Should life insurance be better imagined as “death insurance”? Graham Denyer Willis examines how the large number of people across the globe who lack access to formal insurance markets prepare for the impact that the death of a family member will have on their lives. In particular, Willis looks at how the PCC, a powerful criminal organization in Brazil, provides a form of insurance when its members are killed or incarcerated. In doing so, he reflects on how contemporary forms of capitalism, racial discrimination, and state violence create radically different relationships to “insurance.”
From Our Fellows
The SSRC has been providing funding to researchers at all stages of their academic and professional careers for more than 90 years. Through a highly competitive and rigorous peer-review process, the SSRC has awarded over 15,000 fellowships and grants to support research around the globe. From Our Fellows focuses on emerging research in the social sciences, including intersections with the humanities and natural sciences, by recipients of SSRC funding. The SSRC’s fellowships, grants, and prizes improve conditions for social science knowledge production worldwide.
The International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF) Photo Competition is offered every year to IDRF recipients. Prizes are awarded for the best single photo, the best self-portrait, the best photo essay, and the best video following a vote by IDRF fellows and staff.
In recent years, the increasing prominence of the #MeToo movement has raised awareness about sexual harassment and assault and their dynamics, most recently exemplified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Using this incident as a springboard, Karen Weiss explains in this piece for our “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series how “gendered accounts,” or the ways people excuse or defend inappropriate social behavior, exacerbate the victimization of those who have experienced sexual assault or harassment.
A 1997 postdoc fellow of the SSRC’s Sexuality Research Fellowship Program (SRFP), Arlene Stein details her SRFP-funded research on antigay social mobilization in rural Oregon in the late 1990s for our “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series. Stein studied how some individuals, whom she calls conservative moral entrepreneurs, persuaded these communities to attribute their worsening economic situation to “elites” and, in particular, gay and lesbian people. Reflecting on this research, Stein asserts the importance of sexuality research and how it can help us understand current political and social dynamics.
Jillian Cavanaugh’s contribution to “Sociolinguistic Frontiers” tells the story of the emergence of the concept of “language ideologies” that mediate “between the social practice of language and the socioeconomic and political structures within which it occurs.” The concept became an embedded component in analyzing the treatment of minority languages and dialects, and how power relations can be revealed through everyday language use. Today, rather than an overarching framework, language ideology has evolved into a critical point of departure for understanding the intersection between language and various forms of inequality that also require other intellectual tools to fully grasp.
Related to Items’ recent series on “Just Environments,” Kasia Paprocki and her colleagues discuss how what they call critical social science can be engaged in the study of and the response to climate change. In practice, this means being attuned to the potential tensions and complementarities between social knowledge production about and social action on behalf of addressing climate change and the inequalities it can deepen or transform. Drawing on their own and others’ research, the authors call attention to the “entanglement” of environmental issues with a host of other ones, the deployment of climate-friendly language for self-interested political purposes, and the importance of context in imagining movements for climate justice.
In a new submission to Democracy Papers, Tracy Sulkin looks at the professional consequences of legislators’ bad behavior. Using a unique dataset on professional scandals and instances of incivility committed by members of the US House of Representatives, she shows that scandals and incivility are linked to stalling professional career trajectories of members of Congress. In an era of polarization and gridlock, these results indicate that Congress does retain ability to police and sanction bad behavior among its members.