Colloquia

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

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via Zoom
Social exclusion and discrimination lead to health detriments by elevating physiological stress responses. Previous research has shown that interactions with out-group race members increase bodily stress responses (i.e. cortisol changes, cardiovascular reactivity) and activation in brain regions related to feeling physical pain. However, some minority groups are better protected from these negative effects.
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via Zoom
Although humans have coexisted with dogs and cats for thousands of years, only recently have people openly included their pets as members of the family. Yet, because of the cultural ambivalence toward animals, what it means for a pet to “be” a family member remains unsettled. Drawing from research on family practices including kinship, household routines, childhood socialization, and domestic violence, this talk considers how pets participate in “doing” family and what their presence means for this social arrangement long considered quintessentially human. Today's more‐than‐human families represent a hybrid of relations, human and animal and social and natural, rather than an entirely new kind of family. Becoming family has always been contingent on a cast of nonhuman characters, and recognition of the “more‐than‐human” can enhance sociological understanding, not only of the family but also of other aspects of social life. -----
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via Zoom
The contemporary moment presents a crisis for political thought. It is not difficult to see that the resurgence of authoritarianism, the breakdown of political systems, and the approach of ecological apocalypse require a concerted and creative theoretical effort. Just as significant as the catastrophe of the present is the parallel emergence  of unexpected social movements – but they have not succeeded in arresting the relentless drive to disaster. This talk proposes that we are unable to theorize our reality because we lack a vantage point of emancipation. This vantage point is not one which we could step out of history to assume, but rather is one which appears in particular moments, and ultimately recedes – it becomes exhausted. If we are unable to conceive of emancipation beyond the failure of previous attempts, we can only think the necessity of the existing situation.
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via Zoom
My current research project analyzes wars through the ages:  in the Roman Republic, the histories of China, Japan and Europe, the post-colonial history of Latin America, recent wars in the Middle East, and wars fought by the United States. I focus here on decisions to make war. Though the weapons and organization of war have changed enormously through time, decision-making processes have not. In virtually all cases, the decisions were/are made by very small groups of rulers, sometimes by one person, not by the mass or the representatives of the people. I ask whether wars are rational, as the dominant Realist school in Political Science theory asserts.
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Via Zoom
This talk examines the interplay of urban demography, industrialization and risk management to identify local mechanisms driving the socio-environmental change. The study is informed by spatial and historical comparison of hazardous waste site accumulation in four major U.S. cities (Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Portland, OR) over five decades, from 1955 to 2008.  Data for the analysis include detailed site-, tract-, and city-level information gathered for thousands of current and former industrial sites – most of which remain unacknowledged in government reports and hazardous site lists.  Results show how industrial churning, residential churning, and risk containment intersect to produce cumulative socio-environmental transformations of urban lands. The study holds important lessons for sustainable urban futures. ***
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Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
In the 1990s and 2000s, federal lawmakers and legislators in twenty-two states enacted laws allowing for the indefinite detention of individuals convicted of certain sexual offenses, beyond their court-ordered prison sentence. Known as “sexually violent predator” (SVP) laws, these statutes allow for the indefinite detention of designated sexual offenders, perhaps for life, on the basis of having “mental abnormalities”—a pseudo-medical category invented by lawmakers. We know little about who is detained in these facilities. Citing medical privacy, most states refuse to release information about these programs or those they have detained. In this talk, I will report and consider demographic findings from a recent analysis of civil commitment facilities conducted by myself and colleagues at the Williams Institute at UCLA. We find that there are over 6000 men currently civilly committed for sex offenses in the United States. In almost every state analyzed, detainees are disproportionately Black.
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via Zoom
 In 1948, the newly formed United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) invited a panel of “experts” to UNESCO house in Paris to draft an Expert Statement on Race.  UNESCO asserted that science had the power to oppose racial ideologies, and to create the foundation for a united system of global governance—a United Nations—grounded in science, truth and human rights.  A short two years later, UNESCO found itself embroiled in a high profile dispute with leading physical anthropologists and geneticists in the United States and Great Britain, facing what one UNESCO “expert” described as “awkward questions” about the nature of truth, race and science.  These critical geneticists and physical anthropologists argued against the 1950 UNESCO Expert Statement on Race’s assertion that scientists rejected race as an appropriate conceptual tool for analyzing meaningful human traits.
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via Zoom
Education researchers struggle with the fact that students arrive at school already shaped by their unequal childhoods. Would we see greater gains among less privileged students if they had a more level playing field? 
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via Zoom
Disaster aid is an increasingly costly form of social spending and an often-overlooked way that welfare states manage risks related to climate change. In this talk, I reveal how disaster welfare programs exacerbate racial and socioeconomic inequalities through an institutional process of aid access. Analyzing data on 5.37 million applicant records from FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP), results demonstrate that key institutional features—the conditions of eligibility, administrative burdens of proof, and bureaucratic interactions with state inspectors—combine in a stepwise process to funnel resources for housing repair to higher-income households in whiter, more affluent communities. More broadly, this talk advances a theoretical account of social policies as institutional processes, and it posits climate risks as new forms of social risk against which welfare states insure citizens.
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Via Zoom
From California to China, self-described “greening” efforts claiming to address inequality and the climate crisis proliferate. But why are such projects—undertaken in the name of ecological sustainability and climate resilience as well as quality of life—being carried out in such a wide range of places with very different histories, ecologies, and cultural repertoires for urban life? Based on a study of a century of greening in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a polycentric industrial region that has been recurrently “greened” despite its ample open space, this talk offers a sociological explanation of urban greening as a global, contemporary phenomenon. It argues that greening is a social practice made possible by a social imaginary of nature as an indirect or moral good, called urbanized nature; that urban processes, rather than city form, explain greening’s appearance; and that contemporary greening is best understood as fundamentally continuous with past practices.