Sociologist of The Semester – Francois Dubet, Freelance Sociologist

I know I know. I am so behind on this but this semester feels like a dang treadmill that won’t stop between classes, collective bargaining, submitting abstracts to a couple of conferences and translating reports on slavery in the mines of the DRC. Yeesh.

Anyhoo, I selected Francois Dubet as my sociologist of the semester. I have to confess that I came to Dubet’s work rather late. After all, the man has been steadily publishing since the 1980s and has a distinguished academic career in France, although he has not gotten the media status that Bourdieu used to have or that Touraine still does. He is also less abstract than Edgar Morin, and, I suspect, less willing to tackle the large issues of the day in op-ed in Le Monde as the latter is.

I have already discussed some of Dubet’s work here in my review of his short book, Les Places et Les Chances (positions and lifechances). And indeed, his current work seems to revolve issues of social justice, a theme that I find of utmost importance. However, his most recent work also covers general reflection on the larger transformation of society and on the usefulness of the very concept of society as sociologists and other social scientists have used it for so long.

At the same time, Dubet is very good a popularizing sociology and reading his books is a less painful experience than reading some other sociologists. The man writes well and with great clarity, even when tackling complex issues. I think he is also hard to pin down which is a good thing as I find few things as annoying as slicing and dicing sociologists into thematic boxes (“sociologist of education”, “sociologist of gender”…) as if these themes were discrete entities with limited connections. Dubet’s work touches upon a variety of themes (mostly based on the decades of his work) but with a persistent and consistent eye for perceptions of justice and injustice in society. For Dubet, this is a trend that has been detrimental to the discipline as a whole as it turns sociologists into hyper-specialists.

Anyone new interested in Dubet’s work would do worse than start with his book of popularization, A Quoi Sert Vraiment Un Sociologue?, which is both a nice introduction to sociology and easy to digest point of entry into Dubet’s work and quick intellectual biography. This book can be considered a short manifesto defending the relevance of sociology (not that it needs it!) in the face of general societal vagueness as to what the discipline is for and on the necessity of societies to know themselves.

As Dubet puts it, modern societies need to know themselves because they know they are modern, that is, they know that they are the consequences of their own action (social action, not god, not natural laws), because the world is more open, because cultures overlap more and more. Most social problems that shock or outrage us cannot be solved by moral conviction or political will only, but rather, they need knowledge provided by sociology and other social sciences… well, mostly sociology, I say.

And so, depending on theoretical orientations, Dubet outlines three major conceptions of the uses of sociology: (1) the critical tradition where the focus is on exposing mechanisms of domination; (2) the orgtheory current where the goal of sociology is to increase rationality and good governance at all levels of society; and (3) the sociological intervention current (of which he was a part, as disciple of Touraine) where the role of sociology is to accompany social transformations by raising the level of consciousness of actors and promoting the emergence of new social movements. I would venture that the current global occupation movement would have much to gain from sociological insights from all three perspectives.

As Dubet states it, it is not entirely clear that sociology makes societies better, but they would certainly be worse if sociology did not provide a rather accurate reflection, if not one that is pleasant to look at. At the same time, for Dubet, sociology is a social science that does not get much respect and has its enemies. Those enemies are those who claim a monopoly over social representations, moral entrepreneurs, politicians, psychologists and economists. Why, because sociology pulls back the curtain on social processes and reveals, through its realism, relativism and cynicism, what is behind appearances, discourses and social life in general not explainable by mathematical models of markets or individual brain processes. What sociology is often blamed for, wrongly, is its insistence on the Durkheimian principle of explaining the social by the social, often translated as “making excuses”. How many times do we have to defend what is a scientific imperative against stupidity? At the same time, sociology is also criticized when it does not by the model of the social actors as social and cultural dope, blind to, and thoroughly manipulated by forces of domination that they do not understand. Similarly, every once in a while, we have to debate, yet again, the false dichotomies of “structure v. agency”, “objective v. subjective”, and “positivism v. constructivism”. All these things are time-wasters that can only be detrimental to the public legitimacy of the discipline.

So, what are the characteristics of good sociology, according to Dubet?

1. Good sociology relies of facts, and there is no single methodology to obtain them. One needs facts in order to know what one is talking about. The diversity of methodologies in sociology is a strength. More fundamentally, sociology is useful when it reveals things that were not known, mechanisms that were invisible or hidden, when parts of reality suddenly come to light. This is what makes sociology a discipline that is naturalistic (in the same way that Zola’s novels are part of the naturalist genre), descriptive and realistic.

2. Good sociology also involves quite a bit of do-it-yourself work between fieldworld and more abstract ideas. Every introductory textbook provides a picture of the scientific process as if it were all pure ignoring the much messier reality of that is scientific research. Again, that is not a weakness, it is a strength.

3. Good sociology establishes patterns out of the local and contextualized nature of social action. Out of these individual instance, sociology must derive sets of meanings, forms and rationality of action or types of social interaction beyond individual observation. Good sociology must be worth more than its own materials.

4. Sociology brings to light social mechanisms that are the consequences of action and subjectivity without the actors being aware of them. We are talking about system here. The system is “acted” through individual actions but individuals are not aware of, and do not deliberately produce and reproduce, structures through their subjective agency.

5. Good sociology is also the discipline that connects both individual action and social system, or, as C. Wright Mills put it, personal trouble and public issues.

6. Finally, good sociology also connects an interest for the social problems of the day and rigorous scientific analysis. That is, of course, the Durkheimian dilemma of not accepting social definitions of social problems as other than constructed (like suicide) while, at the same time staying connected to the main social issues. The task is to turn social problems into sociological problems and to show that sociological analysis is not a pure academic exercise. After all, social problems is the door through which sociology can participate in public debates.

At the same time, Dubet is very weary of the anglo-saxon tendency to look at social problems through the prisms of specific populations (queer studies, gender studies, Latino studies) which eat away at the very idea of society, and where the sociologist is turned into a sort of hyper-specialized zoologist. Doing so makes us lose sight of the global ecosystem that is social life. At the same time, for Dubet, such reduction to “population / problem” hijacked the critical nature of sociology and turns it into a never-ending quest for ever more specialized forms of domination (which, in common political and activist discourse, turns into oppression Olympics). from this perspective, social actors are, again, cultural dopes and automata whose discourse reflect their specific status, and an inability to grasp any other perspective (hence the always-so-much-fun-to-watch persistent circular firing squad within the feminist movement online, for instance).

At the same time, for Dubet, sociology does not stand in opposition to the individual. After all, the individual and the very concept of individuality are social constructions of modernity, a product of the space opened by modern societies in the interstices of no-longer hegemonic institutions, such as The Church and the State (in this case, the separation of Church and State is what created the space in which individuality could emerge). After all, the individual may be socialized into her individuality through a variety of institutions in order to act autonomously. The individual is thoroughly socially embedded and it is through this embeddedness that this autonomy is accomplished (think Cooley and Mead).

The goal of sociology then, for Dubet, is to examine the social conditions out of which individuals emerge that is, their social experience as both a series of conditioning, obstacles and injunctions to act autonomously and subjectively. In this sense, individuals are constrained by three major mechanisms:

1. they do not choose their social locations and identities;

2. social actors function in a multiplicity of markets where they try to promote their interest in the context of grossly unequally distributed resources, be they economic, symbolic and social;

3. social actors see themselves through the looking-glass of social representations that originate in the culture, art, religion, media and all the other imaginaries that give a sense of ourselves. Such is the case, for instance, with individualization which creates a specific dilemma for social actors: on the one hand, the ever-strong injunction of individualization, to be one’s own brand and project, and on the other hand, the social conditions that make such a project more and more difficult to achieve for the larger and larger segments of the population (the 99%). After all, isn’t that what the occupation movements around the world are really protesting against? The restrains imposed by governments / corporations to individual achievements, success or more generally self-realization and against the uniform precarization imposed from above.

In other words, to study the individual, one must return to societies. In this sense, sociology has a role to play in this context, especially in contributing to the debates on the reconstruction of social life after the 2008 systemic collapse. It is, after all, according to Dubet, its most fundamental calling. It is work to be done precisely in the name of individualism.

Which brings us to the oh-so-important theme of social justice. Social justice is not an abstract theme. Individuals are keenly aware of the justice or injustice of social arrangements (again, the 99%). They have their own theories of social justice. Workers are aware of their own exploitation, women know what harassment is, minorities know what discrimination fees like. More than just complain about inequities, people can also mobilize principles of justice out of which their complaint and critique emerge and those “grammar of injustice” are often shared.

For instance, Dubet’s work shows that when it comes to injustice, workers mobilize three principles of justice:

  1. equality
  2. merit or recognition
  3. autonomy

Workers want to be treated equally (no discrimination), they want the quality of their work to be recognized and they demand a right to fulfillment at work.

What the issue of public sociology then (after all, Dubet writes all this in a popularization book)? For Dubet, there are different markets and audiences for sociologists and their production:

1. the very selective and restricted market of peer-reviewed journals that is at the heart of academic careers, but whose audience is highly limited and does not go beyond academia;

2. specialized books out of university presses whose audience goes beyond academia but remains relatively specialized to the intellectual sphere. Every once in a while, one such book will pop out of that category and get into…

3. best-sellers and popular books for mass audiences, where sociologists usually take a more essayist role;

4. interventions on television and radio;

5. textbooks and manuals;

6. online publications.

Some of these markets are large, some are restrained. Some are slow, others are rapid. But the real question for Dubet is whether these different markets determine sociological production and its impact. Every market has its rules (although there is a certain degree of unpredictability in all of them). Often times, beyond the academic market, it is the media who determine how a sociological product will reach an audience (if it does). And this leads to the constant dilemma of how much to engage with the mass media, something that Bourdieu did with great reluctance, as he was afraid of having simplify his ideas and have them distorted beyond recognition.

Quite often, sociologists have to face a sociologization of the news if they want media access. That is, they are asked to provide sociological commentary on the event of the day. So, what is the sociological analysis on Kim Kardashian’s wedding? On Casey Anthony? Anyone teaching introduction to sociology has to face these kinds of questions and often provides frustrating answers (for the record, I don’t give a damn about the Kardashians). At the same time, if sociologists want to participate (and be invited to) in public debates, these are issues they need to deal with. Oftentimes, sociologists will not be seen as interesting commentators, especially as they try to resist sensationalist (and moralizing) interpretations of singular shocking events. Dubet favors a cautionary attitude rather than getting facetime on TV at all costs.

In the end, Dubet defines himself as a freelance sociologist in the sense that, even though his work is well-known in the discipline, with a decent number of translations of his books, his approach (mostly in the form of sociological intervention) has not generated a movement or a school, as it has with other celebrity sociologists. This may be precisely because he has resisted the sirens of media intervention on topics he has studied (violence in schools, drifting youths) but that would lead too easily to sensationalist reinterpretation of his work.

However, he is still a prolific author and there is nothing stopping anyone from reading his books. After all, the current question of social justice may not be sexy enough for the media, but it is the crucial question of our times.

The Visual Du Jour – Teaching Small Countries a Lesson

Via: as you can see, the Greek debt is small potatoes compared to a lot of other things, so why the persistence in pushing it against the wall with measures that actually increase such a debt and make life miserable for the Greeks? And note that the European banks need about twice as much in recapitalization, which they might get without the draconian conditions of the kind imposed on Greece. Of course, the total costs of the war on terror is itself absurd.

Other Mediterranean countries might have to go through the same thing, based, largely on the prejudice that Continental Europeans have against their Southern counterparts (lazy, hedonistic, shades of La Fontaine’s La Cigale et La Fourmi except that the ants lecturing the crickets are not exactly better stewards of public finances and masters of frugality).

La Fuite En Avant (A Post in English and French)

So it’s all a big mess and people still have to survive and therefore have to find solutions to their present and individual, but socially-produced predicaments. Depending on their characteristics and circumstances, they may tap into repertoires of survival (something akin to repertoires of contention but directed at finding survival solutions). For instance, packing it up and moving on might be one such strategy when one’s national economy has collapsed and does not show any signs of recovering (mostly because one’s country is now subject to recessionary policies).

Or maybe it’s time to dust off Robert Merton’s Strain theory where socially-produced anomie and strain find resolutions in different ways, for instance, innovation in the form of exodus.

Example 1 – Greece:

“Depuis le début de la crise économique, en 2008, environ 50 000 Grecs ont migré, confirme Savas Robolis, également expert en migration. Le professeur estime à environ 80 % la part des jeunes dans ces départs. Une dynamique qui se serait accélérée ces derniers mois. “Les ingénieurs, les informaticiens, les architectes partent surtout en Grande-Bretagne, où il existe des opportunités avec la préparation des Jeux olympiques”, note le chercheur. Si les flux sont difficiles à mesurer, il estime à environ 10 000 personnes les départs vers le Royaume-Uni. “Les autres partent en Allemagne, environ 8 000 personnes, dans les pays européens et enfin en Australie, avec environ 4 500 départs”.

Un attrait pour l’étranger confirmé par les statistiques du site Europass qui doit faciliter la mobilité des Européens : sur la même période entre 2008 et 2011, le nombre de Grecs ayant utilisé ce service a quasiment doublé (pdf 2008). Plus de 60 % des personnes ayant publié leur CV sur le site ont moins de 30 ans (pdf 2011).

Contrairement aux années 1960 où des milliers de Grecs quittaient leurs pays vers l’Europe du Nord pour occuper des emplois peu qualifiés, il s’agit cette fois d’une poignée de jeunes gens hautement diplômés. L’Australie vient ainsi de lancer, en Grèce, le programme intitulé “Les personnes qualifiées dont l’Australie a besoin”. Le secrétariat de l’immigration organise ainsi des journées d’information le mois prochain pour les citoyens intéressés par l’émigration, rapporte le quotidien grec I Kathimerini. Le département de l’immigration de Canberra a déjà posté en ligne les secteurs dans lesquels la demande est forte, notamment l’ingénierie et la santé. “C’est plus compliqué pour les diplômés en sciences humaines”, commente Savas Robolis, qui rapporte ces scènes récentes : des étudiants “pessimistes” et “nerveux” s’enquérant de contacts pour un travail, quelque part en Europe.

“Il s’agit d’un véritable ‘brain drain'”, commente le chercheur, qui anticipe des conséquences très négatives sur l’économie : “d’après nos estimations, à partir de 2013, on notera une légère reprise de la croissance. C’est à ce moment là qu’on aura besoin de personnes qualifiées. Mais elles seront déjà parties.””

Roughly, for those of you still not reading French, 50,000 Greeks have left since the beginning of the economic crisis. But contrary to the 1960s where low-skilled Greeks would migrate in search of better-paying but still low-skilled jobs, the current emigration is a brain drain where educated and skilled young people are leaving. If/when the economy recovers, the Greek society will need them but they will simply not be there. And, this also means that the Greek government will have subsidized the education of these workers but that another country will benefit from that investment.

Those that remain though join the ranks of The Precariat.

Example 2 – Italy:

“History is repeating itself. In the past 10 years, some 580,000 people have left southern Italy, driven out by the financial crisis and rising poverty.

The population of Naples has fallen by 108,000, Palermo has lost 29,000 residents and Bari 15,000. In 2010 alone, 134,000 terroni (a derogatory term used by Northern League supporters, which originally meant “farmer”) moved to northern Italy, with 13,000 others going abroad.

These alarming figures were published last month by Svimez, an agency that has been monitoring the region’s economy since 1946. “If nothing is done, there will be a demographic tsunami,” the report concludes.

The 15-34 age group accounts for the largest number of emigrants. If the trend continues, only 5 million people will be left in this age group by 2050, compared with 7 million at present. Over-75s would represent 18% of the total population, up from 8% currently.

With 0.7% growth forecast for Italy as a whole this year, the southern economy will grow by just 0.1%. Only farming has a few jobs to offer. Industry is on the verge of completely disappearing. For the south to catch up with the rest of the country, some €60bn ($80bn) would have to be invested, according to Svimez.”

But then, guess who is leaving as well? The Cloud-minders! The British wealthy have apparently grown afraid of the riff-raff who rebelled a few months ago and so, they have decided to move to… (wait for it) FRANCE.. high-taxing, king-killing, constantly-striking France! No, seriously:

“Selon une étude publiée lundi 10 octobre par la banque Lloyds TSB, les riches Britanniques sont plus nombreux à envisager de quitter le Royaume-Uni à la suite des émeutes du mois d’août. Plus étonnant, la France serait dans ce cas leur destination préférée pour leur nouvelle vie.

Ils sont désormais 17 % à souhaiter quitter le pays dans les deux prochaines années, contre 14 % il y a six mois, d’après une étude de Lloyds TSB International Wealth effectuée auprès de 1 057 personnes faisant partie des 5 % des Britanniques les plus aisés.”

The new sociopaths have a harder time living with the rest of us.

The Visual Du Jour – Redistribution… to The Top


So, to repeat, there has been massive redistribution, but to the top, by design, through political means and legislation. As I constantly tell my students, nothing ever happens by chance in society. So, instead of trickle-down, we got massive flow-up, accepted and facilitated by a constant media drumbeat of conservative propaganda, persuading a lot of people that everyone can get to the red bar on the right. Except that the very existence of the red bar on the right is based on the existence of a lot of green-ish bars to the left. There is no incredibly wealthy and getting wealthier 1% without stagnating 99%.

Needless to say, the effects of such gross inequalities are rather socially deleterious as the multiple social movements occurring around the world, from the Arab Spring to the Discontents to the Occupy movements, clearly illustrate. The Cloud Minders may want to take notice.

In Which Al-Jazeera Shows Yet Again That It Is The Best News Network

With this series (many thanks to the Grumpy Sociologist for this) on modern slavery (readers of this blog know that this is pet peeve of mine):

The first video is on food chain slaves (a good reason to monitor what you eat is to determine whether slavery was involved and this is a helpful guide):

I’ll be watching out for the next installments and you should too.

And if you haven’t done so, go measure your slavery footprint.

Family 2.0

In general, any topic related to marriage and families bores me to tears but I could not help but be intrigued by this:

“P is an unhappy 10-year-old girl. At school, she cries in the toilets and has to be comforted by her friend. She has “suffered significant emotional harm as a result of the conflicts which have raged around her for at least the last three years,” according to a high court judge.

P’s problem is not that she has two mothers. P knows that her mother RWB and her mother’s civil partner SWB are her family and she is happy with that.

What makes P so miserable is she and her six-year-old sister L also have two fathers. P says she likes seeing ML and his long-term partner AR. But, according to a grownup who was looking after the 10-year-old a few months ago, “she cannot just pretend that ML is her father in order to make him happy”.

Except that he is. ML, 50, is indeed the biological father of the two girls. They were conceived by IVF after the lesbian couple (as they described themselves) had advertised in the Pink Paper in 1999 for a gay man or couple who might want to start a family with them.

The problem according to Mr Justice Hedley is that the four adults failed to decide at that time what their respective roles should be. It was agreed that ML, who is of Polish descent, would be the child’s father and his partner AR, 41, would be the stepfather. But what brought the two couples to court was the effect these terms were intended to have.

The two women maintain it involved little more than the child’s identity. But the two men claim that ML is in the same position as a traditional separated parent and therefore entitled to regular contact.

While thinking the issues through, Hedley developed a new legal concept: principal and secondary parenting. In an anonymised judgment released this week, he deemed the two women to be the girls’ principal parents and the two men to be their secondary parents.”

My first thought was that indeed, we tend to conceive parental roles as cast in stone, gendered, immutable, and oh-so central to society’s stability, rather than socially constructed, subject to social and cultural changes, and reflective of changing power dynamics across social institutions.

My second thought was “what’s the big deal” as in “how is this any different than recomposed families of any kinds?” After all, divorced and remarried parents have to do the same juggling act when it comes to “managing” parenting.

My third thought was that if we stopped considering children as the exclusive property of their parents (and, obviously, the definition of that term is not as straightforward as it seems), such issues would not arise.

My fourth thought was “how nice that the sexual preference of the parents does not enter the discussion as THE issue.” Things, they are changing then.

The Patriarchy Continuum – Bridenapping

Because yesterday’s list was not complete:

“Last year, Asana, a 14-year-old from Somalia, popped out to get some meat and milk for her mother. As she walked in a Mogadishu market, a car with blacked-out windows pulled up, a door was flung open and she was dragged inside. A man she had never seen before said to the driver: “This is my wife; we just got engaged.” The man was Mohamed Dahir, a leader of the terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Her money was taken, she was locked away and forced to become Dahir’s wife.

Asana’s story is echoed across the globe in a phenomenon that is still little reported or understood. Bride kidnapping, or “bridenapping”, happens in at least 17 countries around the world, from China to Mexico to Russia to southern Africa. In each of these lands, there are communities where it is routine for young women and girls to be plucked from their families, raped and forced into marriage. Few continents are not blighted by the practice, yet there is little awareness of these crimes, and few police investigations. The lack of reporting means there are no global statistics, but inquiries over many weeks by The Independent on Sunday have found anecdotal evidence that bridenapping is increasing. Something that belongs more to the Middle Ages is growing in the 21st century.

The lack of awareness, and therefore of any worldwide campaign on the issue, leaves little hope for women such as Asana (her name has been changed to protect her from Al-Shabaab, who still send her death threats). Now 15, and bringing up Dahir’s baby son, she considers herself one of the luckier ones. She managed to escape to Kenya after Dahir was killed in a shoot-out. Her story, however, would not be considered “lucky” by many.

Sitting in a plastic chair that dwarfs her childlike frame, she describes her experience: “He beat me and locked me up for one and a half months in a house. He said, ‘If you talk I’ll kill you’. I was so afraid that I accepted. Even when I wanted to go to the toilet, he escorted me. He wouldn’t let me do anything on my own. He also used force to get me to have sex with him; he tied each of my legs with rope so they were apart. It was every night at midnight.”

Men such as Dahir are able to get away with the crime in Somalia thanks to a toxic combination of lawlessness, extreme Islamist values that give women no rights, and the shame of lost virginity. Elsewhere, the practice has emerged from a twisting of a traditional culture that has made communities turn a blind eye, allowing it to thrive. In Kyrgyzstan – one of the few places to collect data – the practice has been on the increase since the fall of communism. Some believe this violent subversion of a tradition (which was historically for show and done with the consent of the wife) has become popular to avoid the embarrassment of being unable to afford a dowry.

Up to a third of all ethnic Kyrgyz women in Kyrgyzstan are kidnapped brides, and some studies suggest that, in certain regions, the rates of bride kidnapping account for up to 80 per cent of marriages.”

Right. This may have been done symbolically in the past but that meant that the concept was thoroughly embedded in the culture and internalized as something possible.

Let me refresh everybody’s memory on Kyrgyzstan:


One Split Nobel Peace Prize Does Not Alter The Patriarchy Continuum

By all means, let’s celebrate the remarkable women who got honored today but let us not forget that patriarchal violence (interpersonal, structural and symbolic) continues unabated in most parts of the word, in many forms. One needs only to follow the news recently to bump into a variety of cases.

Case 1 – Child Brides:

“Some 10 million girls a year are married off before the age of 18 across the world, according to a Unicef report released this year.


Some 40% of the world’s child marriages take place in India. In the northern state of Rajasthan I witnessed the wedding of two sisters who were about six and 11 years old.

As older female relatives fussed over them – dressing them in sparkly red-and-gold outfits and applying full bridal make-up – the brides, like obedient children, quietly went along with it all.

Child marriages are illegal in India, and are punishable with a fine of Rs100,000 (£1,300) and two years in prison for anyone who performs, conducts or negligently fails to prevent a child marriage. But this didn’t seem to bother any of the guests who danced merrily or the priest who solemnly chanted the wedding rites.

The brides’ grandfather complained: “I hate the government for trying to stop us. This is the way we’ve always done things. The government bans this, saying do not get under-aged children married, but we don’t care and we do these weddings anyway.”

Dinesh Sharma, a local non-governmental organisation worker, explained that in remote villages child marriage is usually fully supported by the entire community, and it is rare for someone to inform the police so they can be stopped.”

Aaah, culture and tradition, the ever-shifting rationalization for patriarchal oppression. Combined with a touch of fetishism of the local, it is a toxic brew.

Case 2 – Sex slaves:

“Police in Peru say they have rescued nearly 300 women from sexual exploitation in a raid in the country’s Amazon region.

At least four people were arrested in Puerto Maldonado on suspicion of human trafficking.

Among those rescued from about 50 brothels were at least 10 minors – the youngest was a 13-year-old girl.

More than 400 police took part in the three-day operation in the region, known for its illegal gold mining.

The region has seen an influx of fortune-hunters trying to make a living from the trade.

Prosecutors say young girls are lured to the area by women who travel around offering them jobs in shops or as domestic helpers, but that the girls often end up being forced to work as prostitutes in local bars.

Last month, the charity Save the Children said that more than 1,100 underage girls were being used as sexual slaves in illegal mining camps in the south-eastern Peruvian state of Madre de Dios.

Camps set up along the main highway have also attracted unlicensed bars used for prostitution.”

It always amazes me (as in “makes me wanna retch”) that you can’t have men congregating in one place (whether it’s mine camps or military bases) without having to have brothels around. And, of course, the complicity of women in sex trafficking is well-known, precisely because they might be perceived as more trustworthy by young women (something illustrated quite clearly in the PBS Frontline documentary, Sex Slaves)

Case 3 – Honorable murders:

“Kainat Soomro is a 17-year-old Pakistani girl who has become a local celebrity of sorts in her battle for justice in the Pakistani courts, a daring move for a woman of any age in this country, let alone a teenager.

She is fighting to get justice for a gang rape that she insists happened four years ago in Mehar, a small town in Pakistan.

We first met her in the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. A colorful traditional Pakistani shawl covered her head. Her father sat next to her as she recounted the 2007 incident.

“I was walking home from my school and I went to the store to buy a toy for my niece,” she said, staring at the floor of the office. “While I was looking at things a guy pressed a handkerchief on my nose. I fainted and was kidnapped. Then four men gang raped me.”

As she shared details of her days in captivity and multiple rapes, she kept repeating, “I want justice, I will not stop until I get justice.” After three days, she was finally able to escape she said. As she spoke, her father gently tapped her head. He said he tried to get Kainat’s alleged rapists arrested, but instead he was rebuffed by the police.

According to the Kainat family’s account, the tribal elders declared her kari, (which literally means black female), for losing her virginity outside marriage.

In Pakistan, women and men who have illicit relationships or women who lose their virginity before marriage are at risk of paying with their lives.

“These are matters of honor and the leaders call a jirga and they declare that the woman or the couple should be killed,” said Abdul Hai, a veteran field officer for the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan. These acts of violence are most commonly labeled as “honor killings.”

The most recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted that in 2009 roughly 46 percent of all female murders in Pakistan that year were in the name of “honor.” The report noted that a total of 647 incidences of “honor killings” were reported by the Pakistani press. However, experts say that actual incidences of “honor killings” in Pakistan are much higher and never get reported to the police because they are passed off by the families as suicides.

Kainat said that despite the pressures her family refused to kill her.

“It is the tradition, but if the family doesn’t permit it, then it won’t happen. My father, my brother, my mom didn’t allow it,” she said.

And that defiance has left the family fearing for their lives. The family’s new home in Karachi has been attacked a number of times.

But, according to Abdul Hai, Kainat is lucky: “The woman or the girl usually gets killed and the man gets away,” he said. “Over 70 percent of the murdered victims are women and only 30 percent of victims of honor killings are male.”

In Karachi, Kainat and her family are now sharing one room in a run-down apartment block, and they have to rely on charities to help them pay for food.

“We go hungry many nights,” said Kainat’s older sister.

But their fight might never pay off. A local judge has already ruled against Kainat in the case. “There is no corroborative evidence available on record. The sole testimony of the alleged rape survivor is not sufficient,” the judge said in a written decision.”

Case 4 – War-related sex trafficking (sorry, it’s in French, but it discusses the tens of thousands of Iraki women trapped into sex trafficking both in Irak and Syria).

Case 5 – What would we do without our Filipino maids?

“Every year more than 100,000 Filipinos go abroad to work in the service industry. President Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86) started exporting manpower in 1974, when the economy was derelict, and he saw an opportunity in the rapid development of the Gulf states after the 1973 oil crisis. In 1974 35,000 Filipinos found jobs abroad. It was meant to be temporary, but 35 years later this trickle has turned into a flood, involving more than 8.5 million Filipinos, mostly women — just under 10% of the population and 22% of the working age population. According to the World Bank, foreign workers contributed 12% of the Philippines’ GDP in 2010 with $21.3bn in remittances (3). This is the fourth highest number of foreign remittances after China, India and Mexico.

Most of the permanent and temporary diaspora (of whom a quarter are illegal) are in the US, Canada and the Middle East. A million are in Saudi Arabia, even though it announced a ban on Filipino and Indonesian maids last July. Gloria Arroyo, the former Philippines president (2001-10), described them as “modern heroes”. In 2006 (after Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, where 30,000 Filipino workers lived) she launched the “supermaid” programme (4). She wanted to train domestic servants “in the language of their employers” and educate them, through a national diploma, in the use of household appliances and first aid. The aim was to do away with agency fees, ensure that every maid earned at least $400, and reduce the structural violence (economic as well as physical) affecting women. Five years later there are training colleges all over the country, but the promise of basic rights for Filipino overseas workers has proven empty.”

What really irks me in these cases is that we have to listen to some national / gender essentialist BS that is used as rationalization for extracting resources (in that case, women) out of the periphery to the core:

““It’s in their genes,” said Béatrice, explaining her employee’s devotion. “Filipino women are very good with people. It’s in their culture to be devoted. And they love children. That’s what they enjoy doing, because their lives are not much fun.””


My Life As A Feminist – Nobel Peace Prize Edition



Le Monde does slightly better, but not the Independent:

I guess they don’t have names, not even the one who is a rather famous president and even made an appearance on The Daily Show:

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Fashion Modeling as Sociological Object

While waiting to get my life back in-between grading marathons and collective bargaining (such is the life of the union thug), I am reading Ashley Mears’s book, Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model. So far, the book is very good and does a good job of exploring the world of fashion modeling both from a structural point of view but also through participant observation.

Here are a couple of videos with Ashley Mears. The first one is on emotional labor:

The second one is on studying the world of fashion modeling from a sociological perspective.