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Sociology from the slow lane

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.


“Sociology from the slow lane”

  1. Blogger Dan Myers Says:

    Jeff, I know this asking a lot, but could you Please, please, please go to this session and blog it? It sounds better than the cattle call rounds of American Idol.

  2. Blogger Jeff Says:

    Fortunately for me I'm off the hook. This session had already happened before I posted this. Sorry to disappoint, Dan.

    I could ask for copies of the papers for you, though!

  3. Blogger Jeff Says:

    The following email was cc'ed to me by an astrosociologist and colleague of this session's organizer who, I now see, also penned the paper on Niagara U's disappeared department.

    For the sake of fairness and transparancy, I reproduce it in its entirety:

    Hi Jim, Marilyn, and Greg,

    It turns out that the blogger in question is Jeff Larson, a sociology grad student at the U. of Arizona: [link]. You can also check out his blogger profile: link]. My impression from his blog is of a person who habitually builds up his own ego by trashing other people with catty and facile one-liners. I daresay he fancies clever and witty. He is quite possibly incapable of presenting a cogent and in-depth argument on anything, or else he just gets off on inflicting his puerile, thirtysomething angst on whatever victims happen by. His apparent insensitivity to the Hispanic-American experience is particularly distasteful. I would advise that no one take the time to respond to this person, as his silly blog merely attacks matters that clearly he has not made any effort to understand.

    Tom [Gangale]

    Of course, he's right.

  4. Blogger Jeff Says:

    The ad hominem jabs continue...

    [Note: These emails were cc'ed to me and three faculty members in my department, including the department chair and a member of my dissertation committee.

    Dear Tom,

    My impression is that this University of Arizona sociology grad student must have been in a bar hanging off of a stool -- instead of a coffee shop as he alleges -- the whole time he was in Oakland. (By the way, the conference hotel was several miles away from the UC-Berkeley area.) Because as a busily interacting session chair at the PSA conference, I swear to God I didn't see him at the meetings. Proof that he wasn't at the meetings is his recounting of what were in presentations that we have intimate knowledge of and know his stories about them to be false. I hope the University of Arizona Sociology Department did not spend too much on his travel funds.

    Actually, the theme of this PSA conference had something to do with sociologists taking a hard look at the discipline and where it is going. That is why I launched the "Pirate Professors, Deviant Departments, and Disappeared Programs" session. (Linda Molm might understand how I might know something about deviant professors. Hee, hee.) The "Astrosociology" session had something to do with expanding the sociological ecology as we enter not just a new century, but a new epoch, as mounting challenges (global warming, the decline side of oil, worsening natural disasters in increasingly more populated areas, etc.) require the direct or spin-off instruments and processes of outer space production.

    Not only is this catty 30-something disdainful of the Hispanic-American sociological scholarship experiences concerning Gregory Morales and his mentor Boz, but young Jeff makes several comments in the material below to show that he is uppity-feeling'd regarding his perceived low-rent pedigree of our affiliations.

    He completely miscasts my presentation on the fascist administrative destruction of an internationally, nationally, and ASA-acclaimed department at Niagara University so that those administrators could construct a CJ program on top of it. My talk had nothing to do with General Pinochet or Latin American dictators. But, it had everything to do with the sort of high-handed techniques that European professors experienced as Nazism mounted. What was this young fellow drinking in that Berkeley "coffeeshop," anyway? To be sure, it was Jeff Larson's sociological participation at the PSA that was in the "slow lane." Evidence suggests that it wasn't even that -- that he wasn't even on the highway at all, with his parking brake on, sociological imagination disengaged, being in a roadside drinking establishment off the main drag.

    Well, in a few years, when this angst-driven 30-something comes to us for some sort of connection, we'll be sure to remember. In addition, the realities of the sociological job market ought to throw him off that high horse he is riding when he isn't riding a barstool in Berkeley coffeeshops. Right now, I'd just love to get put on his thesis committee to help straighten him out.

    My regards to Drs. Breiger, Molm, and Greeley and all the good people there at the University of Arizona.

    Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Flores(Dudley-Rowley)
    The University of South Carolina (Sociology, Ph.D, 2000)
    [Currently a lecturer at Sonoma State]
    CEO, OPS-Alaska

  5. Anonymous Anonymous Says:


    You angst-ridden-thirty-something-joy-division-listenin'-shoe-gazer, the astrosociologists know your 'coordinates' and are about to bring the 'Boz' down on you...

    Take 12" X 30" piece of tin foil and fashion a rakish lookin' pirate hat now. It is your only hope...

  6. Blogger steve Says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Blogger steve Says:

    I updated the comment to for grammar mistakes.

    I think that I'm finally getting their "insensitivity to the Hispanic-American experience" line of attack. It was not quite obvious what the Boz paper had to do with "the Hispanic-American experience" to me and I probably wouldn't ever have figured it out from the title. I was too busy trying to figure out what statements about the "Brown Bailed" paper were remotely offensive, but I couldn't find it. What is up with the deviant professors jab? That along with the Nazism comment and the wishes for career retribution by Dr. Marilyn Dudley-Flores are far more offensive to me as one of the UAs Soc Department's few Chicano(a)/Latino(a) current grad students than what you posted.

    BTW... Are we funded to present papers or are we expected to attend PSA sessions also? If it was the latter, I found few sessions at the PSAs that would have helped to inform my research.

  8. Blogger Drek Says:

    Wow. Just... wow.

    Sorry you're having such a bad time with these folks, Jeff.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Lemme second the "wow." Please tell me that you extended the back of your hand to these visitors to our fair planet!

    I love the sheer cheek of the Cardassians in painting you as "disdainful of the HISPANIC-AMERICAN sociological scholarship experiences concerning Gregory Morales and his mentor Boz?" I read the post (and the PSA schedule) and "HISAPNIC-AMERICAN socilogical scholarship" was not the first think that came to mind when I read the title - it was something more on teh order of WTF!!!

    Happily, at least for an "angst-driven thirty-someting," the mothership will soon arrive for this type, the days of partyin' like its stardate 22597.3 are quickly passing...

  10. Blogger jeremy Says:

    I believe I received e-mails from these same people when I wrote something offhand about astrosociology whenever its site first debuted. Presumably the professors in your department who were e-mailed this are discerning enough that the message had no consequence.

  11. Blogger Dan Myers Says:

    Jeff--I love it when you win just by letting people talk for themselves...

  12. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Hey, don't be dissing on someone whose dissertation was titled, "The Effects of Size and Heterogeneity of Crew and Mission Duration on the Deviant Behavior and Performance of Team Personnel in Space and Analog Polar Environments: A Pilot Study."

    A pilot study. Get it? Assuming the pun was intentional, she gets points in my book for not taking herself *too* seriously. Well, back then. Kim

  13. Anonymous Anonymous Political Scientist Says:

    Jeeeeeezzzzzuuussssss. I gotta say -- there seems to be a lot of this sort of psychotic reaction to any criticism in sociology. (Although I also know a lot of really smart and sane sociologists, so obviously it doesn't affect the whole discipline.) Sorry you had to have the looneys turn on you.

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