Workshop in Cultural Sociology, 2007–2008

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Workshop 9/7: Orientation

Welcome Back!

This week we will be focused on updates and planning. We hope you can all make it to this important meeting.

Please come prepared to say a few words about your summer and the progress you have made in your work. This would include things like writing thesis chapters, sending things off for publication, being published, presenting at the ASA, collecting data or making field trips, going to Konstanz. Please also share your recreational adventures as well.

This year we welcome 3 incoming students: Jeff Guhin, Adrienne Wallace and Joseph Klett. We also welcome Kirtsen Kraus, our Scholar in Residence. We will be hosts to quite a few visitors this year: Sunwoong Park, Sonja van Wichelen, Roberta Sassatelli, Marco Santoro, Pavel Barsa, and Mats Trondman.

After our regular lunch on Friday, which we will have at 1:00, we will be sharing a toast to our newly renovated center.

Workshop 9/14: Jason Mast

Politics, Power, and Performance: Clinton’s First Term

When Bill Clinton stepped onto the national stage to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the United States the spotlight cast two distinct and restless shadows. Over the course of 1992 the American public witnessed the formation of two Bill Clintons. The Clinton that won in November appeared hopeful, empathetic, inclusive, and brilliant. The other seemed to treat the truth the way a grifter handles a deck of cards; he would play with it masterfully and deal you any hand he wanted. In this paper I describe the formation of these two characters and explains how the positive, democratic side gained dominance and won the presidency.

Required Readings

Workshop 9/21: Sarah Egan

Hounded Out: The Pro-Hunting Movement as Failed Social Performance

This analysis of the pro-hunting movement in England uses a cultural pragmatic approach to demonstrate how social movement actors perform and attempt to effect a desired outcome, by accounting for themselves in terms of the discourse of civil society and performing to a variety of audiences – movement recruits, general publics, countermovement actors and regulatory institutions, such as media and parliament. This approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of movement counter-movement dynamics than the more static cultural accounts of framing in social movements and explains why a well financed and supported social movement failed. Both the pro- and anti-hunting movements attempted to account for themselves in terms of the democratic codes of civil society. The paper therefore takes account of the meaningful nature of social movement action and offers a performance framework for analyzing social movement process, success and failure.

Required Readings

Workshop 9/21: Frederick Wherry

The Social Identities of Price: The Fool, the Faithful, the Frivolous, and the Frugal

This essay extends both Viviana Zelizer’s discussion of the social meaning of money and Charles Smith’s proposal that pricing is a definitional practice to the undertheorized realm of the social identities of price. Between calculating or not calculating whether an object or service is “worth” its price, individuals enact social identities from their social locations as being near to or far from the societal mainstream. Prices signal the individual’s “logic of appropriateness”– in other words, people-like-that pay pricessuch-as-those. The essay sketches a preliminary typology of social identities; these ideal types—the fool, the faithful, the frugal, and the frivolous—and their components offer a systematic approach to understanding prices as embedded in and constituents of social meaning systems.

Required Readings

Workshop 10/5: Gianpaolo Baiocchi

The Civilizing Force of Social Movements

Analysts of political culture within the “civil religion” tradition have generally assumed that discourse in civil society is structured by a single set of enduring codes based on liberal traditions that actors draw upon to resolve crises. Based on two case studies of national crises and debate in Brazil during its transition to democracy, I challenge this assumption by demonstrating that not only do actors draw upon two distinct but interrelated codes, they actively seek to impose one or another as dominant. In Brazil this is manifest in actors who defend elements from the code of liberty and its valuation of the freestanding citizen, and those who defend the corporate code and its valuation of the collectivity over the individual. In an earlier debate on crime the corporate code was dominant, but in a later debate surrounding presidential improprieties, the liberal code became dominant. This analysis makes two contributions to the literature: it highlights the importance of nonindividualist cultural codes, such as the corporate code, in animating discourse in the public sphere in democratizing societies, raising attention to the importance of the symbolic contestation between actors seeking to establish one or another code during political transitions. Second, it offers a subtle commentary on the literature on democratization: changes in collective representations in the public sphere may not proceed apace of institutional changes and may be contingent on the kinds of crisis events and actors willing to contest previously dominant codes.

Required Readings

Supplemental Readings

  • Baiocchi, Gianpaolo (2007). “Emergent Public Spheres
  • Baiocchi, Gianpaolo (2007). The Citizens of Porto Alegre: In which Marco borrows bus fare and enters politics

Workshop 10/12: Natasha Kirsten Kraus

The Structural Aporias of Antebellum Womanhood:Contract, Morality, and Social Movement

These readings consist of 3 chapters from my forthcoming book, “A New Type of Womanhood”: Discursive Politics and Social Movement in Antebellum America (Duke University Press). In them, I present a new theoretical approach to analyzing the ontological and epistemological force of systems of social meanings and their imbrications with daily practice, as organized by institutions. The theory of structural aporias extends Foucault’s insights into the force of discourse and provides a means to analyze moments of societal rupture as well as potential sites of societal rupture in a given social order. The chapters here then provide a study of the antebellum woman’s rights movement as what I call a fully discursive movement, with particular attention to how their struggle for economic rights or rights of contract consistently interimplicated meanings of womanhood, the economy, contract, and the nation with the regulated gendered workings of the legal, economic, and family systems. While much of the detailed historical tracing of the systems of meaning and their interimplications with the economic and legal institutions of the time is not presented here (it is in Chs 3 and 4), Ch 5 presents a reading of the woman’s rights movements’ primary documents, newspaper articles and editorials about the movement, New York State legislative debates and reports regarding their demands for rights of contract. (If anyone is still interested, the very brief concluding chapter draws out implications of a structural aporetic analysis for some ongoing issues in feminist and queer politics today.)

Required Readings

For those interested:

  • Kraus, Natasha Kirsten (Forthcoming). “ “A New Type of Womanhood”: Discursive Politics and Social Movement in Antebellum America, Chapter 6
  • Workshop 10/26: Jeffrey Alexander

    Postcolonialism, Trauma, and Civil Society: A New Understanding

    In this essay, I connect a model of collective trauma process, one that stresses its open-ended, cultural capacity for identity reconstruction, with a dynamic understanding of civil society, one that stresses how its contradictions and tensions are interlarded with its possibilities. My broad empirical interest is the possibility and rhetoric of global civil society, and how the national and colonial projects have challenged it in fundamental ways. My specific empirical reference is postcoloniality, particularly in South Asia but also with reference to the Middle East.

    Required Reading

    Workshop 11/2: Hans Joas

    Do We Need Religion? On the Experience of Self-Transcendence

    Germany is a bi-confessional country. For a long time, its religious landscape was dominated by regional monopolies of either the Catholic or Protestant Church. Both churches regularly organize separate church congresses; the fi rst such congress organized by both churches together took place in Berlin in the year 2003. This meeting is rightly considered a historic event in German religious history; more than 100,000 people took part in it. The organizers of this so-called Ecumenical Church Congress invited me to give one of the “main lectures,” and they wanted me to deal with an intriguing question. It is this question that inspired the title of the present work: Do we need religion?
    The first chapter of the present volume reproduces the text of the “main lecture” I gave on this occasion in Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle. This brief text contains almost all the important motifs elaborated on more fully in the book’s other chapters. My aim throughout the book is to repudiate all purely functional arguments with respect to faith; to counter such arguments, I point, in direct continuation of my book The Genesis of Values, to the importance of experiences of self-transcendence. These experiences cannot, of course, go uninterpreted; moreover, their interpretation does not simply grow out of them. A religious interpretation is in fact even constitutive of some experiences of this kind; I therefore speak of “sacramental” experiences in such cases. Furthermore, religious interpretations do not simply cope with the contingencies of our existence, they change the ways we deal with them. Under conditions of great contingency, the idea of universal human dignity is best able to facilitate the development of shared and binding values.
    The task of the next chapter, “Religion in the Age of Contingency,” is to cast greater light on the sociological side of this area of problems. The point of departure for my refl ections here is the extremely infl uential diagnosis produced by sociologist of religion Peter Berger, according to whom modern religious and cultural pluralism is loosening individuals’ attachment to values and faith and thus contributing to secularization. I counter this diagnosis with historical, sociological, and psycho-philosophical arguments. This leads me to shift the terms of the debate itself—away from a primary focus on the problems of social integration and toward the risks and opportunities of religious pluralism and mounting contingency.
    Because the relationship between religious experience and its interpretation demands rather more precise clarification than the opening chapter is able to provide, a study of the problem of the “articulation” of experiences follows. I refer here particularly to the work of the great Franco-Greek philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis (1922–1997). Castoriadis was certainly no philosopher of religion; for him, religion was heteronomy, which he countered with his passionate philosophy of human autonomy. However, building on the work of his philosophical teacher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, he developed ideas relating to how our experience and its articulation influence and determine one another that are of such profundity that they can yield fruitful results for a theory of religion.

    Required Reading

    Workshop 11/9: Sonja van Wichelen

    Toward a Sociology of Public Phenomena: The Case of Islam and Gender in Contemporary Indonesia

    The recent developments in Indonesian Muslim politics reflect a broader wish of the population to “Muslimize” their society. This desire is reflected in new manifestations of public Islam on different levels of civil society, seen for example in the emergence of Muslim intellectuals, Muslim media, the dissemination of new Islamic knowledge, Muslim attire and veiling, but also in the eruptions of controversial debates on Islam and gender. Against the common idea that the rise of political Islam impedes democratization processes, my study argues against this claim and asserts that in Indonesia, Muslim politics go hand in hand with principles of democracy. My research also demonstrates that public events on “Islam and gender” do not necessarily relate to Islam as such, but rather to other central issues of politics and identity, such as new class dynamics, shifting ideas of femininity and masculinity, the production of ethnicity, global consumerism, and political power relations. Rather than simplifying these debates into a problem of religion and women’s emancipation, I have sought to complicate the events by approaching them from a sociology of public phenomena. The outcomes of my research suggest that the public phenomena around Islam and gender point toward reconfigurations of the public sphere and renegotiations of the citizen-subject in political transition. Issues of identity and belonging appeared essential to these reconfigurations and have included the intricate ways in which Indonesian citizenship is defined in the complex relationship between self, civic cultures, and the state.

    Required Reading

    Workshop 11/9: Andrea Voyer

    The Vocabulary of Diversity

    This project examines the culture of racial and ethnic diversity in the United States. While we typically associate diversity with major urban centers, we find increasing racial and ethnic heterogeneity in smaller, historically-white communities like Lewiston, Maine. Between the summer of 2001 and October 2002, more than 1,200 Somalis relocated to Lewiston. With the contemporary Somali population hovering around 3,000, the city boasts the highest per capita concentration of Somalis in the United States. In this paper, I examine the “vocabulary of diversity,” the code of manners associated with the commitment to diversity, as made manifest in Lewiston, Maine. At this historical moment the vocabulary of diversity underwrites social inclusion and signals our democratic intentions. An extension of the multicultural mode of incorporation and a particular instantiation of the discourse of liberty (Alexander 2006), the vocabulary of diversity embodies the individual values, characteristic relationships and institutional conditions held to be important for the maintenance of democratic society. The vocabulary of diversity also operates as “the code” (Wieder 1974) by which one’s actions are deemed acceptable. While individual experiences vary and different locales are home to wildly disparate demographic mixes, the cultural vocabulary of diversity remains constant. If a speaker is to be heard and heeded, claims to group distinctiveness, expressions of doubt and discomfort, and all other manner of communication when it comes to racial, ethnic, religious and sexual difference must adhere to its scripts.

    Required Reading

    Workshop 11/30: Caroline Gray

    The Swan and the Ugly Duckling: The Mythic Tale of Cosmetic Surgery

    This paper examines the symbolic systems at the core of contemporary cosmetic procedures. To do this, I look at the realm of popular culture, and more specifically the reality “make-over” show genre. I argue that it offers a site where discourses of disability are routinely invoked, explicitly and implicitly, in order to not only make sense of one’s decision to undergo cosmetic surgery, but also to provide a justification for surgery. Because cosmetic surgery has been so heavily critiqued by the public and cultural critics alike, its practice, in the realm of medicine, which dedicates itself to health and well-being rather than outward physical appearance, at least in principle, must be justified in a way that is both medically and morally persuasive. In order to do this, these make over shows draw upon the rhetoric of “triumph over tragedy,” a target of frequent discussion and criticism in the disability studies community. Both doctors and patients place the decision to undergo cosmetic surgery within a narrative framework that details how, before surgery, each participant’s “average” body is abnormal and debilitating, which has lead to a life riddled with misery and difficulty. Once transformed, however, the patients are coded as attractive (i.e. normal), healthy, and able-bodied.

    Required Readings

    Workshop 12/7: Ryan Sayre

    A Bald Act of Deception: Staging Architectural Performance in Japan

    If the critic leaves a performance at intermission, what kind of analytic engagement is left to him? This is the puzzle I pose in the following examination of a public architectural scandal currently unfolding in Tokyo, Japan. Approaching this social drama with an obsessive interest in the hairpiece of the main actor/assailant, I hew close to minutia in the narrative while attempting also to make more general methodological claims about social dramas in moments of violent flux. Loosely organized around such theatrical elements as the fourth wall, the audition, the cast, and props, the paper makes suggestive allusions to theater and performance in order to highlight the textuality of action at the heart of the reading. In discussion with cultural sociology, I attempt to push the implications of an analytically autonomous understanding of cultural structure (Alexander 2005). I do so by juxtaposing the work of symbolic repair done at the cultural level with trivial blog postings, asides in newspaper reports, and the self-serving statements of civil servants. In the final section of the paper I play upon the physical resemblance of our main actor/assailant to both monk and mobster, thereby attempting to construct a site-specific snapshot of a binary in its emergence.

    Required Readings

    Workshop 1/18: Organizational Meeting

    Welcome Back!

    We will meet on Friday at 11:15 and break up at around 12:15 so that we can attend the talk by Steffen Hertog at 12:30. A light lunch will be served.

    We will be focused on updates and planning. We have 2 open student slots on our schedule, February 8th and March 28th. Please attend this important meeting.

    Info on visitors and fellows:

    Carolyn Ly is now a member of our student fellow community!

    This semester we welcome:
    Visiting Fellow Pavel Barsa.
    Visiting Faculty Fellow Bernhard Giesen.
    Visiting Faculty Fellow Farhad Khosrokhavar.
    Faculty Fellow Carlo Tognato will be here for a brief visit in January and February.
    Faculty Fellow Mats Trondman will be with us in April and May.

    Workshop 1/25: Marc de Leeuw

    Cognition, Recognizing, Recognition: The Dialectics of the Capable Self in Paul Ricoeur’s late Anthropology

    In this paper, I reconstruct the way in which the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur approaches the concept of recognition in his book entitled The Course of Recognition. The problem of recognition is the final addition to his ‘phenomenology of the capable human being’ which describes the fundamental capabilities that shape our abilities to be human, namely, speaking, acting, narrating, promising, remembering, responding and recognizing. Ricoeur’s work on recognition wishes to re-claim recognition as a philosophical concept that nowadays seems entirely reduced to socio-political use within the debates of liberal democracy and multiculturalism. As Ricoeur argues, recognition draws from the fundamental ontological and phenomenological dialectic of giving and receiving that underlies our inter-subjective existence and that is shaped through Others (like words, worlds, and humans).

    Required Readings

    Workshop 2/1: Pavel Barša

    The Current Transformations of National Identities and Immigration Policies in Liberal Democratic Societies

    My research will focus on the correlation between the ways liberal nations conceive their own collective selves and the ways they treat immigrants both at their borders and within them. I will draw on my previous research in which … I have distinguished four ideal types of nationhood and assigned to them different levels of inclusiveness vis-à-vis immigrants (Barša, Baršova 2005, Barša 2005).

    Required Readings

    Workshop 2/8: Ates Altinordu

    The Politicization of Religion: Political Catholicism and Political Islam in Comparison

    While religious politics has been a much discussed topic in recent decades in social sciences, there are few studies that develop generalized explanations based on systematic comparative analysis. In this paper I compare the politicization of German Catholicism in the second half of 19th century (1848-1874) with the politicization of Turkish Islam in the post-1970 period (1970-2002). Following the identification of the main characteristics of religious politics, I develop a general model that seeks to explain under what conditions religion tends to be politicized. According to this revival-reaction-politicization model, religious revivals motivated by the perception of moral-religious decline among religious actors and made possible by politically favorable conditions provoke counter-mobilization by outside groups and eventually lead to a reaction from the state. This response, in turn, provides the motivation and mass appeal for activists who organize politically on the basis of the dense organizational network, strong religious identity, and high respect for religious authority created by the revival.

    Required Readings

    Workshop 2/15: Dustin Kidd

    Witness for the Arts

    In his 1995 book From Art to Politics, political scientist Murray Edelman made the following bold claim about the power of art: “From one perspective… art simply serves as a floating signifier into which political groups read whatever serves their interests and ideologies…. It nonetheless remains true that works of art are the essential catalysts of support for a course of political action, and sometimes for several (perhaps contradictory) courses.” In sociological language Edelman is claiming that art is both a dependent and an independent variable. It is a dependent variable in that our understandings of art are sometimes the outcome of processes that happen in other spheres—political spheres, religious spheres, or economic spheres, to name but a few. But art is also an independent variable in that it is at times the originating source of significant social action. This second perspective, that art can be a catalyst, treats art as powerful and as something greater than a mere outcome. This chapter examines the catalytic role of a particular exhibit that created some controversy for the NEA in the midst of the culture wars of the arts.

    Required Reading

    Supplemental Readings

    Workshop 2/22: Sunwoong Park

    The Discourse of Education in Civil Society:
    Media’s Politics of Representation on School Failure in Korea

    Recent theorists of civil society, despite their different definitions and approaches, share an idea that the mass media are a communicative institution of civil society in which public discourse on the common good is formed, contested and circulated. The media select, define and evaluate events from their own particular perspectives, and yet on behalf of the public. This paper is intended to illuminate a way in which media accounts are constructed to represent public interests. I will argue that the deep structure of culture, shared and taken-for-granted by the members of a society, is the symbolic ground on which media discourse becomes credible and persuasive. Because of its symbolic empowerment, the contending media share the common code underneath the surface of ideological differences to win public support. Drawing upon and extending Alexander and Smith’s formulations of civil discourse, I will identify educational codes undergirding the system of education and illustrate how they are deployed by two ideologically opposed newspapers in a discursive contention over the school failure in Korea.

    Required Readings

    Workshop 2/29: Kenneth Thompson

    Regulating Hate Speech

    This is an exploratory paper, focusing on a number of key issues about the recent regulation of ‘hate crime’ and ‘hate speech’, and offering suggestions for theoretical conceptualization and analysis within cultural sociology. After some definitional and factual comments, the paper locates the topic in relation to various theories; the Durkheimian problematic of ‘moral regulation’ in modern society; the Foucauldian analysis of ‘governmentality’; Alexander’s discussion of the ‘civil sphere’ and ‘civil repair’; relevant aspects from general theories of late-modernity or postmodernity, such as multiculturalism, social diversity, globalization and electronic media. Some of the issues relevant to this topic are: symbolic politics and institutionalism; free speech and American exceptionalism; speech acts as a form of action; regulation versus ‘freedom’. The main kinds of data examined are: statistics; the hate crime ‘canon’ and attendant discourse; speech acts; comparative jurisprudence; the Supreme Court justices’ arguments in Virginia v. Black (2003).

    Readings

    Workshop 2/29: Zine Magubane

    Brand The Beloved Country: Africa in Celebrity Culture

    This essay examines the rhetorical strategies that Oprah mobilized in defense of her decision to build the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy by comparing and contrasting them to other female celebrities like Madonna and Angelina Jolie who have directed charitable acts towards Southern African children. I argue that Winfrey, more than any other celebrity, at least makes an attempt to enact what Johannes Fabian, calls a “politics of coevalness” which, unlike most acts of charity directed at Africans, emphasizes that the philanthropist and the recipient share important dimensions of time, space, and experience. The essay concludes with a discussion of the ways in which the “War on Terror” is implicated in the “celebritization” of philanthropy towards Africa.

    Readings

    Workshop 3/28: Joseph Klett

    A Lossy Medium: Digitized Music and Consumer Meaning-Making

    This study explores the relation between means of musical consumption and meaning-making among consumers. Presently, with the aid of digital media and the Internet, consumers are allowed immediate access to huge portions of underground music. In addition to traditional media formats (CDs, LPs), traditional channels and gatekeepers that inform listener reception are almost entirely absent, and so this study examines whether objective understanding is absent as well. Intensive interviews are used to determine, primary means of musical consumption (acquisition and listening), and individual understanding of five specific artists, selected based on similar genre and strong political ideology, with variance in degree of economic independence from major record labels. Having established individual methods of consumption, subjects are divided based on acquisition into two groups: traditional consumers and digital consumers. Results indicate that traditional consumers display a markedly greater reception to political messages in music than digital consumers. Further, as the model of traditional consumption is progressively breaking down, worlding – a historical-cultural understanding of artworks and meanings – plays an increasingly critical role to a meaningful reception of political and artistic messages.

    Readings

    Workshop 4/4: Akiko Hashimoto

    Troubled Memories: The Culture of Defeat and Moral Recovery in Postwar Japan

    In this study, I argue that the search for a renewed moral identity by Japanese postwar generations has to be understood in the context of a common predicament of defeated nations: their critical need for “moral recovery” even after they have made up for the economic and material losses. The primary driving force of defeated nations is recovery work – the intense, extra effort to make up for losses incurred after a major setback such as Japan’s loss of World War II. I consider this argument in two areas: controlling the teaching of war, peace, and national history in the classroom, and aligning the cultural reproduction of traumatic memory of soldiers and their descendants. I examine a variety of empirical material from textbooks and teacher interviews, to testimonies, television programs and audience reception to decipher the undiscussable. Ultimately the collective memory of defeat in Japan is an intergenerational project that is structured and constrained by cultural frames of interpretation that prioritize continuity of relational bonds over norms of justice.

    Required Readings

    Workshop 4/11: Amy Binder

    Cosmopolitan Preferences:The Constitutive Role of Place in Cognition, Culture, and the Elite Taste for Rap Music

    A variety of social science disciplines have identified place as an important theoretical tool, and a basic element of social life. Sociologists, however, have mostly left implicit the nature and role of place in cognitive perception. We elaborate the analytic and empirical payoff of making place explicit in sociological studies by exploring its role as part of the taken-for-granted cognitive constitution of the social world. To do so, we first reinterpret two streams of literature in the sociology of culture—debates over cosmopolitan omnivorism and cultural reception—and show how place has been present, but basically unexplored, in the culture subfield. We then introduce how cultural anthropologists and urban sociologists have analytically developed place, and apply this fresh perspective to our case study, a discourse analysis of elite music critics’ taste for rap music produced in the United States and abroad. Our quantitative and qualitative findings reveal two place-based perceptions of critics’ judgments about the genre: 1) the importance of “ghettoes” to rap’s meaningfulness and 2) the privileging of international scenes as both politically and aesthetically more important than American scenes. We conclude that the broadening of American elite taste follows a logic of appropriation that incorporates cultural forms influenced by the meanings associated with their contexts of production, and discuss the implications of making place explicit in cultural sociology.

    Required Reading

    Supplemental Readings

    Workshop 4/18: Mats Trondman

    Disowning knowledge: To be or not to be ‘the immigrant’ in Sweden

    How do young people make sense of, challenge or inhabit racialized categories in their everyday lives? Through the narratives of five young people in Sweden, this article explores how the social production of ‘the immigrant’ works to structure their perceptions and experiences. An indepth ethnographic account makes visible both the workings of a ‘racial grammar’ of ‘the immigrant’ and the contradictions of how this grammar is played out in the ‘dilemmas’ faced by ‘Swedish’ and ‘immigrant’ young people. It is argued that the grammar, arising in complex external structural and historical processes, is internalized as an ‘ingrained stigma’ and ‘partial truths’ that are performed and reproduced at the level of experience and interaction.

    Required Readings

    Supplemental Reading

    Workshop 4/25: Bryan Turner

    Vulnerability, Religion and Cosmopolitanism

    Professor Turner will examine a range of issues in the sociology of religion relating to the idea of human vulnerability and human rights, globalisation and cosmopolitanism, and the rise of enclave society. His talk raises issues about secularism and modernity, the democratisation of religious communication, and the transformation of relations between society, state and religion.

    Required Readings

    Supplemental Reading