Buunji – National Indigenous Education Conference

NITV news reported from Buunji, the National Indigenous Education Conference in early November.

Organiser Lillian Gordan says they are promoting Indigenous identity, Indigenous diversity and Indigenous sustainability and an improved delivery of education in a way that won’t interfere with traditional culture.

It’s about bringing everybody together. Buunji is a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘to share,’ that everyone is coming together pretty much from all across the nation, what they’ve done and what they’ve seen and what their hopes are into the future for Aboriginal education.

Continue reading Buunji – National Indigenous Education Conference

Paternalism, Colonialism and Indigenous Education

Photo by Mark Roy via Flickr
Photo by Mark Roy via Flickr

By Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the content on this page may contain images and references to deceased persons. (Why this warning?)

The Council of Australian Governments has conducted a national review of Indigenous socio-economic outcomes. Its recent report finds that while some measures are improving, there is still a large gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. This post provides a snapshot of the findings with a focus on education and responses by the state. One of the solutions being offered to improve educational outcomes amongst Indigenous youth is to send them to boarding schools. I discuss this in relation to Australia’s colonial history and the Government’s paternalistic views on Indigenous welfare.

I review other approaches to Indigenous education, which focus on working to students’ strengths in order to improve outcomes. This means making curriculum more focused on applied skills, vocational training within remote communities, and ensuring knowledge is culturally relevant. At the same time, educational efforts must avoid “pigeon holing” Indigenous students and teachers. Instead, education needs to make leadership and career pathways more accessible, and ensure that Indigenous insights are being fed back into the education system.

Finally, my post explores how sociological teaching and activism needs to change in reflection of the history of Indigenous educational practices.

Continue reading Paternalism, Colonialism and Indigenous Education

Historical Inquality During the Roman Empire

The Young Turks video from 2011, Crazy Facts On Income Inequality, links to an article from Travis Waldron, published in Think Progress. Waldron writes:

The 99 Percent Movement effectively changed the American political debate from debt and deficits to income inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality has increased so much in the U.S. that it is now more unequal than countries like Ivory Coast and Pakistan. While those numbers are startling, a study from two historians suggests that American wealth inequality may actually be worse than it was in Ancient Rome — a society built on slave labour, a defined class structure, and centuries of warfare and conquest.

Waldron is referring to the study by historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen, summarised by Tim De Chant in his blog Per Square Mile. De Chant provides detail on how Schiedel and Friesen estimated the distribution of wealth in the Roman Empire, 150 C.E. De Chant  writes that the study finds:

the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control… In total, Schiedel and Friesen figure the elite orders and other wealthy made up about 1.5 percent of the 70 million inhabitants the empire claimed at its peak. Together, they controlled around 20 percent of the wealth…

These numbers paint a picture of two Romes, one of respectable, if not fabulous, wealth and the other of meager wages, enough to survive day-to-day but not enough to prosper. The wealthy were also largely concentrated in the cities. It’s not unlike the U.S. today.

Using data which estimates the gini coefficients of various nations (a statistical estimation of income inequality), De Chant writes that imperial Rome was ‘slightly more equal than the USA:

Continue reading Historical Inquality During the Roman Empire

19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

In the 19th century, North Head in Manly, Sydney, became established as Australia’s oldest quarantine station. SBS Australia has chronicled the evolving archaeological study of this historic site. Over 13,000 migrants from all over the world were quarantined there between 1828 and 1984. Archaeologist Annie Clarke says around 580, 600 people died and were buried in three cemeteries at the station. Many more became ill, while others survived and were resettled in Australian society. Clarke is studying over 100 inscriptions on the site, put there by migrants, and her team of researchers are also interviewing descendants of these migrants who arrived by sea.

Continue reading 19th Century Migrants in North Head in Manly, Sydney

Racism and Historical Ignorance

This new American webseries Ask A Slave provides a highly amusing critique of racist ignorance. It draws on the experiences of actress Azie Mira Dungey (who plays the main character Lizzie Mae). Dungey worked as a living history character at an American historical re-enactment site. The comedy centres on the ridiculous questions posed by members of the public whilst Dungey portrayed an 18th Century slave.

Historian Emmanuel Dabney also worked as a living history character, similarly playing a slave. Like Dungey, Dabney also received many preposterous questions about the lives of slaves. On his blog, he gives a careful critique of Ask A Slave, arguing that his tact was to educate, rather than to succumb to flippant or sarcastic remarks.

He provides a useful list of intelligent questions that “always need an answer.” This includes: “Why did the former slaves on this plantation/in this urban dwelling stay here after the Civil War? Can you tell me about your family? When the slaves here got angry, how did they show their unhappiness?”

The entire webseries is worth a watch (three episodes so far), but a really great sociological discussion is better served by carefully going through Dabney’s post.

Public education is always hard. When it is clever, satire has subversive power to make people think. Social science has greater capacity to disrupt taken for granted assumptions as well as to dispel ignorance. Our challenge is to be both educational, critical and entertaining if we are going to reach mass audiences. Dabney’s post provides a terrific starting point.

Sociological Definition of Society

 

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Society is “the complex patterns of #social #relationships.”* Sociology textbooks sometimes define society as “people who interact in a defined space and share culture.” This definition doesn’t quite capture the reality of our globalised lives where cultures flow across borders.

Postcolonial theories study the history of groups who were forced to leave their homelands due to slavery, conflict or other disasters. Around 20 nations dispute their territories and some groups such as the Kurdish and Romani are dispersed across various countries. Societies therefore have a connection to geography but they are not necessarily defined by place. Societies are made up of institutions that socialise us, providing the norms, values, laws, and rules that organise our #behaviour and cooperation.

Citations: 1) The Concise Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer & Ryan (eds). 2) Sociology: A Global Introduction. Macionis & Plummer.

Hangout with Scientists on Google Plus

Want to learn more about what other scientists on Google+ are doing? Check out the Science Engager Circle on our Science on Google+ community. I curate the social science stream! Read an interesting and lively discussion about different research projects and the types of Googel Hangouts people are interested in as part of our community. You can still contribute to the conversation by telling us about your research. If you’re a scientist, add your name to our database to be included in discipline-specific circles that are shared by our community.

Definition of Sociology

Sociology literally means the study of companionship. It comes from the Latin “socius” meaning “companion” and the Greek “logos” meaning “the study of.” Another way to think about this: what makes up #social membership? How and why do people form different social groups? What are the societal structures that shape social interaction and subsequently give our lives meaning? Comte first popularised this term in 1824. He sought to investigate the laws of society using methods from the natural sciences. Later sociologists developed different methods that were less about cause and effect and more about the complex interactions between individuals, history and social institutions like the law, economy, religion, medicine, media, and so on.

This photo comes from the Penguin Dictionary of Sociology by Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill and Bryan S. Turner.

Irena Sendler: Social Worker and Humanitarian

Irena Sendler was a Polish Roman-Catholic nurse and social worker who headed the children’s section of Żegota, an underground resistance group working against the German occupation in Warsaw. Continue reading Irena Sendler: Social Worker and Humanitarian

What The Sociology of Shoes Says About Gender Inequality

17th Century Persian Men's Shoe. Via BBC
17th Century Persian Men’s Shoe. Via BBC

By Zuleyka Zevallos

High heel shoes were once a status symbol for powerful men, from horse riding soldiers in 16th Century Persia, to European aristocrats in the 17th Century. Since the Enlightenment period, heels became associated with “irrational” fashion and pornography, and so “impractical” shoes became a symbol of femininity. What changed? Today’s post examines how history and fashion trends related to high heels help us to see how gender is a performance that entrenches inequality. Continue reading What The Sociology of Shoes Says About Gender Inequality