by Pamela Neumann
Why do so many people put up with highly contaminated living conditions? Conventional academic wisdom suggests that many communities do not protest environmental degradation because they are afraid of losing their jobs. They trade their health for the promise of employment.
My recent research in the Peruvian town of La Oroya, which is plagued by dangerously high lead levels, questions this dominant framework for understanding community responses to environmental hazards.
Instead, I argue that many residents’ reluctance to protest against pervasive lead contamination is tied to deeply held perceptions and beliefs about their town’s identity, and particularly a desire to protect their community from perceived outsiders. While material incentives do drive social action (or inaction) at times, it is also imperative to analyze how localized cultural processes—such as how people make sense of their own surroundings—contribute to the dynamics of social mobilization, as well as the reproduction of economic and environmental inequalities.
Now that 55 million U.S. children are back in school, parents, teachers and school administration have been gearing up for the rest of school year ahead. However, one group of individuals who are often overlooked in our cultural imaginations of schools are the lunch ladies (also referred to as school food service employees). More importantly, this group of workers are poorly misunderstood and are often not considered at all. Not only are lunch ladies invisible in academic research, but they are invisible in our national conversation about the quality of school food.
It is important to draw our attention to the work of food service employees so that we may have a better understanding of how they impact children’s health. Although overlooked in considerations of children’s health, lunch ladies do have an impact on children’s lives each day.
When we do see portrayals of lunch ladies in popular culture, they are often portrayed as one-dimensional. This undermines our ability to consider lunch ladies as partners in improving children’s school meals. Based on a media content analysis, I have found that lunch ladies are more often than not portrayed as villains. Read More
by Noelle Chesley
Credit: LexnGer (Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0)
As technology has become an inescapable part of most workplaces, it has become ever more important to understand its impact on employees. Using data from two surveys of U.S. workers, Noelle Chesley examines the effects of both personal and job-related technology use. She finds that increased technology use, especially when it extends work into personal life, is linked with higher levels of worker distress. However, it is also associated with gains in productivity, and personal technology use at work may help employees to manage work-related stress.