What Your Teeth Tell Me About Your Social Class

A recent sorority recruitment video from the University of Alabama last month was critically received on the internet for what some claimed were racist overtones. The nearly all-white, bikini and lingerie clad sorority sisters portrayed pranced happily throughout the over-5 minute long video, never opening a book, attending a class, or even appearing to be affiliated with a learning environment. As a college instructor, the mother of a young girl, and self-proclaimed feminist, I mentally ripped the video apart when I saw it. I also conceded that the video was probably racially insensitive, but my biggest concern with the video and the women portrayed lay in another vein: classism. As I watched the women on the video, my working-class roots reared up, and I nearly screamed at my computer screen, “what college aged woman can afford those clothes? The highlighted hair? The manicured nails?!?” And then I vented to Julie Withers on Facebook. It went something like this:

“Arrrggg!!!”

“Gggrrrr!!!”

“Exactly!!!”

We often focus on race and ethnicity as the great dividers in American Society, but in reality, I would argue that race and ethnicity differences are secondary to class today, as the great divider, and the sorority video illustrated that. Watch the video, and tell me how many ways Class is displayed. :

I pick up on the class things more than race. Who can afford those clothes? Those teeth? Manicures, pedicures, fake nails, tanning. The expense of bleaching and highlighting your hair like that? My students sometimes can’t eat daily because they pay tuition, rent, can’t find a job in our over-educated town with 30,000 other students willing to work for minimum wage; how can anyone afford the expense of paying sorority dues and buying the crap needed to belong to one with such high material expectations?

But the ultimate class differences are in perfectly capped teeth. Anyone can get hair and makeup and pretty clothes done for a video shoot; the teeth are the inescapable sign that scream “upper class” in the sorority video.

A fascinating article in the online magazine, Aeon, discusses the poverty of a crooked set of teeth brilliantly. The author, Sarah Smarsh, not a sociologist but definitely a journalist-ethnographer, tells the story of teeth far better than my ranting. Check out the article here.

My baby teeth were straight and white, and I wasn’t obese – an epidemic among poor kids that hadn’t yet taken hold in the 1980s – but I had plenty of ‘tells’: crooked bangs, trimmed at home with sewing shears; a paper grocery sack carrying my supplies on the first day of school while other kids wore unicorn backpacks; a near-constant case of ringworm infection (I kept a jar of ointment on my nightstand year-round); the smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes, just as cigarettes were falling out of favour with the middle and upper classes; sometimes, ill-fitting clothes, as when the second-grade teacher I revered looked at my older cousin’s shirt sagging off my shoulder and said: ‘Tell your mother to send you to school in clothes that fit you.’ In fifth grade, a girl noticed my generic, plastic-smelling, too-pointy boots – a Kmart version of the black leather lace-ups that were in fashion – and for weeks hounded me before and after school, kicking dirt on my shins and calling me Pippi Longstocking.” — Sarah Smarsh

It’s Not How Many Times You Fall….

I began writing my dissertation in 2003 or so. My first year in graduate school at Kansas State University, I had the good fortune of enrolling in Dr. Robert K. Schaeffer’s graduate Social Change course. When Dr. Schaeffer assigned the requisite term paper due in every graduate level course I have ever taken, he gave me the best advice I could get: every paper you write in your classes should in some way contribute to your dissertation. So that year, I began writing my dissertation. I continued every semester writing a bit more of my dissertation, touching on subjects related to my topic (Job Satisfaction of Paramedics) in almost all of my classes. By the time I was done with my two years of coursework, I had the first 30 pages of history, research question, hypothesis, and methods complete in rough draft.

But then, disaster came. After I completed my coursework, I had to complete my two preliminary exams. The first, I passed without a problem. The second, not so much. In November 2007, I sat for my second exam, and a few weeks later, got a notification that I had failed. I was stricken, emotionally hopeless, and academically shamed. No one flat out failed their exams in my department.

I was given the option of retaking the exam in the next semester, and so I spent the next months studying, reading, and writing extensively on my reading list, and the next spring, sat for my exams again. I waited anxiously, but confidently this time given the time I had spent studying, for my results. On the Friday before Memorial Day, I got the email: I had failed, again.

I was nauseated with the depth of the failure. My graduate adviser informed me that I would be dismissed from the university due to my failure, and when I called him a few minutes after I got the email, he told me how sorry he was. And then he said, “maybe you should grieve your results.”

Thus started the longest fight of my life, and the fight that would prove my stubbornness, my hardheadedness, but ultimately, vindicate me in the long fight. I spent the next three years fighting for my exams to be read by outside faculty until, finally, in June 2011, I got the best email: I had passed my exams.

But my fight was not to be over. I presented my dissertation proposal to my new dissertation committee in December 2011, and then, three weeks later, was diagnosed with locally metastasized thyroid cancer in January 2012. I had surgery that same month to remove my thyroid, and still worked on my dissertation whenever I felt well enough. My dissertation chair was supportive, and gave me open ended deadlines so I could move forward as I could.

But then heartache struck in summer of 2012, when my dad’s kidneys failed, and I became one of his caregivers during home dialysis. Then in August 2012, at 4 months pregnant, I suffered a miscarriage. I spent two months after that suffering complications, and was rushed to emergency surgery to save my life in late October.

Again, I was recovering well, when in December of 2012, my dad became sick again, this time, with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Once again, I put my dissertation on the back burner, turned to my children and family, and for two months, alongside my sisters, while working full time teaching, I cared for my father while he died.

It took a few months for me to get back to my dissertation, but by May 2013, I realized I needed to get it done, for my own satisfaction, and for my dad, who didn’t really understand what I was doing at school, but who supported me anyway. So I began in earnest to write the first three chapters of my dissertation proposal, since it had to be rewritten since so much time had passed. I spent the next year working every minute on my dissertation. running regression models on a huge data set, teasing variables to see what was most significant.

And then, in May of 2014, I got an email from my dissertation chair: she was going on sabbatical and even though I was making progress, it wasn’t fast enough to finish before she went on leave. She wished me luck, and told me I needed to find a new chair. I spent the next 7 months trying to find a new chair for my dissertation, which, predictably, was difficult given the topic (no one in sociology has that expertise), and how far I was in the process. No one was comfortable taking over three chapters into the project. I was informed, once again, that I would be dismissed from the program if I couldn’t secure a new committee by May of 2015.

So I made a Hail Mary pass, and made a flight reservation to Kansas, then started making phone calls and sending emails to faculty who might entertain being my dissertation chair. I had three projects in my briefcase when I got to Kansas, wore a suit, greeted everyone with a handshake and warm smile. I have never been more of a salesperson than I was those few days in February of this year. I had nothing to lose.

On my last day in Kansas, while snow was blanketing the campus in stunning winter white, I met with the last person I had an appointment with; he was my last hope. He turned out to be the best hope, as well. I presented only one of my proposals to him, the one closest to my heart, and the one I believed in the most. I didn’t even tell him about the paramedic proposal. And he said yes.

I’ve been writing my dissertation for 12 years now, although my topic has changed, and I’ve deleted much more than what remains, it’s coming along pretty well. My deadline is October 2016, and because I’ve dreamed of being a college professor since the 4th grade, I’ll make it. I’ve not much to lose, and I’ve been at the bottom, and when you’ve been there, is when you work the hardest, and become the most innovative, and industrious. You learn what’s the most important to you. I was reminded of that while I was listening to these commencement speeches yesterday: sometimes you have to fall, to succeed beyond your dreams.

Here, in order of importance, are my picks for commencement speeches that best send the message, “it’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you rise up again, that’s important.”

The prolific Harry Potter author, who began her career working for Amnesty International, stresses the merits of failure and the importance of imagination, but not in the way you might think. As sociologists, I wonder if this is why we are so different from others: we have the imagination to see the suffering of others. If you have just 20 minutes to spare today, use it to listen to J.K. Rowling’s Harvard address to the graduating class of 2008.

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling

[embed]https://youtu.be/wHGqp8lz36c[/embed]

What happens when you are fired from the company you co-founded? You create something even better. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed the graduating class of Stanford, 2005, with the message that sometimes, you need to get knocked down to be given the opportunity to be your best.

On creating Pixar, the company that recreated movie animation:

“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.” — Steve Jobs

[embed]https://youtu.be/D1R-jKKp3NA[/embed]

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres offers advice for Tulane University 2009 graduates.

“Really when I look back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I mean, it was so important for me to lose everything because I found out what the most important thing is, is to be true to yourself. Ultimately, that’s what’s gotten me to this place. I don’t live in fear, I’m free; I have no secrets and I know I’ll always be ok, because no matter what, I know who I am.” – Ellen Degeneres

[embed]https://youtu.be/glauQaj0x6I[/embed]

Guns, Lawyers, and Money Blog

It seems like Paul Campos over at the Lawyers, Guns, and Money blog is getting with the spirit of ethnographic research.

As Campos notes  in his blog, there is indeed a space between journalism and social science which can be called “ethnography.” He makes this point via an ad by a RINO (Republican in Name Only) “hunter” who is running for a seat in the United States Congress from the state of North Carolina.  She apparently names her children after Ronald Reagan, and a proud descendant of Confederates who fought in the American Civil War over 150 years ago in order to preserve slavery. The candidate , Kay Daly, makes her final point by firing her gun at a “RINO.” As Campos points out, such a campaign indeed is what can be thought of as “deep text,” a la Stanley Fish.

Anyway, to make sure he makes his point well, Campos links back to my recent post which discussed the “truthiness” of Alice Goffman’s ethnography On the Run, which is about fear of police in Philadelphia, but has nothing to do with RINO hunting. In my review, I asserted that, while it is desirable to get the facts right, it is not the central point in ethnography.

I guess Campos was either bemused or annoyed by my post—I’m not sure which. The link back to Ethnography.com buried, but is nevertheless generating plenty of hit activity over here. Thanks for reading the post, Paul! And congratulations on having one of the catchiest blog titles I’ve seen on the world wide web!  Guns, lawyers, and money all in the same URL.  Pretty creative!

Teach Like You Do in America!

“Teach like you do in America!” is the default instruction I receive when teaching overseas. I have heard it in Germany, Tanzania, and last summer in China. It is the default instruction by my hosts who assume that university classes are “about the same” everywhere in a globalizing world. What can I say? It ain’t completely true, and I wrote 4,000+ words to make this point in Palgrave Communications, a new Open Source journal. The article is “Teach Like You Do in America—Personal Observations from Germany and Tanzania is here.  What can I say about the conclusion?  Well, when I tried teaching like I do in America in Germany and Tanzania, it didn’t work very well.  Turns out that higher education is not quite as globalized as some assume.  But to find out more you will need to read the article.

I will be posting more about this subject in future weeks here at Ethnography.com

Binge Watching Ted Talks

While writing my dissertation, my routine goes something like this most mornings:

  1. Stop at the local pastry shop and get my favorite morning pastry: slightly warmed spinach crustada.
  2. Drive to my office at the university.
  3. Circle for a few minutes to find parking.
  4. Hope I don’t hit any of the bicyclists who drive the wrong way on one-way streets.
  5. Park.
  6. Walk to my office.
  7. Say hello to my colleagues.
  8. Find my office.
  9. Turn on computer. Answer any emails from students or administrators that might be pressing.
  10. Make sure nothing important has happened on Facebook that might be life altering.
  11. Find my earphones.
  12. Scroll through YouTube to find a full concert from one of my favorite musicians: Adele, Guns N Roses, Bruno Mars, Elton John, John Mellencamp OR alternately, scroll through and find motivational or educational speeches or lectures (a bit tough to write and listen to educational lectures at the same time, though).
  13. Post a sign on my office door: in effect, Do Not Disturb.
  14. Hit “play”

Yesterday was a Ted Talk day; I spent most of my afternoon listening to talks about culture, motivation, the state of the environment…a fairly eclectic collection of videos from many different great thinkers.I always want to share the great ideas I come across on the Internet, and also, writing a blog post gives me a break from my dissertation for a few minutes, so I thought I’d share a few of the Ted Talks on my playlist yesterday with the good folks at ethnography.com.

Anyone who’s written a dissertation or thesis understands how easy it is to find excuses for not writing.

Rich Benjamin: Whitopia

Have you ever wondered what it’s like living in a different culture? Rich Benjamin wondered, too, and tells you all about it in this fantastic Ted Talk.

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/rich_benjamin_my_road_trip_through_the_whitest_towns_in_america?language=en[/embed]

Sheryl Sandberg: Why Women Don’t Lean In

What does it really mean for women to lean in in the workforce? It means keeping your hand raised, not giving up your place at the table, it means never underestimating your self worth.

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders?language=en[/embed]

Bill Gates: Innovating to Zero

Gates offers options for alternative energy resources, highlighting the importance of investing in energy resources that will reduce carbon emissions to zero in the next 40 years.

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates?language=en[/embed]

 

Jane McGonigal: how to Add 7 1/2 Minutes to Your Life

How do you save your own life? Jane McGonigal started gaming, and reaching out to others. Watch Jane’s Ted Talk below to see how she increased her own resilience, and overcame traumatic brain injury through gaming.

[embed]https://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_the_game_that_can_give_you_10_extra_years_of_life?language=en[/embed]

Sirena Huang: An 11 Year Old and her Magical Violin

For your listening pleasure, a violin prodigy.

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/sirena_huang_dazzles_on_violin?language=en[/embed]

Kelly McGonigal: How to Make Stress Your Friend

No, you aren’t seeing double: check out Jane McGoniga’s twin sister, Kelly, in one of my favorite Ted Talks: How to Make Stress Your Friend.

[embed]http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend[/embed]

Almonds in the Desert

August 2nd, 2015

 

This is the principle reason why California has a water shortage: agriculture where it shouldn’t be. One side of the freeway is the natural, unirrigated terrain; the other side is irrigated almonds. We should never be growing luxury crops in desert climates.

We’re in the San Joaquin Valley. There’s no natural source of water here, like in Chico; these almonds have to be watered about three times the amount of the trees in the northern Sacramento Valley. There are very few places in the world where almonds can be grown; the trees can’t freeze in the winter, must have lots of water, sunshine, and a long growing season; the Central Valley of California (Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys combined) is ideal, climate wise. But water in parts of the valley is another story.

Irrigation for crops isn’t universally bad or causing the drought, by the way, but growing luxury crops in places where they shouldn’t be grown, where there isn’t enough water for basic health and safety needs to be met, is perilous. Luxury crops are crops that aren’t essential for nourishment and are sold for significantly higher prices than staple crops.

An example of a luxury food product is lobster. You don’t have lobster every night for dinner, correct? It’s a splurge or a luxury; it costs more, it’s not readily available, and only grows well in certain parts of the world. A staple protein substitute for the lobster might be chicken eggs; they are easy to raise, readily available in nearly every part of the world, and fairly inexpensive, even organic eggs, but especially of you raise your own chickens. You need protein but how you get that protein can either be a luxury or a staple.

There were no almonds here or other large scale orchard crops before the California Aquaduct was built.in the 1960s. If these almonds were feeding local populations, I’d probably have less of a problem with this new growth of almonds in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Or if these new orchards were creating jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be here. But they aren’t. Almonds are highly mechanized in production and harvesting. The jobs created by orchard crops could be put to work in more sustainable crops that require less water and can be laid fallow in times of drought (corn for human consumption, tomatoes, squash, melons) that would be consumed locally or even in the US. But they’re not; about 70% of California’s almonds are shipped overseas.

This is business, this isn’t farming. The U.S. agricultural complex grows more food than we can ever use in a given year; we have the ability to grow plenty of local food, if we used it correctly and then didn’t throw away so much food needlessly.

Californians are going to have to shift their thinking about water, even the wealthy ones who don’t care how much water costs as long as their grass is green (and mostly useless in the average residential setting). I turned half my backyard into a vegetable garden this year and have been feeding my neighbors and friends with tomatoes, cucumbers, and a ton of other veggies. It’s amazing, but I don’t miss the grass I tore up at all. It’s a shift in use and ideology.

My stomach hurts as we drive farther on Interstate 5, south from Stockton, Westly, Patterson, Los Banos, through Kettleman City, on toward the Grapevine. All around us, the landscape is polka dotted with dead orchards and brand new baby trees, evidence of one farmer losing his or her water rights, while another finds a way to water the desert enough to plant a new orchard. It’s gut-wrenching to see the wasted trees, the wasted water, the cost for farmers (about $10,000 per acre to plant new trees), and the risk that everyone takes, when we demand luxury crops grown in the desert.

 

Dead almond orchard in San Joaquin Valley                                                            New Orchard

Dead orchards, abandoned in the crunch for water and a few miles later, brand new orchards.

Civility is Why Administrators are Paid the Big Bucks!

The other day, Julie wrote “Shared Governance or Managed Dissent at Chico State.”   This is of course a local story for those of us writing at Ethnography.com but perhaps other places can learn something from the turmoil that Chico State is going through.

Her description of the academic Senate meeting is about how adminstrators tried to manage restive faculty and staff, by asking them for civility in the interest of unity. As Julie describes it, the meeting is one where administrators see it as their job to pacify employees in the interest of “civility.” Apparently, civility for them was defined as being nice to those in power, in the interest of keeping a good public front. In other words, do not complain too loudly or publicly in a meeting where the press might pick up on it, or you, the faculty and staff, will be thought of as uncivilized.

But such public civility the leaders of the meeting asked for is only half (or less) of the story, particularly in a bureaucratic institution like Chico State. The truth of the matter is that most of the incivility at Chico State does not come from people speaking up in a public meetings—even if they might get a bit heated. Rather the biggest incivility at an institution like Chico State is found in the offices and confidential meetings where personnel and curriculum decisions are made. Some examples of the types of incivility found at places like Chico:

–employees are fired, and asked to leave campus immediately, if necessary with a police escort, in order to protect fearful administrators.

–employees are asked to sign confidentiality agreements covering up bad behavior by the powerful.

–emails and phone calls are not returned by the powerful–this is incivility too.

–deans and other administrators complain about lazy, unproductive, deadwood faculty to faculty, students, and others. This is called gossip, and it is corrosive to employee morale. I can appreciate it that they need to blow off steam, but when this becomes widespread it is far more uncivil than a newspaper story.

–requests are made and denied with vague references to personalities (“that’s Dean Katherine’s shop, so she can do what she wants”), rather than reasoning about the larger abstract goals of the universities (hint to the powerful: We are not owned by Dean Katherine, or anyone else).

–administrators become inaccessible to faculty, staff, and students, leaving the impression that academic problems are less important than a rich university donor, “headquarters,” accreditation, or a business lunch. Remember, universities are first and foremost academic institutions. Rich university donors, headquarters, and the accreditation team are frankly not that important for the delivery of the day-to-day academic program your staff and faculty worry about. Very few donors are as valuable as a developing Assistant Professor.

–labor grievances are not responded and are avoided. Remember you have the power, not the union. The union only responds to what you do, and they do not make policy. Don’t blame the union for forcing your hand—they didn’t do it, you did.

–the insecurity of adjuncts is an incivility almost by definition. Too often so is their pay, which can be at a sub-living wage. Complaining about the skills of temporary faculty to permanent faculty is also particularly corrosive the morale of people who already are paid less, and typically teach more students.

–little attention is paid to career trajectories, or faculty and staff initiatives outside of the pro forma personnel process—such inattention in incivil. They are there for their career, Dr. Administrator, not your FTES target.

–determinations made about who merits a raise, and who does not without reference to established transparent classification processes is incivil. (This is particularly a problem where merit pay awards come to replace regular predictable step increases).

–and of course favoritism to the people you work directly with, at the expense of those who you see less frequently is both inattentive and incivil.

All of the above are incivilities. Indeed they are far more corrosive to faculty and staff morale than the occasional raucous public meeting, or a one-off story in the local newspaper. The incivilities of the leaders of the meeting Julie observed patronized faculty and staff, and reflected a short-term need for keeping a pleasant public face to the university. But, what the university leaders seem to forget is that the greatest incivilities of any university are more likely to occur in the executive suites of the President, the Provost, Vice President for Business and Finance, Deans, and so forth. The greatest incivilities occur when decision-making is not transparent, there are appearances of favoritism, and people are arbitrarily disciplined, or even fired.

Notice in the above, I mention things like rumor, appearances, and so forth. Is it fair that administrators are held to a standard that administrators are held to a standard that includes controlling public impressions? Yes, indeed, it is fair. Indeed, when the big shots Julie observed asked the staff and faculty at the meeting to be “civil,” they were acknowledging that part of their job is involves civility.

But, guess what. The easiest way to manage civility is to model it in your own decision-making by being open, transparent, available, and generous with the least amongst you. The most civil campus will be one where the powerful are also civil. Doing so is tough, Dr. Academic Administrator. But civility is why you are paid the big bucks! Be civil, and you might just get a civil campus.

Globalization and Mlitary Honor: The Dedication of a Statue of the Hmong General Vang Pao in California

I stopped by the dedication of the new statue of the Hmong General Vang Pao at the Chico City Hall near my university on Saturday. General Vang Pao led the Hmong forces which were allied with the United States during the “Secret War” that the CIA conducted in the country of Laos between about 1960 and 1975. Several hundred thousand Lao Hmong were brought to the United States between 1975 and about 1995 in acknowledgment of their status of as American allies during the Secret War.” During this war, the Hmong army, which was formally allied with the Royal Lao Government, sustained extraordinarily high death rates in battle, and established itself as a respected fighting force. (Note: The war is called “secret” because the presence of US forces in Laos was a secret from the American people—the war of course was hardly “secret” to the people in Laos itself).

General Vang Pao died in the United States in 2011, and the Hmong people of the United States, many of whom live in California’s Central Valley between Chico and Fresno, have sought ways to highlight how important he was for the Hmong people in the United States. A statue of General Vang Pao was first erected in Chico in 2012, but last year it was vandalized. The memorial committee has erected the new statue which was dedicated today. The new statue of General Vang Pao in Chico stands in front of the American flag—his role as a supporter of the United States is valued very highly in the Hmong community. The ceremony was conducted in three languages off and on, Hmong, English, and Lao. There was a five man honor guard of US Army veterans from the local Veterans of Foreign War chapter, and a second honor guard of the now-aging veterans of General Vang Pao’s army. A Hmong shaman also performed a dedication ceremony.

Their commanders led them through military commands in Lao. Different clans brought wreaths to the ceremony—with a special one brought by General Vang Pao’s family from Fresno. There were also the local elected officials there to participate and speak—the mayor of Chico, a local county supervisor, and a state Senator.

The occasion was of course solemn, and I was again reminded of how powerfully military units are tied to each other, particularly those who have fought so desperately, and lost so many comrades. The veterans I saw today all stopped fighting in the late 1970s. In the 35 or 40 years since then, they have passed through much, including refugee camps in Thailand, resettlement in the United States, establishment of families, and so forth. But in the end the military unit still pulls them together after all these years.

Watching the Hmong and American veterans today, I again was reminded of how tightly war ties comrades to each other, and how long the ties persist.

September 12, 2015

Is There Humor Hiding in the Translations of Bourdieu or Weber?

There’s an interesting discussion about how to translate Bourdieu from French to English at the Scatterplot blog. In English at least (I don’t read French), the translations of Bourdieu often seem circular and confusing. What Steve Valsey seems to be asking is, is this really necessary? His answer is no, and he offers a translation of Bourdieu’s definition of habitus in more “standard” English. As one of he commenters on the blog notes, similar questions can be asked of Bible translators. Is the English Bible best rendered in King James English, or modern English? To me, the answer depends on the intended audience, i.e. who do the writer/translator want to communicate with? Every translation needs to ask (and answer) this question, whether you are the translator of Bourdieu, The Bible, or anything else.

For what it is worth, I much prefer Valsey’s modern translation of Bourdieu which while probably not a literal translation of the French, is still more pleasing and understandable to my English-reading sensibilities. Is something of Bourdieu’s French meaning lost by this more general translation? Perhaps. But then something is lost too when readers skip too rapidly over a translation that does not resonate well with their pre-existing sensibilities.

I have of course thought a great deal about translation issues, since my wife and I finished translating Max Weber’s essays in our book Weber’s Rationalism, which was published last April.   These translations come as close to the standard Valsey advocates, while still respecting the meaning of Weber’s original German.

Here are links to blogs about our Weber translation which I think bring out his sense of humor.  Could there perhaps be some humor in Bourdieu’s French which was lost in translation?

Participant Observation at Its Best: How Max Weber Concluded Nine out of Ten Politicians are Windbags!

My Life as an Honored Potted Plant

Max Weber was a Funny Guy

Where in the world is…Marianne?

I fell off the face of Ethnography.com last Spring, the result of committing myself to completing my dissertation, teaching 5 classes, parenting, a few health issues that needed to be taken care of, and the coming summer, which was filled with lots of camping and traveling with my family. We spent nearly a month trekking all over California, finding the ocean in Fort Bragg in July, and again in San Diego in August,

To be honest, the real reason I fell off of Ethnography was I have been writing my dissertation proposal. I began from scratch in early March, and just sent the first rough draft of the first two chapters to my dissertation chair last Friday. My writing brain has been tired, burnt, overwhelmed.

But my brain is feeling rested now, or at least not as overwhelmed, and topics other than education attainment of Hmong immigrants are popping up in my thoughts, and yesterday, I wrote more sociologically on my Facebook page than I have in months, and I realized, it might be time to write again.

So, I’ll be popping in here a bit more in the next few months, hopefully regularly. But I’m teaching 5 classes again this semester, and I’ll be writing and editing my dissertation for the next year or so, and I’m still a wife and mom to two young kids, and one not-so-young kid, who still need my attention. And of course, there’s the dog, and two cats, and the fish to think about. But it’s all good, because I love writing for Ethnography, so I’ll be stopping by now and then to say hello. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my day-late, but not a dollar short, contribution for today: a musical tribute to Labor Day.