Professor Michaela DeSoucey drops in to chat about consumer culture and the many political projects that shape our tastes for cuisine ranging from foie gras to craft beer. She discusses some of the challenges facing ethnographers who study taste, and we also consider how the industrial scale of modern food production may have leveled cultural practices once reserved for the wealthy.

Dr DeSoucey’s forthcoming book is called Contested Tastes: The Politics of Foie Gras in the U.S. and France.

Download Office Hours #108

In this episode, political scientist Chad Lavin discusses his new book, Eating Anxiety: The Perils of Food Politics. Chad’s work explores how our experiences with food shape popular ideas about identity, authenticity, and responsibility. He speaks with us about the political meanings of diet in a globalized society, and some limitations of the local food movement. Chad is a professor at Virginia Tech, where he teaches in the political science department and at ASPECT – the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought.

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In this episode we talk with Osagie Obasogie, Professor of Law at University of California – Hastings. We talk about his book Blinded by Sight: Seeing Race Through the Eyes of the BlindIn this book he asks: how do blind people understand race? By engaging in qualitative research with individuals who have been totally blind since birth, this project provides an empirical basis from which to rethink core assumptions embedded in social and legal approaches to race and discrimination.

Download Office Hours #92

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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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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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.

Download Office Hours #88

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

Nicholas Kristof’s recent critique of sociology, political science, and the humanities for effectively isolating themselves from larger and more public discussions of social issues has resulted in a myriad of academic responses. In this episode of the office hours we share the audio of a recent panel of faculty at the University of Minnesota including co-founder of the The Society Pages’ Doug Hartmann, responding to Kristof’s essay.

*If you are interested in hearing the question and answer session that followed this discussion, please follow this link to the Humphrey School of Public Affairs website.

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Zombies have taken a special place in our cultural imaginary—appearing in countless cult classics, B-grade horror movies, best selling literary novels (and retellings of best-selling literary novels), record breaking television shows, and are the inspiration for themed parades and pub crawls around the globe. In this episode, Jennifer Rutherford, sociologist, literary scholar, and Deputy Director of the Hawke Research Institute at the University of Southern Australia, helps us understand what can be learned from the cultural obsession. We discuss the power of the zombie as metaphor, the unrestrained drive of the undead, and the allure of becoming zombie at gatherings and celebrations.

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This episode we talk with Natan Sznaider about the Holocaust, memory, and human rights. He is the author of Jewish Memory and the Cosmopolitan Order and The Compassionate Temperament. We discuss his work on the relationship between modernity, capitalism, and the development compassion.

Download Office Hours #75