Our guest today is Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, and the director of the Scholar Strategy Network, a network of professors that seeks to improve public policy and strengthen democracy by organizing scholars working in America’s colleges and universities, and connecting them and their research to policy makers, citizen’s associations, and the media.

Professor Skocpol is an expert on the history of American civic and political institutions. Her recent work has applied this knowledge to the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, and the range of organizations currently marshalling resources and political energy on the right and the left. Today, we talk with her about how the Koch Brothers have transformed American democracy, and whether any corollaries are emerging on the political left.

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In this episode, guest host Allison Nobles talks to Tulane professor Mimi Schippers about her book Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities. The book interrogates “compulsory monogamy”, or our cultural disposition towards being in a relationship with only one other person at a time. Schippers argues that this compulsory disposition towards monogamy limits the ways that we can view relationships, and reproduces various kinds of inequalities.

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With the election of Donald Trump, much has been made about the construction of barriers to entry along the US border with Mexico. But while Trump has placed particular emphasis on the image of a wall designed to limit illegal movement across this border, thousands of workers travel lawfully from cities like Tijuana into the US — and back again — every day. In today’s episode, I talk with Rice University’s Sergio Chávez about his new book Border Lives: Fronterizos, Transnational Migrants, and Commuters in Tijuana, an ethnographic product of many years spent traveling (and waiting to travel) across the border with commuting workers. Dr. Chávez describes the incredible strain that border controls and bureaucracies place on low wage workers, but he also provides a remarkable account of the way that many workers leverage these difficulties into relationships and livelihood strategies. We also explore the implications of his findings for a relatively new approach to the scholarship on immigration, which social scientists call transnationalism.

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In this episode, guest host Neeraj Rajasekar talks to Harvard professor Natasha Warikoo about her book The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities. The book centers on conversations with white students and students of color at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford around their understandings of diversity and diversity programs. Through these interviews, Warikoo illustrates how elite students make sense of their positions at elite universities, the merit involved, and the role privilege plays.


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In his new book, To Care for Creation: the Emergence of the Religious Environmental Movement, Professor Stephen Ellingson explores new — and often localized — environmental activism among mainstream religious groups in the United States. Through interviews with over 60 organizations, he tells the story of how activists overcome the institutional, political, and cultural barriers that have typically prevented religious organizations from investing in environmental causes.

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Prior to the 1990s, the sociology of immigration focused mainly on just a handful of major cities where most new arrivals had settled throughout the 20th century. But more recently, immigrants have been moving to new destinations in the rural South and Midwest, drawing scholars like today’s guest, Vanesa Ribas, to closely monitor how race and labor dynamics might be playing out in these smaller communities. Dr. Ribas’ new book, On the Line: Slaughterhouse Lives and the Making of the New South, examines these changes through a case study centered around a meat packing plant in rural North Carolina.

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In this episode, I talk to University of Minnesota Professor and Editor-In-Chief of TheSocietyPages Douglas Hartmann about his book Midnight Basketball: Race, Sports, and Neoliberal Social Policy. This conversation focuses on a 1990s crime initiative, known as midnight basketball, which aimed to curb crime by setting up late night basketball leagues in inner cities. While initially popular with democrats and republicans , including president George H. W. Bush, the program would eventually fall, being attacked by right-wing politicians and radio hosts alike, but it left behind a complex history with many implications for sports, race, and social policy today.

Across the country, sightings of people dressed as “creepy clowns” standing in forests, on roads, in doorways has exploded and captured part of the national imagination. A lot of people were unsure what to make of this odd development. Some call it a clown “invasion”, some call it a clown “uprising”, and some call it the “Great Clown Scare”— yet most agree that it is indeed creepy. In this episode, guest host Ryan Larson talks to University of Delaware professor Joel Best, author of Damned Lies and Statistics and Social Problems. This conversations focuses on the context of the recent clown sightings around the nation, and how they connect to other popular mythologies.

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In this episode, I talk to University of Toronto professor Jooyoung Lee, author of Blowin’ Up: Rap Dreams in South Central. This conversation focuses on the book as well as Professor Lee’s experiences writing the book. For some context, set in South Central Los Angeles, Professor Lee worked in and around Project Blowed, an open mic venue that functioned as a kind of hub for a large underground hip-hop community in Los Angeles. For some vocabulary, “Blowin’ Up” refers to getting attention/ fame/ money/ recognition in wider society and a “Blowedian” is a member of Project Blowed. Our conversations covers topics from what it means to be an insider in ethnography, to Professor Lee’s experiences ‘defending the block’ from intruders with his dance skills.

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Northwestern University professor Aldon Morris discusses W.E.B. Du Bois and the status of his work in the sociological canon. In this special hour-long episode, we explore the ongoing tension between social justice activism and the scientific features of contemporary sociology, especially as it is experienced by many black scholars today. Morris’ new book is called The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology.

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