Sunday, September 25, 2011

That's One Sweet Burger!

Posted by Angie Luvara, RALEIGH, NC -- I’m not sure how it works in other states, but in North Carolina we count down to mid-October, waiting on the State Fair to come to Raleigh. Diets, food habits, and overall health concerns are thrown out the window as we indulge in all sorts of deep-fried goodies. From cookie dough to veggies, it is nearly impossible to find a form of food at the State Fair that hasn’t been rolled in some form of a crust and plunged into burning hot oil. With state fair season in full swing all over the country, I thought I’d share with you one of the few concoctions that hasn’t touched a deep fryer—the Krispy Kreme Burger. Don’t let the lack of a crispy crust fool you—this State Fair specialty is sure to cause a stomachache nonetheless. Replacing a traditional hamburger bun with two krispy kreme doughnuts, the Krispy Kreme Burger stand attracted just as many spectators as it did brave souls willing to attempt to eat this calorie-laden creation. Although, most held off on the ketchup.

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a new Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Any Place with a Pink Courthouse is Alright with Me

Posted by Angie Luvara, THE BAHAMAS -- I recently managed to knock off quite a few “firsts” on my list of life experiences. I used a passport for the first time. I went through customs for the first time. I was asked to fill out an emergency contact card for the first time before boarding a plane (which somehow did not make me feel more safe!) I flew over an ocean for the first time, and I landed in the beautiful Bahamas for the first time.
From the moment I saw the hot pink wall in the middle of the airport, complete with a row of pink telephones to match, I felt instantly at home in this very foreign land. I’ve always had a penchant for bright colors, which is surprising since I grew up in a house with a mother who paints and repaints walls various shades of white every few years—and eggshell when she feels a little adventurous. As I am typing this, I’m glancing at one of my favorite photos of myself, which was taken on Halloween when I was in the 4th grade. This was the first year my mother allowed me to decide what my costume would be without her input. I’m not sure what I claimed to be dressing up as, but I used this opportunity to wear every bright article of clothing that my mother normally wouldn’t let me out of the house in—lime green scrunch socks, hot pink leggings, a purple skirt, a lime green shirt, and as many pink and purple necklaces and bracelets as I could fit on my neck and wrists.
At ten years old, utilizing one holiday reserved for playing dress up, I got to dress exactly how I wished I could every single day. My neutral-sheltered ten year-old mind never would have guessed that just a short hop over the ocean—in the same time zone—I could find an entire country full of houses painted every bright color imaginable. At 28 years old, I could barely believe that all the government buildings in the Bahamas are painted my favorite color—hot pink. Inspired, I came home and went to the nearest home improvement store to purchase a few cans of bright spray paint to coat my bookshelves in the colors of the Bahamas. Snapped back into an American  reality, I found myself standing in the middle of the spray paint section surrounded by every imaginable shade of neutral grays, greens, browns, and blues one could ever conceive. Why is it that Americans are so drawn to neutrals, while our tropical neighbors utilize such bright colors? Why is it that the very same colors that my mom deemed too “wild” to wear at any time other than when I was playing “dress up” were the very same colors found on official government buildings in the Bahamas? And perhaps the most important question of all—what do we need to do to get our fellow Americans to lighten…no, brighten up?
Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter. She is also a new Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. To view more of her photography, go to her blog at

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Stone Chair

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, WILLIAMTOWN, MA – I spent most of my childhood in Williamstown. One of the things we used to do regularly is trek to the mysterious Stone Chair. This adventure was set in a perfect playground of trees and huge rocks. And then there was always the excited anticipation of reaching the Chair. Upon arrival, who ever the accompanying parents were would pass out ‘turn around’ chocolate as we climbed around the reason for our trip.

The chair itself, made entirely of stone, was installed during the early 20th Century in memory of George Moritz Wahl, a professor at nearby Williams College. Until the late 19th Century the Stone Hill trail was the main roadway from South Williamtown, where many farms were located, into town. Now it serves as a peaceful path where locals and tourists get some exercise and admire the untouched beauty of this forested wilderness.  Corn fields surround the wooded trail, and there is a point along it where you can see Mt. Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. 

Anytime I’m back in town, I always jog or walk to the Chair from my parent’s house. If my brothers are visiting we all go and drag our respective spouses along, although we don’t bring ‘turn around’ chocolate anymore. 

I happened to be in Williamstown a few weeks back when Tropical Storm Irene made its way to the Berkshires. After the storm cleared, I thought it would be nice to do my trek to the Chair. It was really muddy, ruining my brand new running shoes; and many trees had come down, requiring some creative detours. But like always, the trip gave me a sense of peace, as well as one of appreciation for this very special place -- a place remaining essentially unchanged since my childhood and others’ childhood long before mine.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dissing Las Vegas: Can Sociology's Cast System of Cities Ever Change?

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, LAS VEGAS, NV – The Annual American Sociological Association conference was held in Las Vegas several weeks ago, and more than 5,000 Sociologists descended upon Caesar’s Palace.  This gathering represented a change in venue because of a pending labor dispute in Chicago, the originally planned location.

But the conference’s theme Social Conflict: Multiple Dimensions and Arenas took on an entirely different meaning than what was intended when complaints about the location among some attendees made their way into the mainstream media. Perhaps the most read and commented upon is Columnist J. Patrick Coolican’s recent Las Vegas Sun article: To the sociologists: If you don’t like Vegas, don’t come backWhat  gave Coolican’s opinion the most 'street cred' was a Youtube video of well-known Urban Sociologist Sharon Zukin, entitled I Hate Las Vegas -- a video that quite possibly was taken out of context.

At the same time, the Sociology blogosphere – in particular Scatter Plot, one of Sociology's most viewed and respected blogs – has put forth a far more positive and thoughtful depiction of the Vegas conference. Indeed, Las Vegas offered up a multitude of interesting, productive, and relevant sociological experiences. In addition, Sociologists out there should not forget the secondary, or for some the primary, purpose for attending these annual conferences: connecting with old friends and colleagues, and networking with new ones. All of this happened in Vegas just like in any previous venues, and will most probably happen again in future venues on the horizon.

The more positive sentiments expressed in the blogosphere aside, as an urban sociologist myself, I think it’s important to reflect upon how we as collective conveyers of sociology implicitly – and perhaps unintentionally at times --  communicate an institutionalized cast system of American cities; one captured quite directly by Coolican’s column. For example, everybody always wants to attend the annual meeting in Chicago or San Francisco or New York City (among other cities at the top of the system).  However, every year this meeting has been held in Atlanta, there is a collective, albeit silent, ‘groan’; and many of the more well-known scholars don’t show up.  Like Vegas, Atlanta is at the bottom of the system, and air temperatures in August are very hot. At the same time, equivalent air temperatures could be present in Chicago or New York City during this time of year as well. (Although bring a sweater to SF, because the temperature will always be far lower).

But the air temperature is not what’s driving this system. Instead preconceived, archaic, and ill-informed perceptions are at work here.  Ironically, such perceptions are in some ways connected to the established hierarchy that exists within the sociology discipline favoring the more prestigious universities – each located in some of the more favored annual conference venues (e.g. University of Chicago, Berkeley, and Columbia, Harvard, University of Pennsylvania etc.) --- over the rest of us.

Yet, the fact of the matter is that our cities elsewhere could very well be more representative of ‘the urban experience’ in its most modern and evolved form. These places are not only the under-explored urban laboratories of today, but perhaps the ones that have changed most radically over the last three decades as well. Such changes happened in the more favored cities far earlier, although they took on a different form. Thus, it is possible that a fixation on late 19th and early 20th century urban structures has compromised our sociological imagination in a way that the originators of the Chicago School would (hopefully) frown on. Perhaps only a few American cities can boast a newly installed life-sized sandbox like Vegas (recently reported in Business Week).  But now even Chicago has pervasive urban sprawl and a clogged up highway infrastructure.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at