November 7, 2010

Readings: Etiologies

As Randall Packard and Paul Epstein have written, “The medical research community expected the social scientist to adhere to the dominant behavioral model. Constructed in this way, the question immediately narrowed the range of sociological data relevant for the discussion. It became not: ‘What is the social context within which HIV transmission occurs in Africa’? but rather: ‘What are the patterns of behavior which are placing the Africans at risk of infection?’ While the first construction would have allowed for open-ended discussion of a wide range of social, political and economic conditions that might be affecting health levels in Africa, the latter formulation quickly narrowed discussion to an inquiry into the ‘customs of the natives.’” Not only is this approach to the problem ineffective, as many studies conducted since have shown, it is also unjust, because it leads to laying responsibility for their affliction on people with AIDS themselves, a classic reversal of the order of things that consists in “blaming the victim.”
- Didier Fassin from When Bodies Remember

September 26, 2010

Conspicuous Aliens

In my dream, I'm waiting next to my car. I'm waiting because some people that I've never yet want to borrow it. In my dream, it made more sense why I was waiting and how this whole borrowing thing worked - maybe it was some variant of Flexcar of something.

A family shows up to pick up the car and I ask them if they don't mind dropping me off nearby. I explain that I would be grateful if they helped me although I could manage either way. They seem congenial enough and agree to take me. We climb into the car, I get in the back seat with the kids and the mother while the father sits in the front - on the passenger side. No one gets in the driver's seat.

Then, the car starts driving.

I get suspicious. Mainly because the car is diving but no one is in the driver's seat.

The father is sitting on the passenger side and smiling contently. The whole family sits calmly while the car drives itself. It takes me a moment to realize why all this is happening but I come to the obvious conclusion fairly quickly. These people are aliens, not humans at all. To test my theory, I say a couple things in alien.

In a buzzy insect-like alien language:
"What are you doing? That's right, I speak alien and I know you understand me."

Now, they start to glance at each other nervously.

"Look", I say, "I know you're aliens. That's fine. But don't you realize that when you drive a car someone is actually supposed to drive the car? You can't do it like this, you'll get pulled over. You people are so bad at this. Where did you learn about humans anyway? Seriously, if you get caught it'll be straight to the alien autopsy for the lot of you. I don't even know if I want you to borrow my car now."

End of dream

September 11, 2010

Readings: Modern Parents

The first enemy was sugar, then sweets and biscuits, then brands such as Coca Cola, and bigger temptations such as Barbie dolls and the ubiquitous gun: ‘an unceasing struggle between what is regarded as the world of nature and the artificial world of commodity materialism’.* The battles over diet and gender are regarded as efforts to resist commercialism and consumerism, efforts that invariably end first in capitulation and then in the withdrawal that characterises the grandparental generation, who find it easier to allow the child freedom to choose its own style...

Parents do not give up without a struggle, within which their concept of biology plays a major role. It is very common for such parents to insist that their infants have an allergy to anything artificial. It is as though the infants’ bodies have antennae attuned to the mothers’ ideology of nature. Infants are said to come out in spots as soon as they ingest any kind of additive or the wrong E-number. If the children do not oblige (with spots) then the parents may claim these additives cause behavioural problems, which is a harder claim to contest.
- Marilyn Strathern from "Kinship, Law and the Unexpected"

* Miller, Daniel. 1997. How infants grow mothers in North London. Theory, Culture and Society 14: 67 –88.

May 17, 2010

Happy Late Mother's Day

Consider this: In American politics today, the “perfect” mother is one who does not work and stays home with her children. Unless she’s poor. Poor women who want to stay home with their children are called lazy, welfare cheats. If you’re poor, you can only be a good mother by working.

- Lisa Wade in sociologicalimages

January 22, 2010

Jesus Loves Soft Rock

This one should be right up Unbeatable's alley.


January 5, 2010

Readings: Foreign Investment

Investments in emerging markets have done better than investments in the U.S. in the 2000s. China and Japan have continued to buy U.S. debt, not because they are impressed with Silicon Valley's growth potential, but in order to cripple American manufacturing by keeping the dollar artificially high and the yuan and the yen artificially low. Their debt purchases are part of their strategic industrial policies on behalf of their own export-oriented manufacturers, not a vote of confidence in future American economic dynamism.

- Michael Lind in The Clintonites Were Wrong