We’ve got a new series for you where we answer listener questions about sociology, theory, grad school, and more! So, in our inaugural episode we’re answering a HUGE question: How do you define “society”? Sounds easy, but trust us (and the ~20 min length of this episode), it ain’t! Tune in here to learn how we define society and its close connection with culture! And if you have your own question to ask, don’t be shy and send it to us. We’d love to try to answer it!
We’re getting light-hearted in these crazy times and introducing you to the sociology of pop culture! In this episode, we use Dr. David Grazian’s work to explore what popular culture is and how it’s different from high culture. Then we make sense of culture’s role in globalization, and show how pop cultural products– like sitcoms, Taylor Swift songs, and anime– can act as forms of soft power. Tune in here to hear Penn and Omar nerd out on the intricacies of Naruto and Studio Ghibli, and to understand just how powerful and important pop culture is to our society!
Popular culture, society, music, entertainment, globalization, soft power, anime
Some earlier related episodes that you may find helpful!
Soft power is a term coined by economist Joseph Nye to refer to “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payment” (JSTOR).
Japan has been especially good at navigating soft power in popular culture with the use of mukokuseki or items/characters that lack in group membership, nationality, race/ethnicity, etc. They are stateless!
We’re getting theoretical this week and tackling Orientalism, a concept and book by the fantastic Dr. Edward Said. If you’re taking a higher-level sociology, anthropology, history, or poli sci class, chances are you’re gonna hear “orientalism” thrown around! What is heck is it? (Hint: It ain’t a rug, a fast-food take out place, or the way to describe how someone looks!) What is its connection to imperialism and colonialism? And how has it influenced scholarship and research in the past and present? Tune in to learn more and be sure to give us a rating!
This week, Ellen and Penn get together to discuss one of their favorite gestures in a breakaway episode: The middle finger! Using work by Jack Katz, they explore why we flip the bird, what a “well-flipped” finger looks like, and the history behind flicking people off. It’s phallic, offensive, and Ellen thinks it’s funny to do in family photos.
Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, it’s hard to avoid it. Not only is it a day of celebration for Christian religions, but it has become commercialized and commodified for the sake of consumption and capitalism. Christmas also has a strong culture associated with it, full of rituals and traditions–from decorating the tree to gift-giving to singing in groups in front of people’s houses. Join us this week as we discuss these rituals, and get some tips from our amazing sociology gift guide!
While Coca Cola did not create the image of the elderly Santa in his red suit and black belt and jolly smile, the company played a large role in shaping the global perception of Santa through commercialization and ad campaigns.
What’s your favorite brand? Do you believe in retail therapy? What about how ‘a diamond is forever’? Consumer culture surrounds us in every aspect of our social lives, and is virtually impossible to ignore, especially with the development of the internet and new media technologies that bombard us with ads while providing us with the tools to be creative and powerful consumers. But are you, the consumer, being exploited by big name corporations? Join us to find out!
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure. As wealth accumulates on his hands, his own unaided effort will not avail to sufficiently put his opulence in evidence by this method. The aid of friends and competitors is therefore brought in by resorting to the giving of valuable presents and expensive feasts and entertainments.
Exploitation occurs when someone or something (e.g., a material resource, an opportunity) is used or taken advantage of. Social scientists are chiefly concerned with the exploitation of people and classes, who are generally considered exploited if they are required, by force or by circumstances, to contribute more to some process than they receive in return.
Why does Kim K get to “break the internet?” Do celebrities reflect our exaggerated imaginations? Where does all that money go? Why does Woody Allen get to make movies and Ben Rothlisberger get to still play football? In this week’s we tackle Celebrity status and its presence in contemporary society. Trust us, there is no other status with this much power and mystery…let’s break it down.
Status, Celebrity, American Culture, Popular Culture, Entertainment, Celebrity culture
Short biography on Max Weber, one of the founding fathers of sociology
Jonathan Turner and Jan Stets’ (2004) The Sociology of Emotions – On Theodore Kemper’s theory on structure and emotions, status, and power.
Within social situations, individuals possess relative power (authority), or the ability to tell others what to do, and status (conceptualized as prestige or honor rather than as a position in a structure).
“Celebrity is an omnipresent feature of contemporary society, blazing lasting impressions in the memories of all who cross its path. In keeping with Weber’s conception of status, celebrity has come to dominate status “honor,” generate enormous economic benefits, and lay claim to certain legal privileges. Compared with other types of status, however, celebrity is status on speed. It confers honor in days, not generations; it decays over time, rather than accumulating; and it demands a constant supply of new recruits, rather than erecting barriers to entry.”
Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity (2013) – Evaluates the many taxonomies of “celebrity” and how the title has evolved with society and technology. He also devotes quite a bit of time to discussing how
“the celebrity industry is one that spends a great deal of its time masking the fact that it exists at all.”
Last week, we talked about culture and the elements that make up culture. We expand on that notion this week by discussing cultural appropriation – something that happens in all aspects of our social life, from music to fashion, and even history. Cultural appropriation, from a sociological perspective, is inherently tied to the notion of profit-making in our capitalist society. But how can we, as everyday individuals, appreciate culture without appropriating it? Join us as we try to tease apart this hairy question!
cultural appropriation, cultural appreciation, society, sociology, bourdieu
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In this episode, we tackle the concept of culture. ‘Culture’ is one of the most complex words in the English language, and every field has its own way of defining it, including sociology. We break down the various elements that make up culture from a sociological perspective, and focus on American culture– which is broad, yet rigid– as our main context. Then, we take a more personal look at how the three hosts have experienced American culture growing up. What do you think it takes to be an ‘American’? Join us as we search for an answer!