Tag Archives: Sociology

“Genius” Grant Winner Matthew Desmond on Eviction, Poverty and Profit in the American City

9780553447439By Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, March 2016)

Request an advanced reader’s copy: email rhacademic@penguinrandomhouse.com with your name, college and course information.

I began this project because I wanted to write a different kind of book about poverty in America. Instead of focusing exclusively on poor people or poor places, I began searching for a process that involved poor and well-off people alike. Eviction—the forced removal of families from their homes—was such a process. Little did I know, at the outset, how immense this problem was, or how devastating its consequences. Continue reading

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Writing A Disability History of the US: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach


by  Kim E. Nielsen, author of A Disability History of the United States (Beacon Press, 2012)

A Disability History of the United States has been both the hardest and most exciting intellectual project in which I’ve engaged. Disability history is labor history. It is gender history, immigration history, education, class and political history. It is central to the American narrative but has thus far remained largely unacknowledged.

I fumbled my way into disability history by accident over a decade ago when I ran across a political speech of Helen Keller’s.  Doing so transformed my basic understandings of U.S. history—making me a better teacher, scholar, and historian.

My hope for this book is that it will provide new directions from which to examine the difficult questions about the American past. Which peoples and which bodies have been considered fit and appropriate for public life and active citizenship? How have people with disabilities forged their own lives, their own communities, and shaped the United States? How has disability affected law, policy, economics, play, national identity, and daily life? In what ways has disability woven together with race, class, gender, and sexuality Continue reading

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From Manhattan to Mumbai: Wrestling with the Issues of Our Time


by Katherine Boo, author of the forthcoming Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity (Random House, February 2012).

As jobs and capital whip around the planet, college students will graduate into a world where economic instability and social inequality are increasing and geographic boundaries matter less and less. Unfortunately, globalization and social inequality remain two of the most over-theorized, under-reported issues of our age. My book is an intimate investigative account of how this volatile new reality affects the young people of an Indian slum called Annawadi. Like young people elsewhere, the Annawadians are trying to figure out their place in a world where temp jobs are becoming the norm, adaptability is everything, and bewildering change is the one abiding constant.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers took me three hard years to report, and one thought that sustained me was that I had a unique opportunity to show American readers that the distance between themselves and, say, a teenaged boy in Mumbai who finds an entrepreneurial niche in other people’s garbage, is not nearly as great as they might think. In the two decades I’ve spent writing about poverty and how people get out of it, I’ve come to believe, viscerally, Continue reading


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A Debt Crisis…5,000 Years in the Making


DEBT by David Graeber

by David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Melville House, 2011)

Debt is all around us. Modern economies run on consumer debt; modern nation-states, on deficit financing; international relations turn on debt.  What’s more, for the last three years, we’ve faced a global debt crisis that’s hobbled the world economy and still threatens to send it crashing into ruins.  Yet no one ever stops to ask: how did this happen? What is debt, anyway? What does it even mean to say we “owe” someone something? How did it happen that, in almost all times and places in human history, “paying your debts” has been a synonym for morality, but money-lenders have been seen as the embodiment of evil? I first began asking myself these questions as an activist, during the “drop the debt” campaigns in the early 2000s. But it was only after the financial meltdown of September 2008

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The Complex Reality of Juveniles in Adult Prisons


by David Chura, author of I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup(Beacon Press, 2011), Winner of the 2010 PASS Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency

Reynaldo is surprised that he’s made it to another birthday. With so many of his friends killed by the streets, each new year startles him. But he’s not surprised to be locked up again. He’s spent every birthday since he was twelve with kids just like him—“punks,” “gangstas,” other children of disappointment. This time he’s been thrown into the harshest world of all, adult lockup.

Reynaldo is only one of the young people readers meet in I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup. This behind-the-scenes look at kids in prison, an environment that the Verna Institute of Justice describes as “unsafe, unhealthy, unproductive, inhumane,” is a collection of sharply drawn portraits of minors serving time in an adult penitentiary.

The young men and women I met during my ten years of teaching high school in a New York county adult facility were some of the most Continue reading

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Author Response: “The Occult and the Making of American Religion”

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

Discussions about the occult tend to stir passions, which is natural because we’ve been raised to regard occult spirituality as something diabolical or just strange. I argue in Occult America that mystical and supernatural-themed religions are communities of belief and should be understood as a vital part of America’s religious development – indeed we can’t really understand our religious past (and present) without coming to terms with them.  They have exerted a remarkable influence on mainstream life.

To reply to Juan Oskar’s good question about feudalism and the European church, Continue reading

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“Legacy of Bias”


In “Legacy of Bias”, published today on Inside Higher Ed, writer Scott Jaschik  discusses a new book released from the Century Foundation and published by the Brookings Institution Press entitled Affirmative Action for the Rich.  The book concludes that legacy admissions have not only expanded considerably in just the last 20 years but also disproportionality manifest a racial and class component.

The article also discusses the quite prescient book which was the result of a Pulitzer-Prize winning series in the Wall Street Journal: The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges–and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates (Three Rivers Press, 2007).  Written by then Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden (now with Bloomberg News), the book analyzes the data and details the many ways in which legacy admissions are detrimental to the overall health of our educational system and, by extension, our society.

Read an excerpt from The Price of Admission by clicking here.

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Third World America

As a young girl growing up in Greece, I remember walking to school in the city of Athens past a statue of President Truman. The statue was a daily reminder of the magnificent nation responsible for, among other things, the Marshall Plan. Everyone in Greece either had a family member, or, like my family, a friend who’d left to find a better life in America. That was the phrase everyone associated with America: “a better life.” America was a place you could go to work really hard, make a good living. When I came to America in 1980, I knew that there was no other place I’d rather live. Thirty years later, I still feel that way.

But there is no denying that decisions we have made as a country have put us on a very dangerous road, one that threatens to turn America into a Third World nation. It’s a jarring concept, I know, but the evidence is all around us. Continue reading

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The Occult and the Making of American Religion

OCCULT AMERICA by Mitch Horowitz

by Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation (Bantam hardcover 2009, Bantam trade paperback October 2010).

In 1970, philosopher Jacob Needleman opened a new discussion about religion in America. His book The New Religions was one of the first scholarly works to consider esoteric and alternative religious movements not as oddball trends but as forces that reflected a serious and widespread search for meaning among young Americans.

A generation later, this discussion has been expanded by a broad range of mainstream religious scholars – from Catherine Albanese to Jeffrey J. Kripal to Ann Braude – who are transforming how we understand the nation’s alternative religious culture.  New Age or metaphysical movements are no longer viewed within academia as fringe oddities but as crucial aspects of our religious history. This line of study should be encouraged. Without it, we cannot fully understand the nature of America’s religious life. Continue reading


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Ecoliteracy 2.0


by Daniel Goleman, author of  Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy (Broadway Business, 2010), a book selected by Virginia Tech for its 2009 and 2010 Common Book Project.

Near the start of the 20th century William James wrote that “an education in attention would be the education par excellence.” That was then.

Today, a century after James, I argue that the most crucial education would be in ecological intelligence—and that this demands rethinking and updating curricula in ecoliteracy in fields ranging from physics and chemistry to business and psychology.

Let me explain what I mean by ‘ecological intelligence’. Continue reading


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