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Sociology from the slow lane

Friday, March 30, 2007 by Jeff

I'm here in Oakland, California - ok, actually I'm sitting at a coffeeshop on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus where a guy just parked his Lamborghini in front and came in. I used to drool over these things when I was eleven. I wonder what kind of gas mileage it gets?

Oakland is home to this year's meetings of the Pacific Sociological Association - "the PSAs." In contrast to the American Sociological Assocation's annual conference, the PSAs attracts more students and fewer faculty, more amateurs and fewer big shots, more teaching-oriented schools, fewer research-1 schools, more marginal, less influential research. And here I am in the thick of it.

Everyone who walks by that bright red Lamborghini ogles with unflinching awe. I wonder how much a fender-bender in that thing would cost?

Here at the PSAs, I find myself dumbstruck with one session in particular entitled "Pirate Professors, Deviant Departments, and Disappeared Programs." Straight from the conference program, here are the papers:

"Views of Education from Beyond this World" - Emails and Conversations with my Dearly Departed Mentor 'Boz'

Why we should give a shit about what Boz thinks is beyond me. Maybe if "pirate professor" could be worked into the title, then we'd have something.

"Educating Astrosociologists: The Need to Bring Outer Space Into Social Science Classrooms (the guy's affiliation, not a university, is astrosociology.com)

I certainly agree that "astrosociologists" should be better educated, but I think we disagree about exactly how that should happen.

The Denial of Educational & Employment Opportunity Due to the Discovery of Evidence Contradictory to the Axiomatic Assumption of Harmlessness of High Demand Religious Movements: A Case Study of the Normative Negation of Conflict of Interest from Australia.

How many times did you have to read that before it started to make sense?

The Fascist Trend in American Academe: "Disappearing" Sociology at Niagara University, New York

The allusion here is to the disappearances (that is, kidnapping, torture, and murder) of thousands of "objectionable" civilians throughout Latin America by fascist, right-wing dictators over the past fifty years - e.g., our old friend General Pinochet. To think that an academic department in New York has suffered the same fate is, well, slightly hard to believe. Try to imagine the sports page that broadcasts: "Patriots lynch Browns on Home Turf." Some comparisons rankle our better judgments.

Brown Balled: Exclusion of Mexican American Students in Higher Education

How the hell did this paper get stuck in this ridiculous session? My sympathies to the author.

This Lamborghini, sitting inches off the ground with doors that open up, has a handicap permit hanging in the window. This just keeps getting weirder.

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Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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