Diversity is one of those concepts that is all but taken for granted as a good and desirable quality in American social life. However, as professor Ellen Berrey explains, the actual institutions and practices designed to promote diversity can sometimes obscure real inequalities and limit the ways we think about social justice. Her new book, The Enigma of Diveristy: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice, chronicles three cases – one at a university, one in a neighborhood, and one at a large corporation – that demonstrate some of the problems that the idealization of diversity raises for minorities in America today.

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The University of Toronto’s Erik Schneiderhan drops by to chat about his brand new book, The Size of Others’ Burdens: Barack Obama, Jane Addams, and the Politics of Helping Others. In it, Dr. Schneideran delves into the seemingly parallel biographies of Obama and Adams in order to understand the cultural pressures facing public servants in America.

As we discuss their many surprising similarities, we also explore some of the productive tensions that emerge from a sociological approach to biography, and the many interesting issues that arise from a biographical approach to studying culture and history.

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In this week’s episode, guest host Stephen Suh interviews Dr Lisa Cacho, who is an associate professor of Latina/Latino studies and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois. Together, they discuss Dr Cacho’s recent book Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected. In it, Dr Cacho explains the sociological concept of “social death” and how it often applies to racial minorities in America. Her book explores how the notion of a racial Other contributes to the criminalization of people on the basis of status, rather than their behavior.

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University of Michigan professor Greta Krippner offers a sociological perspective on changes that have made the American economy dangerously dependent on credit and speculation in recent decades. Her book, Capitalizing on Crisis, describes the government’s role in supporting this system, even as it continues to spiral through periodic disaster.

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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.

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Professor Susan Terrio of Georgetown University discusses her new book, Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in U.S. Immigration Custody. In it, Dr Terrio considers the fraught relationship between the American government and the thousands of child detainees placed under both its care and prosecution. Her work reveals how the immigration system shapes the boundaries of childhood, culpability, and the American Dream.

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In this episode, professor Joyce Bell explains the legacy of activists in community organizations that emerged as a result of the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 70s. Her work demonstrates both the resources and tensions that radical social movements bring to institutions in civil society. Her new book is called The Black Power Movement and American Social Work.

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Guest host Sarah Shannon interviews Victor Rios, professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. In his recent ethnography, Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys, Dr. Rios searches for ways that police and a culture of punishment cause boys of color to internalize fatalistic attitudes about class and race. His book is the winner of several awards, including the American Sociological Association’s Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award.

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In this episode, Wellesley College professor Hahrie Han discusses some of the findings from her book, How Organizations Develop Activists: Civic Associations and Leadership in the 21st Century. In it, Dr Han explores how modern political organizations employ new strategies to inspire action and enthusiasm in the digital age.

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In this episode, we talk to Tim Pippert, Associate Professor of Sociology at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. In his recent co-authored paper, “We’ve Got Minorities, Yes We Do: Visual Representations of Racial and Ethnic Diversity In College Recruitment Materials“, Pippert explores the over-representation of students of color on college brochures throughout the United States. In this episode, we discuss, the over-representation of students of color in brochures, the motivation of colleges to over-represent, and the meaning of diversity on college campuses.