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 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.
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via Zoom
Nothing will shape cities’ future more than carbon emissions—both the efforts to eliminate them, and the consequences of their emission. Yet urban and environmental sociologists have had little to say about urban climate politics’ successes and failures, especially concerning decarbonization. To explain climate politics’ dynamics—in cities, and elsewhere—sociology must follow the carbon into the viscera of social life, widening our analytic lens to capture more actors and mechanisms. In this talk, I explain how housing movements, ignored by most urban climate research, have shaped the outcomes of low-carbon policy struggles in São Paulo and New York in the 21st century. And I show how quantitative carbon tracing helps us understand the links between eco-apartheid, regional political mobilization, and the the contested decarbonization of energy systems, within and beyond cities. --
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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.”