Colloquia

Sociology Department Colloquium Series
Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
MONDAYS, 2:00 - 3:30 PM
[unless otherwise noted]

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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
African Americans have the highest rates of single parenthood in the U.S., and this divergence from the two-parent family is routinely indicted as a fundamental cause of their disadvantaged position in society. One need only take a cursory glance at recent academic studies, news articles, policy briefs, or social media posts to witness the single-parent family being implicated as the source of a wide array of problems disproportionately affecting African American families. Implicit in this perspective on black disadvantage is the assumption that the benefits of living in a two-parent are equally available to all and will generate equality of opportunity for the next generation. However, a narrow focus on single parenthood cannot tell us the counterfactual: When African American children grow up in the socially promoted two-parent family, how do they fare? How do their outcomes compare relative to their white peers raised in this same family structure? Put differently, is the two-parent family the Great Equalizer most Americans imagine it to be? If not, why do opportunity gaps
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Past research shows that there is significant ethnic attrition among some ethnic groups in the U.S. Some descendants of Hispanics and Asians do not identify with the same ethnic label as their ancestors. This attrition could impact estimates of intergroup inequality if attriters differ from non-attriters. Past studies on ethnic attrition have mostly relied on parental country of birth to establish ancestry due to data constraints. Nevertheless, this approach could miss individuals whose families have been in the U.S. for several generations. We develop three different ways to measure ancestry in surveys, considering parental country of birth, grandparents' country of birth, and overall family roots. We incorporate these new measures into a nationally-representative survey, along with a comprehensive list of social, psychological, political, and economic variables, to analyze the characteristics of ethnic attritors. We find that the size and characteristics of the attriter population vary based on how ancestry is measured, significantly impacting the level of socioeconomic inequality between Asians/Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Sociologists defined the state by their monopoly of organized violence and national militaries and domestic police departments are examples of the state’s institutionalized violence. In this talk, Dr. Alvarez presents a unique dataset of closed domestic U.S. Military installations to explain the rise and fall of military bases and their consequential environmental problems. Results show robust disparate selection of federal-level environmental remediation for decommissioned bases. The evidence reveals the state perpetuating environmental inequalities through militarized spaces.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
This talk presents arguments from an ongoing book project that compares the role of the Internet in India and in China. For China, the main questions about the internet so far have been about censorship and surveillance, a rather narrow scope. For India, research about the role of the internet has been scarce. Social theories have focused on the internet in Western democracies, and there is abundant research. How are theoretical comparisons possible under these circumstances? I argue that certain dimensions, such as the responsiveness of elites to citizens via (digital) media outweigh differences like authoritarianism (or half-democracy in the case of India) versus democracy. Other dimensions, such as how groups can mobilise for social change, require highlighting the differences between the strength and coherence or otherwise of civil society and how demands for change find digital expression. These ideas will be illustrated with examples from Modi’s populist politics and ultranationalist politics in China. De-Westernizing social theory and theories of digital media must place rising China and India into the context of globalizing modernity, and its limits.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building & Via Zoom
Wikipedia is an exemplar – a digital poster-child -- of Robert K. Merton’s 1936 essay on exclusion as unanticipated consequence of purposive action. Editorial practices, algorithms, and communities typically undermine the representation of notable women and minorities on academic Wikipedia and thereby create new gender and racial inequalities in on-line encyclopedias and their digital cousins. This is not invariably the case, however. What practices make for more -- or even less --- accurate forms of disciplinary knowledge? Where are the consequential points of social action? One point of departure is Merton’s observation that the consciousness of a social process may influence the process itself.   Please email lenalorenzi@berkeley.edu to get on our list and receive zoom information.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Social scientists distinguish between predictive and causal research. While this distinction clarifies the aims of two research traditions, this clarity is being blurred by the introduction of machine learning (ML) algorithms. Although ML excels in prediction, scholars are increasingly using ML not only for prediction but also for causation. While using ML for causation appears as a category mistake, this article shows that there is a third kind of research problem in which causal and predictive inference form an intricate synergy. This synergy arises from a specific type of statistical practice, guided by what we propose, the hybrid modeling culture (HMC). Navigating through a parallel debate in the statistical sciences, this article identifies key characteristics of HMC, thereby fueling the evolution of statistical cultures in the social sciences towards better practices—meaning increasingly reliable, valid, and replicable causal inference. A corollary of HMC is that the distinction between prediction and causation, taken to its limit, melts away.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Abstract: This talk focuses on the key role of medical experts in changing ideas about gender and the body in Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of the political upheaval of the 1960s. The fashioning of one’s body and its cultivation, criticized as a bourgeois holdover in the Stalinist 1950s, came to be demanded from below and promoted from above as part of socialist lifestyle in the 1970s. Embedded in a transnational circulation of discourses and practices – bodily health, fitness as well as aesthetics - medical experts in socialist Czechoslovakia helped facilitate the emergence of new conceptions of femininity and masculinity, and increasingly promoted the link between the body and individual self-realization. As the talk shows, processes generally associated with the post-1989 transformations emerged already in the late socialist period.  
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Abstract: In 1996, Thomas LaVeist instructed social science health researchers to “continue to study race… but do a better job.” Reviews consistently suggests health studies control for race and ethnicity without defining, and often don’t account for racism. Dr. Pirtle will overview interventions of her empirical research, informed by critical race theory, that utilizes multidimensional measures of race and ethnicity, and structural measures of racism to explore health outcomes for Black, Latinx, and other populations of color. The talk demonstrates that using theoretically informed measures of race, ethnicity, and racism help us to do a better job refining our understanding of racialized health associations and clarifying mechanisms of racism in shaping health inequities.   ----------------------------------------------
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building & Via Zoom
In the Western, or more specifically, U.S.-dominated social sciences, people of color outside or within the West have historically been reduced to “research subjects,” and their role as knowledge producers has been marginalized. Precipitating such practices was the European and U.S. formal colonization of different parts of the world. In recent decades, there have been efforts to decolonize social science. Does greater “inclusion” of scholars of color within the existing knowledge production system achieve the decolonization goal? Or does the U.S. fundamentally reproduce the same hierarchical power relations within its informal empire through such “inclusion”? To address these questions, I will introduce the concept of “control by manipulation,” which is divided into “psychological warfare” and “behavioral modification,” and sketch a model of the way the U.S.
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Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building
Studies show that Black women are targeted in the workplace for their decisions to dawn natural hairstyles (Koval and Rosette 2021, Greene 2012, Dawson et al. 2019). And media attention has shed light on the disproportionate policing of black bodies and, more specifically, those who choose to wear natural hair styling options. Black women and Black children are the most visible targets for natural hair policing and have been subject to various consequences when their natural hairstyles do not meet dress code policies at work and school. As the Crown Act gains recognition around the country and adoption throughout the country, it remains critical to understand the global experiences of Black women who choose to wear natural hairstyles. Scholarship on race and emotions needs more empirical studies that provide intersectional framing of experiences specific to people of color.