Colloquia

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

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via Zoom
Pathways to climate equity and environmental justice traverse energy industry worksites. This seminar examines how the racial ideology of elites guides management decisions in worksites rife with labor and environmental hazards. Using the Brazilian sugar-ethanol industry as a case study, the talk illustrates how white industry elites utilize racial and non-racial discursive frames to rationalize the exposure of non-white workers to harmful practices. In focusing on worksites involved with renewable fuels production, this seminar interrogates how elite racial ideologies shape and limit progress toward climate equity and environmental justice.
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via Zoom
While citizenship promises equality, it has deep entanglements with the colonial project. Sociologists have long analyzed mechanisms of citizenship inclusion through the lens of the class struggle and cultural resignification, and we have often tethered citizenship to the nation state and European modernity. However, it was in the colonies where questions of rights had to be navigated, especially during the Caribbean struggles over freedom following slavery. We tend to bifurcate political processes in the metropole from those in the colony even though they were deeply connected. As a result, Sociology has largely overlooked how a project of racecraft made egalitarian ideals of freedom and citizenship compatible with continued colonial rule. Aiming to overcome this separation, I examine the question of rights through the colonial front lines.
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Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
Computational procedures increasingly inform how we work, communicate, and make decisions. In this talk, I draw on interviews and ethnographic observations conducted within the Los Angeles Police Department to analyze the organizational and institutional forces shaping the use of information for social control. I reveal how the police leverage big data and new surveillance technologies to allocate resources, classify risk, and conduct investigations. I argue big data does not eliminate discretion, but rather displaces discretionary power to earlier, less visible parts of the policing process, which has implications for organizational practice and social inequality.  
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Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
In the era of both unprecedented access to information and unbridled economic inequality, what challenges do low-income communities of color face in a search for upward mobility? Using data from 87 interviews with Black and Brown jobseekers, the American Communities Survey and 18 months of participant observation in Inglewood, California I expose how particular information, or what I call “mobility knowledge”, accelerates or limits social mobility. These data reveal how schools, government, and social media obscure viable opportunities for advancement into the middle class by passing along dangerous misinformation to communities of color about social mobility and the labor market. This misinformation results in dangerous neoliberal logics from disadvantaged jobseekers. While information gaps are often framed by economists, this work socializes these accounts, shedding light on social mobility barriers in the era of “fake news.”
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via Zoom
Theories of culture have long relied on spatial metaphors to describe how meaning systems are internally organized. Constrained by limitations of data and visualization, prior spatial models of meaning have commonly taken the form of two-dimensional “maps” that can be easily rendered on paper. However, recent advances in computational linguistics show that the vast array of semantic associations that characterize a cultural system can only be effectively represented by expansive models with hundreds of dimensions. In this talk, I outline how we may harness such high-dimensional models to study cultural systems structurally and holistically. Focusing on collective understandings of class and politics, I put forth methods to identify periods when cultural systems undergo structural shifts.
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via Zoom
The recent protests on police violence finds scholars and activists grappling with the continued marginalization of black women and girls in discussions on policing. My work uses in-depth interviews to examine this process through the eyes of black women from across the social class spectrum. Drawing from black women's reflections on the police talks in their families, I identify "learning her place" as a childhood discourse that reproduces black women's position on the margins while fostering the development of black feminist consciousness. 
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Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
What do intimate relationships look like under the strain of severe deprivation? Previous research on the social ties of the poor has yielded contradictory findings that have yet to be resolved, with some scholars characterizing these ties as a private safety net providing essential support, and others characterizing them as fragile at best, and as unsupportive and ridden with conflict at worst. Drawing on almost four years of fieldwork in a low-income network, I offer a new framework for conceptualizing social life under chronic scarcity, one in which support, conflict, and fragility are not static characteristics of specific ties, but dynamic tensions running through relationships experienced under conditions of poverty.
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Via Zoom
How do people make sense of their continued reliance on unjust institutions? How do they evaluate potential for redress? Recent research highlights the state as a potential well of moral opportunities to promote dignity and inclusion (Lamont et al. 2016, 2017). Yet the everyday lives for residents of disadvantaged communities are often marked by conflictual interactions with state agents. In this talk, I explore these questions by drawing on a unique data set of 60 semi-structured interviews with recently arrested individuals in Cleveland, Ohio – a city currently under federal consent decree due to police use of excessive force.
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Via Zoom
Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations routinely present themselves as servants of the most longstanding and universal human values. Yet, while their values -- impartiality, neutrality, universality -- are certainly ageless, their social organizations are a much more recent phenomenon. In fact, the idea that humanitarian organizations like the ones we know today should provide emergency aid did not emerge until the nineteenth-century, and was surprisingly controversial when initially proposed by the Red Cross movement. In this talk, I examine the origins of the organizational cultural framework that first enabled humanitarian NGOs and has supported their work for the past 150 years. Drawing on archival research, I trace its origins to an orthodox Calvinist movement that thrived in Geneva in the mid-nineteenth-century.
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via ZOOM
PLEASE NOTE SPECIAL TIME Automation and the Future of Work in the Pandemic Economy