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

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.
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: