Just a few decades ago, Asian immigrant communities were growing exponentially in and around Los Angeles County. Today, these immigrants’ Asian American children are establishing identities as they sift through a local multicultural terrain where Asians and Asian Americans are a numerical majority. In this post, David Mayeda uses the Fung Brothers’ (featuring Jsason Chen) recent video gone viral, “626“, to discuss the United States’ 1965 Immigration Act and its impact on the development of Chinese ethnic enclaves.
If you haven’t seen the recent video gone viral, “626” by the Fung Brothers, featuring Jason Chen, go ahead and watch below (“626” stands for the area code specific to much of the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California):
As this humorous and catchy video shows, significant aspects of Chinese culture have become fully integrated into the broader San Gabriel Valley community (or “SGV” as they say). Signage has been adapted with Chinese characters. Local eateries cater to Chinese immigrants, Chinese Americans, and really numerous Asian American ethnic groups. And most clearly exemplified in this video, young Asian American adults can find comfort and take pride in reppin’ the 626 from a distinct perspective that weaves together their ethnicity with popular culture….
The Olympic Games is one of the key markers for nationalism in contemporary society. Supposedly, if a country wins a large number of medals, this becomes an international indicator of the country’s overall superiority. The United States typically does very well in the summer Games, leading the way in both gold medals won and total medal count, though China has been a close second in the past two summer Games. Bear in mind, however, the United States has a population of about 310 million, and China 1.34 billion. In this post, David Mayeda breaks down which countries are the true Olympic standouts, considering each country’s population size, and questions the Games as an indicator of nationalism.
“U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.” You could hear the national pride in the chants coming from the American fans. The United States won more medals at this summer’s olympic games than any other country with 104 total medals and 46 gold. The People’s Republic of China earned 88 medals with 38 gold. More than any other symbol of the Olympics, a nation’s medal count is supposed to be a measure of a nation’s global superiority. While it’s true that the Olympics are idealized as a two week international love, peace, and unity extravaganza, this sentiment is at best quaint.
If anything, the Olympics promote a fleeting nationalism within countries – a sense of solidarity, shared values, and cultural pride within a nation’s borders that revolve around athletes’ international success. For instance, all Americans can supposedly take pride in Michael Phelps’s ongoing success across three Olympic Games. It is apparently behind Phelps that all American citizens can rally together, assimilated as one, for about a week.
And in turn, as the USA wins the most gold’s and medals as a whole, Americans in general can assert their collective global superiority. With their Olympic dominance, we can safely assume that the United States must hold greater levels of technological advancement, athletic training innovation, work ethic, physical superiority, mental acumen, and well, just must be the best, period. Right?
Not so fast….
How would you feel if store employees asked you your ethnicity before you purchased certain products? What if your ethnicity was used as a marker by store employees to restrict your purchasing power? Wouldn’t that be violating your civil rights? Recently in Atlanta, Georgia, Apple stores have faced criticism for doing just that – refusing to sell computer products to customers of Iranian descent. In this post, David Mayeda explains how Apple is exemplifying clear cut racial profiling. Yes, it still happens in this day and age.
Just a few weeks ago, media sources in Atlanta, Georgia reported on a number of cases in which Iranian customers were outright told by Apple store employees that they would not be sold Apple iPads or iPhones, specifically because they were Iranian (watch this local TV news report). According to Iranian customers, Apple employees identified them as people who should be refused service after overhearing them speak Farsi and subsequently asked them to confirm their ethnic background. Upon confirmation that the customers were of Iranian descent, Apple Store management maintained its stance that the store would not sell iPads or iPhones to those customers.
The Apple Store justified its position by citing official company policies, which state that “exportation, sale, or supply from the U.S. to Iran of any Apple goods is strictly prohibited without authorization of the U.S. government” (see 1:28 of this video). The policy also applies to Cuba and North Korea, though in the case covered, below, customers of Iranian descent (even if they are American citizens) appear to be singled out in actual practice….
This weekend on July 7, mixed martial arts’ (MMA) most dominant champion, Anderson Silva, will defend his middleweight title against long time nemesis, Chael Sonnen. The fight is a rematch from their first fight, which took place on August 7, 2010, when Sonnen controlled Silva for four and a half rounds, before being submitted by Silva with less than two minutes left in the fifth and final round. Though MMA reflects one of the more physically visceral sports out there, the Silva-Sonnen rivalry is known as much for Sonnen’s brash trash talking, as it is for their first epic encounter in the cage. In this post, David Mayeda examines the hype going into the Silva-Sonnen rematch to illustrate the concept of “fight sport theatre.”
Ask just about any athletic coach what values sport brings to society, and s/he will typically rattle off a number of clichéd responses: “Sport builds character”; “Sport teaches people to bounce back from defeat”; “Sport produces discipline.” Okay, I won’t deny that sport if coached under certain conditions can, and sometimes does teach those values while also enriching our lives. On the other hand, there is no denying that sport is tied intimately to the capitalist market; sport is a form of entertainment with its own set of commodities (namely the athletes) that can be bought, sold, and used for profit-based motives. As John Sewart (1987) writes, “when sport becomes a commodity governed by market principles there is little or no regard for its intrinsic content or form” (p. 172). Like other professional sports, MMA is no doubt governed by market and gendered principles….
It is an interesting time to be a student of higher education, or perhaps an individual wanting to be a student of higher education. Across the world, universities are aligning themselves with conservative political entities as they raise student tuition and cut student support. In this post, David Mayeda reports on a recent student protest in Aotearoa/New Zealand, illustrating how state police continue to act in violent ways when faced with peaceful protests, and asks further, what future lies ahead for those who will not be able to afford a university education.
In Chile, hundreds of thousands of students and concerned citizens have been protesting for nearly a year, upset with the country’s highly privatized education system. As in many other regions, in Chile, if one lives in economic stress, securing a university education is highly unlikely. Likewise, the past few weeks in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hundreds of thousands of protestors have been speaking out against proposed tuition hikes and newly imposed laws that restrict fundamental freedoms of assembly.
And as covered here in SociologyInFocus last year, University of California students were pepper sprayed by an officer while sitting peacefully in protest of tuition hikes at the system’s Davis campus, while a week before, Berkeley students were struck by police with batons. Below is some of the more benign footage I took on Friday 1 June at a University of Auckland student protest before being told to put away my iPad by police, or be arrested myself. With all these student protests and conflicts with police happening across the globe, what is going on?
Facebook became a publicly traded company last Friday, so we thought that we’d take a sociological look at Facebook this week. There has been some recent research that suggests that the rapid increase in social networking use across society has significant implications for all of us. A study published in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, taps into the potential concerns we as a society face as we become increasingly connected online. In this post, David Mayeda, applies Erving Goffman’s front stage and back stage metaphors to this empirical study of facebook users. If you’ve ever wondered about facebook’s pros and cons, read on.
“All the worlds a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” was how shakespeare phrased it. Famed sociologist Ervin Goffman, put a sociological spin on the same idea. He argued that members of society are constantly engaged in dramaturgical modes of interaction with each other, meaning our behaviors metaphorically represent being on a theatrical stage. Thus, each of us leads “back stage” lives where we behave knowing that the no audience (i.e. other people) is watching. In our “back stage” lives, we can practice how we want to present ourselves later on the public stage. Once we are out and about with other members of society who are able to physically see us, we are enmeshed in our “front stage” lives….
Yesterday we learned that former San Diego Chargers linebacker, Junior Seau, tragically passed away due to an apparent suicide, though the exact circumstances of Seau’s death are still uncertain. Along with his incredible football abilities and accomplishments, however, Seau should be remembered as one of the central Pacific Islander players who excelled in the National Football League (NFL), paving the way for thousands of young Pacific Islander males across North America and the Pacific, who continue dreaming of an elite athletic career. In this post, David Mayeda pays tribute to Seau’s sociological significance in sport.
I will be the first to admit that sport often times causes more harm than good in society. On the other hand, I’m not going to deny the good sport brings. As a young minority male myself (though not Pacific Islander), who turned to athletics throughout high school and university life to build a sense of self-esteem, accomplishment, and as avenue to learn about life, I owe a great deal to my athletic coaches, teammates, competitors, and role models. And this is partly why I am so saddened by Junior Seau’s death.
For those of you who do not know of Junior Seau, he was a Samoan athlete who made a name for himself playing football in the southern California region. He starred there in high school, before playing college ball at the University of Southern California, where he became one of the most feared university linebackers in the nation. At the professional level, Seau played most of his career for the San Diego Chargers, closing out his pro career with stints in Miami and New England. But Seau was no journeyman; throughout his career, he was a fierce playmaker, highly respected as a defensive star who played with infectious enthusiasm, power, and grit. He is unquestionably a future NFL Hall of Famer.
While Seau was not the first Pacific Islander to excel in the NFL, he was probably the first Pacific Islander player to truly stand out. Prior to Seau’s NFL arrival, Pacific Islanders who played in the NFL did so in relative obscurity, hidden in the trenches of the offensive line. Largely because Seau shined so brightly at the linebacker position, breaking up passes, making interceptions, causing fumbles, and halting those seemingly unstoppable running backs, he drew the spotlight throughout the 1990s and up until 2006.
In today’s NFL, it is hardly unusual to see a Pacific Islander playing in virtually any number of NFL positions (though they are still over-represented as linemen), as covered by CBS’s “60 Minutes” in 2010. Even at the amateur levels, dimensions of Pacific Islanders’ cultures have been integrated into pre-game rituals. For instance, at the University of Hawai‘i, the school’s football team has been performing the haka now for a number of years, without problems.
Remember that KONY 2012 thing? Yeah, it was pretty big for a while, but it’s lost a little steam. Among many reasons, one of the reasons KONY 2012 lost momentum is because in working to address Ugandan concerns, the movement’s leaders appeared unusually focused on themselves. The reality is, if social movements are going to be successful, movement must come from within. In this post, David Mayeda reviews a two-part video titled “Sari Stories,” where former child brides from India use video technology to critique this age-old patriarchal practice that undermines women’s and girls’ development.
One of the tough parts about doing sociology is that we are constantly dealing with social problems. It can take a toll on one’s personal psyche. At the same time, dealing ethically with social problems means also identifying the most effective social solutions. Aljazeera recently produced an inspiring two-part documentary titled “Sari Stories,” where we see social solutions happening in real life.
Sari Stories, Part 1
In this post, David Mayeda, takes look at an example of global stratification, where fishing companies from higher-income countries strip resources from poor, local fishermen off the coast of Sierra Leone. It is a classic example of how gaps between the rich and the poor still widen, on a global scale.
One of the most widely used concepts in sociology is “social stratification.” Taken literally, stratification refers to a kind of layering. By adding the term “social,” sociologists argue there exist different levels of social layering across all societies, demarcated by measures of inequality. Systemically, social stratification can be measured in three ways: (1) by access to resources/wealth (e.g., money, social networks, weapons, computer technology); (2) power (the ability to influence others, often against their will); and (3) prestige (the status one commands within a society).
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world. If you don’t know where Sierra Leone is, well, that may be one indicator of its lack of status in the global economy. Speaking of the global economy, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks countries with regard to overall quality of life based on three major criteria: whether those in the country’s population (1) live a long and healthy life; (2) have access to knowledge; and (3) hold a decent standard of living. According to the 2011 HDI, Sierra Leone ranks 180 out of 187 countries globally, as it still recovers from a brutal civil war that lasted throughout most of the 1990s and up until 2002.
In contrast, the top five ranking countries in the 2011 HDI are, in order, Norway, Australia, Netherlands, United States, and New Zealand. This index is one way of saying on a global scale, these countries stand very high in a socially stratified world, whereas Sierra Leone stands quite low in comparison….
The last few weeks, an organization called “Invisible Children” made waves across the internet, attempting to raise global consciousness of the long-term and horrific violence that has plagued Uganda for decades. Specifically, the organization encourages citizens from high-income countries to take a global responsibility in capturing Lord’s Resistance Army leader, Joseph Kony. However, critics have argued the effort lacks a true Ugandan viewpoint. In this post, David Mayeda asks if Invisible Children’s efforts reflect privileged ethnocentrism.
At the time of writing, Invisible Children’s slick 30-minute YouTube video, “KONY 2012,” has been watched over 100 million times, taking only 6 days to reach that threshold. In this video gone viral, the charity’s leader, Jason Russell, helps to expose the conflict that ravaged Ugandan communities for decades, while privileged citizens from high-income countries went about their daily lives with little awareness of the extreme violence. In fact, the conflicts that cut across Uganda are indicative of a much broader and complex web of collective violence that has long ravaged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and adjacent countries, termed by scholar Virgil Hawkins as stealth conflicts: