Category Archives: Culture

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My Black Is

My Black Is is a sound project created by Ayana Powell, a recent graduate of Pomona College who majored in sociology. For her senior thesis, Ayana interviewed black students at the Claremont Colleges about their identities and lives. Her goal was to challenge media representations of black people and blackness, by allowing black people to define themselves and their race. Doing so also challenges the idea that there is one black identity or experience.

 

ayanna powell headshotAyana Powell is a recent college graduate on the quest to find a job. She is especially fond of all things colorful and YouTube web series. Find her on Linkedin.

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To the Little Girl Who Wished for Blonde Hair and Blue Eyes

A Guest Post by Kimberley Africa

This is for all those who once wished, or still wish, to be someone they are not.

Huwag ka magpapa-araw. Iitim ka. “Don’t go into the sun; you’ll get dark.” For years, I heard this phrase again and again, urging me to protect my skin. It was white, like the inside of a coconut, they told me.

By the time I was five, I knew exactly why. I held my daddy’s hand as we waited in line for a ride at an amusement park. Two men standing next us turned to the couple on our other side and commented that their little girl was beautiful. It was then that I realized that I, too, had to have light skin—in addition to blonde hair and blue eyes—so that strangers wouldn’t skip us in the line, and would tell my dad that I also was beautiful. I didn’t know how I was going to get the blonde hair and blue eyes, but I knew that I was definitely not going to go into the sun. I could at least have one of the three attributes.

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Critiquing Culture from the Sidelines, a Conversation on Football, Cultural Critique, Ethics, and Collective Action

Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D.:

Hot on the heels of the Super Bowl, the Nomad, along with Drs. Jenny Dyck Brian and Mary Ingram-Waters, discusses the ethics of watching football and playing fantasy football, given the rates of long-term brain injuries sustained by players, among other conundrums. Originally published by Culture in Conversation.

Originally posted on Culture in Conversation:

Organizer: Dr. Jenny Dyck Brian
Curator: Dr. Mary Ingram-Waters
Conversationalists: Dr. Mary Ingram-Waters, Dr. Jenny Dyck Brian, and Dr. Nicki Lisa Cole
Download a PDF Version of this Conversation: Culture in Conversation February 2014

Mary Ingram-Waters: Curator’s Introduction
In their statement of purpose, Culture in Conservation (CIC) editors, Brian M. Creech, Evan L. Kropp, and Mark C. Lashley, write that, “It is our hope to make public one of the more fundamental truths of our own education: in the life of a scholar, there are few experiences more exciting than the moment when ideas begin rubbing against one another and turn into something else entirely.” For Dr. Jenny Dyck Brian, Dr. Nicki Lisa Cole, and I, these moments of collaboration — some as quick and informal as hallway chats — are invaluable not only for the trajectories of our research but also for our development as scholars. Personally, I…

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Sociologist Sharon Zukin Discusses Her Love/Hate Relationship with Consumer Culture

szukin headshotSharon Zukin, chair-elect of the section on consumers and consumption, is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She started out as a political sociologist, became an urban sociologist, and now combines those interests with studies of institutions, spaces and cultures of consumption. She has received the C. Wright Mills Award, the Robert and Helen Lynd Award for career achievement in community and urban sociology, and the Jane Jacobs Award for urban communication. Her most recent book is Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, and her most recent article looks at restaurants and racial identity in a gentrifying area of Brooklyn.

Nicki: You began your academic career in political science. How did you come to study consumer culture and its implications?

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Understanding Radical Peer-to-Peer Consumption: An Interview with Emilie Dubois

 “I have one chance at a career, and I want one with an impact for people that I really care about.”

Emilie-Duboiscopy-239x300Emilie Dubois is destined to be a change-maker. Driven by her working class roots and experience growing up in the post-industrial community of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, she is revolutionizing how sociologists approach and understand the phenomenon of “connected consumption.”

Emilie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Boston College who works closely with Juliet Schor, was driven to our field by class inequities. She took her first sociology class at Columbia University while working in admissions at Columbia Business School. Appalled by the directive to give preference to wealthy candidates, Emilie sought conceptual tools to help her understand the situation she found herself in. She enrolled in “Power and Politics in Organizations,” experienced in her words a “massive consciousness shift,” quit her job, and applied to graduate programs in sociology.

Now, Emilie is in the midst of her dissertation research and works on Schor’s research team for the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network. The team is studying the phenomenon of “connected consumption,” which Emilie explains is a new system of exchange premised on “economic connections that are not mediated by an organization in a demonstrative way.”

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Apple’s Seductive Brand Promise: Cultural Capital & Social Mobility

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Despite the recent scandals regarding Apple’s business practices, it has succeeded at cultivating a brand to which we feel positive emotional attachment. In three previous posts, I showed that the company accomplishes this with commercials that associate its products with playfulnesssentimentality, and cool youthfulness.  The most prominent theme, however, and I suspect the most powerful aspect of the company’s emotional branding strategy, is the hope it cultivates in each of us of who we could be by virtue of using the company’s products. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.

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Be Young, Be Cool, Be Happy… As an Apple Consumer

Screenshot_117I cannot watch this 2003 Apple iPod commercial without shaking my hips, even in the midst of delivering a lecture or conference presentation. In fact, I struggle deeply to refrain from jumping around in an ecstatic dance of joy.

This commercial moves me. But, why? Yes, it has rocking music and popping colors. But, I suspect, more importantly, it has hip young things gyrating to the music, lost in the euphoria provided by an iPod and earbuds, with seemingly no cares in the world. For four years Apple aired a string of these, which became known as the “Silhouette” commercials, each featuring a different soundtrack and style of dance. In my previous posts, I’ve focused on two important elements of Apple’s brand promise: whimsicality and  sentimentality. In this post I spotlight another key finding from our research: the association of Apple products with coolness, hipness, youth, and a carefree attitude. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.

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Sentimental Consumerism, the Apple Way

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In a recent post on the Apple brand and its cultural significance, I drew on my study with Gabriela Hybel of over 200 Apple television commercials aired between 1984 and the present to argue that Apple excels at what branding experts refer to as “emotional branding.” I pointed out that Apple commercials cultivate happiness through whimsical depictions of products and their users. In this post I focus on another key finding from this research, which is the prominence of sentimentality in Apple commercials. Both of these things — whimsicality and sentimentality — are key parts of the promise that Apple makes to its customers. To this end, an important part of the promise that Apple makes to its customers is that using their products will strengthen the customer’s relationships with loved ones, and that the customer will experience positive emotions because of this. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.

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Whimsical Branding Obscures Apple’s Troubled Supply Chain

Ipod-NanoSuicide at Foxconn. Poisoned workers. Colluding to inflate the price of e-books. Tax evasion (albeit, legal). Shady suppliers who can’t toe the line of labor or environmental laws in China. Apple’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, but it sales have continued to climb. How does Apple maintain its economic dominance in light of such powerful scandals? With an exceptionally strong brand that taps into our hopes and cultivates positive emotions. Read the full article at Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing.

The interactive balikbayan box I created for my class research project, on show at our Global LA exhibit at Pomona College in May 2013.

Unpacking the Balikbayan Box: Transnational Pilipino Families in Global Perspective

A guest post by Kimberley Africa

Standing next to the balikbayan box my parents just sent in June 2013.
Standing next to the balikbayan box my parents just sent in June 2013.

Ever since I can remember, I have watched my mom and dad fill a huge box with clothes, towels, Spam, shoes, nonperishable foods, and a countless number of other things until they could fit no more. I remember looking into the box and wishing that the huge container of Nesquik were in my hands instead of being cradled by Tang and powdered iced tea. My parents explained that they sent the box to my cousins in the Philippines because they didn’t have all that we had. I always frowned at this, because we definitely did not have chocolate milk mix in the cupboards.

Space is precious. Once my parents made sure that there was no empty crevice left in the box, they would start the closing process. This is a ritual that I have watched so many times: my mom’s and dad’s hands work simultaneously to close the box. Sometimes they ask one of us kids to help. Their experience in packing boxes is clear in their quickness and accuracy. But, taping the top of the box is just the beginning. My dad then grabs a black permanent marker and writes his brother’s address on each side of the box, save the bottom. Then, he wraps the entire surface of the box in clear packing tape to ensure its security on its transoceanic voyage.

“Do they make you tape the entire box?” I once asked. “No, but this is how I can make sure your cousins get everything,” my dad replied.

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