Dr. Douglas Hartmann, professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, spoke about the importance of viewing the world with an ironic, sociological perspective at his Concordia lecture on Nov. 15th.
“When you have an ironic stance, you create a certain kind of distance or detachment from the world you’re trying to analyze,” said Hartmann.
Hartmann lectured to a crowd of about 75 on his studies of Midnight Basketball, a program meant to deter violence in big cities. The program established a basketball league for men living in high-crime areas with games between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Two police officers were present at each game.
According to Hartmann, Midnight Basketball was a politically controversial program meant to give potential criminals something constructive to do in high-crime times.
In the lecture, Hartmann focused on the ironies in the program that he discovered in his studies.
The program took attention away from drastic welfare cuts to make it appear that politicians were trying to fix problems in low-income areas. In addition, the program actually deepened racist beliefs that African Americans were inherently criminal.
“Running through public discourse is often a racially coded language that is too easy to overlook,” said Andrew Lindner, professor of sociology at Concordia College. Lindner stressed the focus of the lecture on racist undertones in public policy as being the most important thing for students to take away from the lecture.
“You must have a cautious engagement with the facts and the multiple realities that we live in,” Hartmann said.
The sociology department has brought sociological speakers to campus in the past, such as Tim Wise and John Brueggemann. According to Lindner, the department wants to bring in more speakers on a range of topics, such as sexuality, urbanism, sustainability and media.
Geneva Nemzek, a junior sociology major, emphasized the importance of sociology for everyone.
“Sociology really involves everyone, whether they want it to or not,” Nemzek said. “Even if it doesn’t seem like it at first, policies like this affect all of us. If sociologists can point out some issues with these programs, it’s good for the world we live in.”
This article was submitted to The Concordian by Emma Connell. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.