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Sociology news

Animal abuse and family violence

Green criminologist, Amy Fitzgerald, spoke about her book Animal Abuse and Family Violence: Researching the Interrelationships of Abusive Power in a lecture to the Calvin community on November 18, 2010. Interviews with women and children in protective shelters revealed that perpetrators of domestic violence strategically used threats and aggression against family pets to terrorize and control their victims.  Additionally, in many cases the relationship with a companion animal helped emotionally sustain women and children during a volatile period in their lives.  Unfortunately, the value of the human-animal relationship often inhibited victims from leaving abusive environments and/or encouraged their return to unsafe relationships.  Fitzgerald’s work has been used to make the case for pet-friendly family shelters and is a significant contribution to the emerging field of Animal Sociology.

Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America

On Monday, March 15,2010, the sociology and social work department hosted guest speaker Robert Brenneman, a post-doctoral researcher from the University of Notre Dame. He presented a lecture entitled “Homies and Hermanos: God and Gangs in Central America” in the Commons Lecture Hall at 3:30 p.m. The transnational youth gangs of Central America promote a hyper­machismo that idealizes violent, risk­prone codes of conduct and lifelong affiliation. Meanwhile, Central American evangelicals promote a "domesticated" machismo that prohibits drinking, promotes marriage, and eschews interpersonal violence. Yet several studies involving interviews with current and former members of Central American gangs report that conversion to evangelical­Pentecostal Christianity may be a common pathway out of the gang. Based on interviews with more than sixty former members of transnational gangs in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, this presentation examined how and why gang members convert to "strict religion."
Prior to enrolling in graduate school, Brennaman spent six years in Guatemala City working as an intercultural educator with the Mennonite Central Committee. Recently he provided testimony as an expert witness in an immigration case involving a request for asylum from gang violence. His dissertation was recently accepted for publication by Oxford University Press. At Notre Dame, Robert currently teaches courses in the sociology department and conducts research for the Center for the Study of Religion and Society.


"Where Am I Wearing?" author at Calvin on Nov. 5, 2009

Kelsey Timmerman spoke at Calvin College on Thurs., Nov. 5, 2009, at 3:30 p.m. in the Commons Lecture Hall. Timmerman is the author of Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes (Wiley, 2008). His book shows how globalization is far more complex a phenomenon than most North American consumers understand it to be. The morality of globalization resists easy reduction to black-and-white solutions, because there's no consensus about what, if anything, are its problems. As Timmerman chronicles his visits to garment factories in several Asian countries and the U.S., he presents a wide range of issues related to globalization, including labor rights (for adults as well as for children); poverty and economic development; environmental and public health concerns; corporate social responsibility; and political accountability and transparency. Where Am I Wearing? is an engaging and insightful personal account in which Timmerman tries to bridge the international chasm between producer and consumer. This event was presented by the department of sociology and social work, and was co-sponsored by the departments of biology, business, geography, geology, and environmental studies, international development studies, nursing, philosophy, political science and the Service-Learning Center.

Introducing Jonathan Hill

Jonathan HillThe department of sociology welcomes Jonathan Hill, Ph.D. (University of Notre Dame 2008) as an assistant professor of sociology. After completing his graduate work, Jon held a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion and Society (CSRS) at the University of Notre Dame. His work at CSRS centered on studying the religious lives of emerging adults as part of the National Study of Youth and Religion and examining predictors of giving to religious and secular organizations as part of the center’s focus on the science of generosity. 

Jon’s dissertation focused on religious practice and belief during the transition to adulthood with a particular focus on the effect of college attendance and graduation on religious life. Some of his findings were recently published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. He also has recent work on religious pluralism and the efforts of religious leaders to attract and retain adherents forthcoming in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. Jon’s works in progress include studying the relationship between science and religion among emerging adults, examining the effect of religious belonging on voluntary giving to secular causes, methodological innovations in the study of religious markets, developing and testing a measure of interpersonal religiosity, and continued work in the area of higher education and religion.  Jon will be teaching Sociological Principles & Perspectives and Social Theory this year.

Dr. Sheila Bluhm highlights issues of older women

Even though old women are the fastest growing segment of U.S. and global populations, they are marginalized and devalued by the combined impact of ageism and sexism. Dr. Sheila Bluhm of the sociology department will present a lecture entitled "The Age of Women: Gender, Age and Health" on Wed., Sept. 30, at 3:30 p.m. in the Meeter Center Lecture Hall (Hekman Library). This lecture highlights the issues of older women, including their demography, invisibility, stereotypes, the feminization of poverty, caregiving, widowhood, housing, and health. Refreshments will be served. This event is co-sponsored by the following departments:HPERDS, nursing, sociology and social work.

Dr. Christian Smith examines religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults

Dr. Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, will speak at Calvin College on Thursday evening, October 8, at 7:30 pm in the Gezon Auditorium. His presentation is titled "Understanding the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults in the U.S." His lecture is one of the Donald Bouma Lecture Series events sponsored by the sociology department this year. This event is also sponsored by the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, and the department of congregational and ministry studies.

Based on interviews with thousands of young people tracked over a five-year period, Smith's research addresses such questions as these:  How important is religion for young people in America today? What are the major influences on their developing spiritual lives? How do their religious beliefs and practices change as young people enter into adulthood? Smith also describes the cultural world of today's emerging adults, how that culture shapes their religious outlooks, and what the consequences are for religious faith and practice. 

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Center for the Sociology of Religion, and Principal Investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion. Smith is the author, co-author, or editor of numbers books including the newly-released "Souls in Transition:  The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults," "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers," "Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money," and "Moral, Believing Animals: Human Culture and Personhood." 

Introducing Elisha Marr

This fall the department welcomes Elisha Marr, Ph.D. (Michigan State University 2006) as an assistant professor of sociology.  Elisha has spent the previous five years teaching in various Michigan schools including Ferris State University, Hope College, and University of Michigan – Flint.  Her non-academic professional experience at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Planned Parenthood Centers of West Michigan inspired her to use social science research to inform public and non-profit policies and practice.

Although her most current research and publications focus on transracial adoption, Elisha’s teaching and research interests extend more broadly to families, the intersection of race, class, & gender, policy, and media/popular culture.  Elisha uses her micro and macro-level research on transracial adoption to contribute to sociological scholarship on motherhood, structural racial inequality, and the relationship between media, public opinion, and public policy. 

This year Elisha will be teaching Introduction to Sociology, Diversity and Inequality, and The Criminal Justice System.  She is writing an article on transracial adoption in newsprint, compiling an anthology on Intersections, as well as submitting a proposal to the State of Michigan to begin a process for tracking demographic data on infant adoptions.

Mulder receives lectureship at Bethel University

In the spring of 2009, Dr. Mark Mulder was granted tenure in the department of sociology and social work. He was also named the 2009 Moberg Lecturer at Bethel University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This lectureship was named after Dr. David Moberg, an eminent sociologist who taught at Bethel for almost twenty years. Professor Mulder gave a chapel talk at Bethel on February 20 and also delivered the keynote lecture for the Conference on Sociological Perspectives on Reconciliation. The title of the lecture was “Attentiveness to Place: Evangelicals, Neighborhoods, the City, and Reconciliation.” It was a synthesis of some of his recent research in which he attempts to better understand how Christians from different traditions think about and inhabit their places. He utilized that research as a framework for thinking about how Christians might more intentionally think about how "place" might be a significant component in seeking reconciliation and in loving their neighbors.

Dr. Sheila Bluhm presents at the North Central Sociological Association

Dr. Sheila E. Bluhm attended the North Central Sociological Association annual meeting in Dearborn, MI from April 16-18, 2009. At the conference she organized and chaired three sessions. Two were sessions on Medical Sociology and the third session was entitled "Women Throughout the Life Course" in which Dr. Bluhm presented her paper entitled "The Need for Gerastological Theory in the Study of Women of Age." Kyle French, student at Calvin College, presented papers entitled "Defense of Embryonic Stem Cell Research Based on Moral Status of an Embryo" and "Limitations on Understanding Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities." Sara Achauer, former Calvin student currently attending the University of Michigan, presented the paper entitled "Medical Ageism: Exploring Ageism Against the Young."