A diminutive spider accompanied by its tiny shadow had me captivated as I pondered the sociology of spiders and fear.
Spiders inspire irrational fright, despite the fact that most spiders can’t harm humans. The small percentage that can are not usually found in our homes and they don’t specifically seek us out for attack. Yet even I overreact at the sight of a spider at home (or in my swag during a recent camping trip!).
Our collective fear of spiders in urban areas is culturally determined, and it far outweighs the risk posed. Spiders feature as focus and metaphor for different types of fears in Western societies. Even amongst educated people, spiders are a source of disgust and anxiety. Why might that be the case?
There are many things that some people may take for granted because we are habituated not to notice, or because there’s simply no room for us to question the things we see every day. Who can we ask about trees that we pass on the way to work? Why are does one particular species grow in certain places? Can we make better use of its properties? Sure we can look things up on the internet, but how might a biological scientist explain the world around us?
What about sociological phenomena: how do people queue on the escalators at your local train station? What about the silences in group conversations: who speaks, who is quiet, how are bodies organised around the table, and what might this tell us about culture, gender and class? When you go to a gallery, is there a fair representation of artistic excellence, or are certain groups left off the canvas?
Visual sociology is a term to describe sociologists creating their own photos, videos, comics, art and other visual media in order to illustrate theoretical and methodological concepts. Let’s sketch out the ways I use visual sociology as well as colleagues from other fields.
“The caterpillar’s ‘hair’ actually consists of setae, which are long, fine silky appendages that, in this case, can cause serious skin irritations. If an unlucky person tries to grab one, they will get a handful of venom, released when the setae poke into skin. Like a bee sting, the injuries can be painful but, for most, are not life threatening.”
This is the second post in a three-part series reviewing the media and research released in commemoration of the 10-year September 11 Anniversary. Without doubt, the ongoing trauma and health issues faced by the survivors of the September 11 attacks have high ongoing social costs for American society. This article focuses on the impact that the September 11 attacks had on the lives of Australian-Muslims. I was inspired by a SBS Radio vox pop with Muslim and Sikh Australians, which I will go on to analyse.[i] The people interviewed talked about how they managed the increased racism and stigma they have faced since 2001. Ten years after the attacks, studies show that a high proportion of Australians perceive Muslims as ‘outsiders’ who do not fit in with Australian society.[ii] My analysis shows that living with racism requires a lot of ‘emotion work’, particularly because Muslims mostly deal with racist encounters on a one-on-one basis.