Sociology

Arresting Citizenship and American crime control

January 21, 2014
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Arresting Citizenship and American crime control

Amy E. Lerman and Vesla M. Weaver’s forthcoming Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control considers the contemporary carceral state of American democracy—beginning with the mind-blowing premise that one-third of America’s adult population has passed through the criminal justice system and now carries a criminal record. Arguing that this system fundamentally creates a growing group of second-class American subjects through an ill-determined relationship between “citizen” and “state,” the authors argue that each stage of American criminal justice disempowers its constituents and defies America’s core democratic values. In a recent piece for the Stone blog at the New York Times, Weaver (along with Jason Stanley) pressed the book’s arguments further and questioned whether the United States has become a racial democracy.

As they write:

Given the centrality of liberty to democracy, one way to assess the democratic health of a state is by the fairness of the laws governing its removal. The fairness of a system of justice is measured by the degree to which its laws are fairly and consistently applied across all citizens. In a fair system, a group is singled out for punishment only insofar as its propensity for . . .

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Starring Mandela and Cosby

December 26, 2013
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Starring Mandela and Cosby

Ron Krabill’s Starring Mandela and Cosby: Media and the End(s) of Apartheid (2010) considers the implications of a particular paradox: during the worst years of apartheid, the most popular show on television in South Africa—among both Black and White South Africans—was The Cosby Show. In the wake of the death of Nelson Mandela, Krabill’s emphasis on how the esteemed human rights advocate and then political prisoner’s image was rendered invisible (it was illegal to publish photos of Mandela) just as Bill Cosby became the most recognizable Black man in the country, remains integral to understanding the crucial role media played during the end of apartheid. The argument advanced in Starring Mandela and Cosby, which contends that Cosby’s presence in the living rooms of White South Africans helped lay the groundwork for Mandela’s release and ascension to power, speaks to the influence of a shared space for communication in a deeply divided nation. In light of Mandela’s death, the book recalls a time when American popular culture’s icon of middle-class African American life was necessarily substituted for one of the world’s most admired public figures—and the social and political consequences of this exchange. An excerpt from the . . .

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Excerpt: Excommunication

December 4, 2013
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Excerpt: Excommunication

An excerpt from Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation by Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark

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From the editors’ Introduction:

The field of media studies today generally understands media along two interconnected axes: devices and determinacy. On the one hand, media are understood as synonymous with media devices, technological apparatuses of mediation such as the phone, the file, or the printing press. And yet such technological devices are imbued with the irresistible force of their own determinacy. Media either determine a given social, cultural, or political dimension, or media are themselves determined by the social, cultural, or political. Media makers affect media consumers and thus establish hierarchical relationships with them, or media-savvy individuals express their own desires by way of the tools and machines that extend their will. For media studies generally, media are, in short, determinative devices, and they are thus evaluated normatively as either good influencers or bad influencers.

Consider the major traditions that continue to inform media studies today. With the Frankfurt School and Adorno and Horkheimer’s theses on the culture industry, one finds an emphasis on media as technologies of domination. The extorted reconciliation . . .

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Lawmakers approve gay marriage in Illinois

November 6, 2013
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Lawmakers approve gay marriage in Illinois

From the November 5, 2013, edition of the Chicago Tribune:

Lawmakers approved gay marriage Tuesday in a historic vote that saw supporters overcome cultural, racial and geographic divides and put Illinois in line with a growing number of states that have extended the right to wed to same-sex couples.

After more than a year of intense lobbying by both sides, gay lawmakers made emotional pleas to colleagues to give their families equal rights even as opponents argued that doing so would unravel the foundation of society.

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An excerpt from The Nuptial Deal: Same-Sex Marriage and Neo-Liberal Governance by Jaye Cee Williams:

I met Patrick Singleton and Bryce Kiplinger at an outreach event sponsored by Marriage Rights Now. The purpose of the event was to sign up members in a well-known, “gay-friendly” sports bar. As we waited for potential supporters to enter the bar, Patrick broke the ice by introducing me to his partner, Bryce: “As you can probably guess, when we hold hands, we get a lot of second glances.” Patrick is a graying white man who looks as if he must be nearing his . . .

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Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013)

May 30, 2013
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Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013)

Saddened today to note the passing of Andrew M. Greeley  (1928–2013)—priest, sociologist, journalist, prolific critic, novelist, and philanthropist. Father Greeley (his preferred moniker) was a priest’s priest—while at the same time an ardent and impassioned critic of established Catholic authority. His writings spanned academic treaties—ecumenical and secular, ethnographic and sociological—weekly newspaper columns, literary potboilers, and vehemently outspoken diatribes against the hypocrisy of the Church in which he was ordained. Among these, the University of Chicago Press was fortunate to publish two works, Priests: A Calling in Crisis (2004) and The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe (coauthored with Michael Hout; 2006). A longtime affiliate of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Greeley also gifted the school with a 1.25 million dollar endowment in 1984 (despite three denials of his own tenure while a professor), which was formerly used to endow a chair of Catholic studies.

“I’m a priest, pure and simple,” he once said, “albeit a priest with a condo in the John Hancock Building and a home in Arizona.”

Chicago Sun-Times obituary

New York Times obituary

. . .

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On The Subject of Murder

May 9, 2013
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On The Subject of Murder

From the Introduction 

The Subject of Murder: Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer

by Lisa Downing:

“Serial killers are so glamorized . . . as to tempt other to . . . revere them as the prophets of risk and individual action, in a society overwhelmed and bogged down by the dull courtiers and ass-kissers of celebrity culture.”—(Ian Brady, The Gates of Janus, 2001)

“ share certain characteristics of the artist; they know they are unlike other men, they experience drives and tensions that alienate them from the rest of society, they possess the courage to satisfy these drives in defiance of society. But while the artist releases his tensions in an act of imaginative creation, the Outsider–criminal releases his in an act of violence.”—(Colin Wilson, Order of Assassins, 1976)

“Jack the Ripper, along with many of his followers, has achieved legendary status. Such men have become world famous, awesomely regarded cultural figures. They are more than remembered; they are immortalized. Typically, though, their victims, the uncounted women who have been terrorized, mutilated, and murdered are rendered profoundly nameless.”—(Jane Caputi, The Age of . . .

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2013 Laing Prize: Andreas Glaeser’s Political Epistemics

April 30, 2013
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2013 Laing Prize: Andreas Glaeser’s Political Epistemics

The Gordon J. Laing Prize is awarded annually by the University of Chicago Press to the faculty author, editor, or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction. The varied expertise of past recipients has spanned the disciplines—from intellectual property wars and evolutionary theory to racial profiling and eighteenth-century Italian opera—and helped to generate an enviable listing of scholars that the University is lucky to call their own. On top of all that, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Prize, first awarded to Bernard Weinberg in 1963 for A History of Literary Criticism in the Italian Renaissance.

This year, the 2013 Laing Prize went to Andreas Glaeser, associate professor of soci0logy at the University, for Political Epistemics: The Secret Police, the Opposition, and the End of East German Socialism. Glaeser’s book considers socialist East Germany’s unexpected self-dissolution in 1989, building on extensive in-depth interviews with former secret police officers and the dissidents they tried to control, among other resources, to offer an epistemic account of socialism’s failure that differs markedly from existing explanations.

Included below are some snapshots from the recent Laing Prize reception taken by . . .

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2012: A Year in Books

December 21, 2012
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2012: A Year in Books

In wrapping of the year’s best-of-2012 lists, we couldn’t help but single out the University of Chicago Press titles that made the cut as reads worth remembering. With that in mind, here’s a list of our books that earned praise as cream of the crop here and abroad, from scholarly journals, literary blogs, metropolitan newspapers, and the like. If you’re looking, might we (and others) recommend—

        

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

made the Philadelphia City Paper’s Best of the Year list named one of the best books of the year by the Houston Chronicle included in Bookriot’s list of the five most overlooked books of 2012 picked as the book of the year by a bookseller at the Oxford Blackwell’s: “ feel so evangelical about I want to run around screaming ‘YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK OR YOUR LIFE WILL BE INCOMPLETE,’ in Billy Graham style.” named one of the ten best fiction books of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal named by Wall Street Journal fiction editor Sam Sacks as one of his own favorite fiction books of 2012 named by Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker as . . .

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Jane Addams: Citizen

November 6, 2012
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Jane Addams: Citizen

On Election Day, it’s never a bad idea to revisit the larger consequences and historical stakes behind our democratic sweepstakes. Jane Addams (1860–1935)—sociologist, author, philosopher, suffragette, Nobel Peace Prize–winner, and founder of Hull House—felt frustration during the Progressive Era, in part because of the conditions affecting the working class, women, and children, but also because of the moral failings of industrial capitalism, which she attributed less to the system and more to the foibles of individual capitalists. She strove to view the labor movement not as a one-armed political struggle, but as a lens through which we might attempt to unify our sympathies for the suffering of others. In this excerpt from Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy, Louise W. Knight explores how Addams’s experience with the Pullman Strike in 1894 led her to question—and later, so eloquently articulate—the dangers of moral absolutism to democratic citizenship.

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Jane Addams’s contribution to Maps was her essay “The Settlement as a Factor in the Labor Movement.” Her intention was to give a history of Hull House’s relations with unions as a sort of case study and to examine why and how settlements should be engaged with the . . .

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Margaret Morganroth Gullette on the vote for physician-assisted dying

October 22, 2012
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Margaret Morganroth Gullette on the vote for physician-assisted dying

This election day, voters in Massachusetts will face the option of following the examples of Washington and Oregon, in choosing to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill (in Massachusetts, this option is currently banned by common law, rather than outright prohibition). Here,  Margaret Morganroth Gullette, resident scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center and author of Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America (along with Aged by Culture) weighs in on the Act Relative to Death with Dignity, placing its concerns in a broader context of conversation surrounding American ageism and government rhetoric.

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“Why I am, after all, voting for Massachusetts’s Act Relative to Death with Dignity”

Massachusetts’s voters will decide on physician-assisted dying in November, yeah or nay.  Positions are hardening, but there are more balanced views yet to be heard, on cultural contexts which may affect everyone who hopes to grow old in America.

Choice is the major argument in favor, as was the case in Oregon and Washington, which passed bills similar to our “Act Relative to Death with Dignity.” Those in favor say that giving the dying more choice in how and when they die relieves deep apprehension and provides . . .

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