December 2019


  1. 10 Questions Every Academic Should Ask Before Writing for the Public
  2. Hashtag, history: There’s a growing appetite for online archives from South Asia
  3. ‘I can graduate college. I never saw that in my future’: NYU prison education program gives incarcerated men chance to earn college degree
  4. Dads in prison can bring poverty, instability for families on the outside
  5. K-pop deaths show East Asia must end the stigma, and the solitude, that surrounds mental health
  6. Bus sociolgy: UBC professor researches how people act on public transit

10 Questions Every Academic Should Ask Before Writing for the Public


Welcome to a new series, "The Public Writing Life," about how to write for a popular audience (and get paid for it) when you are part of the academy.

There’s plenty of good writing advice out there, and I’ll talk about some of it here. There’s also plenty of bad advice, and I’ll talk about that, too. As an academic, a longtime freelance writer, and an editor, I am aiming this series at anyone looking to connect with readers beyond the ivory tower — whether you are a faculty member, a staff member, or a "staffulty" member; whether you are tenured, tenure-track, contingent, or still in graduate school.

Academics are having an ongoing conversation about how much to engage with the public. And public engagement has different consequences for different people — consequences we all need to pay attention to — which is what this new series and this first essay are about.

Here are 10 questions that every academic should ask before writing for the public.

No. 1: Who is my public? Chances are, you already write for "a public." If you are a faculty member, you might write articles for journals or give talks at conferences. If you are an administrator, you might write reports for various stakeholders, including the general public. If you are a graduate student, you might already be presenting at conferences or publishing in journals.

But here we’ll talk about expanding your definition of "public," understanding who that audience might be, and then making sure you know how to best write for your new readers.

For now, consider "the public" to mean this: educated people who read popular magazines and websites that you also like to read. What venues do you turn to for your daily commentary on world events, large and small? The readers of those venues compose your public audience. For now.

No. 2: Why do I want to do this? Some people start writing for popular publications because they think they’ll earn money. Some do it because their institution encourages public engagement. Others do it because they want to make sure their research is accessible to as many readers as possible. Whatever your motivations, you need to have a clear idea of what they are before you get started. Your reasons might change as you go along, and that’s fine.

But just a warning: If you go into this work seeking fame and fortune, you probably will be disappointed. There is hardly any money in public writing — at least not for the kind of writing that most people think of (those short, interesting pieces you like to read). And any fame you might gain from writing a piece that goes viral is fleeting, at best, and dangerous, at worst (more on that in a future essay).

No. 3: Have I done the reading? Before you join a new scholarly group or write for a new academic journal, you do a little research about that group and you read that journal — that’s just Academic 101. And yet, over and over, newcomers to public writing submit pieces to publications they’ve never actually read, send in articles that don’t meet the venue’s submission guidelines, and/or draft essays that repeat (without attribution) arguments that have already been published.

In short, too many academic writers show no familiarity with the world into which they’ve entered.

Don’t do any of those things. If you want to write for the public, you have to become a part of the public you will be writing for. Read the magazines you want to write for. If you have a particular topic you want to write about, do some basic internet searching to see which journalists are experts on the topic, and then read everything those people have written about it lately. Just because others have written already on your topic doesn’t mean you can’t. It just means you have to cite them properly and say something new (or say something old in a new and compelling way).

The best part of reading is that you get more ideas for writing. You’ll see what kind of conversations people are having, and you will find areas where you can contribute.

No. 4: What does my institution think? In recent months (and years), many smart academics have said many smart things about the institutional consequences of putting your thoughts and ideas before the general public. In a recent Chronicle essay, "Public Writing and the Junior Scholar," Sarah E. Bond and Kevin Gannon mount a convincing argument for public engagement as essential to the health of higher education: "We believe that the very survival of academe is, in part, predicated on encouraging both graduate students and junior scholars to engage in activities that speak to and for the public." They argued that academe "must find effective ways to assess these pivotal forms of outreach" and offered some suggestions on that front.

While Bond and Gannon are optimistic about the positive influence that public writing can have on higher education as a whole and on a young scholar’s career in particular, other academics — particularly those from marginalized groups — have been more cautious, and with good reason. There is a risk of backlash. In fact, Bond herself faced a public backlash in 2017 for a piece she wrote about white supremacy.

If the fallout turns ugly, you will need your institution’s support. But can you count on it?

In a much-read blog post, "Everything But The Burden: Publics, Public Scholarship, and Institutions," Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, wrote: "In this moment we should call for institutions to state explicitly what they owe those who venture into public waters." She noted: "Institutions have been calling for public scholarship for the obvious reasons. Attention can be equated with a type of prestige. And prestige is a way to shore up institutions when political and cultural attitudes are attacking colleges and universities at every turn."

Trouble is, a lot of institutions aren’t doing a good job of backing up their workers when public engagement causes controversy — which, as Cottom points out, is inevitable. She offered six questions that any institution could use to evaluate whether it’s prepared to support its employees’ efforts at public engagement.

And you, as a person interested in public writing, can use those questions to find out if administrators and colleagues on your own campus are likely to support you (or not) if there is a backlash to something you write. To gauge that, do some research on your own institution. Ask colleagues who have written for the public about their experiences. Use Cottom’s questions to figure out what kind of reception and support you can expect.

At the very least, I recomment you try to answer two key questions:

Do you get professional credit for speaking publicly?

And will your institution stand by you if there are negative consequences to something you write?

No. 5: Have I found my writing peers? I’ll delve into the details of this in a future column, but if you are going to write for the public, you are going to need help from a community of peers who also write for the public. They will read your pitches and your pieces. They will support you if (when) things go wrong. They will spread the word about your latest work by sharing it on social media. They will refer you to editors.

Every successful writer I know has a circle of peers providing support and encouragement. Public writing is a community-driven project. We need each other.

No. 6: Do I have to be on social media? Yes, you need a Twitter account.

No, really. Once you’re famous, maybe you can quit Twitter. But for aspiring public writers, Twitter is where editors and writers hang out. I don’t know why — we just do.

So swallow your objections and fears, join Twitter, and start engaging (politely!) in conversations. Listen to what others are saying. Follow editors and see when they put out calls for submissions. (Look for the hashtag #pitchme.)

And now that we’ve moved into the practical realm:

No. 7: Have I read the submission guidelines? I’m assuming (hoping) that, by this point, you’ve read the publication you want to write for. Next, turn your attention to the logistics: Do you know what the editors want in a pitch? Do they even publish freelance work? Do you know their guidelines for submitting something?

Writing for the public means learning a new trade: freelance writing. You can ask an experienced freelancer to teach you how to do it (that might be a hard ask, as we’re really busy). You can pay, or barter with, someone to teach you how to do it (this is more likely, as we are desperate for money).

It’s also possible to teach yourself the freelance ropes. The information is out there. In "How to Go Public, and Why We Must," Leonard Cassuto, a professor of English at Fordham University, reviewed a book that aimed to teach scholars how take their work public. "Can a professor or a graduate student learn how to go public from a book?" Cassuto wrote. "From this book, yes."

Finally, you can often find panels on public writing at academic conferences. Just this month, for example, the American Academy of Religion offered a panel on "Pitching to the Media."

The point is: Don’t start sending off pitches unless you’re fairly certain you know what you’re doing. There aren’t that many publications, and editors talk to one another. If you come in looking like a rookie, that’s potentially embarrassing but redeemable. If you come in behaving an entitled jerk, no one will want to work with you. So read the guidelines (more than once).

No. 8: Can I write a pitch? A pitch is a highly specific genre. Sometimes people (including me) give entire workshops on how to write one because they’re not easy to write. Some people even write advice columns on how to write them. Here’s a good one to start with: "How to Craft a Pitch," written for The Chronicle in 2017 by Kelly J. Baker, the editor of Women in Higher Education. Read her advice. While you’re at it, you can read her 2019 blog post, "Writing for a Public Audience," on the three most common mistakes she sees academic writers make in their public writing.

No. 9: Am I prepared to share the credit? When you write for general-interest publications, you usually don’t have to worry about providing detailed footnotes, but that doesn’t mean there are no citation norms. In public writing, citation is about two things: (1) giving nods to people whose work you leaned on to make your own argument, and (2) building community.

When you’re new to it, the world of freelance writing might seem vast. But once you’ve been in it for a while, it starts to shrink. Everyone knows who’s who — including the names of those repeat offenders who fail to credit other writers when they should.

If you have something to say about an ongoing debate, dive in. But remember: You’re joining a public conversation already in progress. Show that you know who else is in it with you. Be respectful. Be kind. Be a good researcher.

And be mindful of who you are citing, and for what. Kecia Ali, a professor of religion at Boston University and a public writer, has done research on the politics of citation and how it relates to gender (and race and ethnicity). Her findings, not surprisingly, show that women are cited less than men. Likewise, the Cite Black Women Collective pushes for equitable citation at the intersection of race and gender.

As an eager rookie, you may have new and interesting things to say about a topic. But what you may fail to notice is that the new and interesting things you’re saying have been touched on before, in similar ways, by other writers. That’s one of the worst mistakes you can make as a new freelance writer. I’ll devote an entire column to this subject because it is so very important, but for now, remember this rule: If you can give a nod to someone who’s written something on your topic already, do it.

No. 10: Am I ready for this? I named this series after Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life because I learned one of the most important lessons about writing from her book. It goes like this: If you have a good writing idea, use it now. Don’t save it for later, for a better time, for a better story or book or article. Or, as Dillard wrote: "One of the things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time."

She was talking about writing books, but her advice applies to writing anything. If you’re ready to write for the public, don’t wait till later. Don’t wait for the perfect time. If you have the perfect words in mind, the perfect time to write them is now.

Katie Rose Guest Pryal is an adjunct professor of law at the University of North Carolina School of Law and author of The Freelance Academic: Transform Your Creative Life and Career, and of Even If You’re Broken: Essays on Sexual Assault and #MeToo, published this fall. Her website is


By                    :               Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Date                 :               December 1, 2019

Source             :               The Chronicle for Higher Education


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Hashtag, history: There’s a growing appetite for online archives from South Asia


Stories, photographs, audio visual recordings — the history of the subcontinent is being curated carefully with the help of social media

An old black-and-white photo shows an Indian soldier from the British Indian Army posing with his lady love somewhere in Italy. The accompanying caption reveals that the soldier, also a football player, had gone to Italy for a tournament when he met the woman and they fell in love. The soldier’s father, however, opposed their love, and asked him to cut all ties with her. This photograph was taken by the estranged couple as a keepsake. This tragic love story garnered more than 20,000 likes on an Instagram account called ‘Brown History’.

It is just one of many such personal histories that can be found on the Brown History page, which opened on Instagram in March 2019. Curated by Montreal-based electrical engineer Ahsun Zafar, the account shares lesser-known narratives from South Asian history. The posts and the black-and-white photographs encourage followers to send in their own material from family albums. And so the archive grows.

Many histories

Brown History is not the only Instagram page looking back at South Asian history: there is Gulf ? South Asia, SOAS Postcards, Indian History Pictures, and many more. The appetite for personal histories online is growing.

Guneeta Singh Bhalla founded the website 1947 Partition Archives, and eight years on, the archive, an ocean of audio-video recordings of Partition survivors, has gathered 8,000 stories and 40,000 old photographs and documents. It is now present on every social media platform, including Instagram.

“What we have done is to take material that might be boring in an archive format and curate it in a way that is accessible and interesting to the public. People share it, learn something new from it,” says Bhalla.

One story they recently archived was of singer Vilayat Khan, who had to leave his village Goslan in Punjab and migrate to Sargodha in Pakistan during Partition. He went into depression and lost his ability to sing. After 10 years, his father and he decided to return to India and they managed to resettle in their ancestral village. Khan began to sing again, becoming a well-known exponent of dhaddi music and going on to win several awards.

I know her

The Citizens’ Archive of India took shape in 2016 to gather and share audio-visual stories of those born in pre-Independent India. In the three years since, the online archive has amassed stories of over 210 citizens, more than 340 hours of interviews, and about 1,300 items in its material collection. Archive director Malvika Bhatia talks of how the stories are sometimes completed on social media. “A year ago, we interviewed a woman doctor. I was handling the camera and my colleague was conducting the interview. I posted a few pictures on Instagram, and immediately some of her students began to recognise her.”

Says Bhatia: “These are ordinary people, not famous people or freedom fighters; and when they recall their times, people start connecting with their stories and begin sharing their own experiences, say, in the Quit India Movement, and their stories appear much more real than what we read in academic books.”

Ayesha Saldanha grew up in the U.K. and then moved to Bahrain. She was interested in the long shared history between South Asia and the Gulf region.

She decided to share all the material on the Gulf-South Asia connection that existed in books, academic papers, and archives in an accessible, non-academic format, and thus came about Gulf ? South Asia. “I also wanted to invite people to share their stories. An Instagram account seemed the best way to do both,” she says. Several followers sent in personal photos and stories. And Saldanha also translates posts from Arabic Instagram accounts, which share photos and documents related to the history of Gulf Arabs in South Asia.

Instagram account SOAS Postcards, run by Emily Stevenson and Stephen Hughes from the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, originated from an exhibition the duo organised this year at Brunei Gallery, showcasing postcards from Chennai and Bengaluru in the 1900s. Now, the Insta account shares postcards from all parts of colonial India.

Often, it’s the back of the card, with printer, message and sender’s name, that is avidly checked. For instance, followers were excited to recognise the publisher’s address on a 1930s postcard of freedom fighter and Gujarati writer Lilavati Munshi.

Epochal shots

Indian History Pictures is another account that has caught the fancy of history buffs with its rare epochal photographs — the first Republic Day parade in India, the first general election in India, Tagore with Helen Keller in New York, Isro scientists ferrying India’s first communication satellite on a bullock cart, and more.

While some of these online forums are excellent repositories, not everything qualifies as an ‘archive,’ says Anusha Yadav of the Indian Memory Project. An ‘archive’ is retrievable information, and the content is cross-referenced, keyworded, tagged and categorised. “An archive is a library, and an independent Instagram account is not,” she says. According to Yadav, even though these Instagram accounts are beautiful, their stories get lost in a search-unfriendly scrolling ether. It takes a lot of work to keep thousands of followers interested and informed, but it is a missed opportunity for treasures that could have been available for study, research and retrieval in a more collective way.

When it comes to online archives, the Indian Memory Project is a trailblazer of sorts. Founded in 2010, it traces the story of the subcontinent through visuals and narratives.

The archive is keyworded and tagged, enabling visitors to easily read accounts from the Partition, the Bengal famine, the women’s empowerment movement, etc. “The idea of belonging is very strong, it will never go away. And these stories of the subcontinent are really important,” says Yadav. “Much of the world has passed through here and an archive lets us see both individual ideas and collective cultural patterns.”

The writer is a journalist with an interest in art and culture.


By                    :               Shailaja Tripath

Date                 :               November 30, 2019

Source             :               The Hindu


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‘I can graduate college. I never saw that in my future’: NYU prison education program gives incarcerated men chance to earn college degree


Jeffrey Grimes never considered himself much of a “school person."

Sitting in class made him restless. Lectures left him bored.

Getting kicked out of August Martin High School in Jamaica, Queens after a fight felt inevitable, said the now 32-year-old Grimes.

Without a high school diploma, Grimes passed the next 10 years bouncing between jobs and spending time in the streets — until he got arrested in 2017 and cops found a gun on him. Charged with illegal weapons possession, Grimes wound up behind bars.

For someone who found the four walls of a classroom confining, prison should have been a nightmare.

But there was one glimmer of hope. Through a Prison Education Program started in 2015 by New York University, Grimes could knock six months off his sentence if he began coursework toward an associate’s degree.

But Grimes soon discovered something new about himself: he no longer hated learning. In fact, he loved it.

His awakening came in the unlikeliest of places: Walkill Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison about three hours north of New York City.

The more time he spent in classes, the more his spirits lifted, he realized.

“Once I started going to class,” Grimes told the Daily News, “it was getting me away from the negativity.”

Two courses in particular changed his path. The first, a course on little-known figures who shaped history, taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Steven Hahn, exposed Grimes to ideas and literature he’d never seen in school.

Working around the sometimes extreme limitations of being a student in prison – no internet access and a scant selection of books in the library – Grimes wrote a term paper on the Jamaican-American writer June Jordan, whose work he discovered in the prison stacks.

Later, a class on the sociology of education helped Grimes understand why he’d always felt so uncomfortable in school.

Schools “don’t let people really express themselves and be themselves, and use their imaginations to take them where they want to be,” Grimes said. “They sit there and make you like a sponge.” He said the course helped him envision the type of school to which he’ll send his own children.

In October, Grimes and three other incarcerated men graduated from NYU’s Prison Education Program with associate degrees. The program, one of a patchwork of prison education initiatives operated by both private and public colleges across the state, gives more than 50 detainees at the upstate prison access to classes taught by NYU professors.

Nikhil Singh, an NYU professor and the program’s founding faculty adviser, said many pf the program’s students “missed an opportunity to get a good education, and that’s often the prelude to ending up in prison.”

“We help provide a pathway to [that] opportunity,” he added.

Grimes’s road to a degree wasn’t without its bumps.

In July, just weeks before he was scheduled to complete the two-year-degree, Grimes got into an altercation and was sent to solitary confinement for three weeks.

By the time he got out, he had just five days to complete four term papers of eight pages each.

“I had to grind down,” he said.

He told himself that he "can’t use that as no excuse. I came this far, got to keep pushing.”

In August, Grimes learned he’d completed the 64 credits necessary to graduate. Two weeks later, he found out he was being released early, after his lawyers successfully challenged the warrant-less police search that led to his arrest, and a judge overturned his conviction.

[More Education] NYC teen stabbed twice in front of his Bronx high school »

“I was like, 'Oh my god,’” Grimes recalled of the news of his release. “And I just feel blessed that I was able to get [my degree] done.”

The transition out of prison has been painful at times. Grimes is still looking for a job, and feels guilty he can’t chip in for rent at the apartment he shares with his wife. But because of the Prison Education Program, Grimes has a credential no one can take away – and he plans to continue his studies at NYU next fall in pursuit of a Bachelor’s Degree, with tuition covered through the program.

“I can graduate college,” he said. “I had never seen that in my future.”


Mike Elsen-Rooney covers education for the Daily News. He previously covered education for The Teacher Project at Columbia Journalism School and The Hechinger Report, and his work has appeared in The Atlantic, Bloomberg, and the Boston Globe Magazine, among others. Mike’s a former high school Spanish teacher and afterschool program coordinator.


By                    :               Michael Elsen-Rooney

Date                 :               November 28, 2019

Source             :               Daily News


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Dads in prison can bring poverty, instability for families on the outside


Studies of the societal effects of prison often focus on the imprisoned: their physical and mental health, job prospects after release, their likelihood of returning to jail.

A new study from the University of Washington looks instead at families of men who are, or were recently, incarcerated — specifically, at where these families live, how often they move, and the social, and socioeconomic, fabric of their neighborhoods.

Using data from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study — longitudinal research following thousands of families in 20 large U.S. cities since 1998 — UW sociologist Christine Leibbrand and her co-authors examined residency among children whose fathers were in prison, or recently released, at the time of data collection.

The study is published in the November issue of Social Science Research.

The team found that, overall, children under the age of 18 whose fathers were incarcerated live in neighborhoods that are more socioeconomically disadvantaged than do children whose fathers have never been in prison. Families with a father in prison tend to live in neighborhoods with higher percentages of residents who are single mothers, residents who receive public assistance, residents with less than a high school education, and residents who live in poverty.

This stems primarily from financial hardship, researchers say, and can perpetuate what they call “downward mobility.” A father in prison is one less wage-earner at home, or paying child support. Families with less money have fewer choices of where to live, they may move often, and the neighborhoods they end up in may be marked by lower quality schools, greater unemployment and higher rates of crime and violence.

“When we think about where people live or move to, we think of people weighing the pros and cons of different places. That’s far too simple. Many families may be forced to move because of eviction or budget constraints, for example, and these forced moves are often to worse neighborhoods where families have little choice of where they would like to live,” said Leibbrand, an acting assistant professor in the UW department of sociology.

According to the National Research Council, 2.2 million U.S. adults were in local, state or federal custody in 2012. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that in 2007, 1.7 million children, or 2.3% of the U.S. population under age 18, had a parent in prison. The impact of parent incarceration fell disproportionately on black and Hispanic children; black children were 7.5 times as likely, and Hispanic children 2.5 times as likely, as white children to have a parent in prison.

“We live in a country where we have huge numbers of children exposed to parental incarceration. When we talk about the need to reform the criminal justice and mass incarceration systems, we also need to talk about the unintended victims of the current system,” Leibbrand said. “Incarceration exposes families to poverty and disadvantage, and the system can self-perpetuate inequality.”

The study was funded by a Shanahan Endowment Fellowship and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Co-authors were graduate student Erin Carll of the UW; Angela Bruns of the University of Michigan; and Hedwig Lee of Washington University.

For more information, contact Leibbrand at [email protected].


By                    :               Kim Eckart

Date                 :               November 26, 2019

Source             :               UW News

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K-pop deaths show East Asia must end the stigma, and the solitude, that surrounds mental health


The deaths of Goo Hara and Sulli reveal signs of a deep mental health crisis in East Asia that isn’t talked about enough. To combat it requires more community outreach and specialised resources for reaching specific groups


A pang shot through me when headlines blared that Goo Hara had died from suspected suicide – just a month after her best friend Sulli’s death.

“That’s the thing about pain,” goes a popular line in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. “It demands to be felt.”

Recent medical and social science literature have added to this picture, showing that pain also demands to be spread. Mental health is contagious in patterned ways. And these patterns tell a compelling story of a mental health epidemic on the rise in East Asia.

Mental health troubles, such as distress, depression and anxiety, can spread subconsciously through social interactions like a virus. This can be short term. People reflect observations of others’ moods and negative emotional states onto themselves. We see this most clearly in emergencies, when someone’s panic or anxiety triggers a chain reaction in others.

It can also be long term. When receiving and processing others’ negative interpretations of events, individuals can come to adopt them as well. For example, I never thought much about grading a particular assignment for a course I co-taught, until I heard a colleague drone on about how it was a chore.

The following year, when I taught the same course, that thought crept up on me as I began to grade. Without me realising it, a wisp of doubt had flickered into existence – I had retained my colleague’s sentiment and my motivation to grade wavered, even if for a moment and by a little.’

Certain illnesses spread this way as well, such as depression and anxiety. Most concerning is how they spread faster among East Asians than other ethnicities and among more men than women, according to research, because these groups commonly do not discuss their emotions, even when distressed.

Traditional norms about what it means to be mature, and a man, hold fast in East Asian culture. Apathy is validated as a sign of strength. Showing feelings is maligned as being unproductive and weak. Emotion, a fundamental part of the human condition, is banished from our being.

Goo and Sulli’s deaths, tragic as they are, are but two blips in a growing cluster of mental health illnesses in East Asia. This is not about the K-pop idol profession. This is a public health issue of grave significance. A crisis has crept over the horizon and stands before us.

A study published in 2018 in BMC Psychiatry, a leading psychiatry journal, analysed data from a nationally representative survey in South Korea to tell a grim story about mental health. Only 16 per cent of those with symptoms of depression, including suicidal tendencies, actually seek a mental health consultation. Hong Kong fares no better, as services remain underfunded amid skyrocketing rates of mental health problems.

We must recognise and treat mental health as a public health crisis. Two concrete strategies should guide these efforts.

First, develop community outreach and organising strategies at the grass-roots level. Hong Kong, in particular, already has an available fund to draw from – the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund.

This supports social innovation programmes, research and capacity-building initiatives. Resources from within this pool could thus be devoted to creating similar initiatives for improving education around mental health, including workshops teaching resilience and workplace-affiliated education programmes.

Second, introduce more specialised mental health resources for specific groups and identities. This is important because even general psychologists are not equipped to deal with the nuances of identity-specific concerns, such as LGBTQ individuals struggling with acceptance and discrimination.

At the Health and Wellness Centre at my university, for instance, we work to accommodate a large proportion of racial and ethnic minority patients by assigning them to professionals who are also minorities. This has produced markedly improved outcomes and lowered recidivism.

The point of these strategies is to break the isolation that mental illnesses inflict on individuals in a targeted fashion, and to introduce a sense of solidarity that is fundamental to social well-being and human existence itself.

The old thought experiment comes to mind: if a lone tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? The individual deaths of Goo, Sulli and every less-famous individual who retreats from life itself all combine to show a forest of trees already fallen without being heard. It warns of all those poised to fall in the future if we continue with the status quo.

The crisis at hand calls for an end to the stigma, but also institutional strategies to end the solitude and segregation. We need to listen.


Anson Au is a visiting professor in the School of Humanities, Social Science and Law at Harbin Institute of Technology and a PhD student in sociology at the University of Toronto


By                    :               Anson Au

Date                 :               November 30, 2019

Source             :               South China Morning Post


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Bus sociolgy: UBC professor researches how people act on public transit


'It forces us to negotiate space with one another,' says sociology professor

For most people, taking a bus comes with its own specific etiquette. Commuters make decisions that are part of the unwritten code of riding the bus, whether it be where they sit, how they respond to others or whether they talk or not.

As a long-time bus rider, Amy Hanser, associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, has watched these so-called unwritten bus rules.

She has just launched a research project where she'll observe and codify the bus-riding experience. Her goal is to understand how people interact with strangers on public buses.

"The bus has always fascinated me as a kind of social space in which we're thrust together with strangers in very close proximity," Hanser told Gloria Macarenko, host of On the Coast.

On transit, the city's mix of humanity is all in one tight space.

"You can walk down the street and see someone that maybe makes you uncomfortable, and you could cross the street or you could walk past them quickly. But on the bus, you often have no control over who sits next to you," said Hanser.

"It forces us to negotiate space with one another, and when the bus gets crowded you're really forced to both keep to yourself and also be really attentive to other people. It's this really interesting tension."

Hanser's research will also look at how the bus is situated in the city it services.

"It changes as it moves through the city. People get on. People get off. It takes on the character of neighbourhoods it changes across the day," Hanser said.

Unwritten rules

Many of the rules that apply to riding the bus also apply to interactions with strangers in other public spaces, but they're intensified on the bus.

"When you encounter a stranger it's not polite to stare. On the bus we're confronted with that problem of being very close to people and we shouldn't be staring at them. So people have to come up with all sorts of ways to convey that they recognize there's people around them, but they're not being intrusive."

Hanser says this is called "civil inattention."

Part of Hanser's research will be determining whether the time of day changes the unwritten rules. She says she's seen the rules change when the 'Rudolph' bus — a TransLink bus in Vancouver decorated to look like a reindeer with a big red nose — appears.

"The humour that it generates creates a completely different atmosphere on the bus. It releases people from the ordinary rules about keeping to yourself. I find people are always laughing and talking with each other."

Hanser says she is also interested in seeing how those who do not know the unwritten rules, like those with cognitive disabilities, are interacted with.


By                  :               Laura Sciarpelletti

Date               :               December 1, 2019

Source           :               CBC

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