Lane Kenworthy on Inequality and Social Policy

This week we talk with Lane Kenworthy, Professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of Arizona. Lane studies causes and consequences of poverty, inequality, economic growth, and social policy in the United States and other affluent countries, and recently published Social Democratic Americaa look at the current state of inequality in the U.S. and what can be done to fix it. We touch on a number of hot policy issues and discuss the role of the sociologist in producing relevant research and writing for public audiences.

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Discussing the Civic Imagination

Three sociologists, an anthropologist and a political scientist walk into a bar…and the result is a new book on the state, and emerging new forms, of civic participation in contemporary America.  While we seem to be living an age marked by political apathy and growing distrust for government and political institutions, there also seems to be a growing set of opportunities for Americans to “get involved” and “make a difference” in society.   From new forms of grass roots activism, to the increasing importance that social media plays in organizing political movements, the ways Americans participate in social change have dramatically evolved even while pessimism toward politics has reached new historical lows.

In the new book The Civic Imagination a group of ethnographers provide a detailed, account of how civically active Americans understand, talk and act on their different visions for social change.  Reporting on the ways that organizers envision their impacts on society, but also how they feel they have innovated new forms of participating, this multi-site ethnography challenges assertions that we live in a political age driven American apathy.  At the same time, this book reminds us of the limitations, if not blinders, of these new forms of political involvement, particularly revolving issues of inequality.  So before you download that new Social Justice mobile app, or organize your next Occupy event at the public library, take a listen to our interview with the authors of the Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life

Gianpaolo Baiocchi is an Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University

Elizabeth A. Bennett is assistant Professor of International Affairs at Lewis & Clark College

Alissa Cordner is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Whitman College.

Peter Taylor Klein is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Environmental and Urban Studies at Bard College.

Stephanie Savell is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Brown University.

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Matt Wray on the ‘Suicide Belt’

This week we are joined by Matt Wray, a professor at Temple University, where he teaches sociology of race, culture, and health. Matt has researched suicide rates in Las Vegas, the city with the highest metropolitan suicide rate in the U.S. He is currently at work on a book about the “Suicide Belt” in the American West. In addition to his work on suicide, Matt has written extensively on the topic of whiteness and white identity. We discuss Matt’s current work on the Suicide Belt and explore the contributions sociologists can make to the study of suicide.

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Samira Kawash on Candy

This week we are joined by Samira Kawash to discuss her book Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Samira is a professor emerita at Rutgers University. During our conversation we discuss the important but ignored place candy has occupied in the American conscious, the many shifting meanings attached to the sugary treats, and what can be learned from the increasingly blurred line between food and candy. You can read more of Samira’s work at www.CandyProfessor.com.

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Colter Ellis on the Boundary Labor of Beef Production

In this episode, we talk with Colter Ellis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and the Center for Rural Studies at Sam Houston University. Professor Ellis recently published a piece in The Sociological Quarterly that examines cattle producers’ work in conventional U.S. beef production. We talk through his ethnographic project into how cattle producers express emotional connection to cattle, but also treat cattle as economic assets.

Download Office Hours #87