd.

In recent times, the topic of migration has had a key role within media coverage of the US elections, particularly the case of Mexicans in the US. In this media frenzy, the anti-immigrant narrative has gained considerable significance, emphasizing the allegedly undocumented status of all this population, as well as their never-ending mobile character. While this narrative has gained considerable support among the public, much less attention has been paid to the opinions of sociologists and other scholars who have emphasized not only the contributions of Mexican immigrants to American economy and society, but also the sometimes subtle, sometimes invisible efforts carried out by them to integrate into this nation. This book aims to document the experience of many of these immigrants in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, a key destination point for millions of immigrants from all over the world, as well as to examine and explain the different ways in which this integration takes place.

For the authors, this experience involved multiple complexities that were beyond the traditional approaches on immigrant integration at hand, which led them to analytically split this concept into four different dimensions (economic, social, political, and cultural integrations), aiming to highlight the different traits and paces they involved among Mexicans in the LA region. By the same token, given that immigrant integration involves a process, we considered in our study not one but three different cohorts of Mexican immigrants, from three different regions of origin, whose arrival in LA took place at different times, thus facing different circumstances throughout the Angeleno history during the second half of the twentieth century. In addition, as Mexican scholars who work and live at the Mexican city of Tijuana, in between the American and Mexican Californias, we were aware of the multiple ties these migrants kept with their region and nation of origin, an aspect that definitely shaped their integration experiences.

But why is this important? While different politicians, anchormen, and even scholars have targeted these ties, together with their low socio-economic status, poor educational attainment, and extended undocumented status of Mexican immigrants to portray them as eternal aliens, living self-contained lives that run parallel to American mainstream society, the fact is that becoming Americans have gained considerable centrality for them. Gone were the times when circular migration between Mexican hometowns and a vast array of Californian cities was dominant, and those who arrived before or during 1986 IRCA legalized their status, and the settlement process of these immigrants took place in a vast scale. And even for those Mexicans who arrived later to the US, their aspirations and life projects were oriented towards settling in their new places of destination and integrate into their new societies. The fact was that by the last couple of decades of the twentieth century, the context of Mexican migration to the US had considerably changed, due in part to new immigration policies in the US and their severe enforcement but also to the significant rise of crime and violence in Mexico.

Throughout our interviews, Mexican immigrants provided compelling stories on the ways in which they and their families aim to integrate to the different spheres of their lives in Los Angeles. Working long hours in increasingly precarious jobs, these men and women portray not only the vast array of predicaments they cope with and their strategies to deal with the inherent challenges of living in a hugely extended metropolis, but also their aim of settling down and their quest to become one more in American society. Nevertheless, this aim involves a process that is necessary to examine in detail, for all the complexities it entails: on the one hand, they procure the preservation of their traditional culture; but, on the other, their life courses as immigrants in a new society have led them to a significant redefinition of their social and cultural boundaries.

In this sense, our book comes in handy to an array of audiences in an era in which Nativisms have amplified a particular image of Mexican migrants in the US, while obscuring or even neglecting the relevance of their aspirations to integrate into American society. Both activists and interested readers in the subject, as well as faculty and students in different fields of social sciences will find expert analysis and opinions on the socio-economic and demographic data on the immigrant population of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Region, but most of all they will find persuasive arguments through the voices of the Mexican men and women interviewed for the writing of this book.

Rafael Alarcón has a PhD in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Luis Escala has a PhD in sociology from UCLA and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

Olga Odgers has a PhD in sociology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales-Paris and is a professor and researcher at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

ASA Conference: Author Sessions – Updates


If you’ve enjoyed some of our UC Press author sessions at the ASA conference, attend some other sessions listed below.

Below are the sessions for Monday, August 22nd and Tuesday, August 23rdSessions are located at both the Washington State Convention Center and the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

And visit Exhibit Booth #101 to see some of their work on display! #ASA16, #ASA2016

Monday, August 22nd

10:30am – 12:10pm

  • Marianne Cooper: What do Workers Need to Live a Good Life? Rethinking Work/Family Conflict in a Neoliberal Age
    • Convention Center, Level 2, Room 211
  • Paul A. Attewell: Who Suffers and Who Benefits from Student Loans?
    • Convention Center, Level 2, Room 201
  • Manuel Pastor: Progressive Cities
    • Convention Center, Level 3, Room 310

2:30pm – 3:30pm

  • Kathryn J. Edin: How Investors Become Slumlords
    • Sheraton, 3rd Floor, Metropolitan Ballroom A-B

2:30pm – 4:10pm

  • Aldon D. Morris: Author Meets Critics Session. The Scholar Denied: W.E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology
    • Convention Center, Level 2, Room 201
  • Sarah Halpern-Meekin: Family Inequality
    • Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Willow Room B
  • Laura M. Tach: For Love or Money? How the EITC Affects the Living Arrangements of Single Mothers
    • Sheraton, 2nd Floor, Willow Room B
  • Nancy Rodriguez: Punitive Policing, Mass Incarceration, and Community Responses
    • Convention Center, Level 2, Room 203
  • Katherine Irwin: Fighting for Theories of Race and Gender: Pacific Islander Teens, Youth Violence, and Multiple Inequalities
    • Convention Center, Level 6, Room 617

Tuesday, August 23rd 

8:30am – 10:10am

  • Kathryn J. Edin: The Price of Parenthood and the Costs of Contraception
    • Convention Center, Level 2, Room 213
  • Juliet A. Williams: What is Gender Neutrality: The Career of a Concept
    • Convention Center, Level 3, Room 308
  • Keith W. Guzik: Welcome to the Perhapsicon: Qualification, Contingency, and Fluidity in Surveillance Outcomes
    • Convention Center, Level 6, room 612

10:30am – 11:30am: 

  • Mary Patrice Erdmans: Graduates and Dropouts: Explaining School Outcomes for Teen Mothers
    • Sheraton, 3rd Floor, Metropolitan Ballroom A-B
  • John P. Hoffmann: How Durable is Social Capital?: Family and School Social Bonds and College Enrollment and Completion
    • Sheraton, 3rd Floor, Metropolitan Ballroom A-B

10:30am – 12:10pm 

  • Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo: Men’s Search for Home in Black and Latino Community Gardens in South Los Angeles
    • Convention Center, Level 3, Room 310

12:30pm – 1:30pm 

  • Jacqueline M. Hagan: Immigrants and Labor Markets
    • Sheraton, 3rd Floor, Metropolitan Ballroom A-B

2:30pm – 4:10pm 

  • Shannon Marie Gleeson: Organized Labor and Immigrant Organizing: Finding Common Ground
    • Convention Center, Level 6, Room 611

Over-policing and Excessive Use of Punishments in Schools

by Aaron Kupchik, author of The Real School Safety Problem: The Long-Term Consequences of Harsh School Punishment

This guest post is published during the American Sociological Association conference in Seattle. Check back every week for new posts through the end of the conference on August 23rd.

This year’s ASA theme, “Rethinking Social Movements,” asks us to consider the extent to which social movements can create real change in lived experiences.

As a sociologist who studies school discipline, this is a question I have been asking myself a great deal lately. Over the past few years, sociologists, other scholars, and policy-makers have begun to realize the harm being done by over-policing and excessive use of punishments in schools. Students today are subjected to rigorous policing and are at greater risk of harsh punishment, usually for very minor misbehaviors such as defiance of school authority (e.g., talking back to a teacher, cursing, etc.). Students who are suspended are at increased risk of several problems, including academic failure, dropping out, arrest, incarceration, and unemployment. These harms are disproportionately felt by students of color, which exacerbates racial inequality. Many methodologically rigorous studies find race/ethnicity to be an important predictor of school punishment, even when controlling for student behavior.

In The Real School Safety Problem, I illustrate broader and longer-term harms that come from contemporary school punishment. Excessive school punishment harms families, and it suppresses future civic engagement among formerly suspended students. Students in schools with unfair school rules have higher bullying victimization rates. And we spend a great deal of money on school security and punishment; these funds could be returned to students or communities rather than being spent on ineffective, harmful practices.

Thankfully, in the past 3 or so years, many school districts, cities, and some states across the U.S. have recognized some of these problems and have introduced new policies that seek to reduce school suspensions. The Federal Government has encouraged these alternatives to school suspension, provided guidance on evidence-based responses to student misbehavior, and investigated racial disproportionality in punishment through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The movement away from excessive school punishment seems to have begun.

Yet I am skeptical of the power these policy revisions have to result in real change that benefits all students. Data released recently by the Department of Education show that suspensions did decrease substantially from 2011-2012 to 2013-2014 – but racial disproportionality in school suspensions increased. Harmful practices might have decreased overall, but in a way that only exacerbates racial inequality, a primary harm of school punishment.

The real school safety problem – harshness of punishments and over-policing of students – is deeply institutionalized. It is based on intransigent problems such as school segregation, implicit racial bias, antagonism between teachers and students, excessive pressures on teachers and school administrators, and shared sensibilities about punishment. None of these problems goes away when a city council or state legislator one day requires schools to practice restorative justice or other strategies rather than suspending someone. In fact, they might make it worse, since new requirements placed on teachers without proper training or resources simply adds a new demand to members of an already overburdened workforce. Policy changes do not alter school climates, address racial bias, or provide new training for school staff. They do nothing to alter punitive sentiments or rethink how school staff perceive and interact with students. How can we expect them to result in real change that benefits all students?

Aaron Kupchik is Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. His previous books includeHomeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear, Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts, and Criminal Courts.