Caste System 2.0

Via Kerim Friedman (again!), Brahmins and Untouchables at Google:

Workers Leaving the Googleplex from Andrew Norman Wilson on Vimeo.

As the post notes,

“In September 2007 I was hired jointly by Transvideo Studios and Google, both headquartered in Mountain View California. Transvideo had a contract with Google and took care of 100% of their video production in Mountain View, and sometimes elsewhere. My labor was sold to Google in the form of a 9-5 job. I had access to a personally unprecedented amount of privileges, but was not entitled to the ski trips, DisneyLand adventures, stock options, and holiday cash bonuses from their team of temporary Santa Clauses. Thousands of people with red badges (such as me, my team, and most other contractors) worked amongst thousands of people with white badges (as Full-time Googlers). Interns are given green badges. However, a fourth class exists at Google that involves strictly data-entry labor, or more appropriately, the labor of digitizing. These workers are identifiable by their yellow badges, and they go by the team name ScanOps. They scan books, page by page, for Google Book Search. The workers wearing yellow badges are not allowed any of the privileges that I was allowed – ride the Google bikes, take the Google luxury limo shuttles home, eat free gourmet Google meals, attend Authors@Google talks and receive free, signed copies of the author’s books, or set foot anywhere else on campus except for the building they work in. They also are not given backpacks, mobile devices, thumb drives, or any chance for social interaction with any other Google employees. Most Google employees don’t know about the yellow badge class. Their building, 3.14159~, was next to mine, and I used to see them leave everyday at precisely 2:15 PM, like a bell just rang, telling the workers to leave the factory. Their shift starts at 4 am.”

Emphasis mine.

And read the rest of the post to see what happened when he tried to meet the Epsilons of that system.

The Global Uniformity of Privilege

Via Africa is a Country (a site you should bookmark), get your puke bag:

Yup, it is the South African version of “Real Housewives of (Wherever)”.

“In Helen Zille’s Western Cape, MTV is currently filming, “Clifton Shores,” a reality TV series about a group of mostly white, young people (four Americans and three South Africans “who serve as their guides to life in a new country”) predictably working for an events company and “having fun” in Clifton, a wealthy district of Cape Town on the other side of Table Mountain. The producers promise that Cape Town, “… a new and exotic location for US audiences,” has “European style and African spirit in equal abundance,” and that the show “… will showcase the glamorous lifestyle of Cape Town’s rich and fabulous.””

What I find striking is how much these women look like their counterpart in the wealthy counties of the US and how much they look like each other. And from this advertising picture, I am not entirely sure where the African spirit is, because all I see is the (more or less tanned) whiteness and the beach bodies of women whose only physical activity is to work out with a personal trainer to keep the size 0 and less for wealthy men.

And besides, between the dresses, accessories and shoes, these are not outfits in which you can do much of anything except stand there and be pretty. File that as all the ways in which objects and clothes reflect how we live, by class, race or gender.

Right-Sizing Women

So, I was reading this the other day:

“The women of the US military will still be wearing trousers, but from now on they might actually fit. In a move which highlights the changing nature of traditional gender roles, the Pentagon is road testing its first ever range of combat uniforms designed specifically for female recruits.

Seven hundred outfits are currently being tested at Fort Belvoir in Virgina. They have shorter arms than the male versions and greater breathing room around the chest and hips. Designers have also repositioned the knee pads, to compensate for the fact that women generally have shorter legs than their male counterparts.

The most important feature, in practical terms, is said to be a redesigned crotch. The camouflaged uniforms no longer boast an old-fashioned zippered fly, but are made in way that allows female soldiers to urinate without the inconvenience of having to disrobe.”

This goes back to the whole idea of women being treated as the non-default setting of humankind. Men are the default, and women are related-yet-deviant creatures. And there are fewer of them than men anyway in the military, so, let’s just showve them into men’s uniforms. It is about time to have uniforms that properly fit women.

And thinking about proper sizing for women, Sam Ladner (the great non-academic sociologist. Yes, there is a life outside of academia for sociologists!) discussed this issue further, especially that women have a hard time finding clothes that fit them:

“Why are fashion retailers providing such poor sizing? According to the fashion historian quoted in the article, this is partly historical — sizing has never been fully standardized. But it isn’t just the numbers, it’s also the cut. Clothing is frequently cut for a single body type. If you’ve ever seen a catwalk, you’ll know that designers favour the straight-lined boyish look of models over the “apple” or “pear” or “hourglass” shape of average women.

(…)

Women are cramming themselves into inaccurate sizes, cut to fit only one type of body — and they’re feeling bad about it. It’s amazing that fashion retailers, who go as far as scenting the air in their stores, fail to cater to this most basic aspect of the clothing experience.

What does “size” means to women? It is conversation between her and the garment, one which all too often ends with a judgment of the woman. When a woman takes a piece of clothing to the fitting room, she is asking the garment, “Are you right for me?” The garment “speaks” first in through its listed size. But imagine when that size does not match how the garment fits. It is now telling the woman, “You are too big for me.” This is obviously a touchy subject for most women, as we are expected to maintain a small size. We are trained to take up less space, less food (among other things).

The size is a “normative” expectation, as sociologists would call it. A woman is “supposed to” fit into a certain size, and if she does not, “something’s wrong with you.” Retailers are making women feel there’s something wrong with them, not to mention frustrated, and are also wasting their time.”

The lack of properly fitting uniforms has to do with the fact that women are still seen as not belonging in the military, as not fit for it, and as intruding into an institution that does not want them and where they are seen as less competent and disruptive.

The issue of lack of proper sizing has indeed to do with the normative injunction that women should not throw their weight around, physically and metaphorically.

In both cases, it has to do with normalization, deviance and social control. So, it is a positive step for women to get properly fitting uniforms (although other European countries got that years ago).

But social control also works in double bind: women are supposed to fit one physical standard, marked by thinness and a specific non-curvy shape. But then, they are accused of being for the military because of physical weakness. You can’t win. And, of course, such views of femininity and its shortcomings is part of the classical polarized version of genders where women are the negative, mirror image of men and androgyny is still seen as deviant.

Compare and Contrast – Gender Progress and Misogyny

As many US states prepare to take away the rights of women, and as a British PM makes a sexist ass of himself, look at what is happening in supposedly less enlightened countries.

Item 1:

“Rwanda is today launching a cervical cancer vaccination programme for all its 12 to 15 year-old girls – the first comprehensive national scheme in Africa, where it is so badly needed. Some 275,000 women die from cervical cancer every year – most in developing countries. And the death toll is rising – to an expected 474,000 women a year by 2030, 95% of whom will be in the developing world.

Rwanda is unveiling an impressive and ambitious project and it needs to work and to encourage other developing countries to do the same. This is by no means a simple undertaking, although Rwanda may have some advantages over other sub-Saharan African states – it is very small and it has made great strides in preventive healthcare through setting up an excellent network of village-based community healthworkers (equipped with mobile phones). It is also – and this is why it is the darling of the aid donors – a very efficient, directed state where things happen when the government says they should.”

And item 2, more surprising, frankly:

“Pakistan has taken the landmark decision to allow transsexuals to have their own gender category on some official documents.

The country’s Supreme Court has ruled that those Pakistanis who do not consider themselves to be either male or female should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards.”

We, in Western countries, tend to see ourselves as bastions of civilization when it comes to gender issues. That is a myth that requires a lot of ideological work and cultural euphemization considering the level of sexism and misogyny coming, especially from the religious right. We tend to conveniently forget that developing countries tend to put more women in position of political power, often in the executive branches, but also in some legislatures while women are grossly underrepresented in that part of society in Western countries.

And as for the Pakistani decision to give transsexuals their own category, compare this progressive move to this.

Racism By Any Other Name – Whitewashing Les Bleux

Holy !@#$. Seriously. I guess this is the next stage in the controversy that followed the World Cup fiasco (which was discussed here). The political fall-out is this: it’s the Blacks and the Arabs that caused the mess in South Africa. There are too many of them in the French national team.

Let’s impose a quota at the source, the training centers that are such an essential part of the French professional football training system:

“Members of the French Football Federation’s National Technical Board, including the France team coach Laurent Blanc, have secretly approved a quota selection process to reduce the number of young black players, and those of North African origin, emerging from the country’s youth training centres as potential candidates for the national team, Mediapart can reveal.

The plan, presented in November 2010, involves limiting the number of youngsters from black and Meghrebi African origin entering the selection process from training centres and academies as early as 12 and 13 years of age.

(…)

Mediapart has also learnt that, during the November meeting, France national team coach Laurent Blanc said he was “favourable” for a change in the selection criteria for youth talent as of the age of 12 to 13 years in order to favour those who sources said he described as having “our culture, our history”. The sources added that Blanc cited the current would football champions Spain, reportedly saying: “The Spanish, they say ‘we don’t have a problem. We have no blacks'”.”

Oh dear. Of course, as sociologist Stephane Béaud demonstrated in his book, there was a lot more to the South African debacle than just a “rebellion of the savages”. There were structural factors involved. But from the get-go, the blame-game involved pointing the finger at the non-whites from the projects, described as thugs. So, it is not entirely surprising, but shocking nonetheless, that the FFF would propose such institutionalized – and probably illegal – discrimination plan. But it is a perfect illustration of the easiness with which leaders of various kinds jump to racial conclusions and measures and ignore others, and how easily these get accepted, even if not quite openly acknowledged.

Susan Faludi on The Mother-Daughter Power Failure

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a speech by über-feminist Susan Faludi of Backlash and The Terror Dream fame (if you haven’t read these books, then, what are you waiting for?). So, here is what I got from her speech.

Faludi started with the assertion that everyone acknowledges that feminism is successful. Liberals would state that we’ve come a long way while conservatives commonly state that all the ills of society are due to feminism. However, through her work, Faludi has met many women who consider feminism to have been both beneficial and a disappointment, what she calls the “yes, but…” problem that has several dimensions:

1. Yes, women are not 50% of the workforce but they occupy the same positions and professions as before. Women are still underrepresented in the media. The wage gap is still there and whatever reduction there has been there has been because of declining men’s wages. So, disillusionment is widespread as essential hurdles never really got lifted. It seems that the possibilities of remaking society have eluded us.

2. There is, of course, the [well-funded] relentless barrage of antifeminist commentary, what Faludi calls the Bozo The Clown Punchbag syndrome: every bad in society is because of feminism. You name it, feminism did it! And, of course, there is still, obviously, the abortion rights issue that is especially central now.

3. Feminism has been hijacked by the marketplace: to be feminist is to have the freedom to consume.

4. And that is even without going into the persistence of gender violence and lack of proper family policies.

All this means that women’s voices are still vastly under-heard while the antifeminist voices (I would say anti-women) are loud, clear and quite strident. As a result, while there have been partial gains, feminism, as a movement, never seems to have a sure footing.

For Faludi, there are three dynamics standing in the way of real transformation:

1. Feminism is still a sixties movement, with its insistence on the personal, its rejection of authority and leadership, and persistent generational conflict, what Faludi calls the mother-daughter power failure. This power failure means the inability to really figure out ow to pass power down from women to women.

But it wasn’t always like this. In the 19th century, feminism was the crusading mothers fighting for the rights of their daughters in the campaigns about suffrage, abolition, temperance. Later on, though, America as a whole repudiated the power of the mother with consumerism and sexuality with mothers portrayed as humorless prudes, suffragists as whiners. The movement faded out until the sixties which was a daughter-only movement (Christine Stansell’s matrophobia, the fear of becoming your mother).

And now, the second wavers are aging and facing the criticisms of the third wavers. [This reminded me of the public exchange between Katha Pollitt and Jessica Valenti (actually, you should read Valenti’s column first, then Pollitt’s response).]

So, for Faludi, the question is how to build a sustainable movement in the face of persistent generational conflicts.

2. The second dynamic is that of consumerism as a distraction from serious debate (about real bread-and-butter and social justice issues) as opposed to vapid discussions that do not challenge the culture. Faludi thinks we should talk about poverty and single-motherhood (the two being, of course, related) rather than which real housewife is the biggest bitch (my formulation).

3. The third dynamic is “the vision thing”, that is, the failure to envision a feminist future and a project as to where women liberation should lead. For instance, yes, there are more women in the professions, but this means more women entering patriarchy-based institutions that they never created and where they do not change the stage. As Faludi – channeling Charlotte Bunch – put it, “you can’t add women, and stir.”

This inability to answer these questions and challenges has opened the door for conservative women to claim the label and redefine feminism as simply about the choice to self-expression. They are the ones shifting the political landscape.

So, what is to be done? For Faludi, we should return to the economic and political world where single mothers are a huge demographics and have it the worst socially. Single mothers deserve our attention and admiration. We need to change the system to liberate them. This would help healing the generational rift, which, for Faludi, is the major problem for feminism as a social movement. We need to come up with a new vision of family away from patriarchal institutions.

I should add that Susan Faludi was a great speaker, and a delightful to guest to hang out with afterwards. I want a new book from her, dammit!

Racism By Any Other Name

Of course, this should be called “keep the brown-skinned people out of white Europe”, but let’s just call it a revision of the Schengen border treaty. It sounds much nicer. It is no surprise that this is proposed by France’s Sarkozy and Italy’s Berlusconi. It is one thing to cheer on the revolutions in the Middle East, it is quite another to accept their refugees:

“Italy and France asked the European Union today to revise the Schengen border treaty that permits passport-free travel through Europe to take into account “exceptional” situations like the recent massive flood of Tunisian immigrants.

France has harshly criticized Italy for granting temporary residency permits to some 20,000 Tunisian migrants who have arrived in Italy since the North Africa nation’s dictator was overthrown in mid-January. Most Tunisians want eventually to get to France, Tunisia’s former colonial ruler, where many have relatives.

(…)

“We want Schengen to survive, but to survive Schengen must be reformed,” Sarkozy told reporters after the meeting. “We believe in free circulation but we believe in a state of law and a certain number of rules.”

Berlusconi said no one wanted to cancel the treaty but said “in exceptional circumstances we believe there must be variations.””

Right. Variations in the skin color of who can travel through Europe without passport.

Again, enjoy the amount of euphemization:

“The two leaders warned that the upheavals in north Africa “could swiftly become an out-and-out crisis capable of undermining the trust our fellow citizens place in the free circulation within the Schengen area”.”

Anything to avoid saying “we don’t want the Arabs”.

“I Had An Abortion and I Feel Fine”

I think this (French) website is a great idea. After all, common discourse, especially in the US, is that women who have had abortions should cower in shame, never speak of it, or only speak of it that the most terrible decision they’ve ever made, and how horrible they felt about it, etc.

Well, these gals turn the thing around by putting posts of abortion experience as a positive experience, one that did not depress them, gave them cancer (HA!) or ruin their lives and relationships. Instead, they take on frontally the idea that women should feel guilty about having abortion:

This translates roughly as:

Man: so, you’re gonna cry, yes or shit? (in French, the emphatic version of “yes or no”)

Woman: or shit. (with the little flowers around the bubble, that’s a nice touch)

The blog itself is titled “the daughters of the 343 sluts”. For those of you who do not know the history of the French pro-choice movement, the 343 were famous French women, who, in the 1970s, during the abortion legalization battle, publicly acknowledged that they had had (illegal then) abortions. The point of this manifesto was not to state that abortion was common and therefore should be legal and safe. Rather, the 343 published their manifesto right after a 15-year old – who had been raped by her stepfather, had gotten pregnant by him, then had had an abortion – got arrested and put on trial for it. The 343, through their manifesto, were saying: “so go ahead, arrest us too and put us on trial, and if you don’t, then it’s a class issue, a social justice issue: the wealthy get what they want, and a lower-class rape victim goes to prison.” The left-wing satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo then nicknamed the manifesto “the manifesto of the 343 sluts”

You can read that 1971 Manifesto here, and scroll down to find the list of signatories, which is a who’s who of the most famous French women of that time: Simone de Beauvoir, Catherine Deneuve, Marguerite Duras, Françoise Fabian, Gisèle Halimi, Ariane Mnou­ch­kine, Jeanne Moreau, Fran­çoise Sagan, Del­phine Sey­rig or Agnès Varda.

Interestingly, all the testimonies I have read over there are so incredibly simple. Unsurprisingly, these women do not fit the stereotype of the baby-killing slut. There is simply no pathos involved. It was the wrong time. It was the right thing to do. They’ll have children when the time is right.

I am happy to sign their manifesto and support them… when they re-open tomorrow morning, time difference oblige! It is important work and it is a damn shame that this medical procedure and human right is still marked by stigma and obstacles for too many women worldwide in the name of the maintenance of patriarchal systems.

Global Sociology Blogroll – Brazilian Edition

It has been a while since I was able to dig up a few socblogs from around the world, but thanks to the strong presence of Brazilian sociologists on Twitter, I have a couple:

Which, I guess would translate into “sociological paths

And then,

Which would translate as “informal observatory“, a blog written by Micheline Batista (good luck with the Ph.D thing!).

Both blogs are well worth your time, so update your feeds, bookmarks and Twitter followings.

The Patriarchy Continuum – FGM Edition

First, read this:

“Female genital mutilation (FGM) horrifies – and bewilders – westerners who find it incomprehensible that a mother would allow her daughter to be so brutally amputated with all the risks of infection, difficult childbirth and deprivation of sexual pleasure. What this film does is to show how custom – even when violent and dangerous – embeds itself in social expectations. These girls are not considered eligible by prospective husbands until they have been cut; their parents need the income from a dowry to shore up precarious family finances. Standing out against such powerful conventions is difficult, dangerous, and costs money.

But even worse it causes huge emotional conflict within the closest, most important relationships. We see a daughter arguing with her mother over why she refuses to be cut, and a wife arguing with her husband. One of the most poignant moments is when Nancy, an exemplary daughter in every respect, challenges her mother’s authority. She doesn’t want a life like her mother’s, she declares. You can see the bewildered hurt on the mother’s face; this kind of rejection may be familiar to many a western parent but perhaps still a novelty in a culture where the idea of making your own fate in life, particularly for a girl, is completely alien.

Implicit in this rejection is a judgment of the inadequacy of the mother’s life, a repudiation of her form of love. “I don’t want to grind stones all my life like you,” says Nancy. “I bury you, you bury me in a vicious cycle of daughter and mother.”

“You are killing me,” says Nancy’s mother, adding: “I am defeated, I am confused.” It’s painful to witness her humiliation at the hands of her daughter. In a culture where respect and deference to your elders, particularly from women, is sacrosanct, such rebellion requires a huge strength of character and determination.

Nancy is also challenging her mother’s preferential treatment of her brother. Nancy’s cutting is the price of her brother’s secondary education. Her dowry will pay his school fees. If every aspect of a culture reinforces this kind of preferential treatment of sons, how does a girl begin to challenge it.? At one point Nancy even threatens to run away and cut all ties with her family. This kind of process of social change requires a rejection of crucial aspects of identity as a woman, as a member of a family with strong ties of responsibility.”

Then, watch the video below. It is worth 30 minutes of your time:

Empowered = Individualized

A few days ago, Antonio Casilli wrote this:

“Who wants to appropriate the so-called « eHealth revolution » and put it to commercial use? Just have a read through this scary bit of pharmacom fireside chat freshly published on The Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine website - then we’ll talk.

Thus spoke Sarah Krüg, from the Medical Education Group at Pfizer. Patients empowerment via online databases,  open information sharing and web-based self-help groups represents a business opportunity for pharmacoms (but then what doesn’t?). The danger that the biomedical monopoly over health care be replaced by an even more pervasive pharmaceutical merchandising is a clear and present one.”

“Empowered patients” and “patient-centered care” (also see “student-centered” as a favorite of education “reformers”) are buzzwords that actually mean the individualization of patients, left on their own, facing giant corporations from the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. Indeed, a constant companion to individualization is deregulation. Just let “empowered” patients google their health issues and find their own solution. Let them just get on message boards and online communities. Who needs doctors and health care guidelines, and facing the risks on their own, or with their social networks.

As I wrote elsewhere,

“The other feature is what Bauman (2000) calls “deregulation and privatization.” Any improvement to be made in living conditions is no longer seen as the job of the modern state but is more and more left to the efforts of individuals. The end of a progressive conception of society means that any idea of the “good society” has shifted to the idea of “human rights,” from the social realm to the individual. The result, for Bauman, is that, if individuals are freer to determine their own idea of happiness, it is also entirely up to them to achieve it and any failure will be attributed to their own shortcomings. In this sense, any notion of emancipation is no longer a social project to be achieved collectively but an individual task, with new experts (life coaches, therapists and counselors of all sorts, such as the omnipresent Doctor Phil) to guide individuals along the way. Furthermore, individual fulfillment will involve some form of consumption. Paraphrasing Peter Drucker, Bauman (2000:30) puts it this way, “no more salvation by society” (p. 30).

(…)

Individualization means that members of society can no longer count on social safety nets or the welfare state to negotiate the impact of risks on their lives (such as a job loss, loss of pensions and savings to the insecurities of the market). Liquid modernity leaves them “free” to figure out solutions on their own. Individuals are left to deal with societal and systemic conditions as part of their own individual life-projects. As Bauman (2000) writes, “risks and contradictions go on being socially produced; it is just the duty and the necessity to cope with them which are being individualized” (34).”

But that is a dreadfully scary prospect, so, let us not talk of that: let us talk of empowerment and individual choice. It sounds a lot better.

And, of course, in this process, as Casilli notes, there is no one left to contest corporate power and their capacity to shape information or astroturf online communities.

Particularizing The Universal – McDonald’s Edition

Via Kerim Friedman, a list of items found on specific McDonald’s menus in different parts of the world. For instance:

Korokke Burger in Japan

McRice Burger in Malaysia

McPaneer Wrap in India

As Kerim notes, it is a good example of cultural globalization. Actually, as I wrote on my website, it is a good illustration of one aspect of what Roland Robertson called glocalization: particularization of the universal:

“Ironically, McDonald’s has extensively glocalized its product line as it established franchises worldwide, especially in cultures where eating beef, or meat generally, is not as routine as it is in the United States. For instance, in India, outlets offer mutton burgers whereas in France, some outlets offer burgers with foie gras (a French delicacy made of duck or goose liver). Similarly, McDonald’s offers vegetarian burgers on the West Coast, but not in the Midwest. The way individual outlets are run may be similar around the world (according to the principles of McDonaldization), but McDonald’s outlets have had to adapt themselves to local cultures.

This example illustrates one of the subprocesses of glocalization: particularization of the universal, that is, the local adaptation and translation of universal principles. There are ways to run a fast-food franchise that are universally applicable as general templates, but these templates get modified to reflect particular cultural traits (such as a prohibition on eating beef). Similarly, as part of ideoscapes, feminist movements have sprung all over the world, especially in areas where their emergence is made difficult by strong traditions – religious or others – that do not involve the equal treatment of women, such as the Muslim world or certain South East Asian nations. However, as women in these areas create such social movements, they do not necessarily adopt western feminist ideas and strategies piecemeal. The concept of feminism itself gets glocalized to fit the needs and opportunities for these women in their cultural context. For instance, when the religious fundamentalist Taliban ruled Afghanistan, all feminist groups had to go underground to organize girls’ schools, as girls were no longer allowed to receive an education, a concern of low priority in post-industrial countries.”

And similarly, the spread of McDonald’s model illustrates the opposite sub-process of glocalization: universalization of the particular:

“The other glocalization subprocess is the opposite dynamic: universalization of the particular – the global outreach of practices that are culturally specific or when social movements representing particular positions (such as religious fundamentalists) claim that their position reflects universal truths. As Lechner and Boli (2005) explain, religious fundamentalist movements are not opposed to globalization. Indeed, they make a global claim for their particular brand of religion as a globally legitimate alternative to Western values. Similarly, the rebels in the Chiapas were successful in positioning their particular struggle as universal: the rights of all indigenous people in the world.

These two dynamics of glocalization have been intensified in conjunction with global flows as mediascapes and technoscapes intersect with ideoscapes and ethnoscapes to make possible the constant back-and-forth dialogue between the local and the global. They also contribute to a major aspect of globalizing culture: its contentious and conflicted nature. These globalizing and localizating tendencies create tensions as different actors vie to shape the future of global society. Global culture is ridden with conflicts between universalists and particularists who each try to promote their vision (such as McWorld – the global consumption society – or Jihad – a world of particularisms, to paraphrase Benjamin Barber, 1995) on the global stage.”

Harold Garfinkel (1917 – 2011)

This is a sad day for sociology as we hear of the death of Harold Garfinkel.

I had a love/hate relationship with Harold Garfinkel’s work. Studies in Ethnomethodology had a profound influence on my sociological education, but man, was that book a pain to read, especially at a time when there was no French translation and we had to muddle through the original. And as powerful a framework to analyze social action as ethnomethodology is, I don’t think Garfinkel was much of a public sociologist. The task to publicize the approach was left to the proponents of the school of thought he originated.

I also tend to think that ethnomethodology was misunderstood even within the sociological field. It was often viewed as a variation on Goffmanian analysis, a sub-field that ignored social context and social structure. It was also seen as being on the “agency” side of the classical (and absurd) “structure / agency” divide. Actually, ethnomethodology is a lot more structuralist than one thinks. It is not an actor’s theory. But it treats structures as emergent products of actions and interaction, rather than something to be assumed.

Ethnomethodology and conversation analysis have produced a lot of interesting research, written by insightful researchers, but very few books have actually made it to the mainstream publishing as sociological work does, every once in a while (See: Gang Leader for a Day) and that is a shame.

This Doctor Who Fan is in Mourning

So long, Sarah Jane Smith.

SJS (as brilliantly portrayed by Elisabeth Sladen, RIP) was the best early companion to the Doctor because she was not a naive young thing. She didn’t just run around, shouting “Doctor, watch out!” or “Doctor, look!” throughout the episodes.

She was the one and true precursor to Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, and Amy Pond (not so much Donna Noble because Donna had a different relationship with the Doctor, in her awesome Catherine Tate-esque way). She started that line of female companions, young women, who could really hold their own.

Of course, they all added a sentimental / romantic (and yet denied) dimension to the Doctor / companion dyad. But, as Sarah Jane told Rose, it was worth it getting your heart broken.

Here is SJS, making her first appearance in Doctor Who (3rd Doctor, Jon Pertwee), in Time Warrior:

And then, she left the original series (here with the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker):

Thankfully, she made a great comeback in the new series, in the episode School Reunion:

Heck, I even enjoyed The Sarah Jane Adventures:

So, we lost two major Doctor Who actors / characters this year: Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen. This really stinks.