Childrearing Across Cultures

At Stanford University Press, a summary from sociologist Pei-Chia Lan’s new book, Raising Global Families, focuses on the differences and similarities between childrearing strategies of Asian families in both the United States and Taiwan in the post-globalization era.

Lan studied Asian families of different class statuses in the suburbs of both Boston and Taiwan. She found that, far from the monolithic group many non-Asian Americans may think of when they hear “Asian parents,” these families employ a range of overlapping and diverging strategies in their parenting and childrearing. For example, a working class Chinese immigrant family in Massachusetts does things differently than a middle class, white collar family in Taiwan.

Depending on a number of factors, families may find themselves caught between Asian and American cultural values, and the ever-shifting professional prospects of each region. Lan found that many middle class parents in Taiwan seek to prepare their children to later immigrate to the U.S. and, ironically, their Asian immigrant peers in the U.S. do the same thing to prepare their children for possible “return migration” to Taiwan. The interconnectedness of Asia and the U.S. makes for more fluidity between cultures, yet families’ “security strategies” can sometimes “paradoxically magnify anxieties for themselves and other families,” as Lan describes it.

Lan studies similar tensions along national and class boundaries in a 2004 piece on Filipina domestic workers in Taiwan for the journal Social Problems.

One Million Random Digits

At the University of Minnesota Press’s blog, Seth Perlow, a professor of poetry and English, describes “The RAND book.” This book, produced in 1947 by the RAND Corporation, simply contains one million random digits. Perlow dissects its connection to the history of randomness, computer science, and even poetry.

The RAND Book was developed for military-industrial research. Random digits were needed to help scientists at Los Alamos track the random behavior of subatomic particles. The labs then used these numbers to develop stronger nuclear weapons after World War II. Computers couldn’t generate random numbers, so the RAND book was made by connecting what was essentially a high-powered roulette wheel to a counter, and spinning the wheel based on an electric pulse. Since then, the book and its random numbers method have been used in statistics, engineering, video games, and other fields.

Perlow sees links between the RAND Book and poet Gertrude Stein’s work, which he explores in his book The Poem Electric, published by Minnesota. He examines further connections between avant garde and conceptual poetry and the military industrial complex in a 2015 article, “The Conceptual War Machine.”

Taking Science Fiction Seriously

MIT Press’s blog celebrated Science Fiction Day (January 9) with a roundup of their sci-fi related titles. They highlight an anthology edited by Will Davies, Economic Science Fictions, published by MIT’s partner Goldsmiths Press.

Davies, a political economist, gathered fellow political scientists, economists, theorists, fiction writers, designers, and others to discuss how each discipline might influence the other. By taking science fiction seriously as a predictive discipline—and by underscoring some of the fictions that uphold contemporary economics—Davies puts these two worlds in close contact.

Davies does some prediction of his own when he takes on “big data” in a 2013 piece, and forewarns of “data fundamentalism” coming into conflict with traditional modes of human decision-making. Furthermore, he finds parallels between today’s data obsession and the early twentieth century’s workplace efficiency ethos, as well as the postwar period, when the social sciences became more thoroughly enmeshed in public policy. “Something, at some stage, will bring this phase of positivist exuberance to a close, just as something brought the previous ones to a close.”

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Social Problems, Vol. 50, No. 4 (November 2003), pp. 525-549
Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems
Criticism, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Fall 2015), pp. 659-683
Wayne State University Press
RSA Journal, Vol. 159, No. 5556 (2013), pp. 36-39
Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce