Tag Archives: cultural sociology

LIVE 24/7: two cartoons from Iraq

15 Nov

The times have gone, when a social approach to art history was able to produce such classics as Arnold Hauser‘s Social History of Art, and yet – no doubt thanks to my library work within the social sciences – I am always fascinated by (contemporary) works of art that know how to address broader issues than only aesthetic/poetic ones.

Here follows an example from political cartoonist Abdul Raheem Yassir’s work, seen (and photographed) last month at the Iraqi Pavilion at the 55th “Biennale di Venezia”: present-day media pervasiveness and our (active) role therein are finely addressed by both cartoons.

Abdul Raheem Yassir Tank

Abdul Raheem Yassir Interview


Researching social media: twitter and homophobia

11 Dec

It’s some time now since I last posted about twitter and therefore, when reading about Nohomophobes last friday in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, I thought it would be a suitable choice for a post addressing both a Communication topic (twitter) and a Sociological one (homophobia).

nohomophobes alltimeAn initiative of the ISMSS Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, Nohomophobes keeps track of how often Tweets include the words ‘faggot’, ‘dyke’, ‘so gay’ and ‘no homo’, and is therefore «designed as a social mirror to show the prevalence of casual homophobia in our society. Words and phrases like “faggot,” “dyke,” “no homo,” and “so gay” are used casually in everyday language, despite promoting the continued alienation, isolation and — in some tragic cases — suicide of sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ) youth. We no longer tolerate racist language, we’re getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we’re still not actively addressing homophobic and transphobic language in our society».

Whether we truly are getting better at dealing with racist and sexist language, I dare not say (and I’m not exclusively thinking of my native country), and yet it’s just such academic initiatives as Nohomophobes that, even if ‘only’ by making us conscious of our casual discriminatory language, can help individuals and societies getting better.

As far as (discriminatory) language is concerned: should you want to know more about the origins, meanings and use of such terms as dyke, faggot and gay, take a look at the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, freely accessible at Berlin Humboldt-University‘s site.

RefWorks to pickup artists (PUAs)

5 Dec

Dealing with young people and their (intellectual) expectations and development, and considering the sheer variety of the world of knowledge are among the most important reasons that make a (library) job at the University so exciting.

jitse schuurmansWhile discussing a RefWorks question some time ago with UvA-anthropologist Jitse Schuurmans I not only came to know of the existence of pickup artists and who they are, but also that Schuurmans – who recently started his PhD on the subject at the AISSR research group Dynamics of Citizenship and Culture – had already written a (Dutch) book on the subject in 2010, De versierkunstenaars.

Should the meaning of ‘pickup’ («a casual encounter with a stranger with a view to having sexual intercourse», Oxford English Dictionaries) be not enough of a clue, the following from the University of Pittsburgh Women’s Studies wiki might prove clarifying: «The seduction community is a transnational male subculture with its origins in the U.S. It consists of pickup artists (PUAs) who systematically work to get better at approaching and attracting women».

This being said, and apart from Schuurmans’ book and ongoing research, are there any scholarly publications on the topic? Searching for ‘pickup artists’ in both the ProQuest-databases and Web of Science (online available through the UvA-Library: restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network) retrieves one relevant peer reviewed article (Hall, J. & Canterberry, M. (2011). Sexism and assertive courtship strategies. Sex Roles, 65 840-853) and several reviews of Neil Strauss’ book The game: penetrating the secret society of pickup artists.

fragonardGiven both Strauss’ and the more recent Confessions of a pickup artist chaser: long interviews with hideous men, released this year by Clarisse Thorn, aren’t scholarly publications, and while waiting for Schuurmans’ research output, a valuable exercise – so far information literacy is concerned – is to go through Hall and Canterberry’s references and to note the keywords the databases provide for their article and for Strauss’ reviews: (ProQuest) sexism‎, prediction‎, males‎, internet‎, females‎, courtship‎, “college students‎”, artists‎; (Web of Science) “ambivalent sexism”, “assertive behaviors”, courtship, “relationship initiation”, sociosexuality, “nice guy stereotype”, “chat-up lines”, “benevolent sexism”, “hostile sexism”, women, gender, men, personality.

How to use such terms in a systematic search for more relevant literature has been the topic of last week’s post. How such notions as ‘sexism’ and ‘courtship’ can possibly lead to the most diverse research areas is aptly illustrated by my immediately thinking of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing as significative example of (18th Century) man/woman relationship.

Photo’s: Jitse Schuurmans’ is found on TEDxYouth@Amsterdam, to whose team the UvA-researcher belong. Fragonard’s painting and image belong to the London Wallace Collection.

Art and politics (3): searching for literature

29 Nov

«What role have minority rights claims (i.e. ethnic, sexual) played in promoting murals and graffiti art from 1970 to the present day in the United States?» This being the research question, what are its key concepts? What about ‘minorities’, ‘graffiti’, ‘1970-2012’ and ‘USA’? How do I devise appropriate search terms for each key concept?

Systematic search
Via the UvA-Library homepage I can access several databases, among others Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts. These two resources can be searched simultaneously and will prove useful in devising search terms.

When searching for ‘minorities’, the databases retrieve both a publications’ list and two lists of related subjects (see screenshot). In the case of ‘minorities’, the subjects lists suggest such diverse terms as “ethnic groups”, immigrants, “black americans”, females, homosexuality, discrimination, “racial differences”, “human rights”, citizenship and assimilation. As diverse are the terms suggested by the databases when searching for graffiti.

How far I go selecting and using terms from these lists depends on the aim of my research, whether I only need a couple of publications or I want to perform an exhaustive search, for example when writing my thesis. The most important to keep in mind, however, is that I can use these terms not only when searching Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts: most search tools allow to combine two or more terms (with AND, OR and NOT) or two or more searches (with ‘search history’), and to perform phrase searching (“ethnic groups” will retrieve the two words only when appearing next to each other as a phrase).

The references I find by ‘playing’ with both the different search terms and the different search options will help me further in finding additional literature. One of the peer reviewed articles I find in Sociological Abstracts and Worldwide Political Science Abstracts is the following: Collins, L.G. (2006). Activists who yearn for art that transforms: parallels in the black arts and feminist art movements in the United States. Signs, 31, 717-752. Its bibliography helps me tracking down earlier (=before 2006) relevant publications.

Some databases, however, allow me to track down also later (=after 2006) relevant publications, that is finding out what articles have cited an article after publication. The outstanding database for citation tracking is Web of Science: if I search Collins’ article in Web of Science, I will find that it has recently been cited in the following: Moravec, M. (2012). Toward a history of feminism, art, and social movements in the United States. Frontiers, 33(2), 22-54.

Just as with systematic search, it’s up to me and the aim of my literature research to decide when to stop snowballing. It is important, however, to keep in mind that I can gradually rephrase my topic also according to the resources I (don’t) discover.

Photo of Men snowballing on capitol steps – Tallahassee, Florida belongs to Florida Memory, the central repository for the Florida State Government.

Art and politics (2): Massimo Mila to graffiti

31 Oct

How to move from such a broad topic as ‘art and politics’ to a proper research question?

Firstly, thinking of one of my own ‘personal icons’, Italian musicologist, mountaineer and member of the resistance during WWII, Massimo Mila, I have chosen for a shift towards ‘artists and intellectuals’ political activism’.

Secondly, considering that an appropriate topic should give answers to such questions as, amongst others, who, what, where, when, how and why, I have searched for some inspiration in both the International Encyclopedia of Communication and the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (online available through the UvA-Library: restrictions may apply outside the UvA-network).

Even the quickest glance at these subject-specific encyclopaedias can provide answers to some of the aforementioned questions. Searching for ‘artist’ and ‘activism’, the International Encyclopedia of Communication retrieves amongst others the entries ‘art as communication’ and ‘graffiti’, whose ‘See also’ sections further refer to related headwords such as ‘propaganda, visual communication of’ and ‘collective action and communication’.

Graffiti and street artists’ motives for action being a quite controversial issue (both in art-historical and socio-political terms), a research question I would like to work on could be the following: «What role have minority rights claims (i.e. ethnic, sexual) played in promoting murals and graffiti art from 1970 to the present day in the United States?»

Having an idea of what minority identity meant for the street art production of such painters as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and mostly keeping in mind that I can gradually rephrase my topic according to the resources I discover while searching, I set to the following steps of identifying the key concepts of my research question, devising search terms for each concept, and use these terms to search for scholarly literature in appropriate information sources: these all being the subject of a next (and last one on ‘art and politics’) post.

Photo’s: Massimo Mila’s was taken in 1935 in Turin’s prison when he was arrested on the charge of antifascism. Amsterdam Street Art‘s website provided the graffiti’s pic.

Social capital and intellectual property: UvA-sociology publications and the library

5 Jun

Bram Lancee’s book Immigrant Performance in the Labour Market: Bonding and Bridging Social Capital, published by Amsterdam University Press, is available open access at OAPEN Open Access Publishing in European Networks.

Lancee – whose academic interests include social capital and social participation, inequality, ethnic minorities and the labour market, attitudes towards immigration and ethnic diversity – is researcher both at the UvA (post-doc) and at the WZB Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (Humboldt fellow). The present publication focuses on the concept (& theory) of social capital and its role with regard to immigrants’ integration and achievements in the labour market. The Netherlands and Germany are taken as case studies.

The International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, available online through the UvA-library, contains an entry on social capital.

Olga Sezneva is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the UvA. Her academic interests include migration, urban studies, qualitative methods of research and cultural sociology. It is to the latter that her research activities on intellectual property and global media markets belong.

Sezneva’s article The pirates of Nevskii Prospekt: Intellectual property, piracy and institutional diffusion in Russia, lately published in the interdisciplinary journal Poetics, online available through the UvA-library, focuses on the Russian case study earlier addressed by Sezneva in her contribution to Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, a report published in 2011 by the SSRC Social Science Research Council, an independent, nonprofit international organization promoting innovative research in the social sciences.

When phrase searching the new UvA-library search engine for “intellectual property”, the sheer variety of contexts and issues at stake with this concept is evident even when limiting the results only to the books available at the Bushuis library: from Chinese counterfeit goods to hip-hop artists, and from indigenous people to HIV/AIDS drugs in developing countries, this latter still being a controversial topic more than ten years after Nelson Mandela’s denouncing the price policy of pharmaceutical companies for such drugs.

Photo’s taken from both researchers’ personal websites: http://www.bramlancee.eu/ en http://olgasezneva.net/