Posted by: soanstolaf | December 10, 2015

The Impact of Digital Technology on the Little Ones


Lately, I’ve been noticing something that is a little unsettling. I see toddlers, all over, who are glued to a digital technology—iPhones, iPads, tablets, you name it—they’ve got it. Some of the applications really are geared towards this age group and concerned with educating them, which isn’t inherently bad. What makes me a little concerned is HOW connected the kids are to these devices, and what is the impact that they are having on their impressionable brains? How is their relationship with this technology impacting the relationships they have in real life? And, really, how is this transforming the reality of an “American childhood?”

It’s weird to think about, but these kids have had access to this technology their entire lives. I had a bookshelf full of tangible books to look through…they have a hundred books on one little gadget. There was a study done in 1999 looking at the impact of television on kids younger than two. It revealed that these kids needed more “direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers.”

Now, 16 years later, access to technology is usually a foot away from mom or dad’s hands. Its accessibility, its ubiquitousness, has changed the game for kids. Sometimes, it almost seems like an addiction…if you take it away, they cry until they have it back in their hands. If they start crying, you first see if they’re hungry, but then just give them an iPhone to quiet them down. It’s a little scary for me, to think that this is the world that I will—at some point WAY in the future—bring kids into. But really, isn’t this what people said about television, about the internet, about any new medium that has showed up in the past?

I checked out a couple articles online that had something to say about the topic and included them below with a short synopsis. I would really encourage you to check them out—I was fascinated and found my perspective challenged. Kids are learning from these applications, they’re not all bad, but I still feel wary about the new “American childhood.” But then again, I look at myself, and who am I really to judge? I am one of those people who stresses out if my phone is missing and tells my friends to call it ASAP. It makes me wonder…am I really any better than a two year old in regards to technology?

“The Touch Screen Generation”

Hanna Rosin discusses personal experiences and psychological studies that have been/are being conducted with these little ones. She really challenges her own assumptions and even applies a principle of Marc Prensky to her own child—she put an iPad in his space for 10 days and he played with it constantly. After that, though, he forgot about it for six weeks and now only plays with it every once and a while.

Your Kids’ Brains On Touch-Screens”

An interview with Hannah Rosin about the concept of “screen time” and its affects on kids’ brains.

Posted by: soanstolaf | November 18, 2015

About the 11/13 Paris attacks

Je Suis Paris

The November 13th terrorist attacks in France have fuelled a lot of conversations around campus. We talk about the events in our classes, at meals, and even on Yik Yak. A lot of arguments and opinions regarding terrorism, religion, immigration, hegemony, and imperialism have arisen. The fact that these conversations are taking place on our campus is tremendously encouraging. As SOAN majors, however, we must remain informed and be critical of what we hear and read about issues such as the Paris events. Some of the questions I have encountered in conversations since last Friday have included:

Why did the attacks happen in France?
Why do the events in Paris get more global attention than other important events?
Whose life matters more in global governance?
Why should or shouldn’t one change their Facebook profile picture to the Tricolor?
Is there a right or wrong way to mourn the lives that have been lost?
What are the implications of the attacks on immigration in Europe?

The articles and radio talks below address these questions and provide us with some insights.

Anthropologist John R. Bowen explores three reasons France became a target for Jihad

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

David Green of NPR talks about Refugees in France experiencing backlash after Paris attack

Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Juan Cole, addresses the question how “Islamic” is the Islamic State?

Militant Islamist fighters on a tank take part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province


Lulu Nunn of The Independent provides an argument as to why using the French flag as profile picture reinforces corporate white supremacy


Jack Mirkinson of Fusion compares reactions to the attacks in Beirut and Kenya to those from the Paris attacks

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Feel free to leave comments below to share your opinion/critique!







Posted by: soanstolaf | November 13, 2015

Learning through teaching in India by Kathryn Ravey (’16)

Version 2

Last summer, I was lucky enough to intern with the Foundation for Sustainable Development. Through this organization, I was paired with a local non-profit. This organization asked me to teach English to women of a local community who were not allowed to get an education. I created lesson plans, taught dance classes and helped establish personal development skills with my students. However, during the two months of this internship, they became MY teachers and sisters. They introduced me to the many injustices to women in their community and how resilient each woman was in overcoming these injustices to find opportunities to be educated and create a career. The following are a few of my journal entries from my incredible experience in India:


Riding in a rickshaw to meet my host family for the first time, motorcycles wiz by. They are so close; I fear their pedals will leave marks on the car. It is not uncommon for families, even up to 5 people, to fit on one motorcycle! Cows have complete freedom in India. They roam free, grazing on garbage, plastic bags (despite the fact that they are banned for the cow’s sake) and drinking from filthy puddles. Mountains line the horizon. The desert terrain is laden with distinct trees and shrubbery that give just enough life to an otherwise desolate place. Horns blast from the cars and trucks that pass us. Trucks have several different sounding horns that are all equally annoying! They sound like menacing ice cream trucks that demand others to move out of their way. It is a cacophony of horns on Indian roads, as the horns take the place of turn signals. 

One week, I organized a community workshop that brought together the mothers and sisters of my students to talk about the importance of educating women and girls in the community.

The community workshop began as I expected: very chaotic. I was thrilled to see how many family members actually showed up! Mothers and sisters sat shoulder to shoulder with my lovely students! I was so excited to begin. It was when I was explaining that education can reduce domestic violence, all of the women started talking about people they knew who had been victims and their own personal stories. It was crazy. Before I knew it, the women were raising their hands, pledging not to get in the way of their daughter’s education or “growing up.” I asked the mothers to give their input. Up until this point, the mothers had been listening and mostly agreeing to what was being said. But when I opened the floor to the mothers, things got very interesting. It took a bit to coax them into speaking. Thankfully, Mohit pressured them to speak. After a few spoke about some of their thoughts, it turned into a flood of impassioned speeches! Everyone was talking! I was smiling ear to ear. Even though I had no idea what was going on, I knew that this was the EXACT kind of engagement that I wanted to happen at this meeting. Julia leaned over to me and asked what was happening. “Good things,” I said. And I was right. I was soon informed that the mother’s were sharing the issues with giving the girls more education. Money and disapproving husbands were the two biggest issues. It came out that there was a particular family who is very strict against allowing women to “grow up,” that were influencing these families. So, they said they would speak to them. It was loud. It was exhausting. It was empowering. It was inspiring. It was incredible. 

I learned so much about the sexism my students were facing.

Suchi introduced me to a good friend of hers who works at a parlor near the office. She was a very kind lady and she showed me to the bathroom as a very nice host. When we left, I found out that she was a victim of domestic violence. Her husband is an alcoholic. He is a bum and doesn’t work very often. He used to beat her and at one point put alcohol “in her urine” according to Suchi (I believe she means in her vagina). Suchi told me that it got so bad at one point that when she would speak with Suchi, her whole body would start shaking. Her parlor work is her family’s main source of income. She works very hard. When I asked if she still lives with him, Suchi told me that she does. Apparently, she believes that, being nearly 40, she doesn’t see the point in separating. It is so hard to live in Jaipur without a man. So if she divorced, it would mean having to find another husband, figuring out how to live with her four teenagers, etc. She no longer has any dreams. She has responsibilities. And trying to find a different husband is too much work. Unbelievable. 

Poonja, a woman in Jhalanla I was teaching, told me that she is allowed to leave the village. In order to gain that permission, she had to tell her father to think of her as a son, rather than a daughter. 

During our last week of classes, we held a final English assessment, followed by a field trip out of town.

After the assessment, they insisted that we go to the garden we have been talking about for the past month. So, we boarded a tuk-tuk and went to the park. I absolutely love my students! So, being crammed in a tuk-tuk with 12 of them was a blast! When we got to the park, it felt like we were kids again. We all laughed as we climbed all over the jungle gym, swung, slid down the slide and posed for some funny pictures! It was definitely a very special and happy time in my life. We walked all around, did photo-shoots, saw ducks and goofed around. That was a lot of fun and reminded me of the interconnectedness of adolescents, as I have played that game with my friends when I was younger too! I remember Kajal telling me that she had no interest in getting married or in boys. I encouraged her and told her that education would ensure her success as a single woman! It made me so happy to hear her say that and to be reminded of her resilient nature. Sadly, I know she probably won’t have a choice. Mohit told me that in Hinduism, the purest form of a divine donation is the donation of a woman to a husband. That reality sums up a lot of women’s issues in India. That’s one of the hardest parts about knowing these women. They are SO smart and have so much potential. But the community they were born into stifles them and reduces their futures to housekeeping and matronly skills. Many are already married, although they don’t live with their husbands. Monica’s husband is abusive and she had to move back home due to the abuse she was receiving from him and his family. Monisha has to move to her husband’s home miles away. And although she has said that she will continue to come to classes, you can imagine the unnecessary difficulty that that will create for her.

I will miss this wonderful home I have come to love. I will miss the family and friends I have had. I will miss the learning opportunities I encounter every day. I will miss the food. I will miss the sights and sounds and atmosphere (coincidentally, these are also the things I am quite ready to be away from) and I will miss having this adventure. It’s hard to believe I have tracked to six cities while being here! This was a totally different experience when the other interns were here. I’m grateful to have experienced India in both ways!

Some pictures from Kathryn’s time in India







Posted by: soanstolaf | November 4, 2015

Anthropology for non-majors by Katie Sandness (’16)

I took the question “What is Anthropology” and asked a couple of St. Olaf students from different majors to describe their perception of this relatively marginalized discipline. I asked non-majors to see how students outside of the anthropological world define it.

An art major with a management studies concentration described anthropology as….
“Going into depth about a group of people’s cultural background and belief systems through different texts on their history”
“Studying the differences between cultures…broadening your perspective of the world and how people are different from you.”
“I think ultimately you learn that nothing is right or wrong—it’s all social constructs based on where we grew up and who we are surrounded by.”

To a music education major, anthropology is…
“I don’t actually know. All I think of is learning about a culture, its people, what’s important to them…”
“I think it’s a good discipline…everyone should be an anthropologist in a way, everyone should have those discussions about “what is the significance of this belief that a culture has?” or “how does this belief inform a belief that we have about ourselves”
“There’s an emphasis on “other” people, but I also think that it has to do with what we do as a culture.”
This student also went into depth about how it’s probably extremely complicated to study because we can’t make an assumption about how people define themselves: “culture isn’t a clear way to study a subgroup…but what does it mean to be a nation? A people group?”

Finally, a Psych major’s perspective…
“I have no idea. That’s a surprisingly hard question…basically the study of people and trends? Or is that sociology?
“I dunno!! This is your field. I guess it’s all about the study of people but in a non-scientific way.”

As a SOAN major, I’m going to see if I can find a couple trends in their responses. First of all, this is a very small sample size that is not representative of the St. Olaf student population at all, but thankfully this is not a research project, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Two of the three students expressed discomfort when asked the question and floundered a bit (“I don’t know”) before coming up with a response. Their initial response was confusion; they kind of looked like this dog.


I think this speaks to its marginalization as a discipline—I certainly didn’t know about anthropology until I got to college. We were introduced to sociology in high school—it was an elective class at my school—but I think that, even at St. Olaf, there aren’t a lot of students who know what it is.

One of the quotes on the SOAN board is by Ruth Benedict; she says, “The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences.”

All of the interviewees mentioned the fact that anthropology studies humans and people groups, but the quote really resonated with something that the art major discussed in depth when she concluded that nothing is necessarily right or wrong; different people have different beliefs and perspectives, but that doesn’t make them wrong. The music ed. major agreed with this when she stated that these discussions about human differences should be normal, “everyone should be an anthropologist.”

I so appreciated doing this exercise because it refreshed my memory on what anthropology is and what different people think it is.

What other trends do you see? What can you add to this rather thick description of anthropology? Leave your comments below!

Posted by: soanstolaf | October 28, 2015

Anthropology reading list

Here we are in the middle of the semester.  In case you want some things to read outside of your class reading, here are some of the newest books published in anthropology:

Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity
By Adam Rosenblatt, Stanford University Press 2015

Digging for the disappeared

This book looks at the political, philosophical, and ethical questions surrounding the treatment of human remains in the aftermath of atrocities such as genocides or other types of mass violence.  The author discusses how the legal issues of death affect the treatment of the deceased and how we might balance the demands of religious groups, lawyers, politicians, and families when considering future policy and international relations.  Above all, he brings to light the questions of human rights for the dead, in what appears to be a compelling and thought-provoking read.
Read more and/or purchase here

Entangled Urbanism: Slum, Gated Community, and Shopping Mall in Delhi and Gurgaon
By Sanjay Srivastava, Oxford University Press 2014


Srivastava’s book takes a look at urban anthropology in India, specifically exploring how places are interconnected.  He looks at the examples of shopping malls, luxury apartments, and networks of shanty towns that all exist nearby and rely on each other for somewhat unexpected reasons.  Finally, he comes to define a city as being a location of many overlapping meanings.
Read more and/or purchase here

1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
By Eric Cline, Princeton University Press 2015


This book combines archaeology, history, and anthropology to take a look at the Bronze Age.  The quick rise and fall of many legendary cities, empires, and entire civilizations are analyzed in Cline’s book.  To do this, he looks at factors such as natural disasters, plagues and epidemics and also weaves mythology into fact in order to understand the fall of ancient civilizations.
Read more and/or purchase here

Rhinestones, Religion, and the Republic: Fashioning Jewishness in France
By Kimberly Arkin, Stanford University Press 2014


Assistant Professor Kimberly Arkin looks at the issue of multiculturalism in postcolonial France in this book.  She answers questions about what it means to be French, a Jew, and of North African descent in present-day France, and how all three identities can be expressed.   It also deals with the feeling of not fitting in anywhere because of a multicultural background. The author  got this type of response from the people she interviewed in order to write this book.  While they felt French, other French citizens still considered them outsiders even if they were second- or third-generation citizens.  This book appears to be a good case study in the day-to-day workings of multiculturalism.
Read more and/or purchase here

Border Medicine: A Transcultural History of Mexican-American Curanderismo
By Brett Hendrickson, New York University Press 2014


In his book, Hendrickson writes about the importance of curanderismo, or religious healing, in the lives of many Mexican-Americans living on or near the border.  He discusses the history of the practice and explains its origins in terms of the blending of cultures in that region.  These religious healing practices, he claims, do not exist because of a lack of development of modern bio-medicine in the region, but instead is utilized frequently because of the strong cultural ties. This is a good example of a case involving the intersection of religion and medicine.
Read more and/or purchase here

The Graduate School Mess: What Caused it and How We Can Fix It
By Leonard Cassuto, Harvard University Press 2015


In this thought-provoking book, Cassuto looks at the sorry state of America’s graduate students and what can be done to change their plight.  He explains that despite how hard graduate students work, a disturbingly small percentage of them actually manage to find work that directly correlates to their thesis studies.  At the end of his book, he offers an array of solutions that may help improve the lot of graduate students and also the schools in which they are educated.
Read more and/or purchase here

Posted by: soanstolaf | October 22, 2015

Researchers tell us about their CURI experience

From the left to the right: Abby Senuty, Kevin Ross, Fend Liang and Theresia Dewi presenting their summer research findings in Thompson.

From the left to the right: Abby Senuty, Kevin Ross, Fend Liang and Theresia Dewi presenting their summer research findings in Thompson.

This past summer, Abby Senuty (‘16), Theresia Dewi (‘16), Kevin Ross (‘16) and Feng Liang (‘16), four of our very own SOAN majors were involved in the St. Olaf Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) Program. These students conducted research under the supervision of professor Ryan Sheppard. They kindly took time out of their schedules to answer our questions about their experience.  

How did you get involved in CURI, what was the application process like?
Kevin went to Ryan in the fall semester last year looking for advice on summer research opportunities, and that snowballed into this CURI project. Abby applied in the spring while studying abroad in Morocco. Theresia and Feng, both looking to be involved in such opportunities at St. Olaf as an alternative to going home to respectively Indonesia and China, also picked this SOAN research project as one of their three picks during the CURI application process.
For summer research, all students receive an email early during the spring inviting them to read the descriptions of different projects for which student researchers are needed and apply for the three that interest them the most. The St. Olaf Summer Research Application 2015 provides details about the application.

Can you tell us about your research this summer?
We did research in a client-based model for Academic Advising and the Piper Center. For Academic Advising we analysed data on the use of academic advising services gathered from the previous fall in Ryan’s 371 course and for the Piper Center we worked with data they previously gathered each spring for the past 5-6 years on post-graduation destinations from soon-to-be graduates. Working on these projects was a full-time job. We worked about 8 hours a day and met with Ryan a few times a week.

How does working as full-time researchers compare to conducting a semester-long class research?
Full-time was much easier to schedule meetings and such, plus we all knew how much work we could get done in a week because things like midterms and papers weren’t in the mix. It was our primary activity and required a different kind of time management and allocation. Because our research was based on secondary data, we spent a lot of time on data analysis, trying to put everything into words that would make sense to our clients. CURI research is also a paid job as compared to class research.

Can you tell us about your group dynamic? How did it evolve in the process?
The group dynamic worked really well. The group did not really have conflicts during our time working together this summer. The arguments were mostly intellectual as everyone sometime had somewhat of a different way of approaching things. This was positive because everyone brought a different strength to the table. Feng, for example, was always perspicacious and could get the group to slow down, take a step back and think about things differently. Theresia was the tech guru. Abby and Kevin were outspoken. Abby and Kevin worked on the same team during Ryan’s 371 course in the fall, so things seemed to slide into place quite well. It goes without saying that all the group members, after having worked together so intensely during the summer, have gotten to know each other much better and honed skills as to how to best work together as a team.

What was the highlight of your CURI experience?
Getting the experience. It was, honestly, really valuable to see what full-time research looked like. Getting to know the team members and Ryan was a big part of what made the experience enjoyable. Finalizing the projects was very rewarding. The biggest highlight, however, was getting laptops with the SPSS program installed on them. That made it possible to work outdoors and not have to be confined in the windowless basement computer labs.


What kind of opportunities has your CURI experience opened up for you?
Being part of a CURI project is a phenomenal resume builder. Kevin and Feng are currently Teaching Assistants for Ryan’s SOAN 371 Foundation of Social Science Research classes, while Abby is the TA for Tom’s SOAN 292 Anthropological Theory class. Additionally, all four are now working on the Big Discovery project as researchers.

What tips do you have for SOAN student researchers?

  • Thinking about research in chunks with little milestones along the way is really helpful for making it seem less daunting
  • if you have research interests, approach professors, talk to them about it as it might turn into a CURI project
  • Clear communication with your group members and professor will save you invaluable time
  • Backup every file!
  • Always remember to be ethical
  • Take a step back sometime and ask yourself whether your work might make sense to an outside reader

Is there anything you would like to add?


Posted by: soanstolaf | October 16, 2015

Sex Trafficking in St. Paul, Minnesota by Kathryn Ravey (’16)


The humid room, nestled above the garage, is designated as the meeting space for the Sisters of Survival group. Here, women of all ages, races, and socioeconomic statuses speak about their traumatic experiences as sex trafficking victims/survivors. In this room, I listen to stories from women who have been violently forced to comply with the demands of their traffickers. It is here that I hear women explain how they are constantly haunted by what has happened to them. It is here that I listen to one woman explain that she cannot look a man in the eyes on the street, even after being out of that situation for several months. I hear another woman explain that no matter how many times she bathes, often resorting to bathing in bleach, she cannot expel the feeling of feeling permanently dirty. Many women have been beaten, some even beaten into comas. Many women have attempted suicide. Many women have developed serious addictions and mental health issues. All of the women have been the victims/survivors of sex trafficking.

Breaking Free is the organization that has supported this support group. It is located in St. Paul, Minnesota and these women go there to receive support and assistance as they transition out of the life of a sex trafficked person. Breaking Free is a direct service provider and ensures that their services are victim-centered, trauma-informed, and operate within a culturally appropriate, age, and gender-specific context. It is through Breaking Free that I became aware of the reality of sex trafficking in Minnesota. I was privileged to befriend these incredible women and listen to their stories about their experiences as victims/survivors of sex trafficking. These stories of violence, oppression, exploitation and coercion, although unique to the individual, are common within the reality of sex trafficking. Too often, these realities are unknown or unheard.

Several of the women I spoke with often described their entry into this life as something they believed to be their choice, accompanied by a convoluted glamorization of the lifestyle. However, upon further reflection, many of the women entered into that life as a result of deprivation. Neglect, trauma, abuse, mental health issues, financial crises, drug addiction, and manipulation were among the many factors that drove these women into prostitution. These women often resorted to survival sex. They believed they had no other choice than to treat their bodies as commodities in order to receive things such as food, shelter, and protection. One woman spoke about her experience sleeping outside of her trafficker’s apartment because she refused to perform the sexual acts he demanded from her.

The criminalization of sex trafficking victims is a national problem, and Minnesota is not exempt. State policies usually penalize adult victims of sex trafficking. Typically, victims who are arrested are not only accused of selling sex but are found in violation of other laws such as possession of illegal drugs or driving while intoxicated. However, the judicial system rarely connects these factors to human trafficking. It is very common for victims to develop drug or alcohol addictions as a means of coping with their situations. On the other hand, Johns receive a disproportionately small amount of legal punishment for purchasing sex. Johns are often older, wealthier, white males. They can avoid incarceration by paying fines, should they even receive any. Not only does this continue to oppress the victims/survivors, but it also communicates to Johns that there is little punishment for purchasing a person.

Despite the difficulties these women have faced, they endure. With the help of the dedicated workers and supportive services at Breaking Free, these strong women have overcome incredible obstacles and continue to develop themselves in many ways. Many of the women are pursuing further education, such as a GED or a graduate degree. Many of these women support families and are working to establish permanent employment in order to afford better housing. While many of the women are still working to overcome addictions, mental health disorders, violent relationships and poverty, it is clear that these women felt empowered by their experience with Breaking Free and gained many new resources to aid them. These women inspire resilience.

Selling sex was not a career decision for these women, and many more will fall unwillingly into the trap of sex trafficking. The women at Breaking Free did not dream of selling their bodies, and many times victims do not realize their horrible reality until it is too late. One woman explained to me that, for many years, she viewed her work as a prestigious method of independent living: gaining access to VIP sections of clubs, purchasing expensive clothing, and even creating a sense of self-worth and attractiveness that was attached to this life. It wasn’t until she was able to get out that she realized how deeply traumatizing her situation had been, leaving her with many physical, emotional, and mental wounds. Her initial perception was that her life was something glamorous and prestigious. Too often our culture glamorizes prostitution and denies its oppressive significance. It is time to recognize truth about sex trafficking; that it does not empower anyone but, rather, strengthens the systems of oppression that exploit and violently harm its victims/survivors.

Anti sex trafficking rally

Anti sex trafficking rally

St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery (SOLAS) is a campus organization dedicated to raising awareness for and creating action around abolishing all forms of human trafficking. Please email if you are interested in becoming involved.

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As I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about today, I came across an article called “We Need to Make Adoption Easier,” and, boy, did that bring me back. I was first introduced to the topic of international adoption when I interned with Show Hope, a nonprofit that raises awareness on the orphan crisis around the world. I spent the month of January neck-deep in an environment where raising funds to support families who feel called to adopt was the norm—and where international adoption was overall extremely positive. I was encouraged by the work that Show Hope was doing; I could tell that their hearts were really to see orphans find their “forever families.”

Then, I had the honor of being in “Life and Death in Africa” with anthropology professor Susie Keefe, and, when it came time for my final project, I decided to see what scholars and reporters of different disciplines had to say about this subject that had been so encouraging to me at Show Hope: international adoption (specifically in Sub Saharan Africa). I wrote a series of blogs on the subject, really latching on to professor and anthropologist Kristin Cheney’s argument that, rather than looking at ICA as “child rescue” or making assumptions about what constitutes “giving children a better life,” you should take a step back and look at international adoption as a humanitarian intervention that should be questioned. As Tom says in Anthro Theory, the first rule of an anthropologist is to “suspect everything.”

So, dear readers, take a moment and read this article, and then allow yourself to question: what could be lurking in the shadows of international adoption policy?


Alright, so what suspicions does this article bring out?

First, when I first started reading this article, I was suspicious of the way that it is framed. It seems to encourage a perspective that the parents going through the process of adoption are the ones we should really be sympathizing with—even the title encourages that opinion. Not that I think we shouldn’t sympathize with them, I just think that the focus is more on rescuing the children, as Cheney would say, not the effect that this process is having on the children.

Maybe some of you weren’t aware that the international adoption process is sometimes fashioned as an industry, so when they mention “The Hague Adoption Convention” and how it was put in place to put a stop to baby selling or “child-laundering” you were super suspicious of this behavior. In one of my articles that I read for my final project, I discovered that there is little incentive for nations to submit to this regulation—in some of these sending countries, the commodification of children through adoption agencies and orphanages (through “required donations”) is an extremely lucrative industry. Why would they give that up?

The article even states that “Of the five countries Americans most often adopt from, only China practices Hague.” Personally, that makes me question: how many of these “waiting children” whom Americans or other nations have adopted actually have biological parents who are waiting for them to come home.

There were a lot of things that made me suspicious and reignited that flame in me that wants to fight for these children’s rights, but I also really resonated with the final portion of the article. Many potential adoptive parents don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into when they enter the complicated world of international adoption. And first and foremost, the focus should be on the needs of the child, not the desires of the parents. As Freda Luzinda says, agencies should “make sure all reasonable attempts at family preservation and unification are made before jumping to adoption.”

I’m going to turn it over to you all now…what about this article makes you suspicious? What about this article do you agree with?

Posted by: soanstolaf | October 1, 2015

Ellen Meyers (’15) shares her experience in Turkey


For 6 weeks this summer, from July 10 to August 17, I spent time learning, studying, and exploring the lovely country that is Turkey.

I first stayed in Istanbul for 5 days before I headed down to Gazipasa, which is a small community along the southwestern coast. While in Istanbul, I and the four other St. Olaf students who all traveled together visited several famous sites: the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cisterns. All of those sites were beautiful. They were so ornate, with all of the stained glass, the marble, and all of the gold filigree and engravings. On our first night there, we went to a restaurant not far from our hotel, and after giving us free tea, our waiter took us inside the restaurant. He led us into the back where there was a large hole in the wall with stairs leading down into what we found was a large tunnel. He told us that it was a secret exit from the palace and that it was built to allow the royal family to get out of the palace if they ever needed to escape.  Apparently, there are many more tunnels that lead all over underneath the city too. While we were in Istanbul, we also tried a bunch of delicious Turkish food; I don’t know what most of it was called, but there was a lot of lamb and rice, and it was wonderful!

We left Istanbul on July 14 and traveled down to Gazipasa where we began work. Every morning we woke up at 5am so that we could have breakfast at 6 and begin work at 6:30. We would then pick, shovel, trowel, and dump buckets full of soil and brick debris until 10am, stop for a snack break, and resume our work until 1pm. At 1, we had lunch, and then the rest of the day was ours to nap, read, do our assigned documentation and reading for that day’s work, or any other activities we wanted to do until supper at 7. I helped make supper fairly frequently, and it’s amazing to me just how much can be communicated despite language barriers. The woman who cooked for us spoke almost no English, and I learned only a few words in Turkish, but even so, we managed to cook supper together.

The Turkish students we worked with were so nice! Most of them spoke a little English, but we were able to teach them more English in exchange for Turkish lessons from them. We all lived together in one house, with 6 of us to a room. In total, I think there were about 30 people living in the house. I shared a room with 3 other St. Olaf students and 2 Turkish students.  I always found that everyone in town was very friendly and welcoming to us.  They would wave and say hello whenever we walked past, and we learned how to return their greetings.  I was amazed by their hospitality towards complete strangers, and it is something I will never forget.

Our site was, we believe, an early Christian site.  I personally worked in the residential part of the site, where we believe either a small dormitory or large personal living quarters housed the church official and his family and/or servants. While up there, we found tons of pottery shards, a few pieces of glass and a couple of coins. I was put in charge of our pottery collection, and did a majority of the sorting, organizing, and documenting of every single one of the 3100+ pottery shards that came from our site. I was glad to learn about some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into archaeology in addition to all the digging and other labor that happens up on the site. No human skeletons were found this year, but there were quite a few other animal bone fragments up on our site, most likely from the wild goats or other small animals that live in the mountains. In order to get there, we had to climb up a small mountain with a very thin, rocky path covered in brush, but once we made it to the top, the view was amazing. The only real problem was that it was very, very hot- around 100 degrees every day.

We had Saturdays free to ourselves, so we usually went into town to explore or eat more delicious food, or we would sometimes go shopping. There was a small clothing market in town, so we usually walked there on Monday afternoons to buy dresses or pants. Turkish pants are probably the most comfortable things I have ever worn. On Sundays we went to other sites near ours so that we could see excavated sites and try to understand some more about the history of ours. We also went to the beach fairly frequently on the weekends to swim in the Mediterranean, and on Fridays after our work was finished, we went to a nearby cove to swim. According to legends, the cove we swam in was the one where Julius Caesar was held for ransom by pirates. It was so beautiful there, and the water was so clear. The water got to be about 100 feet deep after only walking a few steps into it, but I could still see the sand and rocks at the bottom because the water was so clear and blue.

We were invited to a going-away party for one of the former site workers, and I’m pretty sure the entire town came out for it.  Every Turkish man is required to serve in the military, and they have grandiose celebrations for the men who leave.  There was so much food, and I do not know where they managed to find space to feed all of the people.  In the evening, there was a dance, and so some of the girls taught me to do some Turkish dances (or tried, would be more accurate).  Even though they laughed at me when I struggled to learn the steps and movements, it was all in good fun and we all laughed together.  There was such a great sense of community and closeness among all of the people who came together for the celebration, and I’m honored to know that we Oles were invited to it.

Though it was very nice to return home to my own family again, I miss Turkey and the people who live there and would love to go back again if I ever get the chance.

Though my skills as a photographer are very much in the development phase, I’ve included a few pictures.

The 5 Oles who all traveled together in Istanbul in front of the Bue Mosque: Ben Seaton, Ian Henley, Claire Mumford, Me, and Ellie Fuelling.

The 5 Oles who all traveled together in Istanbul in front of the Blue Mosque: Ben Seaton, Ian Henley, Claire Mumford, me, and Ellie Fuelling.

Photo taken on our site, and show some hardworking Oles near a wall we helped reconstruct.

Photo taken on our site showing some hardworking Oles near a wall we helped reconstruct.

A view of the Mediterranean from on top of our dig site.

A view of the Mediterranean from on top of our dig site.

The Hagia Sophia at night, taken on our last night in Istanbul.

The Hagia Sophia at night, taken on our last night in Istanbul.

A few of us Oles in part of the excavated bath complex at Anamur. We are attempting to pose like statues that would have stood in the now empty arches.

A few of us Oles in part of the excavated bath complex at Anamur. We are attempting to pose like statues that would have stood in the now empty arches.

Posted by: soanstolaf | September 23, 2015

Meet Professor David Schalliol!

Professor David Schalliol

If you are taking Intro to Sociology or Urban Sociology this semester, you probably know Professor David Schalliol who is currently teaching those classes. He is our new Assistant Professor of Sociology who comes to us from Chicago, Illinois. Professor Schalliol, who kindly accepted to answer our questions, is especially interested in visual sociology and is currently working on his documentary film titled The Area. He received his bachelor’s degree in the middle of cornfields at Kenyon College before obtaining his Master’s and Doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago. He looks forward to meeting new students so do pass by the SOAN Department and say “hi!”

How did you get interested in sociology?

I’ve had an active interest in the social world for as long as I can remember, but I developed an interest in sociology as a discipline while I was in college. I was particularly impressed by its flexibility and scalability; it offered (and offers!) insights into everything from interactions between two people on the street to global structural forces. I knew it was the right discipline for me once I had the opportunity to really dig into theoretically motivated empirical work.

What are your areas of specialty?

I am interested in a broad range of subjects at the intersection of inequality and urbanism, including neighborhood studies, education, and criminology, and I have a special enthusiasm for using visual (and audiovisual) techniques in research.

Where and on what have you done your research?

Over the last several years, I’ve worked on projects throughout the United States; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and (a small project in) Tōhoku, Japan. Many of these ventures include at least one element based in visual sociology.

My two largest projects investigate how people perceive, address, and even contribute to local social problems without turning to outside organizations for significant support. One of these projects is a long-term ethnography and film project based in a South Side Chicago community. The other is a nationally-oriented, mixed-methodology collaboration with a historian at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Michael Carriere. We have been working on the project for six years and counting!

I additionally collaborate with criminologist Danielle Wallace at Arizona State University on a mixed-methodology study investigating the relationship between social and physical disorder. For the project, we conducted a year-long photographic and “systematic social observation” examination of nearly 40 “vacant” Chicago buildings and their surrounding blocks. Our first paper from the project will be published by Social Science Research in November.

Of the projects where visual methodologies take the lead, the longest running series is an investigation of community change and the built environment through buildings that have no neighboring structures. My first book from the project, Isolated Building Studies, is in the SOAN department’s common room.

A Halloween birthday party on a disused elevated railroad line in Chicago, Illinois.


An isolated building on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois.

Costumed students walk past a police raid in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The site of the former Ogatsucho Mizuhama, Japan town center after the 2011 tsunami.

You can find more information about all of these projects, including a short film and photography series, on my website,

What brought you to St. Olaf?

There are too many features of St. Olaf to list, but as a liberal arts college graduate, I felt an instant affinity for St. Olaf. I am especially excited by the school’s (and department’s) emphasis on engaged learning and interdisciplinarity, and I am looking forward to making my own contributions to them.

What’s your teaching philosophy?

My general approach to teaching is to create a dialogue between contemporary issues and theory and to create learning opportunities for everyone — even me. I’m still getting settled into St. Olaf and the surrounding communities, but I am actively looking for opportunities to bring the outside world into the classroom and vice versa.

What are some of your favorite texts?

It’s hard to winnow the list to just a few texts, but the books that initially drew me into sociology were a mix of fiction, nonfiction, and traditional sociological texts. Several of the standouts include Ain’t No Makin It by Jay MacLeod, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Native Son by Richard Wright, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber, The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell, Selected Poems by Rita Dove, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and a number of texts by Karl Marx.

What are your non-academic interests?

Most of my academic interests connect with other parts of my life, so I spend a lot of my free time doing extensions of my academic work, like exploring new neighborhoods and doing small documentary projects. The closest thing I have to a non-academic interest is probably bicycling. Even so, bicycling is a great way to get to know a place, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the region on the many bike paths. I am looking forward to trying cross country skiing and snowshoeing this winter.

Do you have any advice for SOAN majors at St. Olaf?

I’m not sure that the following is necessarily “advice,” but I find that the most satisfying work facilitates personal and community growth. With this in mind, one of the exciting things about the social sciences is that they provide opportunities to see one’s own life in a new way. What better way to develop an engaged life than to develop an awareness of how our experiences influence our development and our relationships with those around us?

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