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My Passage to India

Nicholas Dirks, professor of history and anthropology | February 2, 2015

I set off on my first passage to India when I was 12 years old. My father had a Fulbright grant to teach at Madras Christian College, in Tambaram, southern India, and he decided to take our entire family with him for the year. I remember being told about my family’s plans some time in … Continue reading »

Today’s American political dysfunction

Brad DeLong, professor of economics | August 30, 2013

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have a very nice op-ed this morning about America’s political dysfunction. I, however, found it sad: their fantasy is for pressure to work in America’s interest to be directed toward Speaker of the House Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell by… … Continue reading »

A 165 year-long struggle for women’s rights continues

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | July 19, 2013

On July 19, 1848, the Seneca Falls Conference launched a challenge to US society: extend the revolution to encompass women, not just men. The point was made in a provocative text, the “Declaration of Sentiments” drafted by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Rhetorically, by using the Declaration of Independence as a model, the Declaration of Sentiments sharply … Continue reading »

Guns, germs, and steel…and economics

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | June 11, 2013

“Classic” books are few and far between but Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond is one of these rare classic books written during our lifetime. It aims to answer the question why the people of Eurasia fared better than people in other regions. The explanation takes the reader through human history over the last … Continue reading »

Jupiter Hammon should be a household name

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | February 17, 2013

But my guess is, many readers didn’t know his name a week ago– and some still don’t. So let’s correct that. According to the Lloyd Harbor Historical Society, Jupiter Hammon was “America’s First Colonial Afro-American Published Poet”. Hammon was born and died in slavery, living from 1711 to after the American Revolution with successive generations … Continue reading »

Overheating and the Fed

Carola Conces Binder, Ph.D. candidate, economics | February 7, 2013

Governor Jeremy Stein of the St. Louis Federal Reserve gave a speech on February 7 called “Overheating in Credit Markets: Origins, Measurement, and Policy Responses.” Overheating is a term he uses to describe a credit market with low interest rates, lax lending standards, and high risk-taking by investors “reaching for yield.” The problem with overheating is that … Continue reading »

Lets party like it’s Baktun 13 (or the end of the world)

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | December 11, 2012

Take your pick. We can all join what the New York Times assures us is a general panic sweeping across Russia (Russia? Really?). Or we can enjoy the dry humor of Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who announced in a widely reproduced comedic video that the end of the world is coming this month. What … Continue reading »

Why would anyone claim UC doesn’t teach American history?

Rosemary Joyce, professor of anthropology | April 27, 2012

Back at the beginning of April, when Rick Santorum was still a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, he made a shocking claim about teaching in the University of California system: “seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course,” Santorum said. “It’s not even available to be … Continue reading »

Reconstructing memory

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | January 4, 2012

The Berkeley campus has an eatery with an interesting name and story: “The Free Speech Movement Café.” At the 2000 dedication of the café, then-Chancellor Robert Behrdahl lauded the tumultuous student movement of 1964 for having brought adult rights to college students, including the right of  free expression, and for having broadened civil debate. Back … Continue reading »

Spinsters no more

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | June 29, 2011

Among the familiar characters in 19th century novels are the spinsters – the “spinster aunts” who lived with a brother or sister’s family; also the “spinster daughters” who stayed home with their elderly parent(s). These characters seem to have decamped from modern fiction. No wonder, there are a lot fewer of them in modern life. To … Continue reading »

Missing tramps

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | June 24, 2011

One image of the Great Depression was of the tramps, the hobos drifting from town to town. Folk singer Woody Guthrie sang many a lyric on the theme, such as “the highway that’s our home / It’s a never-ending highway / For a dust bowl refugee.” And: “Go to sleep you weary hobo / Let … Continue reading »

City crime, country crime

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | June 15, 2011

A recent report announced that the huge financial company UBS will be moving back from a suburb of New York into Manhattan, “because it has come to realize it is more difficult to recruit talented people in their 20s to work in the suburbs.” What a (literal) turnaround! For about a generation, roughly from  the 1970s … Continue reading »

Living togetherness

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | June 8, 2011

People of a certain age (like me) can recall a time when the phrases “living together in sin” or “shacking up” were spoken in an embarrassed whisper. One did not discuss such things in front of the children or in polite company. When movie stars were revealed to have done it, newspapers printed scandalized headlines. … Continue reading »

Naturally clean

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | June 2, 2011

In the category of things we take as “natural” is how great it feels to be clean. I noticed a few online discussions about morning versus evening showering and one striking feature of the comments is how many people assert that taking anything less than a daily shower – or even two showers – leaves … Continue reading »

Women graduating

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | May 26, 2011

It’s the season of graduation in America and, increasingly, that means it’s the season of women, too. This year, about 3 women will get their B.A. degrees for every 2 men who do. About 50 years ago, the ratio was about 2 men to every 1 woman. In a society that treats a college degree … Continue reading »

Home owning dreams

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | May 19, 2011

Owning one’s own home seems vital to being an American; it is intimately tied  to our understanding of the “American Dream.” The headline of a 2008Newsweek story on the foreclosure crisis blared “The American Dream – Only This Time in Reverse.”  When NPR recently broadcast a story that rates of home ownership had dropped from … Continue reading »

Technology and fundamentals

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | May 11, 2011

One is always reading and being told about the pell-mell technological rush of our time and how that is upsetting our lives. One literary critic, for example, bemoans “the loneliness of our electronic caves . . .  We have given our hearts to machines, and now we are turning into machines.” Breathless news accounts worry about … Continue reading »

Protected class

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | May 6, 2011

For all the fierce debate in Washington about cutting government spending, it is striking how the interests of one class — the elderly — are protected by politicians on both sides. The Democrats roundly attack the GOP for proposing radical changes in Medicare and Medicaid that would, they charge, undermine the security and health of … Continue reading »

Faith Endures

Claude Fischer, professor of sociology | April 27, 2011

In 1907, a delegation of ministers from the New York City Federation of Churches visited President Theodore Roosevelt to ask his assistance in halting an alarming decline in the churches’ “hold on the people.” Roosevelt promised “to aid the cause in every way possible.” Ministers in the early 20th century frequently raised such alarms. They … Continue reading »