Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

I’ve been away for work for awhile now, and hope to bring you more on this soon. For now, I thought I’d share with you a post I had planned to  publish weeks ago, but haven’t been able to finish until now. Let’s talk about the sociology of Indian people in Australia, with a case study of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Melbourne.

Indian migration to Australia has a long history, dating back to the 19th Century,  with early records showing the British brought Indian servants (noting this may have included forced servitude). At the time of colonial Australia’s first Census, there were 1,800 Indian people in Australia. Today, Indian-Australians represent our fourth largest migrant group and they are also the biggest growing migrant group next to China, with their population doubling in the past decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In the most recent Census of 2016, over 455,000 Australians were born in India, corresponding to 1.9% of our population, though this does not include the second-generation (their children born in Australia).  Together with Nepalese-Australians, Indian people make up 76% of the Hindu population in Australia (noting that Hindu people make up only 1.9% of our national population).

Indian families gather at Diwali: Indian Festival of Light Oct 2014. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Diwali: Indian Festival of Light, Federation Square

Continue reading Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

Sociology of the Day of the Dead

Latin girl wears a painted face for Dia De Los Muertos

This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:

[In Spanish] “The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. “

The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. Continue reading Sociology of the Day of the Dead

Passion and Procession. The Art of the Philippines

The works on display are by contemporary artists, some of whom also work in Australia. The artists explore the interlocking influences of religiosity and social activism on modern politics and colonial forces. Continue reading Passion and Procession. The Art of the Philippines

Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

In February 2017, conservative Australian media began a sustained attack of a young feminist leader, Yassmin Abdel-Magied. That started a racist petition calling for her to be fired from ABC TV, Australia’s public broadcaster, simply for having participated in a TV panel show, Q&A, where she spoke articulately about her feminism as a Muslim-Australian woman (see the clip below). For weeks, the ABC refused to give into these racist demands.

At the same time, three One Nation candidates were running in the Western Australian election making openly racist, homophobic and sexist comments. These candidates had no political expertise, but somehow their bigotry is not offensive enough to warrant endless national debate. Yet the feminism of an educated and successful young feminist draws ire.

In late April, Abdel-Magied was subjected to further public condemnation over a brief social media post expressing her condemnation of war. One month later, a White male editor incited violence towards her employer, the ABC, and Abdel-Magied was caught in media turmoil once again. This is a case study on the deep-seated elements of Islamophobia (fear of Islam) in Australia, and its real life consequences on young women of religious and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Continue reading Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Racist Rhetoric of ‘Ban the Burqa’

Australia is undergoing yet another paternalistic and xenophobic discussion about Muslim women’s dress. This time, politicians have been arguing that the burqa (face covering with eyes hidden by mesh) should be banned. The “ban the burqa” furore started with right-wing politicians arguing that Australian-Muslim women are “oppressed” by their choice of religious dress, with little understanding that the number of women who choose to wear a burqa is minuscule in Australia. Even those who wear the niqab (face covering with eyes showing) are also minute (less than 200 at a broad estimate). When this so-called “feminist” agenda didn’t work, the argument was made under false security concerns. The niqab was banned from public galleries at the Australian parliament for one day until the public critique forced the Government to distance itself from this decision. Let’s take a deeper look at the politics of sexism and racism. Continue reading Racist Rhetoric of ‘Ban the Burqa’

Transmormon

Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.” Continue reading Transmormon

Mahamastakabhisheka Ritual of the “Great Anointment of the Head”

This is a photo of the Mahamastakabhisheka ritual, “Great Anointment of the head.”. The photo is from 2012 taken by Professor Rajini Rao. The statue is over 1,000 years old. 

 

Continue reading Mahamastakabhisheka Ritual of the “Great Anointment of the Head”

LGBTQIA Inclusion in the Catholic Church

Yes, the Pope influences millions of Catholics. And yes, he should be praised for making a change, if and when he actually makes that change.

This is not that time. He did not change the doctrine, he has not changed his stance on supporting the Church’s teachings, and he is excommunicating a pro-gay Australian priest for supporting women in becoming ordained. And now, since The Advocate award, it has been reported that he is ‘shocked’ by the thought of civil unions and gay adoption – news that isn’t shocking to me at all. Continue reading LGBTQIA Inclusion in the Catholic Church

The Surprising Cultural History of New Year’s Resolutions

By Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD

In a fun rummage through vintage sociology, I found an interesting study by Isidor Thorner. Writing in 1951, he used a survey of Americans from various backgrounds to determine the relationship between New Year’s Resolutions (NYR) and Protestant values. Below I take a look at the major findings of Thorner’s study, exploring the historical and cultural variations of resolutions.

Protestant culture highly valued the idea of being in full control of one’s emotions. This meant being organised and denying oneself frivolous pursuits so as to be free to fulfil religious duty. Not adhering to these strict values brought about great personal shame.

Thorner argues that the New Year’s resolutions helped Protestants to manage their emotional baggage, and that over time, this practice lost its religious connotation and spread more widely.

Photo by Steve Davidson via Flickr.
Photo by Steve Davidson via Flickr.

Continue reading The Surprising Cultural History of New Year’s Resolutions

“There Are No Unclean People, Only Unclean Systems”: The Sociology of Religion and the Delivery of Social Justice

By Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD

The Atlantic has followed Rev. Tuck Taylor, a mother of two and an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church in North Carolina, USA. She is one of “thousands” of citizens who have coordinated a series of civil disobedience protests against various social welfare issues. They call their protest “Moral Monday,” a designated day where citizens descend upon official public buildings to protest using music, speeches and prayer. Ordinary citizens, academics and clerics volunteer to lead the protests and nominate themselves to be arrested in order to protest diverse concerns such as cuts to unemployment and health assistance, taxes and repeal of environmental measures.

While the Reverend may lose her job with her Church, she sees that it is her civil and religious duty to voice her discontent with her local government. The Reverend says:

“There are no unclean people — only unclean systems.”

This is a great case study for studying the intersections of the sociology of religion and the sociology of politics. Continue reading “There Are No Unclean People, Only Unclean Systems”: The Sociology of Religion and the Delivery of Social Justice