2/22: Heading to Easterns this week. I’ll be presenting on a great panel with talks by Steven Dubin, Cara Zimmerman, Anne Bowler, and myself and comments from Vera Zolberg on Saturday at 3:30. Hope to see you there.


2/2: First day of work – for the next couple of years I’ll be a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Uppsala University. The ceiling outside of my office is International Klein Blue, which I choose to accept as a sign of good things to come.

1/4: A while back I made a webpage for new writing, old writing, paywalled writing. It was simple. I put a title on it: Open Book. I thought that over time that would be what I would aim for: my academic production as an open book, easily accessible to all. I thought of it as a set of pamphlets for print and web: something simple.

I’m attracted to little books, cassette tapes, zines. Why wait for a perfect binding? All of these traditions come out of one urge – the urge to say something, do something – an urge that I think many of us understand, and that the academic publishing model actively works to suppress.

A little book can be a pamphlet, full of spit and vinegar. But it can also be a zine, or a comic, or a 7” lathe-cut. Or a snapshot.

At the American Sociological Association’s annual meetings this year there were two moments, in two rooms, when I wished I could have invited some friends to join me. The first, at the Junior Theorists Symposium, was a full room and a small panel of young theorists with short remarks on Theory with a capital T. The second moment, at ASA proper, was the Coser Memorial Lecture. These talks together were at the heart of my experience at ASA this year, were what I wanted to take away with me, to share. I wanted a snapshot of those talks.

Why bother with a snapshot? Snapshots are quickly made and just as often quickly forgotten. They’re fast and dirty and deteriorate quickly. But some last, and they’re the reminders we turn to again and again. Portraits tell of an era, but snapshots tell us about a specific time and place, and they do it in the vernacular.

So here it is, to all and anyone. I asked the speakers in those two rooms if I could reproduce their talks, and they have graciously agreed. It’s a snapshot, for you.

Keep reading.

12/12: Skinny Puppy has billed the US Department of Defense for back royalties after finding out from a former guard that their music had been weaponized to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. They’re not the first musicians to justifiably freak out about their music being used in this way – a few years back Trent Reznor wrote, “It’s difficult for me to imagine anything more profoundly insulting, demeaning and enraging than discovering music you’ve put your heart and soul into creating has been used for purposes of torture”, and then joined the fight to close the prison – but are probably the first to use the language of intellectual property and royalty rights to do so. In an interview with CTV, Cevin Key said that the band was alerted to the use of their music by a former guard who wrote to the group. He said, “I am affected by it in the sense that… I mean under the conditions, what I’ve heard, we don’t think anyone would want to be subjected to any overly loud music for six to twelve hours at a time without a break and forced to endure those conditions.” Their first instinct was to make an aesthetic statement, saying that they had “based an album concept… at first we were going to make an album cover that was based on an invoice for the U.S. Government for musical services for what they had done. They had actually done it without our permission.” When they realized that they could bring a suit against the DoD for illegally using their music, they sent a note directly to the Department instead: “We did send them an invoice for our musical services, considering they had gone ahead and used our music without our knowledge.”

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12/7: Anna Lund and Stefan Lund deserve special thanks for all their work organizing a great conference on Cultural Sociology and Education at Linnaeus University. And yes, it was at a castle.


11/17:  The first issue of the new Berkeley Journal of Sociology finally arrived in beautiful black and white. Their editorial team deserves congratulations and more amazing submissions. The BJS: bringing print back since late 2014.

11/16: Nice (and very flattering) write-up of our weekend in Houston here. Thanks again to everyone who participated and especially to Carrie Schneider and Jennie Ash for all of their work and both of their minds. Hope to see you all again soon.


10/27: I’m headed to Houston next week (November 8-9) to talk and listen and do along with some pretty amazing folks at charge. It’s a two day practicum to platform and convene artist led alternative models, open up conversations around equitable compensation of artists, and consider artists’ work in the larger economy. Open to all, but you need to register. See you then and there.

10/26: Headed to SSHA next week? Come and see the amazing Angèle Christin, the incredible Ashley Mears, the inimitable Clayton Childress, and myself on a panel titled “Valuing Work in the Cultural Economy” on Friday the 7th at 4:30. Be there or be square.

10/10: As is probably clear I am doing some work on artists’ engagements with the state, prompted in part by meeting, thinking with, and writing about Venus DeMars. Another audit case – an artist who is also an art professor – is big news at the moment, and because I think they’re instructive and know most people won’t wade through the court papers I pulled a couple of quotes from the court’s ruling on the question of the artist’s profit motive. The ruling for the most part leaves the specifics of the artist’s deductions to be settled separately, but there are a few useful asides on deductions and a few jarring glimpses into the simple realities of working as an artist. One clear and simple lesson from the opinion: artists really desperately need education about schedule C deductions, whether or not they use a bookkeeper or accountant. “Petitioner” refers to the artist, “respondent” to the IRS.

“Maintaining perfect sales records was difficult because galleries often neglected to provide her with all relevant sales information. In some cases she received a single check accompanied by a list of pieces sold, without specification of the purchaser’s identity or the sale price of each individual work. Ascertaining the purchaser’s identity was important because petitioner regarded each purchaser as a potential future customer. When petitioner received incomplete information, she contacted the gallery in an effort to obtain all relevant sales data. Such efforts were not always successful and, for that reason, petitioner’s sales records are not 100% accurate.
Respondent stipulated that the total value of works sold during her career is at least $937,150. Galleries usually took a 50% commission, and petitioner on several occasions received no proceeds at all because of financial distress or mismanagement on the gallery’s part. For example, petitioner had a solo exhibition of ten abstract paintings at Michael Steinberg Fine Art in 2009. Each painting was priced at $1,800 and all ten were sold. Petitioner never received payment for these works when the gallery closed during the financial crisis.
Petitioner’s theory for claiming deductions seems to have been that most experiences an artist has may contribute to her art and that most people with whom an artist socializes may become customers or otherwise advance her career. The trial established that a significant number of the deductions she claimed were not, within the meaning of section 162(a), “ordinary and necessary expenses” of conducting her art business but were “personal, living, or family expenses” non-deductible under section 262(a). The latter expenses appear to have included telephone and cable television bills, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, gratuities to doormen in her apartment building, taxicabs to the opera, museums, and social events, restaurant meals with friends and acquaintances, and international travel to gain inspiration from paintings in European museums.
Petitioner bears the burden of proving that she conducted her art business with a predominant, primary, or principal objective of earning a profit. […] However, “a reasonable expectation of profit is not required.”
The clear thrust of respondent’s examination was the notion that petitioner worked as an artist in order to keep her job as a teacher.
Petitioner practiced as an artist for a decade before she began teaching and for 25 years before she became a tenured full professor. For any practitioner who teaches–whether a lawyer, an accountant, an economist, or an artist–there is an obvious intersection between the individual’s profession and his or her teaching. But the two activities have different job requirements and entail different skills.
The trial established that Hunter College required or expected its art professors to exhibit their work; it did not require that they actually sell art. Many of the marketing and related business activities in which petitioner engaged were thus irrelevant to her teaching career. Respondent has not explained why petitioner would devote many hours to these tasks–some of them tedious or unpleasant–if her sole goal were to retain her teaching position. Indeed, during the tax years at issue petitioner was, and for the previous ten years had been, a tenured professor. Tenured professors were not subject to annual performance evaluations, and for them the requirement to exhibit art was at most an expectation that was not rigorously enforced.
… respondent contends that she lacks expertise in the economics of being an artist. But petitioner does not need an economics degree to know how to sell art.
…the mundane tasks that petitioner performed, such as marketing and networking with potential collectors, were essential only because she was conducting a business. They would have been unnecessary if she were pursuing a hobby.
For creative artists, the line between business and personal expenses may sometimes seem hard to discern. Petitioner is not alone in resolving doubts in favor of deductibility.
We find that petitioner’s enjoyment of her art activity–at least some of its aspects–is not sufficient to cause it to be classified as a hobby rather than a business. Petitioner devotes to her art activity a level of seriousness that takes it well beyond the realm of “recreation.””