Workshop in Cultural Sociology, 2010-2011

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CCS Workshop Poster – 2010-2011

FALL 2010

Workshop 9/3:Organizational Meeting

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

The workshop will again be held in at 8 Prospect Place, room 119.

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 papers 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 Jin Su Joo as a new student. We also welcome Christian Morgner, Diane Grams, Lizzie Seal and Maria Luengo as Visiting Fellows and Post-doctoral Fellows Peter Maylakhs, Johannes Lang, Jonathan Roberge and Andrea Voyer. Also with us this year is Eric Woods, a visiting graduate student. Please see their biographical information at our Visiting Fellows page. We are so very pleased to have such a diverse and interesting group of visitors to work with this year.

Lunch will be served during this meeting.

Workshop 9/10: Christian Morgner, CCS Visiting Fellow

World Art Cities

The following study deals with a topic of globalisation research: world art cities. Although globalisation is a buzz word in sociology, and the “globe” offers an encompassing notion, it has not found its way into the sociology of the arts. Hardly any data has been collected and even fewer studies have looked for theoretical means. This study takes a first step in this direction by analysing the so-called phenomenon of world art cities. Although these places seem to have a central function in the art world, their structure and the mélange of different activities within these cities have remained unexplored. Therefore, the development of a theoretical framework that incorporates these manifold activities is essential. While the article draws on classical resources like Emile Durkheim and Erving Goffman, it also considers newer approaches of self-organisation. Empirical examples discuss the logic of art, gallery districts and art groups among others.

Required Reading

Workshop 9/17: Johannes Lang, CCS Postdoctoral Fellow

Death Camp Testimony and the Social Psychology of Genocide

Since my workshop this week will be a little unusual, I have been asked to provide you with a brief description of the attached material. Instead of a traditional paper, I give you two documents to read. One, titled “Questioning Dehumanization,” is a finished product: an article that was just published. This article is based on the material I presented in Konstanz last summer; it addresses one of the central concepts in the social psychology of mass violence and prepares the ground for the second document, which is an outline of my new three-year postdoctoral project. As you will see, the project (which started on September 1st) is currently in its conceptual phase and I see the workshop as a great opportunity to get your feedback on my initial ideas. I look forward to a fruitful discussion on Friday.

Required Reading

Workshop 9/24: Diane Grams, CCS Visiting Fellow

Freedom and Cultural Consciousness: Black Working Class Performance in Post-Katrina New Orleans

This comparative analysis of two forms ritual collective performance by black working class New Orleanians sheds new light on the meanings of race and culture. Using symbols to evoke freedom and resistance, these performances revise the narrative of a triumphant colonial Europe to constitute an enduring black cultural consciousness. This is a world that is as separated and distinguished from the imagined southern aristocracy on display during Mardi Gras as it is from black activism from the civil rights, black nationalist, and black power movements in other American urban cities. Collective performances of Mardi Gras Indian tribes and second line parades by Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs have, for as much as two centuries, sustained unique artistic traditions of body adornment, dance, and music rooted in the historic cultures of Africans and Native Americans and in the functions of neighborhood-based mutual aid societies. And in post-Katrina New Orleans, these art forms are self-generating resources that have created the logic and momentum to rebuild meaning of local life and rebuild communities. This comparative study of two forms of ritual collective performance in post-Katrina New Orleans reveals how both traditions continue to provide portals into an aesthetic dimension of black culture. This is a cultural space in which both creators and joiners find opportunities for individual agency through the activities of public performance.

Required Reading

Workshop 10/1: Peter Meylakhs, CCS Visiting Fellow

Cultural Foundations of Drug Policy and Drug Policy Debates in the US and Russia

This article is devoted to analysis of the ‘media drug wave’ that occurred in Russia at the end of the 1990s. Following a general description of the coverage of the drug problem by the Russian press, the article sets out to explore some reasons that may help to explain the extremely negative attitude of the media and the overwhelming majority of the Russian population to drugs and drug users. Drawing on the cultural theory of risk, it is argued that such an attitude cannot be explained in rational terms of the negative consequences for the health and security of members of society; rather, drugs and drug users are perceived to be symbolic polluters of society. Cultural codes of purity and pollution can help clarify several key themes that inform political and public debates around drugs in Russia. The project of comparative study of American and Russian drug policies within cultural sociology perspective is to be discussed.

Required Reading

Tuesday evening Workshop 10/5: John Pratt, Straus Fellow, NYU, 2010-11

The Dark Side of Paradise: Explaining New Zealand’s History of High Imprisonment

We are pleased to welcome John Pratt, the speaker for this month’s Department Colloquium on Wednesday, October 6th. He has offered to meet with us for an evening workshop. We will meet in our usual space from 5:30 to 7:00. Pizza will be served. Please plan on attending.

Required Reading

Workshop 10/8: No CCS Workshop this week

Please attend the Sociology Colloquium on Wednesday, October 6th to hear speaker John Pratt

Workshop 10/15: Nicole Doerr, University of California, Irvine

Visual Cues and Verbal Codes:
Dilemmas of Deliberation in a Transnational Activist Public

In a period characterized by weak public consent over European integration, the purpose of this paper is to analyze images created by transnational activists who aim to politicize the social question and migrants’ subjectivity in the European Union (EU). I will explore the content of posters and images produced by social movement activists for their local and joint European protest actions, and shared on blogs and homepages. I suspect that the underexplored visual dimension of emerging transnational public spaces created by activists offers a promising field of analysis. My aim is to give an empirical example of how we can study potential “visual dialogues” and their symbolic boundaries constructed in transnational public spaces created within social movements. An interesting case for visual analysis is the grassroots network of local activist groups that created a joint “EuroMayday” against precarity and which mobilized protest parades across Europe. I will discuss activists’ transnational sharing of visual symbols as a potentially innovative cultural practice aimed at bridging different cultural identities and re-interpreting official imaginaries of citizenship, labor flexibility and free mobility in Europe. I also discuss the limits to emerging transnational “visual dialogues” posed by place-specific dominant symbolic codes reproducing in-group bonds within local deliberation.

Required Reading

Workshop 10/22: Sandra Gill, Gettysburg College

Forgetting a Difficult Past: Whites’ Memories of Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham

This paper examines the intersection between collective memory and autobiographical memory through in depth interviews with twenty whites who came of age in the midst of key events in the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama. Most interviewees report few personal memories of the events of the Civil Rights Movement and the racial conflict surrounding these events. Instead many center their recollections on the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Forgetting of autobiographical memories has been aided by a “conspiracy of silence” among whites about the era of integration; reiterated media images have shaped recollections of the era. Thus these white southerners have been able to renarrativize their pasts to forget memories that link them with the ideology of segregation to reconstruct the self to be usable in the present. The paper demonstrates ways that autobiographical memory is a social construction rather than and act of retrieval.

Required Reading

Workshop 10/29: Robert Wade Kenny, Mount Saint Vincent University, Nova Scotia

Toward a Sociology of Morals

This essay expands upon Émile Durkheim’s observation that “different forms of morals apply to entirely different groups of individuals.” (Durkheim, 1898 [1957], p. 5) by noting that no social agent colonizes just one of these moral groups; but, instead, percludes (following Kenny, 2010) a network of moral groups, each one demanding a distinct cognitive, emotive, and performative moral orientation. The argument issues a radical sociological challenge to one of the most cherished assumptions of moral philosophy for it implies that moral intentionality is fundamentally inconstant — that the social agent is predominantly manifested as a variety of moral characters that suit the relational context of moral demand. The perclusive act, the manner that it is practiced, and the implications of its actuality will be addressed.

Required Reading

Workshop 11/5: Cancelled

Workshop 11/12: Sanford Schram, Bryn Mawr College

The Deep Semiotic Structure of Deservingness: Discourse and Identity in Welfare Policy

Sometime near the end of the last century, a prominent commentator in the field of public policy analysis stated in one of the leading mainstream journals in the field that “post-positivists have a very long way to go if they are to be relevant to the practical challenges of democratic governance” (Lynn 1999). With hindsight we can now say: au contraire! Not to be too argumentative, but this new edition of The Argumentative Turn stands as proof positive that this prediction was dead wrong. Instead, much has been gained by the postpositivist turn away from literal depictions of public policy to examining policy from a more constructivist perspective that emphasizes how figurative practices make some things seem to be true irrespective of whether they really are.

Required Reading

Workshop 11/19: Mats Trondman, Linnaeus University, Sweden

Composing an American Cultural Trauma. John Adams and September 11 (with Jens Trondman)

On the Transmigration of Souls…is the American composer John Coolidge Adams’s response to the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Adams, a man with an all-American name who grew up in a rural part of New England, has become the most frequently performed living American composer in the field of classical music. Or, as music critic Pierre Ruhe proclaimed: ‘Not since the mid-century heyday of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein has one composer so successfully balanced the combination of a genuinely populist spirit with concert-hall popularity and critical esteem’.

The New York Philharmonic commissioned On the Transmigration of Souls as its musical memorial to September 11, premiering it at Lincoln Center in New York City a year after the tragedy. The performance by the Philharmonic and conductor Lorin Maazel ‘held,’ as Ruhe describes it, ‘everyone in the Lincoln Center frozen in their seats, engrossed in the music, and for moments in the middle, weeping’. In 2003, On the Transmigration of Souls – from now on ‘the Transmigration’ – earned Adams the Pulitzer Price for composition. In 2005, the New York Philharmonic’s recording of the work was honored with three Grammy awards.

Every musical piece, of course, has its own history in the making. And it is to this making, or, rather, meaning making, that we will now turn. Our search for meaning involves two theoretical approaches. The first concerns the relationship between art and society and underlies our understanding of the making of ‘the Transmigration’. Art cannot, argues literary critic Stephen Greenblatt, be understood as something detached from its context. Accordingly, ‘political and social concerns’, needs to be seen as, in Greenblatt scholar Mark Robson’s words, ‘a backdrop against which the aesthetic work plays itself out’. It is likewise, as he continues, ‘necessary to take account of how artistic texts contribute to the production of culture’. We will thus approach Adams’s writing of ‘the Transmigration’ as a sensitive absorption of the American context and as an evocative contribution to the same context in terms of artistic meaning making. ‘The art’, as Robson puts it, ‘illuminates the world and the place of the writer within it’. Accordingly, we will not only focus on ‘the Transmigration’ as a piece of art with meaning in context, we shall also focus on the artistic process, that is, how a basic idea through aesthetic meaning making finds its completed art form.

Required Reading

Workshop 12/3: Eric Woods, CCS Visiting Graduate Student

Official Apologies as Social Performance: The Case of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Indian Residential Schools
This article addresses why official apologies in Canada have failed to repair the rift in national identity opened by the tragic narrative of the Indian Residential Schools. To resolve this question, the article uses Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of cultural pragmatics to frame a cultural sociological analysis of archival material related to the case of former Primate Michael Peers’ apology on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. In the course of this analysis, the article sheds light on how ritual performances work in complex settings and offers an original interpretation of the residential schools issue in Canada. To conclude, the article argues that official apologies related to the Indian Residential Schools have failed because of problems associated with communicating meaning in complex social groups.

Required Reading


Workshop 1/14: Shai Dromi, CCS Junior Fellow

Penny for your Thoughts: Beggars and the Exercise of Morality in Daily Life

Much of the criminological and sociological literature regarding the urban experience depicts it as deeply saturated with fear or anxiety, especially in regards to encounters with beggars. Recent public opinion research reveals, in contrast, that individuals often express a variety of attitudes—only some of which negative—about the presence of beggars in their vicinity. In order to shed light on this contradiction, this paper shifts the level of analysis to the individual interaction and inquires about the ways in which middle and upper-middle class passers-by account for their interactions with beggars. It is based on in-depth, open-ended interviews with residents of New Haven, as well as a corpus of self-reported accounts of encounters with beggars. The findings suggest that while some of the subjects’ reactions to these requests are indeed negative, other subjects responded positively, expressing care, worry, pity, or sympathy. Respondents often explained refusal to help in ethical terms, rather than in terms of negative emotions. These findings suggest that rather than being confined to fear, anxiety and disgust, responses to beggars greatly vary, as passers-by often engage with them or avoid them in other ways and for other reasons. On the theoretical level, these findings demonstrate that individuals employ various strategies in order to maintain their perception of themselves as moral persons in face of strangers’ requests for assistance, both when they choose to help and when they refuse.

Required Reading

Workshop 1/21: Thomas Cushman, Wellesley College

The Moral Economy of the Great Recession:
An Analysis of ‘Greed Talk’ in American Political Discourse

The central element of greed talk is an ethical and emotional condemnation of excessive acquisitiveness. In Max Weber’s terms, it is both substantively and affectively rational. Ethically, greed talk indicates a violation of norms of fairness and equity in a society of scarcity. Affectively, greed talk is an expression of indignation (Boltanski and Chiapello, 2007) and resentment on the part of have-nots or those who have lost what they have (Sennet, 2005). It might occur in a class that is structurally subordinated without too much chance of upward mobility over time, for instance, within the capitalist working class; those who are déclassé, who lose resources in economic downturns or in swindles, such as those who are laid off or lose money in investing firms, as in the case of the victims of Bernard Madoff; or it might be prominent in the rhetoric of charismatic figures who use critiques of greed as a tool for political advancement (such as Barack Obama) or who become charismatic ascetics representing an entirely new existence (such as Mohandas Gandhi, who wore a loincloth to meet British viceroys). In each case, greed talk might serve a different function.

Required Reading

Workshop 1/28: Yasushi Tanaka, CCS Junior Fellow

Mishima Yukio and Iconic Consciousness

Required Reading

Wednesday evening Workshop 2/2: John Hall

Modernity and phenomenology: Toward a new dispensation for general social theory

We are pleased to welcome John Hall, the speaker for this month’s Department Colloquium. He has offered to meet with us for an evening workshop. We will meet in our usual space from 5:30 to 7:00. Pizza will be served. Please plan on attending.

Required Reading

Workshop 10/8: Friday workshop moved to Wednesday, January 2nd

Please attend the Sociology Colloquium on Wednesday, February 2nd to hear speaker John Hall at noon.

Workshop 2/11: Lizzie Seal, CCS Visiting Fellow

Ruth Ellis and the Emotionality of the Death Penalty
In July 1955, Ruth Ellis, 28, became the last woman to be executed in England and Wales. She was convicted for the murder of her boyfriend, David Blakely, whom she shot several times outside a pub in Hampstead. When the police arrived, she stated ‘I am guilty. I am rather confused. It all started about two years ago when I met David Blakely at the Little Club, Knightsbridge’ (The Times, 29.4.55). Ruth was manageress of the Little Club and had a background working as a nightclub hostess and nude model. She and David lived together, although he was engaged to someone else. She also had another boyfriend during their relationship. Ruth was from a working class background, whereas David was the public school educated son of a surgeon.

Important feminist work has analysed Ruth Ellis’ conviction for murder and failure to win a reprieve as a prime example of ‘judicial misogyny’ (Ballinger, 2000). Her peroxide blonde hair and glamorous dress sense made her seem like a film noir ‘femme fatale’ (Rose, 1988; Ballinger 2000) and by the standards of the 1950s she seemed profoundly deviant, ‘just the sort of woman to fuel the moral panic around immoral and criminal behaviour’ (Ballinger, 1996). Ruth seemed too rational, both immediately after the murder and during her trial. When asked by the judge what she intended to do when she shot David, she replied ‘It is obvious. When I shot him I intended to kill him’ (Manchester Guardian, 21.6.55). Rose (1988: 7) argues that Ruth’s lack of hysteria meant that she failed ‘to mobilize a stereotype [of feminine weakness] in her defence’. Her calmness was interpreted as representative of dangerous femininity because she looked feminine but was actually ‘calculating, ruthless and unemotional’ (Ballinger, 2000: 312).

Required Reading

Workshop 2/18: Dominik Bartmanski, CCS Junior Fellow

People’s Palaces: On The Life and Death of Grand Communist Icons

Required Reading

Workshop 2/25: Matthew Norton, CCS Junior Fellow

Classification and Coercion: The destruction of Piracy in the English Maritime System

Required Reading

Workshop 3/4: Maria Luengo, Department of Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, Carlos III University of Madrid; CCS Visiting Fellow

To what extent is journalism a social power?
Analytical foundations for a symbolic interpretation of the news

The paper attached here, to be presented at the Workshop is a draft translation from an article that I published recently in AnalisiNo. 39 (Culture, Society and Communication Review of the Autonomous University of Barcelona). Working from within the theoretical framework of cultural sociology and the context of Spanish media studies, I put forward arguments concerning the influence and power of the media in the symbolic dimension, an approach that attempts to transcend the division between Functionalist and Neo-Marxist theories. Drawing on the field of narratological studies, and particularly the categories of narrative logic, time and space as they have been applied to popular stories and film by authors such as D. Bordwell, I propose that an analogy can be drawn between news stories and fictional ones. After introducing this symbolic-narrative perspective, I show its application to the interpretation of a news story: a racist attack which occurred on a Barcelona train in October 2007.

Required Reading

Workshop 3/25: Christopher Winship, Harvard University

The Rational, Sub-rational and Extra-rational: Toward a comprehensive Theory of Action
Sociologists and economists have battled for decades about whether or not people are rational. In this paper, we take a different approach. Specifically, we argue that there are situations where the conditions for rationality, in the strict sense meant by economists, are not met. We term situations of this type as extra–rational. “Extra” is used here in the same way it is used to modify “terrestrial” as in “extra–terrestrial,” meaning beyond “terrestrial.” By “extra–rational” we do not mean “super–rational.”

Required Reading

Workshop 4/1: Melissa Wilde, University of Pennsylvania

Creating Heaven on Earth: Birth Control, Eugenics and Belief in the social gospel 1920-1935 (Sabrina Danielson, co-author)
This project seeks to understand why the American religious field first began to diverge on issues of sex and gender by examining 32 of the largest denominations’ stances on contraception, circa 1931. We find that those who liberalized at this time, mainly mainline protestants in the Northeast, did so because they were eugenicists who feared that their constituents’ smaller families would have dire consequences for their group’s racial and class privileges and because they were believers in the social gospel movement’s proscriptions that they must fix societal ills such as poverty and crime. Concerned about the future of “their race” and its rapidly declining majority status in major urban areas, and embedded within a cultural context which promoted religious activism, these leaders made history by proclaiming that birth control, rather than being a sin as was commonly understood, was actually a duty (for less desirable groups). These findings demonstrate that the sociology of religion has neglected to consider the ways that race and class inequality have intersected in the American religious field, although these intersections explain much about its current constellation. Furthermore, they demonstrate that researchers who study the intersections of race, class and gender need to take religion much more seriously than they have to date.

Required Reading

Workshop 4/8: Ron Eyerman, CCS Director

Social Theory, Trauma and Literature
In a seminar on trauma and memory, I use classic works of social theory to discuss how the authors’ personal trauma has influenced their writings. The books are Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust, and The Dialectic of the Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. I use trauma here in its common meaning as the impact of shocking occurrences which profoundly affect an individual’s life. Such “inner catastrophes” leave wounds and memory scars which cannot be easily erased and which influence later behavior in unexpected and unpredictable ways. In what follows I give a brief outline of how I read trauma in this sense in the books by Freud and Bauman. This is followed by a longer account of Horkheimer and Adorno, where I also include an article by the latter “What does it mean to work through the past?” written in 1959, after the pair had returned to Germany. Rather than entering an old and probably fruitless debate about the role of biography in textual analysis, what I hope to illuminate through this discussion are two distinctive meanings of trauma, the individually-rooted, ‘realist’ understanding and the collectively-oriented and ‘constructivist’ notion of cultural trauma (Alexander et al 2004).

Required Reading

Workshop 4/15: Kiyomitsu Yui, Kobe University, Japan

Manga and Anime as an Iconic Experience

Last year, 2010, at Japan Expo in Paris some 180,000 people gathered, and in Hangzhou China, at the same kind of event, even 350,000 people attended. These are just a few examples among enormous amount of events of the same kind in the world. Some of the attendants committed the performance / activities called ‘cos(tume) play ’ wearing the costume from Manga (Japanese comics) / Anime (Japanese animation) stories such as Sailor Moon, Naruto, Doraemon,and so forth. From Paris, via Hangzhou China, Lucca (Italy), to Taipei and Hong Kong, this is a phenomenon we see in our daily life. These performances are based on the shared icons of Manga/Anime stories.

In this paper, I will explore what is happening in contemporary society in terms of their social consciousness and social ties from the view point of Manga and Anime ‘characters’ as icons, as an iconic experience, in connection with globalization both as a theory and an experience.

Required Reading