Global Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century

by Jeffrey Lesser, editor of Global Latin America: Into the Twenty-First Century

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 did your own research influence the decision to co-edit Global Latin America with Matthew Gutmann?

Lesser:  Many scholars of Latin America based in the United States (myself included) have traditionally presented Latin America as a recipient (and often victim) of outside influences. Yet over the years, Matt and I have been in numerous circumstances where it became clear that Latin America is the influencer.

In my own recent research on health and migration in a single neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil, I regularly see how multi-directional the influences can be. For example the media in the United States often suggests, correctly, that the explosion of the Zika Virus in Brazil is related to a series of policy errors by Brazilian politicians. The media also gives great play to debates in the United State Congress over how to fund the Center for Disease Control that is often presented as the only solution to worldwide public health problems. In other words, those who do not know much about Latin America might get the impression that public health problems in Brazil will be resolved primarily by the big brother from the north.

Much of my current research involves observing physicians, nurses, and community health and sanitation agents who are employed by the Brazilian Unified Health System (known as SUS – Sistema Único de Saúde in Portuguese). This publicly funded health care program was created in 1990 and has already been critical in providing models for the rest of the world in areas like AIDS prevention and in ways to work with (and sometimes against) pharmaceutical companies to lower costs. It has also shown that health systems focused on the majority (which in Brazil means those with very modest incomes) can work in capitalist countries.

As I conduct my research I constantly imagine the ways that public health in the United States would be improved by learning from Brazil. My focus is in Bom Retiro, a traditional neighborhood for immigrants working in the garment industry that sits in the public imagination as an Eastern European Jewish space. Today most of the store and factory owners are Korean or Brazilians of Korean descent (with Chinese immigrants entering in increasing numbers). The garment workers are generally undocumented immigrants from Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and increasingly, different African countries, generally working (and often living) in tiny, precarious, and unregistered factories.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 4.00.07 PM
Neighborhood health center

Each community health worker in Bom Retiro is responsible for one or two streets, often the ones they themselves live on. They visit every family on the street at least once a month and since SUS policy that health is a right based on residence, not citizenship, gives health agents have broad access to everyone in the neighborhood, including the many people who live in non-formal residences constructed within abandoned buildings. The neighborhood health center looks like the neighborhood, with people of different citizenships, religions, ages, and class backgrounds. What a difference from the approach in my home state of Georgia, where police routinely stop residents to ask for proof of citizenship and seek to deport those who do not have it – including parents of U.S. citizen children.

Global Latin America is a volume about the many ways that Latin America and its peoples have influenced the rest of the world, from agricultural methods to cultural styles. It reminds readers that Latin America and its people have and will create policies, programs, and cultural forms that will lead the world in the twenty-first century.

Jeffrey Lesser is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at Emory University.

Black Elephants in the Room

by Corey D. Fields, author of Black Elephants in the Room: The Unexpected Politics of African American Republicans

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.

What were some of your reasons for writing this book?

When people hear that I am writing a book about African American Republicans, they often assume that I am a lifelong political junkie who feeds off the latest news about polling data and follows the intricacies of intra-party politics with an obsessive passion. They are often disappointed to find out that although I have always had an interest in politics, I was not particularly “into” politics before embarking on this project. (And, honestly, now that it is done, I am probably going to take a little break from all my politics-related Google alerts!)

I began this project because I was interested in unexpectedness – instances where people are doing things you do not expect them to do. It was the unexpected behavior of African American Republicans that struck me as compelling. Nobody expects a black person to be a Republican. Yet, there are a lot of people who do it. So while only a small percentage of black people identify as Republican, the absolute number is nothing to sneeze at. But even if there were only a handful of African American Republicans, they would still be interesting because, in many ways, they (and our responses to them) represent the tension between an ever-expanding horizon of possibilities available to any individual and the constraining expectations that come along with social identities. African American Republicans are a great illustration of how, no matter what you do, the groups you belong to shape how you are perceived and how you move through the world.

So it was not politics, per se, that drew my initial interest. That said, it would have been impossible to write the book without getting a little obsessive about politics. To do this book well required that I ground it in a broader political context.

How were you perceived by the people you were observing and interacting with through the course of your research? 

On balance, people were skeptical, but open. There is this perception among African American Republicans that they are treated unfairly, especially in regards to their image in the media. But the sense of unfair treatment is not limited to media images. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more skeptical group of people than African American Republicans. At the start, they were a little wary of me and my research. To do the project successfully, it was critical to overcome this hesitance. Initially, some people thought I was out to make fun of them, and the book would be a hatchet job. Others were convinced that I was a Republican myself and the book would just be a puff piece.

Because of this reaction, it was really important to me that the people I was observing knew that I was not working on a partisan book. So, I started out engaging with people in a very “scientific” sort of way. I was vocally agnostic about their politics and tried to withhold judgment even when what they were saying went against my own political beliefs. I think I was pretty successful at that, and I could earn their trust over the course of an interview. As the project progressed, I became closer to some key informants and I was able to challenge their beliefs and express some skepticism about some of their statements. Fortunately for me, there are not a lot of African American Republican activists. So if I was able to convince some key people to trust me, they were able to get me pretty connected to the networks.

Others were incredibly difficult to win over. There were a few people who would only engage in email exchanges and others who refused all my requests for interviews. I am incredibly grateful to all the people who opened up to me to talk about politics and life.

What were some of the most interesting findings you came across during your research? Did you find any commonly-held beliefs about black Republicans to be misconceptions? 

There were definitely some surprising aspects to the African American Republican experience. Like most people, most of my exposure to them came from people like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and even celebrities like Stacy Dash. These high-profile African American Republicans shape a lot of the broader perceptions of them. Based on that, I went into the project expecting enthusiastic support for the GOP and a rejection of what is derided as “identity politics.”

The reality turned out to be more complicated. Contrary to perception, all African American Republicans express high levels of racial identification. They see themselves as linked to a broader community and see their fates as linked to other African Americans. However, there is a sharp divide in how important they think racial identity should be. African American Republicans are divided into two groups with different perspectives on the centrality of race to their worldview: color blind and race conscious. Both groups see the Republican Party as offering the best policy program to meet the needs of black communities, but for very different reasons. These two groups also have very different experiences within the party. I was struck by how intense the divisions between the two groups could become.

Also, given the very limited racial diversity within the GOP, I thought the Republican Party would be happy to have any black person hand raising on behalf of the party. That’s not consistent with the experiences of the people I talked to. African American Republicans who embrace the color blind worldview consistent with the leadership of the GOP find themselves welcomed into networks of power, while those committed to racial uplift find themselves marginalized and fighting for a seat at the Republican table. So, for some African American Republicans race acts as a resource, but for others race operates as a constraint.

What do these findings mean for the current presidential election?

A major shift in black support for the Republican Party this fall seems very unlikely. Based on my findings, the GOP has to reconsider how it incorporates black Republicans into the party if it has any real interest in appealing to black voters. It is not enough to incorporate blackness on terms that are comfortable to white leaders. Party leaders’ hesitance to disavow the racism that has fueled the Trump campaign is a perfect illustration of the failure to take the concerns of minority voters (and a number of white Republicans!) seriously.

At a minimum, the party must do a better job of listening to the diverse perspectives among African American Republicans. I think this applies to the entire range of “multicultural” conservatives. Otherwise, outreach efforts to blacks – along with additional “othered” groups in the GOP like Latino, Asian, women, and LGBT voters – seem less than genuine. The success of a candidate like Trump raises questions about who Republican diversity efforts are really aimed at. Is the goal to increase minority participation in the party? Or is the purpose to have minorities around to provide cover to the more unsavory racial conservatism that has taken root within the GOP? My findings suggest the former.

Corey D. Fields is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University.

Launching from the Bottom Rung: Grit and Hope and Reality Changers

By Barbara Davenport, author of Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College

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.

In the midst of the worst recession in eighty years, five Latino students are writing their college applications. Robert lives with his grandmother and his uncle in a garage without a bathroom. They don’t eat breakfast, because they don’t have enough food. Dinner most nights is baloney and tortillas; some nights it’s just tortillas. Jesse’s single mother supports him and his younger brother on $9000 a year cleaning houses. For most of her junior year, Suzie waitressed forty hours a week, 3:30 to 11 pm, 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays, her salary and tips the only income for her family of four. Her guidance counselor advised her not to apply to four-year universities, because “people like you should go to community college.” Daniel, who swims on his school’s varsity swim team and takes AP English Lit and AP physiology, is undocumented, ineligible for state or federal scholarship assistance. He needs to get into a private college that can provide a full ride scholarship. Jorge’s girlfriend is expecting their child, and her family is pressuring him to quit school and get a job. He doesn’t know how he’ll finish high school and support his new baby, much less go to college.

Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program that Helped Them Aim for College tells their stories. The program is Reality Changers, a college readiness program that, over the last fifteen years, has changed the game for disadvantaged youth in San Diego. Its students come from the city’s poorest, most violent neighborhoods. They are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Some are citizens; some are undocumented. Their parents are hotel maids and fry cooks and landscapers. They aren’t cherry-picked high achievers; some enter the program as academic underperformers, chronic truants, gang affiliated or homeless.

Christopher Yanov was twenty-three, substitute teaching at a middle school where the students spoke twelve languages, and gang wannabe’s ruled the courtyard, when he founded Reality Changers in 2001. He saw that many of his students had as much innate ability and determination as the middle-class kids he’d grown up with. What they lacked was the scaffolding of family and social supports that middle class students take for granted: an ambitious vision of what they could accomplish and a milieu of peers and adults who validated their ambitions and helped them reach their goals. He founded Reality Changers to provide that scaffolding. Reality Changers now serves more than five hundred students a year. Its alumni attend all the University of California undergraduate campuses and many of the Cal States, as well as Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Northwestern, Duke, Stanford, and Princeton.

I wrote Grit and Hope because I’m interested in launching, the era when teenagers navigate from the circle of family and high school to find their place in the adult world. Launching’s a critical period; the strengths and weaknesses people bring to this life passage, what they aim for, the roads they take and those not taken will shape the rest of their lives. It’s hard work for all adolescents, significantly harder for those who start from a the bottom rungs of the social and economic ladder. As inequalities in income and opportunity America have become increasingly stark, I’ve grown concerned about what it’s like for youth growing up on the have-not side of the gap. How do the brutal inequalities of their lives skew their efforts to launch?

I figured best the way to answer that question was to listen to youth who were doing it—launching themselves from those bottom rungs—and tell their stories. I found them at Reality Changers. I followed Reality Changers for five years, talking with students and their parents, with Yanov, his staff and the volunteer tutors.

Grit and Hope reveals their personal struggles: a student’s undocumented status that loomed over every decision he made, whether to ride the trolley, whether to have a girlfriend. A firstborn daughter’s conflict between helping her younger siblings when a parent was unable to function or going to college for herself. A mother with a diagnosis of Stage IV cancer. An outstanding student plagued by gnawing doubts about whether she belonged in college.

Their stories need to be told. Statistics and research can alert us to problems and document their scope, but stories help us see the people who are living in the problem: their courage, their pain,and the costs of their dreams. Seeing the people is the beginning of change.

This is a gritty book. Not all the stories are about successes. There are setbacks and derailments and painful losses.

The stories in Grit and Hope also highlight some of the most urgent issues facing the country: immigration reform, especially the status of the Dreamers, integrating immigrant and minority youth into our democracy and our economy, and a particularly brutal inequality, inadequate funding for urban schools, where students who need the best teachers and the most resources get neither. How we address these issues, or fail to address them, will shape our society for decades to come.

On a winter night in 2002, Christopher Yanov sat with a handful of eighth graders and college-student tutors in the Iglesia Presbiteriana Hispana. The one-story cinderblock building in Golden Hill, near San Diego’s downtown, looked more like a fortress than a church. Iron grillwork covered the windows; the door was a slab of hardened steel.

Yanov and the tutors and students sat on folding chairs around two tables in a room facing the street. The kids settled into their homework, and the room was quiet, punctuated with occasional murmured consultations.

Reality Changers was eight months old, with a census of twelve, six boys and six girls he’d recruited at Ray A. Kroc Middle School, where he was a substitute teacher. Students were expected to come every week, but attendance was spotty. Tonight just six kids showed up. He didn’t know whether Reality Changers was going to fly.

            A rock clattered against the bars. Heads snapped up from books. Another rock crashed on the bars, and rattled the glass. Salvo after salvo of pebbles followed, clanging against steel and glass.

Then the shouts.

“Kiss-ass schoolboys! Little pussies!

            “How come we’re out here and not in there!”

            “Hey, Chris! You forgotten your friends?”

A brown face pushed between the bars and pressed against the glass. “Chris! You only talking to the smart kids now?”

            The tutors looked at Yanov, eyes wide. They were freshmen from UC San Diego, worlds away from the Iglesia; they hadn’t bargained for this. The kids shot sidelong looks at each other and tried to look cool. Perla Garcia knew the guys outside; she wished they’d just go home. Jorge Narvaez pretended to read, and hoped they’d be gone by the time he had to walk to the bus stop.

Just ignore it and keep on working, Yanov told them. They’ll get bored and quit.

“Losers! Wait’ll you get out here. We’ll fix your asses!”

The rocks kept clattering. The shouts got louder. Kids stopped even pretending to study.

           Yanov rolled his eyes and exhaled with exasperation. He stood up and walked out the front door in his shirtsleeves. The night was cold; in the light from the street lamp he could see his breath. He stood a shade under six feet, shoulders squared, chin high, dark hair and beard cropped close.

A dozen eighth and ninth graders stood under the street lamp. All of them lived in the neighborhood and most went to Kroc. Their heads were shaved and they wore the cholo uniform of baggy jeans and oversize black nylon jackets. He’d invited every one of them to join Reality Changers.

They’d have to bring their grades up to a 3.0. Come to meetings every week for academic help and lessons on values and life skills. Instead of a gang, be part of a group where everyone was aiming for college, and kids helped each other. He guaranteed that if they stayed with the program through high school, they’d get into college, and they’d have the scholarships they needed.

He’d worked especially hard on Jonny, who lived across the street from him, a few blocks east of the Iglesia. He was a sweet, soft-looking boy with a shy smile and lush, dark hair that fell over his forehead. His notebooks overflowed with drawings of cars and characters from video games and words in bulging, kinetic letters. Yanov knew Jonny from subbing in his honors algebra class, but lately he’d seen him in the courtyard at Kroc, where the guys from Lomas26 hung out by the coral tree. The Lomas26 gang ran the streets in Golden Hill, and they were leaning on Jonny to join. Last fall he’d shaved his head and started to dress like them. Yanov knew that if he didn’t get to Jonny soon, Lomas26 would.

Now here was Jonny, throwing rocks. “Hey Chris, no fair,” he yelled. “You didn’t let us in!”

“You guys know you’re invited,” he said. “You just got to get your grades up.”

“Aw-w, man.”

“Kids inside did.”

“We know you better. You’re our guy. You should just let us in.”

“When you get your 3.0, we’ll be glad to have you. Tonight’s not a ‘no,’ it’s a ‘not yet.’ See you around.” He waved and walked back into the church.

Rocks rang the bars like chimes. The kids and tutors were rattled. Not much homework got done that night, and the tutors chalked up the meeting as a loss.

Yanov couldn’t stop grinning. Those guys wanted in. He knew he had something.

Barbara Davenport is a writer and psychotherapist in San Diego, & the author, as Barbara Davenport, of The Worst Loss, How Families Heal from the Death of a Child.

Jacked Up and Unjust

By Katherine Irwin and Karen Umemoto, author of Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies

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.

On June 11, 2016, the nation was rocked by a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, leaving 49 people dead and another 53 injured. Within a month, more fatal violence erupted. Two separate incidents of deadly police force against black men – one in Baton Rouge, LA and the other in Falcon Heights, MN – were quickly followed on July 7th by a mass shooting in Dallas, Texas, where five police officers were killed. Given these hate-filled, violent incidents, few can argue that racial, religious, and sexual politics are trivial matters in the United States.

Unfortunately, much of the public discourse and the policy solutions responding to these killings promise greater fissures, more hatred, and a continuing cycle of violence. Media reports covering mass shooters pique public concerns about deranged, would-be killers lurking within our communities. In turn, policy makers respond with a familiar tool at their disposal, namely stiffer criminal justice penalties for violent offenders.

I examine the topics of racism, harsh criminal justice punishments, and the use of violence to enact vengeance in my co-authored book Jacked Up and Unjust: Pacific Islander Teens Confront Violent Legacies. Teens in this study spoke of the U.S. as an inherently racist country—a place where the police, teachers, and school administrators are out to punish them and where they have few chances to thrive. As Keith, a teen in the study, summed up, “The States is jacked up, the whole United States system itself is jacked up and if you cannot see that, you’re dumb and you’re stupid.” The fact that most of the teens who acted violently in this study had at least one family member who had been incarcerated reinforced the idea that the “U.S. system” was much more likely to target than to help them.

The story that teens shared during the nine years I spent researching violence in public high schools in Hawaii taught me some lessons about using harsh criminal justice sanctions to solve deep-seated problems in the U.S. As we know, America’s reliance on harsh criminal justice sanctions over the past few decades has made us the most incarcerating nation in the world and has led to the pronounced racial disproportionality in our arrest and incarceration rates. What I learned during this study with Pacific Islander teens is that the punitive turn in the U.S. has also left a lasting legacy in the psyche of many young people. Not only did these teens feel the sting of poverty, racism, and political neglect, but they also came to avoid adults and adult institutions in fear of punishment. If they had a problem or needed assistance, the youth believed that they needed to rely on themselves to get by. Violence was a common solution when teens faced challenges on their own.

However, there is good news revealed in Jacked Up and Unjust. High school staff and community leaders provided extensive support services to youth. Kids who started out their school careers as tough fighters, willing to “throw down” at the slightest provocation, eventually became less violent and more engaged in school. The teens attended voluntary weekly support group sessions and had foster parents, therapists, and other adults who listened, counseled, and offered steadfast support. Alika, who went from being incarcerated for assault to earning straight As,in high school described what helped him: “I stressed out so many workers who tried to help me. The only one who did not give up was the school counselor, my therapist. I gave him hell. But, I find out he loved me. He just kept working and didn’t give up.”

The takeaway lesson from Jacked Up and Unjust is that young people who behave violently are not heading for a lifetime of pathology, hate, and brutality. Marshaling support services and providing spaces for youth to feel connected, cared for, and listened to can change lives. Given these findings, I wonder where is the national conversation about providing more violence prevention programming rather than more punishment.

For more information about the book, see


Katherine Irwin is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. She is the co-author with Meda Chesney-Lind of Beyond Bad Girls: Gender, Violence, and Hype.

Karen Umemoto is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. She is the author of The Truce: Lessons from an LA Gang War.

Migration and Development in the Twenty-First Century

The following is excerpted from the introduction to a new special issue published by Sociology of Development on “Migration and Development in the Twenty-First Century” (Vol. 2, No. 2). The introduction is written by the issue’s guest-editor, Matthew R. Sanderson. Enjoy free access to the entire special issue on from now through the end of 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.04.43 AMDisplacements from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, sustained flows from Central America, and dislocations in North Africa and Southeast Asia—migration continues to grab headlines as the third decade of the twenty-first century approaches. Media in host countries cover the day-to-day realities in the form of interviews with migrants in camps along the Greece-Macedonia border, politicians’ stump speeches warning of flood tides of humans, and reactionary right-wing militia movements. The work is worthy, of course. Much can be learned from only a short conversation with a person stranded on a border in squalor and legal limbo. Often lost, however, in the granular, one-off stories is social context, especially the cross-national relations and social structures that motivate migrations and shape the contexts that receive migrants.

For in the migrants’ stories, the politicians’ narratives, and the militia members’ diatribes are the lived experiences of social transformation. Migration is an intrinsic aspect of social change (Castles 2010). The movement of people across national boundaries produces economic, political, and cultural changes within both host and origin countries. Migration thus raises questions about development—about human living standards and qualities of life. Migrations that cross national boundaries expose inequalities, often vast, in living standards demarcated by national boundaries, raising questions about development and underdevelopment and the relations between the two…

…What is the role of migration in fomenting, or inhibiting, development in origins and destinations? How does migration reveal underlying structures and dynamics associated with development? The issue [of Sociology of Development] considers multiple dimensions of the migration-development nexus, from multiple vantage points, across a diverse array of world regions. Together, the articles encourage a retrospective review, present a wide cross section of current research, stimulate innovative paths for sociological scholarship on migration and development, and ultimately, contribute to the emergence of a more humane, just, equitable, and sustainable world.

Special Issue Table of Contents:

Migration and Development in the Twenty-First Century
Matthew R. Sanderson

International Migration and National Development: From Orthodox Equilibrium to Transnationalism
Alejandro Portes

The Changing Nature of Return Migration to Mexico, 1990–2010: Implications for Labor Market Incorporation and Development
Emilio A. Parrado, Edith Y. Gutierrez

Economic Shock and Migration: Differential Economics Effects, Migrant Responses, and Migrant Cumulative Causation in Thailand
Sara R. Curran, Jacqueline Meijer-Irons, Filiz Garip

Cross-space Consumption among Undocumented Chinese Immigrants in the United States
Min Zhou, Xiangyi Li

Beyond Remittances: Knowledge Transfer among Highly Educated Latvian Youth Abroad
Russell King, Aija Lulle, Laura Buzinska

A Massive Loss of Habitat: New Drivers for Migration
Saskia Sassen

Caught Up

By Jerry Flores, author of Caught Up: Girls, Surveillance, and Wraparound Incarceration

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.

As I was writing my book Caught Up, the internet was flooded with a video of Ben Fields, a white school resource officer with the Richland County Sheriffs in South Carolina, flipping a black girl out of her desk and throwing her against the wall of her tenth grade classroom. Ben Fields, who is roughly twice the size of this young woman, then proceeds to pin her on the ground while simultaneous uttering, “give me your hands.” According to an article by the New York Times, Fields had been previously sued for violating the rights of students and had been accused of disproportionately targeting Black students, using sexist and unprofessional language and excessive force. Due to various cell phone recordings, this officer was eventually fired. However, this incident is not atypical nor are the increasing ties between penal and educational institutions in the U.S.

In my book, I address how the coming together of schools and detention centers in southern California is punishing young Latina girls in new and dynamic ways. This entailed conducting fieldwork at “Legacy” community school and “El Valle” juvenile detention center. During the last seven years, Legacy school officials gave El Valle juvenile detention center unfettered access to their students in exchange for financial resources. In return for this economic support, Legacy allowed El Valle to place a probation officer inside one classroom called the “Recuperation Program” that was intended to help youth with “drug and other behavioral issues.” This probation officer conducted investigations, questioned students, drug tested young people, and placed them directly under arrest as other youth attempted to take their math, science and English lessons. In the eyes of school and detention center administrators, this institutional partnership was supposed to help keep at risk youth away from secure detention. However, my research reveals these well-intentioned services have the opposite effect. As Diana, one of my participants said “I don’t like Legacy because…I’m practically busted [incarcerated] right here!” For the youth in my study, they see little difference between attending Legacy and their time behind bars. While scholars have been discussing the “school-to-prison pipeline” since the 1990’s, this phenomenon is one that is still affecting young people, especially youth of color like the girl thrown from her desk in South Carolina or Diana who often feel caught up between school and a life behind bars.

Jerry Flores is a Ford Foundation Fellow, University of California President’s Postdoc, and Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Five Police Officers

Two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were killed by police this last week, and immediately following, the retaliatory murders of five police officers. These tragic occurrences have sadly become routine. When Andrea Boyles published her book, Race, Place, and Suburban Policing in August 2015, chronicling eight similar fatalities, this frightening trend was already in full force, and there seems to be no sign of it stopping any time soon. Below is an excerpt of her book, a prophetic passage that tells the story of what would happen over the next year, and will continue to happen, unless serious change is made soon.

Therefore, in two separate shootings…poor Black, affluent white, family, friends, and co-workers alike—were left to contend with eight fatalities. No one could have anticipated these incidents, though in hind-sight, the signs were visibly intensifying. In either case, murder is never the solution. Violence should not be the only way to elicit attention, address conflict, or provoke social change. However, this is the state of our society, and more directly, the downside to inherently inflexible social structures unwilling to review, revise, and re-correct its policies and practices, even amid crises…It is in this space of rigidity and obstinacy that we find ourselves as survivors, wounded and perplexed, fervently working to make sense of countless tragedies. It is with this bewilderment in mind that I write…the mission is to provide a broader picture for how escalating social inadequacies, left unaddressed, lead to callousness.

Racialized police work is imperative, and as it stands, can be extremely uncomfortable, and thus, detrimentally misconstrued and dismissed as only advantageous to black citizens. Contrarily, after years of chronicling local and national fatalities, differential policing data or more directly, Race, Place, and Suburban Policing acts a resource—whereby law enforcement communities and others can acquire evidence-based information. That is empirical solutions necessary for forging and advancing positive communal black citizen, police, and local government relationships in all locations.

Andrea S. Boyles is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Lindenwood University-Belleville. She has also taught inmates and correctional officers within the Missouri prison system.

Invisible Labor

by Miriam Cherry, Marion Crain, and Winifred Poster, editors of Invisible Labor: Hidden Work in the Contemporary World

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.

What were some of the greatest challenges that you faced while assembling this work, and in choosing pieces that would be in conversation with each other?

Choosing what to include in “invisible labor” was one of the most difficult parts of the book! The subject of invisible labor is potentially vast. We knew that we wanted to write about how technology was erasing workers, as many online platforms make users or customers believe that they are interacting with a computer rather than a person. We also knew that in some instances work was being hidden from the workers themselves, such as the effort and time required to look and act a certain way to assist a company’s branding strategy. At other times, the work was invisible to the law, as is the case when disabled workers have been stuck in dead-end low-paying “sheltered workshops” for the disabled. We hope that these materials spark a conversation about what invisible labor means and what kinds of work are being overlooked.

Were you able to uncover new insights or discussions between your own specialties and areas of study you may have been less knowledgeable about?

Definitely. The collection is truly a collection of sociological and legal approaches to questions of invisible labor, which reflect the editors’ own training. We also had a favorable cross-pollination with media studies, economics, and gender/ethnic studies. We constantly learned from our authors. Initially you might not think that orange juice commercials are part of an invisible labor problem, but under the lens of visual sociology, the ads were systemically erasing the migrant workers who were actually harvesting the fruit.

In what ways does Invisible Labor emphasize new approaches and perspectives on the role of invisible, under-protected workers around the world today?

A recent Washington Post article reported on a recent study finding that women who expend more resources on personal grooming earn twenty-percent more at work than women who do not. Controlling for innate attractiveness and other potential charm factors, researchers Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner from the University of Chicago and the University of California at Irvine analyzed data from a long-running national study of 14,000 individuals and found a direct correlation between grooming practices and increased income in women.

The study findings indicate that women may feel the pressure or obligation to engage in hours of grooming and hairstyling to “look professional” even before they show up to their jobs. While attractive men make more money, on average, than less-attractive men, interestingly, the same “grooming pay” disparity does not exist between men. The time women spend to “look right” is typically uncompensated time and not even understood as “work,” yet for many it is an unspoken yet important assumption. According to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, women in the United States earn only 82.5 percent of the salaries of their male colleagues. Hidden aesthetic labor could be contributing to this gender-based wage gap.

We discuss the impact of such hidden aesthetic work in Invisible Labor. A number of our authors explore the ways that work is hidden even from workers themselves. This includes the effort and time required to look and act a certain way that is used to further a company’s branding strategy. Often these strategies are gender specific and focused on selecting a certain “type” or “kind” of worker.

We wanted to use this book to expand the field, which in the past had focused mostly on volunteerism and housework. While those are important issues, we wanted to add technology and a more global perspective. With the rise of “big data” and people analytics, work is becoming increasingly more quantified. But some of the items that we discuss in the book as invisible labor – emotional labor, conforming behavior to the “ideal worker,” erasing one’s ethnicity, race, or gender – would not count in the quantified workplace where output is key.  We wanted to make neglected forms of work more visible to managers, consumers, shareholders, academics, policymakers, and workers themselves.

Marion G. Crain is Vice Provost, Wiley B. Rutledge Professor of Law, and Director for the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital at Washington University.

Miriam A. Cherry is Professor of Law at Saint Louis University.

Winifred R. Poster is a Stanford-trained sociologist affiliated with Washington University.

Award Winning UC Press Authors at the American Sociological Association

As the 2016 American Sociological Association meeting approaches, we’re pleased to congratulate four of our authors for the following illustrious award wins! These will be given in person at the annual ASA conference in August.

Joel Best, author of many UC Press titles (including Damned Lies and Statistics and The Student Loan Mess) is the recipient of the Public Understanding of Sociology Award, “given annually to a person or persons who have made exemplary contributions to advance the public understanding of sociology, sociological research, and scholarship among the general public”.

Sanyu A. Mojola, author of Love, Money and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS, is the winner of the 2016 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the ASA.

Kimberly Kay Hoang, the author of Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work, has won awards in the follow categories:

  • 2016 Global & Transnational Sociology Best Scholarly Book Award
  • 2016 Distinguished Book Award, Sexualities Section
  • 2016 Race, Class & Gender Distinguished Book Award (Co-Winner)
  • 2016 Sex & Gender Section Distinguished Book Award (Co-Winner)

On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South by Vanesa Ribas is the winner of the 2016 Distinguished Scholarly Book Award from the Labor and Labor Movements section of the ASA, “presented annually for the ASA member’s best single book published in the two calendar years preceding the award year.”

Many congratulations, once again, to our authors: we’re proud to have published with them!

For Liberation and in Solidarity: Recommended Reading for LGBT Pride 2016

From the earliest marches in 1970 to this month’s events around the Bay Area and worldwide, Pride has celebrated and commemorated the LGBT community’s culture and heritage for over 40 years.

We at UC Press are honored to have published titles that recognize the past accomplishments and document the ongoing struggles of the community. As SF Pride, the largest gathering of the community in the nation, approaches, we’ve prepared a selection of books (including a few exciting upcoming titles!) to shed light on the unique experiences of LGBT individuals across just some of the many varied and diverse queer spaces.

Happy Pride, and happy reading!

Gay L.A.:
A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians

by Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons

The exhortation to “Go West!” has always sparked the American imagination. But for gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, the City of Angels provided a special home and gave rise to one of the most influential gay cultures in the world. Drawing on rare archives and photographs as well as more than three hundred interviews, Lillian Faderman and Stuart Timmons chart L.A.’s unique gay history, from the first missionary encounters with Native American cross-gendered “two spirits” to cross-dressing frontier women in search of their fortunes; from the bohemian freedom of early Hollywood to the explosion of gay life during World War II to the underground radicalism set off by the 1950s blacklist; and from the 1960s gay liberation movement to the creation of gay marketing in the 1990s.


Lavender and Red:
Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left

by Emily K. Hobson | Available October 2016

LGBT activism is often imagined as a self-contained struggle, inspired by but set apart from other social movements. Lavender and Red recounts a far different story: a history of queer radicals who understood their sexual liberation as intertwined with solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. This politics was born in the late 1960s but survived well past Stonewall, forming a gay and lesbian left that flourished through the end of the Cold War. The gay and lesbian left found its center in the San Francisco Bay area, a place where sexual self-determination and revolutionary internationalism converged. Across the 1970s, its activists embraced socialist and women of color feminism and crafted queer opposition to militarism and the New Right. In the Reagan years, they challenged U.S. intervention in Central America, collaborated with their peers in Nicaragua, and mentored the first direct action against AIDS. Bringing together archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson rediscovers the radical queer past for a generation of activists today.


Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art
by Tirza True Latimer | Available December 2016

“What if we ascribe significance to aesthetic and social divergences rather than waving them aside as anomalous? What if we look closely at what does not appear central, or appears peripherally, or does not appear at all, viewing ellipses, outliers, absences, and outtakes as significant?” Eccentric Modernisms places queer demands on art history, tracing the relational networks connecting cosmopolitan eccentrics who cultivated discrepant strains of modernism in America during the 1930s and 1940s. Building on the author’s earlier studies of Gertrude Stein and other lesbians who participated in transatlantic cultural exchanges between the world wars, this book moves in a different direction, focusing primarily on the gay men who formed Stein’s support network and whose careers, in turn, she helped to launch, including the neo-romantic painters Pavel Tchelitchew and writer/editor Charles Henri Ford. Eccentric Modernisms shows how these “eccentric modernists” bucked trends by working collectively, reveling in disciplinary promiscuity, and sustaining creative affiliations across national and cultural boundaries.


A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability

by Jack Halberstam

(This title is part of the American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present series and will be available in E-book format in November 2016 and in paperback in February 2017.)

In the last decade, public discussions of transgender issues have increased exponentially. However, with this increased visibility has comes not just power, but regulation, both in favor of and against trans people. What was once regarded as an unusual or even unfortunate disorder has become an accepted articulation of gendered embodiment as well as a new site for political activism. What happened in the last few decades to prompt such an extensive rethinking of our understanding of gendered embodiment? How did a stigmatized identity become so central to US and European articulations of self? And how have people responded to the new definitions and understanding of sex and the gendered body? In Trans, Jack Halberstam explores these recent shifts in the meaning of the gendered body and representation, and explores the possibilities of a non-gendered, gender optional, or gender-hacked future.


School’s Out:
Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom

by Catherine Connell

How do gay and lesbian teachers negotiate their professional and sexual identities at work, given that these identities are constructed as mutually exclusive, even as mutually opposed? Using interviews and other ethnographic materials from Texas and California, School’s Out explores how teachers struggle to create a classroom persona that balances who they are and what’s expected of them in a climate of pervasive homophobia. Catherine Connell’s examination of the tension between the rhetoric of gay pride and the professional ethic of discretion insightfully connects and considers complicating factors, from local law and politics to gender privilege. She also describes how racialized discourses of homophobia thwart challenges to sexual injustices in schools. Written with ethnographic verve, School’s Out is essential reading for specialists and students of queer studies, gender studies, and educational politics.


Plane Queer:
Labor, Sexuality, and AIDS in the History of Male Flight Attendants

by Phil Tiemeyer

In this vibrant new history, Phil Tiemeyer details the history of men working as flight attendants. Beginning with the founding of the profession in the late 1920s and continuing into the post-September 11 era, Plane Queer examines the history of men who joined workplaces customarily identified as female-oriented. It examines the various hardships these men faced at work, paying particular attention to the conflation of gender-based, sexuality-based, and AIDS-based discrimination. Tiemeyer also examines how this heavily gay-identified group of workers created an important place for gay men to come out, garner acceptance from their fellow workers, fight homophobia and AIDS phobia, and advocate for LGBT civil rights. All the while, male flight attendants facilitated key breakthroughs in gender-based civil rights law, including an important expansion of the ways that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act would protect workers from sex discrimination. Throughout their history, men working as flight attendants helped evolve an industry often identified with American adventuring, technological innovation, and economic power into a queer space.