BIOGRAPHY

Russell A. Castro is an urban ethnographer and epidemiologist who has worked for the University of Colorado's Institute of Behavioral Sciences, Bureau of Sociological Research, and Sociology Department; as well as The Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, The Drug Research Unit, and the Institute of Criminology at the University of Amsterdam.  Just having finished a stint as the Executive Officer of the Society for Applied Sociology, Castro has taught courses in Deviance, Social Issues, Social Problems, and Introductory Sociology at The University of Colorado at Boulder and at Delgado Community College (in New Orleans) prior to joining the SLU sociology faculty in late 1995.  Castro served as Coordinator and Senior Research Associate on a National Institute on Drug Abuse project during 1994 & 1995 studying the incidence and prevalence of alcohol use among Louisiana public high school students through the Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy.  In addition, Castro has presented and published papers on subcultures, social control, substance use control policy, policy reform movements, and social definitions of deviance (please see: Castro, Russell A. in The Sociological Abstracts).  Twice listed in Who's Who Among America's Teachers: America's Best Students Select America's Best Teachers (2000, 2002), as well as the 10th and 11th annual editions of The Directory of American Scholars, Castro has also assumed an honorary Fellowship in the North American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2002).  Castro has also written for the America Online "Addiction and Recovery Forum," and is working on two book-length projects: one consists of co-authorship of a new deviance theory textbook exploring the increasingly "normal" role of dishonesty and deceit in quotidian impression management in the United States; the other is an examination of American partisanship through the lens of conflicting efforts to define morality along traditionalist versus progressivist lines.  His article, "Drug Use Cultures and Subcultures" was published in the Encyclopedia of Criminology and Deviant Behavior (Taylor and Francis, Ltd. 2000).

At Southeastern Louisiana University, Castro teaches Race and Ethnic Relations 411, Social Problems 212, as well as Introductory Sociology 101. Currently he is teaching Social Problems 212 and four sections of Sociology 101, one of which is a televised by Louisiana State University in conjunction with Southeastern Louisiana University.  Introductory Sociology is a basic survey course in sociology designed to acquaint students with the sociological perspective, and the three major paradigms within the discipline.

Introductory Sociology 101 emphasizes "critical thinking," that is, the art of intelligent discernment.  Breaking sociology into discussions on a number of controversial social concerns, Castro's introductory sociology course challenges the student to reconsider much of what they had previously taken for granted about society on the basis of  "common sense," and to replace incorrect notions with factual information.  As taught by Castro, the course is designed to benefit sociology majors---as well as non-majors who will likely have little further formal contact with the discipline sociology---by enabling them to see cultural, political, and socioeconomic issues from a number of perspectives simultaneously, thus, improving analytic and decision making skills.  Special emphases in the class are on structural functionalism (i.e., Talcott Parsons, Robert Merton, etc.), social psychology (i.e., symbolic interactionism, social constructionism, ethnomethodology, and dramaturgical analysis; i.e., W. I. Thomas, Herbert Blumer, Peter Berger, Erving Goffman, Harold Garfinkel, and John Heritage), materialist/economic analysis (i.e., the conflict theories Marx, Weber, and Mills), and on processes associated with the social definition of deviance (i.e., the labeling theories of Edwin Lemert and Howard Becker). Race and Ethnic Relations 411 is an upper-division course that historically examines waves of immigration into the United States with special emphasis on variable adaptation and assimilation.  Attention is devoted to political and economic conditions impacting contemporary ethnic and racial minority groups in the US, as well as to the Civil Rights movement's unintended consequences, such as "urban flight" and the progressive abandonment of the American public school system by the middle classes.   Evolution of immigration policy and public opinion are illuminated.  The theory of the intentional under-development and under-education of Black America are also considered as sources of racial inequality, racial discrimination, and on-going racial tensions (i.e., Manning Marable).  Continuing inequities between dominant and subordinate ethnic groups are carefully examined for their structural and institutional sources.

Sociology as an Academic Discipline

Sociology is the logical and systematic study of society.  Sociology emerged in the academy during the Renaissance period as a response to the social problems that became endemic during the period, most which were directly attributable to the sweeping trends of urbanization and industrialization.  These problems included, but were not limited to: unemployment, starvation, homelessness, disease, and crime.  Initially, the major economic shift in Europe from agrarian cottage industry to urban mass-production was not well understood scientifically or academically, perplexing scholars and clergy members, alike.  Prior to Sociology, Philosophy and Theology were the principle disciplines in the academy concerned with human affairs and problems.  Being somewhat idealistic, especially at that time, philosophers and theologists responded to these baffling new circumstances by discussing perplexing social phenomena in terms of desired ideals rather than factually based assessments.  Seeking to manifest utopian ideals through good wishes and intentions, rather than trying to bring about an improved situation through an acceptance and understanding of the actual; these more "classic" academic disciplines of the early Renaissance were, therefore, disenabled as instruments to be effectualized in the solution of social problems.  Sociology--conversely--was the first socially oriented academic area to embrace a decidedly positivist orientation, seeking to identify and understand social phenomena on the basis of actual manifestation rather than desired ideals.  In order to solve, or render improvement to, any socially problematic situation, accurate assessment of the phenomena in question is the necessary first step.  Sociology emerged in order to fill in this gap in the problem-identification process, one critical to social understanding and effective social reform.

In short, sociology studys the individual's relationships to others and groups, as well as relationships between groups, such as issues impacted by differential social privilege and/or conflicting class interests. Employing many of the same techniques used in the so called "hard" sciences (e.g., statistics employing highly stylized sampling and analytical techniques), sociologists seek to accurately determine and/or discover causes and explanations to better understand enigmatic, obscure, and/or socially problematic phenomena.  The sociological perspective helps to demonstrate that "personal troubles" may be interpreted as manifestations of larger "social forces" or phenomena.  Being a perspective rather than a subject area, per se, sociology's principal advantage is its universal applicability to the study of almost any social phenomenon, and its replacement of speculation, belief, and common sense with fact.

Some Notes on Sociology as a Career Choice

As a career choice, sociology deserves measured and careful consideration prior to commitment.  Sociology is a remarkable intellectual tool for the continuing scholarship of the scholastically-oriented individual.  However, it is a serious scientific endeavor and may be an academically rigorous graduate school experience.  The most prestigious and highest paying positions within sociology (whether in academics, public service, or industry) often require that the candidate hold a terminal degree, which within sociology is the Ph.D.  Obtaining a Doctorate in sociology typically takes 5 to 7 years of graduate work beyond the B.A. or B.S. degree, although the duration may be shorter or longer depending upon the candidate, the program, and the nature of dissertation research.  Tenured Faculty appointments at the University-level typically require a Ph.D. for ranking, advancement, and tenure.  Most doctorate-granting institutions offer their sociology graduate students financial aid in the forms of fellowships, teaching and research positions.  Yet, additional financial aid or concurrent employment may be required.   Once having obtained a Doctorate, a sociologist's chances of finding a desirable faculty appointment are heightened according to the number of professional publications, presentations, and appointments that he or she has accrued during graduate studies.  At many universities, a faculty candidate's teaching experience during graduate school is an extremely important pre-hiring consideration. Competition between candidates for the most desirable and highest paying academic positions can be extreme.

Although certain successful sociologists have been exceptions to the rule (e.g., Anthony Giddens), the Master of Arts degree in sociology is primarily useful in preparing sociologists to assume faculty positions at 2-year community college level institutions, or in the realm of applied sociology.  Applied sociology, as a subdiscipline, represents a nexus between sociological practice "in the field," and classical scholarship in the academic realm of theoretical analysis and theory building.  Applied sociology, in fact, may alternatively refer to a wide array of sociological endeavors, the common link among them being pragmatic application of sociological theory, knowledge, and information by the sociologist within the context of his or her work (i.e., "action").   One important manifestation of applied sociology is research designed to evaluate and/or analyze such areas as: criminal justice, governmental procedure, public-service programs, as well as various organizational systems within business and other professional networks.   Sociology's importance as an information source--often informing and/or guiding public policy decisions--has become increasingly recognized in both the professional and governmental realms.  As a result, positions for well-trained sociologists in the public, private, and non-profit realms continue to emerge.  However, one cannot over-emphasize the importance of the applied sociologist's acquisition of well-honed analytical and organizational skills during their preparation for entry into the professional world.

Sociology is a useful scientific orientation for better understanding and solving social problems.  The Sociological perspective may be effectively employed by the professional in scientific endeavors; and by the novice in day-to-day decision making processes ---each in the process of better understanding certain aspects of the their respective social world.  One important aspect of academic scholarship is continuing research and production of scholarly writing.  To review Castro's research and publication record, click on the Papers & Publications link below.

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Questions or commentsabout this page should be directed to rcastro@selu.edu