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Departmental Events

Colloquium Schedule

UC San Diego’s Sociology Colloquium Speaker Series offers the opportunity to learn about the latest research from leading scholars in sociology and closely related fields. Presentations are followed by Q&A.

Colloquia are held Thursdays, 12:30 p.m. — 1:50 p.m. in SSB 101


January 11, 2024Bart_Bonikowski.jpeg

Speaker: Bart Bonikowski, New York University

Title: Nationalism and the Radicalization of Right-Wing Politics in the United States and Europe

Abstract: The growing presence of radical-right parties across contemporary democracies over the past thirty years points to a still unsolved puzzle: why has the mainstreaming of exclusionary and authoritarian politics occurred at the present historical juncture and why has it been so widespread, despite the considerable baseline differences between the relevant country cases? To address these questions, I propose a theoretical model with three central features: (1) it differentiates between the constitutive components of radical-right politics—populism, nationalism, and authoritarianism—and places nationalism at the center of the explanatory framework; (2) it explicitly considers voters’ beliefs and elite political strategies, as well as the changing resonance between them; and (3) it simultaneously accounts for the specificity of country cases and overarching empirical regularities by identifying common causal mechanisms through which disparate conditions produce similar outcomes. In this talk, I will provide an overview of this theoretical framework, discuss its utility for explaining radical-right mobilization across Europe and the United States, and offer empirical evidence from my past work for the central mechanisms identified by this model.

January 18, 2024Raul Perez

SpeakerRaúl Pérez, University of LaVerne

Title: Blue Humor: On the Racist Insults and Injuries of the Police

AbstractIn The Souls of White Jokes, Raúl Pérez illustrates how racist humor plays a central role in reinforcing and mobilizing racist ideology and power under the guise of amusement. Drawing on the sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois, Pérez synthesizes scholarship on race, humor, and emotions to uncover how humor can function as a tool for producing racial alienation, dehumanization, and even violence. In this talk, Pérez will focus on the use of racist humor within the U.S. criminal justice system, from the civil rights era to the present. Analyzing public records, federal investigations, and news/media highlighting the use of racist humor by police officers across the country, Pérez argues that the use of racist humor in law enforcement organizations is a cultural and organizational mechanism that contributes to the everyday racial dehumanization, abuse, and violence that is pervasive in the U.S. criminal justice system. 

January 25, 2024

Charles SeguinSpeaker: Charles Seguin, Pennsylvania State University

Title: The Racial Limits of Disruption: How Race and Tactics Influence Social Movement Organization Testimony Before Congress, 1960-1995

AbstractSocial movement theory holds that disrupting social and political processes is among the most effective tools social movement organizations (SMOs) use to motivate concessions for their constituents. Yet recent research suggests that the political impact of disruption is not racially neutral. Black SMOs face a dilemma in that, although disruption is a powerful tool for change, the public often perceives non-violent Black disruptive protest as violent. We investigate this bind by analyzing how non-disruptive protest, non-violent disruption, or violence helps or hinders both Black and non-Black SMOs to gain state “acceptance” as legitimate spokes-organizations for their issues. We combine data on newspaper-reported protest events with data covering 41,545 SMO Congressional testimonies from 1,462 SMOs from 35 movement families. In panel regressions, we find that Congress is generally more accepting of non-disruptive protest but that non-disruptive protest is only roughly one-tenth as effective for Black SMOs compared to non-Black SMOs. Furthermore, whereas non-Black SMOs are significantly more likely to testify after using non-violent disruption, Black SMOs using non-violent disruption are significantly less likely to testify before Congress. Regardless of race, violence was associated with fewer congressional testimonies. Collectively, these findings suggest that Black SMOs face a tactical bind: Black SMOs can use non-disruptive tactics that are resource-intensive and slow, or they can use non-violent disruption that gets media attention but hinders congressional acceptance. These findings contribute to a growing literature on how racial inequality and prejudice impact the outcomes of social movements.

February 8, 2024Stephanie Jones.jpg
Speaker: Stephanie Jones, UC Riverside

Title: The Erasure of Black Spaces through Geographic Contestations

Abstract: Both contemporary and historic acts of dispossession are key components of understanding the urban spatial changes in Oakland. Theories of space, racial capitalism and underdevelopment help to make sense of the lived experiences of Black subjects defending their communities. The interviews I include in my full manuscript, Somebody Blew Up Oakland, point to a distinct politic, defined by both captivity and control, as residents of Oakland make sense of social and environmental contestations of space. Building on the work of scholars of Black geographies, I explore the myth of development and the relationship to the dispossession of Black geographies. I theorize how racial capitalism produces vulnerable populations through housing in urban areas. This talk will detail the theoretical interventions residents of Oakland make toward theories of space in both geography and urban sociology. As I will demonstrate, for Black subjects dispossession is cyclical and a characteristic of Black space. I argue that the relationship between dispossession and refusal creates a distinct politic in order to resist dispossession and disposability.

February 15, 2024Andrew-Feenberg
Speaker: Andrew Feenberg, Simon Fraser University

Title: Marcuse’s Philosophy of Technology Today

Abstract: Marcuse’s late work was composed in an “advanced industrial society” that was different from the market society Marx analyzed in Capital. Technological instruments and organizations had replaced market relations in many contexts, and the ideology of the new social formation was based on and propagated by technology. A critique of technology supplemented the critique of political economy. Marcuse elaborated that critique in One-Dimensional Man and a related essay on Max Weber in the early 1960s. These texts in fact offer not one but three related critiques of technology, and promise of new technology under socialism. The three critiques are 1. a theory of the new ideological function of technology;  2. a theory of the shaping of management and technology by capitalist relations of domination; 3. a theory of the ontological basis of “one-dimensional thought” in the capitalist lifeworld. The third critique culminated in a promise of new science and technology in a socialist society. At the time Marcuse developed these ideas, there were no major struggles over technology to which he could refer for concrete notions of change. Struggles around ecology emerged later toward the end of his life and he endorsed them but without revising his philosophy of technology. The politics of technology has overtaken his projection. We are now in a position to better understand the relation between social movements and technological change. Although the promise of change in Marcuse’s work was abstract, it contains ideas relevant to contemporary struggles over technology. In this paper I will show how elements of Marcuse’s philosophy of technology can address contemporary struggles, for example, climate change resistance movements.

February 22, 2024Claudio Benzecry
Speaker: Claudio Benzecry, Northwestern University

Title: The world at her fit: scale-making, uniqueness, and standardization
Abstract: When studying globalization, the theory-method nexus has usually favored macro-level approaches. Even those that focus on the micro have emphasized it as an explanandum of the macro. Some scholars have worked to generate large-scale accounts of commodity production or network formation; others, the ethnographic yet “localized” study of how global forces act in one particular locale. A few recent studies have focused on the “production of” culture, knowledge, and subjects—or their contestation—by looking at the role of state and market actors in changing colonial and post-colonial contexts. Less attention has been given in sociology to “friction” (Tsing 2005), the contingency lurking within every link of the large-scale chains, and the fact that each step along a commodity chain is an arena of its own, with actors in micro competing and collaborating in real-time.  So my question for this lecture is simple: what happens when we look at “the global” as something that needs to be maintained by actors worried in the quotidian about its potential breakdown? 


March 14, 2024Gretchen.jpeg
: Gretchen Purser, Syracuse University

Title: Learning to labor: “Job readiness” programs in the U.S.

Abstract: In this talk, I explore the project, politics, and performance of “job readiness” in the U.S. Job readiness programs are ubiquitous, though understudied, labor market intermediaries and exemplars of neoliberal poverty management. These are “re-education” or socialization programs that aim to enhance “employability” and inculcate within participants an appreciation for the norms and expectations of the workplace. I draw upon extensive ethnographic fieldwork carried out across four distinct job readiness programs in Syracuse, NY, one of the poorest cities in the country. Despite the glaring differences between the case studies with respect to targeted populations and predominant ideologies, these programs universally prepare participants for and habituate them to the degraded and degrading conditions of the low-wage labor market.

April 4, 2024thumbnail_bud-and-me-2013-thanksgiving.jpg
Speaker: Bud Mehan, UCSD Emeritus

Title: Tribute to Aaron Cicourel

Abstract: Aaron Cicourel’s colleagues, students, family, and friends are joining us in celebrating his wisdom, warmth, humor, and unwavering support of all of us. Aaron brought to Sociology the principle that language plays an active role in creating and sustaining social structure and social reality. His work spans sociology, linguistics, anthropology, medicine, and cognitive science. In each, he battled mightily to convince his contemporaries such as Erving Goffman, Harold Garfinkel, and Noam Chomsky to recognize the wealth of empirical evidence for a reflexive relationship between social structure and social action—one that disrupted the stratifying machinery to construct more equitable social environments.

April 11, 2024Jeffrey_Alexander.jpg
Speaker: Jeffery Alexander, Yale University

Talk: “Office” as a Sacred Civil Obligation: How the Civil Sphere Confronted and Defeated Trump’s Campaign against the 2020 Election.

Abstract: The January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol has been constructed as demonstrating the failure of American democracy. I will suggest, instead, that it can be viewed as a testimonial to its very success. By the afternoon of January 6th, Trump’s efforts to overturn democracy had failed. In the 9 long weeks between the November 3, 2020, Presidential election and the assault on the Capitol, Team Trump engaged in a multipronged and unprecedented campaign to overturn the results of the vote in 6 battleground states. Broadly attacking the legitimacy of the electoral system, they launched several dozens of lawsuits and engaged in hundreds of efforts to intimate state-level electoral officials. These efforts met nearly universal rejection. Republican and Trump- appointed judges and electoral officials resisted Trump – often at great personal cost – because they considered themselves obligated by their obligations to uphold the universalistic, nonpartisan rules that defined their offices, to which they had sworn sacred oaths. I will suggest that office obligations are a form of civil virtue that is essential to the resilience of the civil sphere vis-à-vis state power.

April 25, 20243-Reha-headshot.jpg
Speaker: Reha Kadakal, California State University Channel Islands

Talk: “Rise of the Resistance” and the Demise of Social Being: The Autolysis of Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century.

Abstract: Structural transformations in the 21st century necessitate radical rethinking of the category of
subject that underlie the notions of autonomy, agency and individuality. In this talk I will depict
an onto-genetic transformation of the subject— its autolysis—in the historical present by
building on representations and the mediation of categories of social life. I will first delineate the
notion of representation as a central element of critical ontology as a form of social theory by
building on Hegel and Durkheim. I will then draw on a recent artifact of the culture industry,
namely The Disneyland theme-park ride called “Rise of the Resistance” that, as a representation,
offers a significant illustrative value for apprehending contemporary form of subjectivity. I assert
that critical ontology that builds on representations points to an onto-genetic transformation of
subject, its autolysis, in the historical present. Whereas capitalist modernity historically and
typically expressed its contradictions in and through the crises of fundamental institutions—in
politics, economy, religion, philosophy and arts—I argue that transformations of the 21st century
suggest that we are at a point beyond the crises of institutions and the forms of subjectivity they
conventionally entailed.

May 2, 2024karendobkins
Speaker: Karen Dobkins, UCSD

Talk:Learning Sustainable Well-Being (LSW): A New Initiative for Enhancing Well-Being in Students (and Faculty!)

Abstract: Our society is facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, with nearly one in two people being affected by mental health issues over their lifespan. This trend is especially noticeable among college students, who undergo significant shifts in social, familial, and academic responsibilities. In response to this crisis, my colleagues and I have argued the need for a comprehensive solution that goes beyond the current models of college mental health services. Specifically, we propose an alternative preventative mental health approach, which aims to build mental health resilience by creating for-credit courses that teach students the skills they need to be conscious, responsible, and flourishing human beings. To this end, we created an experiential, workshop-style, 1 unit, P/NP course, entitled “Learning Sustainable Well-being” (LSW), which guides students to explore, improve, and sustain their mental health. The principles taught in the course combine the wisdoms of several disciplines, including mindfulness, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, religion, poetry, and cinema. 

The Gusfield lecture will reflect on the journey of our “LSW initiative”, starting from the creation of the course in 2014 to the current mission of scaling up the offering as part of an institution-wide LSW program.  The talk will also present the LSW course modules/content, our pedagogical approach, potential limitations, and then provide data demonstrating its efficacy in improving student well-being.  The goal of this talk is to facilitate the growing dialogue across colleges about creating (and perhaps requiring) courses like LSW in order to improve students’ mental health resilience.

May 9, 2024heatherhaveman
Speaker: Heather Haveman, UC Berkeley

Talk: Shades of Gender in Employee Discourse

Abstract: In many organizations, ideal workers are conceived of as male, and jobs and entire organizations are designed with men in mind – they are male-typed or male-shaded.  Men generally have higher social status than women, so female employees are disadvantaged in male-shaded organizations.  We investigate this by combining sociological theory and natural-language processing to capture shades of gender in cultural conceptions of organizations.  We analyze large-scale data on employee discourse, using word embeddings to extract a gender axis in semantic space, with “male” on one end and “female” on the other.  We focus on tech firms, which research shows are strongly male-shaded, and explore associations in tech-worker discourse between the gender axis and several cultural constructs:  gender stereotypes, jobs, and key corporate goals.  We also assess how much employee discourse overall is gendered.  We find that some gender stereotypes have eroded and cultural conceptions of managers have become feminized, but corporate goals remain male-typed and the discourse of tech workers is generally male-shaded.  Our approach to quantifying shades of gender in employee discourse moves us closer to determining how organizational cultures promote or reduce inequality and exclusion.  It also points the way to quantifying other cultural characteristics of organizations at scale.

May 16, 2024York.2015.jpeg
Speaker: Richard York, University of Oregon

Talk: Unintended Consequences of Energy Transitions
Abstract:Transitioning away from fossil fuels requires the production of energy from non-fossil sources. However, quantitative analyses and historical assessments of previous shifts in energy use indicate that the expansion of non-fossil energy sources – in the absence of direct efforts to suppress fossil fuel extraction and challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry - may not appreciably contribute to a decline in fossil fuel use and may have a variety of unintended consequences. These analyses suggest that a full energy transition to cleaner energy sources requires not only technological developments but changes in economic structures and political power relationships.

June 6, 2024
Speaker: Omar Lizardo, UCLA
Talk Information Forthcoming




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