The first time UO sociologist Eileen Otis walked into a Walmart, she was far from home—Kunming, China, to be exact. She was immediately struck by how greatly the Chinese version of the massive retailer differed from its American counterpart.
For starters, she was surrounded by a vast array of fresh local foods, including aquamarine tanks full of turtles and other sea life, open vats of fresh whole fish, and large barrels brimming with great varieties of rice—inventory she wouldn’t expect to find on the shelves in America.
Then there was the store’s location in Kunming, the modern capital city and transportation hub of China’s southern Yunnan province. The Walmart was integrated into a shopping mall, instead of a stand-alone “box” store like Walmarts on US soil. The marketing appeared to target middle-class shoppers rather than lower-income ones, because Walmart is unable to compete with prices set by locally owned discount stores in China, says Otis.
But most interesting to Otis was the composition of the store’s workforce. Dozens of energetic vendors, all hawking different products, crowded the main floor. She describes the scene as reminiscent of the sample carts scattered through the aisles at Costco, except with dozens more vendors. She discovered that, unlike Costco, the sales agents were employed by different companies—none of them Walmart—to drive sales of everything from shampoo to cosmetics to holiday decorations.
The firms that sell products in Walmart hire and dispatch sales workers to the store’s aisles and the sales floors of other big retailers. The firms pay Walmart a nominal sum to accept their promoters. Their supervision is the responsibility of department managers—many of whom are overworked, with little time to oversee the sales agents.
Read more about Dr. Otis’ work on Around the O.
Jenna Lilley, a UO Sociology major and honors program participant, has been featured in the Register-Guard for her amazing accomplishments as a student athlete. She’s a stellar softball player and even made the US Olympic team! We couldn’t be more proud to call her one of our own.
Professor Jill Harrison was quoted in a March 2018 Washington Post article about the social and economic implications of recent changes in trade policy. Harrison, an expert on de-industrialization argues that reactions to these new economic tariffs can not be fully understood without considering how manufacturing remains core to rust belt identities. You can read the full article here:
Dear UO Sociology Friends and Colleagues,
It is with much sadness and outrage that we must share the news that UO 1991 PhD Kavous Seyed-Emami died in an Iranian prison under suspicious circumstances. He was an accomplished and internationally acclaimed environmental activist. We are joining his family in demanding an autopsy and information about the circumstances of his death. We provide here links to some early articles about his death. Our hearts are with his family and close friends right now. The world has lost an important activist for environmental and human rights.
New York Times: “Death by Hanging in Tehran”
New York Times: “Forced Confessions in Iran’s House of the Dead”
1954 – 2018
Kavous Seyed-Emami, a professor at Immam Sadiq University in Teheran and an environmentalist, was taken into custody by the Iranian Security Forces on January 24, 2018. After less than three weeks in custody at Teheran’s infamous Evan Prison Kavous’ family was notified that he had “committed suicide” while in prison and was deceased.Kavous was born in Iran in 1954 and was raised in a very privileged environment. As a young man he went on lengthy hunting and fishing trips with his family, in what was at the time, a feudal social system in Iran. Village residents where the trips took place were not allowed to hunt or fish; all wildlife belonged to the wealthy families of Iran. When Kavous was taken on these hunting trips, the villagers and residents became the porters and guides for the hunt. Kavous was deeply moved by the wildlife and animals he saw and hunted on these trips. It was a time of wildlife abundance in Iran since there was little development and little or no hunting. Kavous developed an early love for both the land and the wildlife of Iran. He was also deeply moved and affected by the beauty of village life and the honesty and simplicity of village residents. He became, at a young age, a committed equalitarian and environmentalist.
Graduating from high school, Kavous attended University in the United States where he received an undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in the 1970s. At the end of the 1970s, Kavous returned to Iran and took part in the student uprisings that ended the U.S. sponsored regime of the Shah. He took part in the liberation of government buildings in Teheran and was one of the students that liberated the Savak prisons and torture chambers. It was a horrific experience to see what had been done in these prisons and this sight affected Kavous for the rest of his life.
Following his days as a student activist, Kavous was a machine gunner in the Iran Army during the first years of the Iran/Iraq war. Wounded, he was evacuated to a hospital for treatment. During his absence, his entire combat unit was killed, making Kavous the sole survivor of that unit. He would retain a fear and horror of military weapons for the rest of his life.
Kavous enrolled at the University of Oregon in 1984 in order to obtain a PhD. During this time, he returned to Iran many times and witnessed the destruction of Iranian wildlife as military weapons and military units proliferated in Iran. These units and weapons were used to destroy the animals that Kavous loved as he grew up. He was horrified to see this utter destruction. While in Oregon, however, Kavous continued to develop his love of the outdoors and wildlife. He explored Oregon’s wild places and was an avid camper, hiker, hunter, and fisherman and was joined by friends and fellow graduate students. Kavous also brought his family, Maryam, his wife, and his two sons Ramen and Myram, to Eugene.
Upon receiving his PhD in 1991 from the University of Oregon Department of Sociology, Kavous returned to Teheran and began teaching at Immam Sadiq University, an establishment and conservative University in Iran. He taught at Immam Sadiq for over two decades. Kavous felt that his duty was to bring an awareness of and love of Iran’s wilderness and wildlife to a generation of Iranians. He believed firmly that this would promote the preservation of these elements of Iranian experience. He founded and became an executive director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and focused on many projects including the preservation of the Asian Cheetah. There are only 50 Asian Cheetahs left in Iran and they are a revered animal. He also, at this time, helped sponsor photo/art work exhibits by Iranian artists emphasizing wildlife conservation that traveled the world. He became Iran’s foremost exponent of conservation and the value of wild places and wildlife. At this time in Iran, Kavous led large hiking groups and campers in the exploration of many wild areas of Iran. Those who experienced these adventures termed them “life changing.”
Kavous received a sabbatical and was resident in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, during the Fall and early Winter of 2017-2018 and continued his communication with his many friends in Oregon. He was unable, unfortunately, to succeed in a planned visit to Eugene in December but was able to communicate with many.
This obituary would be remiss if it did not point out that the assertion that Kavous committed suicide in prison is absurd and infuriating. Pressure has been put on his family to avoid an autopsy to determine the actual cause of death. Claims by his captors are not believed by anyone who knew Kavous at any time in his life.
On the contrary, Kavous will always be remembered by his many friends around the world as an incredibly kind and gentle man whose concern about the natural world was profound, deep, sincere and moving. He lived a simple life, in keeping with his concerns, and his service to humanity and the natural world were exemplary. He will always be remembered with deep and abiding love.
A Celebration of life will be held Feb. 24th 2-4pm at Gerlinger Lounge at the UofO.
President, American Sociological Association
Kavous Seyed-Emami, 63, an Iranian-Canadian professor, who received his PhD in sociology from the University of Oregon, and who was to become one of Iran’s foremost environmentalists, died in Tehran’s Evin prison under suspicious circumstances on February 9, 2018. He was taken into custody along with other environmentalists around two weeks before, on January 24, 2018, and confined in Tehran’s Evin prison on charges of “espionage,” associated with the Iranian government’s current attempt to suppress civil dissent in response to recent protests. On February 9, his wife was notified that he had committed “suicide” while in custody and was deceased. According to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, he is the third leading activist to die in prison under similar suspicious circumstances in the last few weeks. Seyed-Emami’s family and environmental and human rights worldwide are calling for an independent autopsy and an international human rights investigation into the causes of his death.
Seyed-Emami, who had dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, received his PhD from the University of Oregon Department of Sociology in 1991. Upon completion of his dissertation he returned to Iran and taught Sociology and, particularly, Environmental Sociology at Immam Sadiq University, a major university in Tehran. He was the founder and managing director of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and one of the most famous and respected environmentalists in Iran. His life-long goal was to introduce Iranians to the natural world and its preservation. One of his most important projects was the conservation of the Asian Cheetah, an animal revered in Iran.
In our view as in the view of so many others around the world who knew him, it is simply impossible that Seyd-Emami could have committed suicide. The Iranian authorities have resisted requests for an independent autopsy. This has only heightened widespread suspicions that he was murdered to stop him from pursuing his conservation projects and as an attempt to intimidate the environmental movement and civil society movements more generally in Iran.
The Department of Sociology, faculty, students as well as former students, former faculty and graduate students demand that the Iranian authorities allow an independent autopsy. The causes of his death should be subjected to a full international human rights investigation. We request that the American Sociological Association write to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. State Department insisting that they lodge direct protests with the Iranian government calling for an international human rights investigation.
Ellen K. Scott
Head, Department of Sociology
CC: Executive Office, American Sociological Association
Canadian Sociological Association
American Association of University Professors
Chris Sinclair, President, University of Oregon Senate
Michael Schill, President, University of Oregon
Professor Raoul Liévanos co-authored an op-ed with with Lisa Arkin, executive director of Beyond Toxics, and David Vásquez, Associate Professor and Head of the UO English Department published in The Register Guard in December 2017. It is titled, “Farmworkers Deserve Better Pesticide Rules” and critiques the logic and process put forward by Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in its proposed “compliance alternative” to the 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 100-foot pesticide application exclusion zone standard.
The Winter 2018 edition of Oregon Quarterly profiled Professor Jessica Vasquez-Tokos’ work on Mexican Americans, race, ethnicity, gender, and family. You can read more about her interests and intellectual trajectory here:
Professor CJ Pascoe provided her insights into the recent decision to allow girls to join the Boy Scouts in an interview with NPR affiliate KJZZ. The interview can be listened to here: https://kjzz.org/content/554527/sociology-professor-weighs-boy-scouts-decision-welcome-girls/
Professor Pascoe also gave an interview to Mel Magazine about sexual harassment and masculinity for their website, which can be read here: https://melmagazine.com/how-harvey-weinstein-justifies-sexual-harassment-with-progressive-politics-7dcb1f10b8af