Colloquia

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

Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
The rising number of individuals being released from prison has prompted renewed interest among researchers, policy makers, and practitioners in reintegrating former prisoners. Yet relatively little is known about the social contexts into which former prisoners return and how those contexts affect their social and economic reintegration. This talk focuses on the role that neighborhood context and family social support play in the material wellbeing of former prisoners based on two data sources (1) a rich set of longitudinal administrative records on individuals paroled in Michigan during 2003, and (2) longitudinal qualitative interviews with former prisoners followed over a three-year period. Implications for conceptualizing the process of prisoner reintegration will be discussed.
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
After centuries of slavery and formal caste subordination, in the three decades following WWII, hundreds of thousands of black people joined insurgent social movements in the U.S. Why did their insurgency thrive in these years? Classical social movement theories, founded on the study of black insurgency, assume a group actor and theorize macro-structural cleavages generating opportunities for insurgency by blacks generally. Instead, conceptualizing insurgent social movements as the proliferation of specific insurgent practices reveals not one, but three distinct black insurgent movements in these years: Black Anti-colonialism peaking mid-1940s, the Civil Rights Movement peaking early 1960s, and Revolutionary Black Nationalism peaking in the late 1960s. Following distinct temporal arcs, each movement mobilized different constituencies, advanced different ideologies, targeted different racial institutions, employed different tactics, challenged different authorities, and attracted different allies.
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
“Looking Beyond the Election: The Shape of America’s Future” This is the first in an occasional series of panels exploring factors shaping American society–and global society–now and in the future. The first panel includes distinguished faculty from Berkeley’s Department of Sociology discussing the implications of widening inequality, political stalemate, and growing diversity. Mike Hout on widening educational and economic inequality Margaret Weir on policy formation in an era of political stalemate Irene Bloemraad on how immigration alters the political landscape Irene Bloemraad is author of Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada (University of California Press 2006) and the forthcoming Being American/Becoming American: Birthright Citizenship, Inequality and Immigrants’ Sense of Belonging, among many other articles and edited books.
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
What can professional dominatrices teach us about ourselves?  Drawing upon observational fieldwork and interviews with women who work as professional dominatrices (“pro-dommes”) in New York City and San Francisco, Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon (University of Chicago Press 2012) focuses on two major ways in which the seemingly marginal social sphere of the dominatrix’s “dungeon” can shed light on the contours of American society more generally.  First, although this industry is structured around interactions that superficially appear to be inversions of the gender-power hierarchy, it is also normatively patterned, in the sense that social expectations from everyday life work themselves into the dungeon.  Pro-dommes’ interactions with their clients thus contribute to our understanding of gender, sexuality, and control by showing us what an inversion of our gender-power arrangement can look like while at the same time speaking to the persistence of this arrangement.  Secondly, the people who inhabit this social world highlightdynamics that we suppress in daily life.  While the realm of the pro-domme may appear to be an exotic corner of
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
We offer an explanation for the expansion of formal organization­in numbers, internal complexity, social domains, and national contexts­and of the fact that much expansion lies in domains of the collective good far beyond the traditional foci on technical production or political power – such as protecting the environment, promoting marginalized groups, or behaving with transparency.  This expansion is underpinned by cultural rationalization, characterized by scientism, rights and empowerment discourses, and the expansion of higher education.  These cultural changes are transmitted through legal, accounting, and professionalization principles, driving the creation of new organizations and internal elaboration of existing formal structures.  Dialectically, the cultural roots of expanding organization cause contemporary formal structures to be built less around functional interdependence and more around the construction of organizations as proper social actors.  These actors are painted as autonomous and integrated, but depend heavily on legal, accounting, and professional definitions to sustain this depiction.  So the expansion of rationalized organizations creates actors that are
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
Many citizens seek to enact a form of public sphere by writing letters to the editor to local newspapers. The letters columns constitute local mediated public spheres in which writers and readers assemble a public through semi-deliberative practices. Using a unique dataset of all letters received by one metropolitan newspaper and a survey of letter writers and nonwriting subscribers, the paper analyzes the argumentative style of letters and the demographic characteristics of writers. Writers are more likely to be white, male, older, more politically active, and more liberal than the local population. Hypotheses tested about letter- writing among newspaper readers confirm that social inequalities and political engagement influence participation in this public sphere. Hypotheses about argumentative tone in letters confirm key effects of gender differences and sense of local political efficacy.
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
What are cultural meanings?  In what ways can we use quantitative measures to capture meanings? How have social scientists changed their approach to measuring meanings over the years?  From the original invention of attitude measures by W.I. Thomas nearly a century ago, to the mapping of meaning fields by Kurt Lewin, the analysis of semantic differentials by Charles Osgood, the emergence of cognitive anthropology and network mappings of cultural discourse systems by sociologists over the last 20 years to the modern use of “topic model” technologies by computer scientists, the formal study of cultural meanings has changed dramatically over the last century, but the core questions about the nature of meaning and the central dilemmas of cultural interpretation continue to confound us.  In this talk, Prof. Mohr will address the conceptual problems and the historical progress of the social scientific approach to quantifying the study of cultural meanings and address the questions of where does the field stand today and where is it headed tomorrow?
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
In this talk, I present work from my forthcoming book, Good Science: Ethical Choreography at the End of the Beginning of Stem Cell Research (MIT Press), focusing on the potential for the sociology of science and gender to contribute to navigating a post-genomic world.  Charis Thompson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies, and an Associate Director of the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, UC Berkeley.  She is the author of Making Parents (MIT Press, 2005) which won the Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for the Social Study of Science, and of Good Science (forthcoming).  She is currently working on a comparative project on studies of inattention in the US and the UK from the 1960s to the present.
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Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall
The rise of religious sectarianism in the Middle East is often met with calls for the institutionalization of religious liberty as a means of ensuring that non-Muslim minorities can practice their religion freely without state intervention and social coercion. Conventional wisdom has it that religious liberty is a universally valid secular-liberal principle whose proper implementation continues to be thwarted by intransigent forces in society (such as illiberal governments, religious fundamentalists, and traditional norms).This talk challenges such an account by showing that religious liberty is not simply a neutral principle for accommodating religious difference but, as a key mechanism of modern statecraft, also defines and constitutes differences at the heart of the identity of religious minorities and majorities alike.Taking the Coptic Orthodox Christian community of Egypt as a test case, this talk asks/how/ the national and international regulation and protection of religious freedom in the Middle East has made specific imaginaries of freedom and unfreedom possible for the religious minority and majority populations of Egypt. Saba Mahmood Bio: