2023 “Culture in Contemporary Life” scheduled talks

The “Culture and Contemporary Life” (CCL) series, chaired by Fiona Greenland, has an exciting set of panels planned for this academic year. As in the past, the CCL series will feature cultural sociologists drawing on their expertise to speak to current events and important social issues. The CCL committee has been recruiting panelists and finalizing all dates, with the first session already planned for late January 2023. Information about the four panels planned is provided below (more details about upcoming sessions forthcoming).

Session 1. Inequality and the Politics of Cultural Authenticity – Authenticity can refer to multiple traits associated with “realness,” such as originality, purity, or genuineness. As a social construction, it confers status and legitimacy to objects, practices, places, and people. In this panel, three sociologists discuss why examining authenticity is key to understanding racial, gender, class, and global inequalities today.

Panelists: Marie Sarita Gaytán, University of Utah; Fred Wherry, Princeton University; Sharon Zukin, CUNY Graduate Center
Moderator: Annie Hikido, Colby College

Date/Time: Friday, January 27, 1:00p PST / 4:00p EST

Session 2. Belligerent Nationalism in Big Power Politics – Violence is an ever-present possibility within nationalism. Belligerent nationalism in the case of big powers, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, China’s increasing militarization, and the January 6th insurgency in the United States, has raised concern about new practices of violence in the name of the nation. Panelists are invited to examine the causes of this resurgence of belligerent nationalism, to situate them in their contemporary socio-political contexts, and to examine how cultures of nationalism play a role.

Session 3. Theodicy and the Meaning of Suffering – What is the meaning of suffering? Sociologists have examined it as an individual experience that is at the heart of meaning-making in collective memory. Paradoxically, however, it is the inability to find meaning that makes suffering unbearable. This panel addresses the problem of meaning, how people reconcile the existence of God with evil, and what it means to find meaning in violence.

Session 4: The Body and Culture in a Post-Embodiment Age – This session will explore how media and medical technologies are changing the construction, conception, and presentation of the body. Panelists will consider whether we’ve arrived at a post-embodiment age, and what this means for how we understand cultures of the body.