Judging others target of library art exhibit

Sociology professor Joan Ferrante recently organized the photo exhibition “Seeing Sociology In Our Lives: Place, Race, Gender, and Class.” The exhibit coincides with the textbook “Seeing Sociology,” which Ferrante wrote for her classes. The exhibition, located in the Eva J. Farris Reading Room of W. Frank Steely Library, features some of the photographs used in the book.

“Every discipline offers a way to see the world,” Ferrante said. “Sociology gives you a language for seeing larger forces that impact your life.”

Ferrante hopes that the exhibition will challenge assumptions and get people to reflect and ask questions.

“What can you do without money?” and “how do we pay people for time?” are some of the questions Ferrante feels are reflected in the photos depicting class.

A very different form of compensation for work is used in some places outside the U.S. In the tribal community of Papua New Guinea, for example, sustenance farming is the most common way of supporting oneself. According to anthropology professor Katie Englert, pineapple, coconuts and sweet potatoes are commonly grown for consumption in Papua New Guinea.

“It’s a different way of life than Western society,” Englert said.

Englert, who was previously a photojournalist, said that one thing about photography that she is interested in is the difference in how the audience and the subject of a photo are affected.

One of Englert’s photographs that was used in the exhibit portrays two men walking with their arms draped across each other’s backs. While displays of affection such as this might be viewed ambiguously by someone in the U.S., such physical interaction is normal among Papua New Guineans.

According to Englert, Papua New Guineans who are in the same age group consider each other brothers and sisters.

Contrary to Papua New Guinean culture, some biological siblings in the U.S. may not be seen as brothers and sisters. Sociology professor Missy Gish contributed a family photo of her sons to the exhibit to prove this point. Gish and her husband, Moses, have two sons. Although both boys have the same parents, one displays predominantly African American features, while the other displays mostly Caucasian features. The paternity and maternity of the brothers is often questioned.

Gish, who is in her first semester teaching at NKU, was not originally a sociology major. She took Joan Ferrante’s Race and Gender class in 2000 as a requirement and “fell in love with it.”

“Sociology put clarity on things, especially race and gender,” Gish said. “It teaches you that it’s not just you, your corner of the world. It opens your eyes.”

Freshman Erin Hart, who also contributed to the exhibit, said that after studying sociology, “you don’t look at people as different, and you don’t judge people as much.”

Hart was judged by others for her decision to play football in high school. She had wanted to play football when she was younger, but her mother would not allow it. When she was old enough to make the decision for herself and joined the team, she experienced discrimination from other football players.

“Guys were either standoffish, or they were more aggressive,” Hart said. “A lot of them wouldn’t block for me.”

Hart said that she hopes that the “Seeing Sociology” exhibit will help people to be more understanding of differences.

“Don’t think people can’t do things, even if it might be more difficult for them,” Hart said.

The “Seeing Sociology” exhibit will be on display until the end of the 2010 fall semester.

The library welcomes exhibition proposals. To submit a proposal, contact Michael Providenti at providenti@nku.edu.

Story by Roxanna Blevins