Interview: Making New Worlds

Close up of astronaut's reflection on their helmet, as they work in space

I’m featured in the first episode of Making New Worlds, a podcast inviting experts from different fields to discuss the ethics of colonising other planets.

The issue we discuss is not about scientific space exploration (collecting data about other planets), but whether it is ethical for humans to settle in Mars or other planets. My responses represent sociological considerations about the inequality that is inherent in colonialism. The quotes below are excerpts from me; listen to the entire podcast in the link.

Picture of terrain on Mars, showing an aerial view of what appears to be sea, land and clouds. A quote from me is overlaid over the top, from the article, “And there is something profoundly unethical ... on our own planet.”
Ethics of colonising other planets

Continue reading Interview: Making New Worlds

Sociology of Rembrandt

This is my sociological reflection over the exhibition, Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age. There was only one woman artist in the exhibition, White Dutch artist Rachel Ruysch. There were no people of colour, except in one landscape depicting slavery of African people, in a work celebrating the growth of Amsterdam. Other than this, no other references to colonialism, even though there was a giant ship in the exhibition and a landscape of Brazil referencing an “outpost.”

There was a painting of the Burghers, a group descendent from Sri Lanka and various European origins, especially Potugese and Dutch, but the exhibition makes no reference to class or race. The term Burgher derives from the Dutch word for “citizen” or “town dweller”, mixed with the French word “bourgeois” which refers to the upper class. The Burghers were actually upwardly mobile middle class who made a good living as merchants and commissioned paintings to reflect their modest wealth. While most were of mixed racial background, they are painted as White.

Finally, in one of the photos you see Rembrandt’s painting “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress,” depicting a White man wearing a turban – an example of White upper class appropriating the culture and religion of Others, but the exhibition explains this as “exotic looking garb.”The exhibition is excellent, but like many, it whitewashes history and replicates racial, gender and various inequalities by papering over relations of power in art.

The exhibition is on in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.

[Photos: 1/ woman with long white hair stares at “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress. 2/ a White man and Asian woman outside the exhibition. 3/ A young man walks towards the camera as other art vistors wander around the gallery. 4/ people take photos of the large paintings on display. 5/ a bald man stares closely at photographs of Rembrandt. 6/ a man and a woman look at a large golden painting featuring architecture. 7/ visitors walk around the busy exhibition.]

Corsini Collection

At the Corsini Collection: A Window on Renaissance, at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi O Tāmaki. The Corsini family settled in Florence in tge 13th Century and had a stranglehold of power in banking, trade and Government. They had ties to the strongest families in Florence, the Medici (there’s an excellent social network analysis article that documents how families used their social ties to maintain influence). The Corsini also had strong religious capital, with tge cardinals, one Pope and one saint in the family. The latter is seen at the end here – Saint Andrea Corsini. There are two bullet wounds in the painting, which was painted in 1630, and hidden behind a safe wall in 1944. A soldier shot through the wall, noticing fresh plaster.

How Poverty of Work Becomes Entrenched

A sociology study of the experiences of working class migrant workers finds that the conditions of their work make it virtually impossible to get ahead. The participants who work as labourers, gardeners, construction workers and in various service industries, say that they are forced to work long hours and multiple jobs. Due to being employed on a temporary basis, they cannot afford to take the time to up-skill or undertake additional education to lift themselves out of poverty. One of the researchers, Victoria Smith, says:

“In the interviews, workers said they needed the hours, wherever they could get them. They could come from jobs they have on a regular basis, or it could come from being asked to do one-time jobs working for a friend, like helping with a landscaping job, or helping clean a house. They constantly keep their eyes open for these one-off jobs so they can get their hours.”

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Read more: http://buff.ly/1o44Zfi Photo: http://buff.ly/1o44Zfu  

Why the Middle Class Misunderstands Inequality

This year, Australia has endured yet another rise of racist public discourses about refugees taking away jobs from “Australians.” But given that refugees who resettle in Australia are, in fact, Australian, which Australians are being evoked in this argument and why? In May 2016, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said of refugees:

“For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English, and this is a difficulty. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that, and for many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it.”

These comments are not factual – half of all refugees speak English and three quarters have at least a high school education. It is well documented that refugees and their children make a strong economic contribution to the Australian economy. Refugees do not ‘take jobs away’ from other Australians – this perception is founded in the historical racist rhetoric that underpinned Australia’s immigration policies since Federation. Refugees, especially the children of those from non-English speaking countries such as Viet Nam, are more socially mobile than third-generation Australians. That means that, even if their parents arrive in Australia as working class, the second-generation joins the middle class. But this does not push Anglo-Australians out of the middle class. So why this misinterpretation? Continue reading Why the Middle Class Misunderstands Inequality

Airport and Sociology of Class

A delayed flight means sociologists get to do more people watching. Airports are a clear example of class not simply in terms of which groups board first but also the way in which people dress for the flight, the appearance of their baggage and other social clues.

This is Canberra airport.

 

Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

On my blog, one year after the devastating fires in two Bangladesh factories where 1,100 workers died, I revisited the poor industrial relations that lead to this destruction. I looked at how international boycotts of garment factories are not always an effective way to take action against unfair labour conditions for overseas workers. I noted that sociological research paints a different picture on how international boycotts have a weak impact on labour laws but negatively affect the largely female workforce and their children. Under poor socio-economic conditions, garment factories can be a source of protection for women. International action should focus on changing social policies in a way that does not punish these vulnerable workers. Read about how the push for change might be better informed by women’s experiences.

My blog post: http://buff.ly/1s857h8 #sociology #feminism #socialscience #work

Sociology of Trolleys

My next instalment of the Sociology of Trolleys: There are many studies on why *online* shopping trolleys are abandoned (poor website design; lack of incentive or commitment by customers; and so on), there is little attention given to the reasons why people abandon shopping trolleys in everyday life.

Researcher Franck Cochoy has done some research on how shopping trolleys shape shopping behaviour (for example, by visually representing the volume of our spending by virtue of how full our trolleys are). But this research does not examine abandoned carts.

Many people think that trolleys are abandoned because kids are using them to push each other around. As such wayward trolleys are often seen as an act of social deviance by young people. In my forthcoming posts I’ll look at how abandoned carts are policed both informally at the community level and more formally through rewards and penalties (it’s actually a lucrative business). The truth about shopping trolley “deviance” is less about youth and more about social class.

Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Programs that focus on the “culture of poverty” and the alleged “attributes” of poor people don’t get to its root cause, which is, quite simply, that millions of people don’t have enough money. Poverty is not a fixed trait; we can easily make people less poor by giving them enough money so that they’re no longer poor.

Continue reading Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville

On STEM Women, we did a series of posts on women who are pioneers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math). I wrote a piece about Evelyn Boyd Granville, who was only the second African American woman to gain a PhD in Mathematics in the USA, in the early 1940s. I especially loved reading all her personal recollections of the sacrifices that her mother and aunt made to put her through university. It seems a moot point to say that parents play a pivotal role in their children’s success. This is not so simple when we understand the empirical evidence of how institutional and social forces can limit parents and children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Parents don’t always know how to support girls into STEM careers, and more importantly, they don’t always have the resources or knowledge about where to seek additional help. This is especially pertinent for the careers of minority women in STEM. Continue reading STEM Women in Mathematics: Evelyn Boyd Granville