Christopher Bail talks to Salon about “Terrified”

Christopher Bail, author of Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream, recently spoke with Paul Rosenberg for a feature in Salon on how anti-Muslim sentiment is fostered by the broader cultural landscape, and the innovative new methodology he has used to study that process. Paul Rosenberg at Salon writes:

It may be hard to fathom or remember, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the American public responded with an increased level of acceptance and support for Muslims. President Bush—who had successfully courted the Muslim vote in 2000—went out of his way to praise American Muslims on numerous occasions in 2001 and 2002. However, the seeds were already being planted that would change that drastically over time.  Within a few short years, a small handful of fringe anti-Muslim organizations—almost entirely devoid of any real knowledge or expertise, some drawing on age-old ethno-religious conflicts—managed to hijack the public discourse about Islam, first by stoking fears, grabbing attention with their emotional messaging, then by consolidating their newfound social capital, forging ties with established elite organizations, and ultimately building their own organizational and media infrastructure.

How this all happened is the subject of a fascinating new book, “Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream,” by sociologist Christopher Bail, of the University of North Carolina.  The book not only lays bare the behind-the-scenes story of a momentous shift in public opinion, it employs cutting-edge computer analysis techniques applied to large archives of data to develop a new theoretical outlook, capable of making sense of the whole field of competing organizations struggling to shape public opinion, not just studying one or two the most successful ones. The result is not only a detailed account of a specific, significant, and also very pernicious example of cultural evolution, but also a case study in how to more rigorously study cultural evolution more generally in the future. In the process, it sheds considerable light on the struggles involved, and the difficulties faced by those trying to fight back against this rising tide of misdirected fear, anger and hatred.


Read the full interview with Christopher Bail that follows here.

Terrified, by Christopher Bail

Too Hot to Handle? Jonathan Zimmerman Q&A on the problem with sex education

A product in part of the Progressive Era’s efforts to eradicate prostitution, sex education today is more likely to take its cues from the hazards of sexting. But while sex education has always been emotionally fraught, according to Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot To Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, its opponents are not limited to the realm of evangelical ministers and Conservative pundits. What exactly is the world’s problem with sex education? Zimmerman has a terrific op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing that globalization, contrary to popular belief, has limited rather than expanded such instruction. He was recently interviewed for a piece by Jessica Lahey on the Atlantic.com, and spoke to the History News Network as well.

This week, Zimmerman took the time to sit down with Princeton University Press to shed some light on the fascinating social history of sex education, as well as his personal motivations for writing the book:

Ontario Sex Education Protest 20150224externalimagek104541

 

Why did you write this book?

Jonathan Zimmerman (JZ): My mother spent her career in international family planning and sex education. So she imbued me with the standard liberal American view of the subject: the United States was “behind” other Western democracies, which provide much more extensive, honest, and effective sex education than we do. And that’s why their teen pregnancy and STD rates are so much lower, or so the story goes.

So was your Mom correct?

JZ: Not exactly. First of all, it turns out that the USA was the global pioneer of sex education rather than a laggard. Eventually, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands did develop more detailed sex education than the USA, especially on the subject of contraception. But sex education is limited in those countries by citizen and teacher resistance, just as it is here. And, more interestingly, it has a different set of goals.

How so?

JZ: In Scandinavia and Continental Europe, the stated goal of sex education is not to limit negative social consequences, but rather to help each individual determine and develop her or his own sexuality. I didn’t understand the difference until I found an exchange in the Swedish archives between an educator in Ireland (where sex education was much more like the American version) and the leader of the RFSU, Sweden’s national sex education organization. The Irish educator wanted to know how Swedish sex educators kept teen pregnancy and STD rates so low. The RFSU guy replies with a kind note that says he doesn’t know whether sex education actually influences those outcomes, because there are so many other factors that affect young people’s behavior. And then he says, that’s not the point anyway! It’s to help them lead healthy and pleasurable sexual lives.

So the Americans emphasize social consequences, and the Europeans emphasize individual rights? That sounds like a very different story than the trans-Atlantic comparative tale we usually tell, in which the Americans stress the rights of individuals and the Europeans attend to the common good.

JZ: Exactly!

And I don’t imagine you could get elected to an American school board if you were pushing for a sex-education curriculum aiming to assist each teenager in developing sexual identity and pleasure.

JZ: Probably not. But there’s plenty of resistance to that perspective in Europe now, too, especially among new immigrants Countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have witnessed an enormous burst of immigration over the past two decades, mainly from Muslim and Hindu societies in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. And many of these newcomers are angered and offended by a sex education stressing the “right” of each adolescent individual to engage in sex, which violates their communal or religious prescriptions on the subject. They also think that school-based sex education inhibits their own right to raise their children as they see fit.

What about their countries of origin, in the developing world? What does sex education look like there?

JZ: Until the 1980s, it barely existed. But the HIV/AIDS crisis changed all of that, especially in Africa. The question became not “Should we have sex education?” but “What kind of sex education should we have?” And in Africa and Asia, not surprisingly, it more closely resembled the abstinence-only or danger-centered approach that we see in many parts of the USA.

So would it be fair to say that an American-style sex education is more “culturally appropriate”—in many parts of the developing world—than, say, the Swedish version?

JZ: Yes, and that’s one of the central ironies of my book. Many people in the West who support so-called “comprehensive” sex education also fashion themselves “multiculturalists,” stressing the importance of diversity and the need for educators to respect it. It’s hard to square that perspective with a commitment to adolescent sexual rights, which are simply anathema in many cultures. I realized that, too, when I was in the archives in Sweden, and I came across a comment by a frustrated educator who had been trying—without a lot of success–to promote his approach in the so-called Third-World. As he acknowledged, many people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America did not share his premises on the value of the individual, at least not when it came to sex. “It is hard for people to be autonomous in cultures where autonomy seems to be of such little use,” he wrote.

What about conservatives? Wasn’t there also an irony in the way they invoked their “cultural” rights and prerogatives?

JZ: Definitely! In the USA and the UK, especially, white conservatives since the 1960s have often resisted “multiculturalism” as a divisive threat to the body politic. But on sex education, they invoked their own cultural and religious rights and—increasingly—they united with ethnic and religious minorities who shared their point of view. So in the UK, for example, you see white Tories joining hands with Muslim immigrant organizations against sex education.

And these conservatives make common cause across borders, right, as more and more people move across them?

JZ: Exactly. I think many people on the Left like to imagine that “globalization”—the rapid circulation of people and ideas around the world—as a force for liberal-ization. But in the story that I tell, globalization actually inhibits the spread of sex education by allowing critics to share ideas and strategies. Sex education has been a global movement, to be sure. But the same goes for its opposition.

In the USA and elsewhere, some conservatives have resisted or rejected scientific claims regarding evolution and climate change. Isn’t the opposition to sex education an example of similar behavior?

JZ: No. We simply don’t have the same kind of scientific knowledge or consensus about sex education as we do in the realms of evolution or climatology. And part of the reason is that there is so little sex education in the first place! It’s incredibly hard to show that something so brief and haphazard affects something as complicated as sexual behavior.

So maybe it’s really a story about what schools can do, and what they can’t?

JZ: I think so. The 20th century witnessed an enormous boom in formal schooling around the world, as well as new norms of sexual expression and behavior. Sex education brought these two trends together, but the marriage never really worked out. Kids get their messages and values about sex from other institutions, especially in the mass media. Schools just don’t factor into the equation very often, or very well.

Book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox


Princeton University Press senior designer Jason Alejandro created this book trailer for Atlas of Cities edited by Paul Knox. (The catchy song in the background is the aptly named “Weekend in the City” by Silent Partner.)

8-7 Atlas of Cities Atlas of Cities
Edited by Paul Knox

 

In the News: Ghaziani Goes Global with ‘There Goes the Gayborhood?’

8-6 AminGayborhoods. Rising Rents. De-Gaying. ‘Straightening.’

What does it all mean?

Princeton University Press author and associate professor of Sociology Amin Ghaziani has dedicated his life’s work to defining these terms and to bringing the study of sexuality to the forefront of sociology. Naturally, the intent of his latest book, There Goes the Gayborhood? is no different.

In many respects, the book is an ode to the enclaves which have historically acted as havens of support, providing community and allowing those with common sociopolitical goals to coalesce in their quest for equality, meanwhile striking rich friendships and developing culturally vibrant and economically robust neighborhoods.

Throughout the book, Ghaziani analyzes deep demographic data looking for trends of same-sex and straight households moving in and out of traditionally gay neighborhoods like San Francisco’s Castro district, Chicago’s Boystown, and New York’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods. His findings show that gay neighborhoods are becoming decidedly less “gay”—the number of gay men who live in gay neighborhoods has declined eight per cent while the number of lesbians has dropped 13 per cent in the last 10 years. He also found that other areas of the country are becoming more diverse with same-sex reported households in 93% of the counties in America.

The amount of media attention to Ghaziani’s book, and particularly to his unique sociological diagnosis of this issue, has been nearly as overwhelming as his findings. Mainstream media outlets like Time Magazine,  Yahoo! News, Chicago NPR’s “Morning Shift,” Huffington Post’s “Gay Voices” and Huffington Post: Live, and the Chicago Tribune, among others, have responded accordingly to the radical realization of “straightening.” Salon has also paid due diligence to the dilemma, asking, “[A]s demographics shift, is it a sign of acceptance of a community – or the dilution of it? Is it possible, as the New York Times so damningly put it, that “gay neighborhoods face the prospect of becoming passe?””


“Gay neighborhoods have been crucial to the struggle for freedom, and have produced globally important contributions, from politics to poetry to music and fashion,” Ghaziani says. “[I]t is critical that we continue to find meaningful ways to preserve these culturally important spaces.”


Fortunately, Ghaziani’s own commentary in the Advocate rejects the claim that ‘gayborhoods’ are growing increasingly obsolete, no longer a necessary comfort to the gay community. He says that, “[t]here is a fine line between acceptance and the closet, just as there is between integration into the mainstream and the cultural loss of what makes gay people unique.” Although LGBT individuals have become “incorporated into the societal mainstream,” there’s no reason to dismiss such an integral and distinctive feature of the gay community.

And that’s not all the coverage. Not even close. The book has received recognition from French and German news outlets as well, in addition to an array of exclusively gay media sites like Pink News (Europe’s largest gay news service), Towleroad, and Joe.My.God, and we’re sure that the buck won’t stop there.

Even with this blitz of interest, though, it’s important to bear in mind the essence of Ghaziani’s argument: he is fundamentally fighting for these communities and seeking ways to preserve them without naively denying the realities of urban change. All neighborhoods change, of course, and gayborhoods are no exception. But they are evolving in unique ways as the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amin Ghaziani is the author of:

TGTG There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani
Hardcover | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691158792 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 | 5 halftones. 2 line illus. 15 tables. 6 maps.| eBook | ISBN: 9781400850174 | Reviews Table of Contents  Introduction[PDF]

Sexuality and the City–presenting the book trailer for There Goes the Gayborhood? by Amin Ghaziani

In There Goes the Gayborhood?, sociologist Amin Ghaziani shows why the rumors of the demise of gay neighborhoods like Boystown, Chelsea, the Castro District, and Dupont Circle are premature. Publishers Weekly says his “findings are not to be missed,” while Library Journal says the book represents, “a fascinating, rich view that is supported by up-to-date statistics.” This video gives a quick overview of what the book covers.

You can sample a free chapter here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10211.pdf

Be among the first to browse and download our new sociology catalog!

Be among the first to browse and download our new sociology catalog!

Of particular interest is William B. Helmreich’s The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 Miles in the City. Helmreich decided that the only way to truly understand New York was to walk virtually every block of all five boroughs–an astonishing 6,000 miles. His epic journey lasted four years and took him to every corner of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Helmreich spoke with hundreds of New Yorkers from every part of the globe and from every walk of life, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former mayors Rudolph Giuliani, David Dinkins, and Edward Koch. Their stories and his are the subject of this captivating and highly original book. Follow #NYNobodyKnows on social media for author events, book giveaways, and interesting information about the book and New York City.

Also be sure to note Climbing Mount Laurel: The Struggle for Affordable Housing and Social Mobility in an American Suburb by Douglas S. Massey, Len Albright, Rebecca Casciano, Elizabeth Derickson, and David N. Kinsey. Under the New Jersey State Constitution as interpreted by the State Supreme Court in 1975 and 1983, municipalities are required to use their zoning authority to create realistic opportunities for a fair share of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households. Mount Laurel was the town at the center of the court decisions. As a result, Mount Laurel has become synonymous with the debate over affordable housing policy designed to create economically integrated communities. This analysis reveals what social scientists call neighborhood effects–the notion that neighborhoods can shape the life trajectories of their inhabitants. Climbing Mount Laurel proves that the building of affordable housing projects is an efficacious, cost-effective approach to integration and improving the lives of the poor, with reasonable cost and no drawbacks for the community at large.

The selection of foremost titles in sociology abounds, so if you would like to learn more, please browse our catalog. You may also sign up with ease to be notified of forthcoming titles at http://press.princeton.edu/subscribe/. Your email address will remain confidential!

We will see everyone at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in New York, NY August 10th-13th. Come visit us at booth 1007, and follow our editor @ei_schwartz for book giveaway details and live tweets from #ASA13.

Amy Binder on MSNBC’s “The Cycle”

Amy Binder, co-author with Kate Wood of Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives, was on the guest spot of MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to debunk myths about conservative undergraduates: