Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Sociologist of the Semester

I've been meaning to add Dr. Michael Welch, one of my favorite sociologists/criminologists, to my "featured" tab for several semesters. Students who take 3150 (punishment) know I use his textbook "Corrections: A Critical Approach", but may not know anything else about Welch or his contributions to the field of punishment, criminology and the "war on terror."

The featured book "Scapegoats of September 11th" is probably the most succinct statement on how the government fashioned a response to the event which was "a political charade that delivers illusory comfort, stokes fear, and produces scapegoats used as emotional relief." His latest book published last winter "Crimes of Power and States of Impunity" furthers the picture of government abuses in response to the threats of terrorism.

Welch's 2000 book "Flag Burning: Moral Panic and the Criminalization of Protest" is a great analysis of how burning the flag becomes "perceived as a symbolic threat to American society, a threat culminating in a disaster mentality;" more an issue of moral panic, exploited by politicians for political capital, than anything else. "Ironies of Imprisonment" is one of the more eye-opening books I've ever read.

To cap it all off, Professor Welch plays guitar in a surf rock band called the Retroliners (also linked). I love his bio: "Guitarist Michael Welch dwells in a state of poetic misery, often battling manic fugues and fits of rage. His ex-wives remember him as being moody, menacing...and magnificent."

Check out his work (as well as his band).

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