Sociology On The Rock

Newsletter of the Department of Sociology, Memorial University of Newfoundland

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The Clipboard

 By Stephen Riggins

In June 2012, Memorial University’s Department of Sociology hosted the 29th Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference. The conference welcomed over 150 presenters from across North America and beyond who shared their research in various disciplines in the social sciences. The keynote speaker was Donileen Loseke from the University of South Florida. The conference also included featured talks from Brock University’s Andrea Doucet, St. Thomas University’s Deborah van den Hoonaard, and Memorial’s Bev Diamond. The team of organizers included MUN’s Ailsa Craig, Scott Kenney, Justin Piché, and Liam Swiss, as well as Brescia University College’s Steve Kleinknecht. The conference received generous financial support from SSHRC, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brescia; and from MUN’s Faculty of Arts, School of Graduate Studies, and Department of Sociology. Next year’s conference will be hosted at Carleton University.

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Travelin’ Man: The Journey of a Reluctant Sociologist

By Larry Felt

If a song could characterize my academic career it would probably be Bob Seger’s version of Travelin’ Man. My travelling has been more intellectual than geographical although I have taught at McGill, the University of Toronto, as well as thirty-eight years at Memorial. I would describe my sociology as theoretically and substantively eclectic with an emphasis upon strong research design, good data, and rigorous analysis. I am not nor have I ever wanted to be much of a theorist preferring instead to take bits and pieces of theory to frame research. In important respects, my view of sociology reflects my general persona, i.e., more outsider than insider, aloof, cynical, but not to the point of degenerative pathos, and, while certainly leaning more towards soft positivism than postmodernism, I am not sure that “truth” is really out there.

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Same Same but Different: Comparisons of Rural Vietnam and Rural Newfoundland

By Ashley Laracy

Editor’s Note: Ashley Laracy, who is from the town of Cupids, completed a Master’s degree in sociology at Memorial University in 2011. In this article she describes her experiences working as a Gender Specialist in the Mekong region of Vietnam. She has completed this work and presently lives in Hanoi where she is a Gender Mainstreaming Advisor with the World University Services of Canada.

It’s 6:30 am. I wake up slowly to sunshine beaming in through the bedroom window. No alarm clock is needed. Birds are chirping in the ceiling fan – they took up residence there long before I arrived. As the saying goes “the early bird gets the worm” and my feathered roommates are a perfect example, up at the crack of dawn waiting for their morning feeding. I hear the faint sound of a whistle accompanied by cheering and clapping. The students are playing soccer on the field next to the guesthouse where I live. They play most mornings for an enthusiastic crowd of observers.

I move to the shower. Lukewarm is the normal water temperature. It’s a little shock at first, but it aids in the process of waking up. The shower is just a hose and a drain. There is no bathtub; all the water goes onto the bathroom floor. I hear my phone ringing so I turn off the tap and towel off. I have a missed call from my supervisor. I call her back and she’s waiting for me at the canteen. I get dressed quickly and put my hair in a ponytail. No need to dry or style my hair. It is so hot and humid here in the Mekong region of Vietnam that I am soaking with sweat whenever I spend any time without air-conditioning. I reach the doors of the university canteen and quickly scan the crowd of customers for my supervisor, Kimanh. She’s not hard to find as the room goes silent when I walk in and everyone stops eating and stares. There she is waving at me. The transition from a buzzing room to the sound of silence is a usual reaction when I walk into a room on campus. Being one of three Caucasian foreigners at the university and in the town of Tra Vinh, I guess I’m a shocking sight first thing in the morning.

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The Symbolic Lives of Freemasons

By Scott Kenney

When I was initiated into the Freemasons in September 1999, just a few months after receiving my Ph.D. from McMaster University, I was struck by something obvious. Extensively trained in symbolic interactionist theory during my graduate studies, I saw unfolding before my eyes an organization that emphasized the use of carefully coordinated ritual actions, combined with a complex, multilayered symbolism, to socially construct meaning for its members. The desire to conduct a study was born. After all, how could I resist utilizing a sociological approach, which emphasizes the pragmatic construction of meaning through symbolic actions, as a way of studying an organization that utilizes symbolic, ritualized actions to construct meaning?

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A Newfoundland Pioneer in the Study of Immigration

By Stephen Harold Riggins

William George Smith with his adult brothers and sisters, parents, and grandfather. William George stands in the back row. He is the last man to the right.

Memorial University’s archivist Mel Baker once remarked to me that W. G. Smith’s 1920 book A Study in Canadian Immigration was “almost sociology.” At that point my knowledge of Smith was limited to knowing that he was a Newfoundlander. Only a few historians are familiar with Smith’s major publication. Following Mel’s lead, I discovered that indeed he was right. W. G. (William George) Smith, who was born in the town of Cupids in March of 1873, is surely the first Newfoundland-born sociologist. Most likely he is also the first experimental psychologist born on the island but that may not be the story he would most want to tell.

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