While religious rhetoric pervades everyday American culture and politics, the population of Americans who identify with no organized religion has actually quadrupled in just the last 25 years. Worldwide, the non-religious now make up the third largest “religious” category, following Christianity and Islam. In this episode, guest host Jacqui Frost interviews Dr. Lois Lee, whose new book Recognizing the Non-religious: Reimagining the Secular explores the variety of beliefs and identities found within this growing population. They discuss how atheism, the non-religious identity that receives by far the most media attention, is only one non-religious identity among many. Dr. Lee describes findings from her research on non-religious groups and individuals in Britain and the ways they think about, enact, and even wear their non-religion in daily life.
Heading into a new presidential election cycle, we reconnect with 2008 guest Dr Andrew Perrin to talk about changes in the American political public. In his new book, American Democracy: From Tocqueville to Town Halls to Twitter, Perrin brings a uniquely sociological approach to the study of democracy. More than polls, candidates, and institutions he shows how major elections become about the performance of certain “publics” as much as they decide which people should lead us.
Because they suffer from an invisible affliction, people with migraines are sometimes suspected of “making up” their disease in order to avoid performing unwanted duties. Even within psychology, women were once suspected of self-inducing their own migraines as a result of their inability to cope with the chaos of daily life. These days, neurobiological research has helped to establish migraine as a legitimate disease, with causes rooted within the organic structure of certain brains. However, as Rutgers professor Joanna Kempner explains, even this paradigm shift tends to imply that the feminine “migraine brain” differs from the masculine “normal brain” in problematic ways. In Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health, she explores how cultural assumptions about gender and pain continue to inform how migraines are diagnosed, treated, and stigmatized.
In this episode, Colorado State professor emeritus Peter M. Hall drops in to talk about his forthcoming memoir, “Growing up Red, White, and Jewish: the Personal and the Political”. We discuss the potential of memoir as a sociological method, and we consider how telling one’s life story helps to reshape identity in the context of place and history. An early draft of Peter’s memoir is available on ResearchGate.
It’s no secret that shifting economic winds have driven American workers to take on more work and more job changes today than in previous generations. But what does this shift mean in a culture where so many invest so much of their identities in their jobs? In this episode, guest host Lisa Gulya interviews professor Allison Pugh about her new book, The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity. In it, Dr Pugh investigates some of the ways that the precarious conditions in today’s workplace have generated ripple effects in the nature of relationships and family life. She explains how changes in obligations at work shape how we think about obligations and commitment in the most intimate corners of life.
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.
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.
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.
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 Blind. In 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.
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 America, a 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.