Sociology on Culture

Sociology on Culture

Sociology on Culture

Sociology on Culture

Synopsis

Culture has become a touchstone of interdisciplinary conversation. For readers interested in sociology, the social sciences and the humanities, this book maps major classical and contemporary analyses and cultural controversies in relation to social processes, everyday life, and axes of ordering and difference - such as race, class and gender. Hall, Neitz, and Battani discuss: * self and identity * stratification * the Other * the cultural histories of modernity and postmodernity * production of culture * the problem of the audience * action, social movements, and change.nbsp; The authors advocate cultivating the sociological imagination by engaging myriad languages and perspectives of the social sciences and humanities, while cultivating cultural studies by developing the sociological imagination.nbsp; Paying little respect to boundaries, and incorporating fascinating examples, this book draws on diverse intellectual perspectives and a variety of topics from various historical periods and regions of the world.

Excerpt

We say, "The wind is blowing," as if the wind were actually a thing at rest which, at a given point in time, begins to move and blow. We speak as if the wind were separate from the blowing, as if a wind could exist which did not blow.

(Norbert Elias 1978, p. 112)

When you read the word "wind," think about "culture." Is it like the wind? Some cultural material - for example habits and gestures that are part of distinctive social repertoires - has its primary existence when people act it out. Other culture - a movie, for example - might seem different from the wind because there is a physical object called "the film." However, things are not so simple. Movies exist as very long strips of celluloid (or, increasingly, digital files), but when people talk about "the movie" they typically are not referring to the physical object at all. Indeed, films have very little significance unless people see them. This circumstance identifies a central puzzle about culture: the physical aspects of objects like films and paintings make culture seem like a thing in itself - a view that is reinforced insofar as we think of culture as external to us as individuals, and potentially capable of influencing the ways we act. Yet either people embody culture in daily life, or it lacks any social vitality and ends up gathering dust on a shelf in some warehouse. Culture is not the wind, but like the wind, it is difficult to describe with a language that treats it solely as though it were a material object.

When the sociologist Mustafa Emirbayer issued his "manifesto for a relational sociology" (1997), he quoted Norbert Elias about the wind to illustrate his argument that the "language" of sociology is sometimes not up to the task of analyzing the social world. Sociological descriptions, Emirbayer warned, too often focus on static things and conditions rather than dynamic, unfolding processes. To help redress this imbalance, in this book we explore a variety of languages that offer different ways to talk about culture in relation to social processes and everyday life.

The importance of being open to analysis through multiple languages becomes obvious when we consider a basic sociological point: a variety of issues call for consideration even in relation to a single overall set of events. In turn, diverse languages help explore diverse issues. Consider how things have changed in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These attacks, and other ones since, have had many different consequences - economic, political, psychological, and so forth - in diverse corners of the world. When we focus specifically on the cultural aspects, numerous questions emerge for people both in the U.S. and around the world. Some of the questions are controversial even as questions, leaving to one side how they might be answered:

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