Working Papers

Working Paper #1 – Jeffrey Swindle

THE CULTURAL MODEL OF A DEVELOPMENTAL HIERARCHY OF SOCIETIES

Abstract: Cultural models of development and of a developmental hierarchy of societies have powerfully shaped world history, providing motivation and justification for colonialism, religious evangelism, nationalism, foreign aid, and international policymaking. I analyze the level of prominence of the cultural model of a developmental hierarchy during the past three centuries. To do this, I use the largest text corpus available, the Google Ngram Database, to analyze the frequency at which words and phrases indicative of this cultural model appeared in books. I find that such language permeated books throughout the past three centuries, but that the level of permeation varied substantially over time. Interestingly, the level of permeation within fiction books differed significantly from that of books in general, particularly in the twentieth century. In addition, the popularity of certain developmental hierarchy terms changed during the middle of the twentieth century, as previously dominant terms (i.e. ‘savages’ and ‘civilized societies’) fell out of favor and a new set of terms (i.e. ‘developing’ and ‘developed countries’) rose in popularity. Thus, the cultural model of a developmental hierarchy was widespread among authors of books, and books were likely a key medium of diffusion for this model. However, during different historical epochs and within particular types of books the cultural model of a developmental hierarchy fluctuated in prominence. More broadly, these findings imply that certain historical periods have been particularly critical in the emergence of world culture.Keywords: development, developmental hierarchy, cultural models, world culture, ngram


Working Paper #2 – Fiona Rose-Greenland

LOOTERS, COLLECTORS, AND A PASSION FOR ANTIQUITIES AT THE MARGINS OF ITALIAN SOCIETY

Abstract: Unearthing old objects was for centuries a widespread activity in Italy. Artifacts were removed from the soil and re-incorporated into the social realm as votives, chits, and treasure. Women and men knowledgeable about old things and old places were respected repositories of history. The 20th century brought significant changes to this sphere of cultural activity: archaeology became a professionalized discipline, regulated by the state, and artifacts became scientific objects belonging to the Italian nation. Today, unauthorized excavators risk prosecution, fines, and imprisonment. In this paper I ask: What is the effect of state power on the use and circulation of antiquities by unauthorized excavators and collectors? How do the men and women who inhabit the cultural margins distinguish themselves from each other? My analysis draws on ethnographic data and textual analysis of newspaper articles concerning tombaroli or “tomb robbers.” I focus on marginalized cultural production, a key dimension that is missing from most accounts of looters. Keywords: Antiquities; beni culturali; black market; cultural policy; social marginalization; tombaroli


Working Paper #3 – Richard Lachmann and Fiona Rose-Greenland

WHY WE FELL: DECLINIST WRITING AND THEORIES OF IMPERIAL FAILURE IN THE LONGUE DURÉE


Working Paper #4 – Ben Merrimen

DUELS IN THE EUROPEAN NOVEL: HONOR, REPUTATION, AND THE LIMITS OF A BOURGEOIS FORM

Abstract: Sociologists and literary theorists have long viewed the novel, especially the realist novel, as a bourgeois literary form. This article examines the temporal and class specificity of the novel form by examining duels of honor as a plot feature in twenty European novels. Though duels commonly appear in novels written from the French Revolution to the end of World War I, these narratives diverge sharply from the historical realities and social logic of duels. In practice, duels were a ritual form of conflict resolution intended to preserve status equality in honor groups. In novels, duels are a violent means of escalating interpersonal conflict for the pursuit of individual interests. The tension between the fictional representation and social reality of dueling is important in two ways. First, it illustrates the historical and social specificity of the novel as a cultural product. Second, the divergence marks out social structural differences between honor and reputation as measures of individual worth, and consequent conflicts between noble and bourgeois value systems. Keywords: class; duels; honor; novels; social form; violence


Working Paper #5 – Hannah Wohl

COMMUNITIES OF SENSE: MAINTAINING “GOOD TASTE” IN AN EROTIC ARTS CLUB

Abstract: How do groups maintain common sense, or shared judgments of taste? Sociologists typically provide a structural account of taste, while, in contrast, aesthetic philosophers interpret taste as disconnected from the social sphere. Missing in the literature is empirical analysis of mechanisms of taste in social interactions. I advance a perspective on social aesthetics, which analyzes how taste is embedded in face-to-face interactions. This perspective extends sociological understandings of taste by illustrating how taste is intersubjectively negotiated in interactions. Taste is based on subjective inner senses, which, through social interactions, are discovered to be held or not held in common with others. In finding agreement or disagreement in judgments of taste, individuals form a community of sense. The communication of subjective tastes delimit the community of sense by identifying individuals as insiders and outsiders, based on whether they are perceived to share the common sense of the group. This is exemplified in a case study of an erotic arts club, a group predicated on achieving a shared sense of “good” and “bad” taste. Drawing from participant observation and interviews, I show taste to be both interactive and intersubjective.


Working Paper #6 – Michelle F. Weinberger & Jane Zavisca

CONSUMING FOR AN IMAGINED FUTURE: MIDDLE CLASS CONSUMER LIFESTYLE AND EXPLORATORY EXPERIENCES IN THE TRANSITION TO ADULTHOOD

Abstract: This paper analyzes middle-class consumption and lifestyle during the transition to adulthood in the United States. Most research on how class shapes consumption focuses on adults, and more recently, children and adolescents, yet consumption and its underlying sociological drivers during the life course stage that demographers call “emerging adulthood” have been under-examined. Based on our analysis of qualitative data, we argue that middle-class emerging adulthood is marked by a distinctive embodied consumer orientation toward accumulating “exploratory experiences.” These experiences are sought for the knowledge that
they provide, which becomes a potential source of cultural capital now and in the future. This orientation is rooted in a habitus developed during entitled childhoods, and is shaped by an anticipated shortage of opportunities for exploration after they marry and have children. Our analysis introduces a forward-looking model of consumption, in which emerging adults consume exploratory experiences for both their current and future selves.


Working Paper #7 – Stephen F. Ostertag & David G. Ortiz

THE CULTURAL AFFORDANCES OF PERSONAL COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES: EMERGENT CULTURAL STRUCTURES AND THE CHANGING CHARACTER OF MOBILIZATION

Abstract: Recent research has noted changes to the quality and character of mobilizations in which a significant number of participants use personal communication technologies (PCTs). Unlike past mobilizations where social movement organizations (SMOs) use collective action frames in efforts to construct a collective identity and sense of solidarity among participants, these mobilizations are not organized through SMOs, participants take part for personal reasons linked to much broader movement themes, and they are connected to each other through loose, ephemeral social ties. Scholars have pointed to the high use of PCTs among participants as a key factor in explaining these changing characteristics. Yet little is offered to explain why. Drawing on data from blogging in the wake of hurricane Katrina and cultural sociology’s strong program, we suggest that it is the cultural communication afforded through PCTs that help explain the relationship among participants and the changing nature of mobilization. In so doing, we also identify key forces in the development of cultural structures and culture’s causal powers.


Working Paper #8 – Dmitry Kurakin

HOW ROOT METAPHORS STRUCTURE MEANINGFUL LIFE BY MEANS OF EMOTIONS: THEORY AND EMPIRICAL ILLUSTRATION FROM THE SPHERE OF ACADEMIC ETHICS

Abstract: The article is dedicated to the development of the cultural sociological theory of metaphor. Metaphor has been recognized in the “strong program” of cultural sociology as a means of performance which allowed the building of cultural explanations of such events as the trauma of the Holocaust, and Obama’s political success. This paper aims to contribute to these arguments by means of expanding the definition of metaphor beyond its interpretation as a certain type of proposition. This expansion is based on elements of the theories of metaphor of Paul Ricoeur, Max Black, Steven Pepper, George Lakoff, and Mark Johnson, and connected to the Durkheimian theory of the sacred, with a stress on the role of collective emotions. Metaphor is thus seen as one of the key cultural structures which implicitly or explicitly shapes perception, imagination, thought, and action. To illustrate the productivity of the theory, the paper examines how revealing the conflict of powerful educational metaphors allows the building of a counter-intuitive cultural explanation of the wide spread of plagiarism in university students’ essays.