Blog

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 | Jeff Olick

The Sociology Department comprises faculty, staff, and students from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a diversity of concerns and interests, and sometimes holding conflicting political views. We sociologists can analyze and debate virtually anything to the limits of evidence and reason. Yet there are some occasions on which there can be no disagreement among decent people. The events of August 11-12 were clearly such an occasion.  Hate-filled individuals, most associated with hate-propagating groups, came to Charlottesville looking for a fight.  And they got it in a variety of forms.

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Monday, May 22, 2017 | Jeffrey Olick, SImone Polillo and Allison Pugh

Economic sociology studies the intersection between markets and society: how production is socially organized, or how and when cultural values and beliefs change in face of economic transformation, to name just a couple of examples. What economic sociology might have to say about the nauseating events of last Saturday in Charlottesville--a white supremacist rally in a downtown square that is already scarred by the relics of a horrific past--might not be entirely clear on first sight. 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016 | Jeff Olick

One of my favorite movies is Robert Altman’s biting satire of Hollywood, The Player.  The action takes place at a profit-driven movie studio, which seems to have forgotten that film is an art form.  On the side of the main building is thus the cheesy advertising slogan, “Movies: Now More than Ever.”  But the slogan cuts both ways.  On the one hand, it is send-up of the studio’s crass commercialism, which misses what in fact made the industry great.

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Thursday, November 12, 2015 | Jeff Olick

For once, UVa is not topping the news about outrageous problems on college campuses.  I suppose that’s some relief.  But the question is what we make of the momentary reprieve from being the center of attention.  For surely we know that the issues at stake at Mizzou and Yale this week, along with many others, are ours as well.  

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015 | Jeff Olick

          The modern world, which sociology was conceived to study, is supposedly all about time’s arrow: things move continuously forward, always changing, and progress is our highest God.  And yet, in its midst, there are still moments and places where time’s cycle takes over.  As Mircea Eliade argued, marking these moments is how we renew our sense of the sacredness of our community.  For all our efforts to advance our mission, move ourselves forward, make progress in our research and as a department, then, there is something important about the fact that we members of the university com

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | Jeff Olick

A little more than two months ago, I posted a blog titled “A Better Year Ahead, I hope.” Hannah Graham was on our minds all Fall, followed by Rolling Stone and “Jackie.”  And now Martese Johnson.  So much for my hope.  I guess bad things really do come in threes.  Of course, given the frequency with which we hear about racial profiling, stop and frisk, choke holds, and shootings of unarmed African-American teenagers, can we really be that surprised?  Shocked, yes. Surprised, not so much.  But even teachers get tired of teachable moments!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | Jeff Olick

            As I wrote in my previous blog, last semester was a rough one.  The reasons it was so certainly remain.  Nevertheless, one of the great things about academic life is that we get to restart on such a regular basis.  It is a new semester, a new calendar year, and while the slate is far from wiped clean, we get to try again.  

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Friday, December 19, 2014 | Jeff Olick

The last weeks of the Fall semester are always busy and stressful ones.  But what a whopper these past ones have been.  The semester began with terrible distress about the disappearance of one of our students. The capture of a suspect and subsequent discovery of the victim’s body then fulfilled, even exceeded, our worst horror-film imaginations.  And then only a few weeks later, the Rolling Stone article about “Jackie” shocked us anew.  

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Thursday, November 6, 2014 | Murray Milner, Jr. 

On October 2nd, the department and many friends gathered to celebrate our "return to the lawn."  At the party, Murray Milner, former dept. chair and now Professor Emeritus, provided the following brief history of the department, which I think all of us found quite interesting.  Thanks to Murray for pulling it together!

- Jeff Olick


The first mention of “sociology” in the Board of Visitors Minutes was in 1889 when an adjunct professor of “Sociology & Political Economy” was appointed.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014 | Jeff Olick

Although it was 28 years ago (holy moly!), I will never forget the first time I arrived in New Haven for graduate school.  It was July, 1986 and I was coming to town to find an apartment and to scope out my geographic future.

From the exit off I-95, you could see the gothic spires of Yale in the distance.  After passing through an urban wasteland of empty lots and parking garages, we saw that the New Haven Green was followed quickly by the main campus.  It looked exactly as expected—august, old, intimidating.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014 | Rae Lesser Blumberg

"May you live in interesting times”:  It was a curse to the Chinese when China was a traditional, slow-changing agrarian society; for them, change usually meant chaos.  For us it’s a challenge – we eat change for breakfast and we have to – we live in a world of accelerating technological and other kinds of change, amid growing uncertainty.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014 | Jeff Olick

The following brief essay appeared in the American Sociological Association’s Culture Section Newsletter.  There’s no promotion like a self-promotion!  Of course, given the audience, the essay makes a particular case from a particular angle, and the story of our department could surely be told from other perspectives.  I hope we will do so in the future!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | Jeff Olick

The new age is upon us—has been for years, but we are catching up. 24-7, always connected, never off-line.  I am, I admit, quite ambivalent about this, as any sane person must be.  In reviewing old department files, I’ve discovered how it used to be.  Before email, the business of the college was conducted on 8.5 x 5.5 inch half-page memo forms, hand-written, and apparently messengered all over grounds by a series of runners. More distant communication required, wait for it… letters: typed, folded, licked, stamped, and mailed.

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