ICC Mini Conference 2007-2008

New Directions in the Sociology of Culture

(General explanation)

The goal of this workshop is to encourage discussions on the methodology of the sociology of culture among Sophia faculty and outside experts. The sociology of culture is a recognized sub-discipline of sociology. It brings together scholars involved in a wide range of empirical interests, but the core of the subfield could probably be described as applying sociological methodology to questions about the production, consumption and uses of cultural objects and cultural discourses. Typical subject areas include the sociology of literature, sociology of art and sociology of cuisine. That is the field typically focuses on the production and consumption of particular "cultural objects" (Griswold 2003).
However, other possible areas of focus include the sociology of ideas, sociology of space and the study of cultural ideas that are not so easily embodied in a material form, including historical constructs such as "romance" or pop cultural concepts such as "cool." In many respects the subject matter of the sociology of culture thus overlaps considerably with related disciplines such as anthropology and cultural studies. The major claim of distinction from these disciplines could be said to lie in the methodology of the sociology of culture. So it is imperative for those of us engaged in this discipline to consider what our appropriate methodological tools are, how these relate to larger sociological conceptions of "culture" and what we can learn from related disciplines, but also how to distinguish ourselves through our methodological innovations. In addition to the larger methodological issues, it is also important to simply discuss the new empirical research undertaken by leading scholars. Scholars in related disciplines can join in what should be an enjoyable multi-disciplinary conversation.

This workshop should also be useful in the educational development of both the undergraduate and graduate students. It is timed to coincide with Prof. James Farrer's 400 level seminar on the Sociology of Culture. So undergraduate students in that seminar will have a chance to meet with and hear talks by some of the important representatives of this field, including the author of their principle textbook. The workshop will also help in the development of the graduate program in global studies. A theme that runs through all the proposed talks is the globalization of culture, and how the sociology of culture can contribute to the conceptualization of these transnational cultural flows. All three of the invited presenters have important publications in that speak to the study of globalization as well as other issues of relevance to our faculty members including economic sociology and the sociology of religion.

The workshop will involve three invited guests and presenters, with discussants invited from Sophia University. There may be presentations from Sophia faculty as well.

Abstracts of proposed workshop presentations and invited presenters biographies:
Jumping on a just account: Globalization, new and old media, and cultural analysis
Wendy Griswold,
Northwestern University

This paper considers how the methods of cultural analysis used by sociologists must adjust to accelerated global circulations (of people, of images, of ideas), new media, Web 2.0 communities, and the interplay of unstable, participatory cultural formations of the twenty-first century with the more fixed, hierarchical cultural forms previously established. Through examples ranging from the Chinese Cultural Revolution to regional literature to the contemporary movement for local cuisines to Myspace.com, it explores the puzzles of explanation−"jumping on a just account," as Shakespeare called it− in contemporary culture.

Wendy Griswold holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is currently Arthur Anderson Research Professor of Sociology, Comparative Literary Studies, and English at Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois, USA) and Professor II, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, The University of Oslo (Norway). Her books include Bearing Witness: Readers, Writers, and the Novel in Nigeria (Princeton University Press, 2000), Cultures and Societies in a Changing World (Pine Forge Press, translated into Japanese and Italian; third edition coming out 2008), and Regionalism and the Reading Class (forthcoming 2007).

Mission Impossible: Product Mix as a Survival Strategy of Scholarly Publishers
Ikuya Sato,
Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Commerce and Management

On the basis of case studies of a number of publishers in Japan, this paper shows how scholarly publishers use product mix as a means to maintain their firms as going concerns while fulfilling their cultural responsibility. While the institutional theories of organizations provide the basic frame of analysis, special attention is paid to the multiplicity of the organizational field to which publishing firms belong. It is argued that the organizational field includes at least four "institutional logics" (i.e., culture, commerce, craft, and bureaucracy) and they constitute two major types of dilemmas for the publisher. One type of dilemma is concerned with the contradiction between culture and commerce and the other is concerned with the contradiction between craft and bureaucracy. The editor-centered and author-centered portfolios are two major product mix policies that can be identified as the means to bypass the craft-bureaucracy and culture-commerce dilemmas. In conclusion, this paper argues that four institutional logics coexisting in the multiplex organizational field correspond to four components of the hybrid organizational identity of a publisher: cultural institution, business, craft, and bureaucracy.

Ikuya Sato (Ph.D Chicago 1988) is professor of sociology and organizational science at Hitotsubashi University. His works include Kamikaze Biker (1991) and The Making of Contemporary Theatre in Japan (1999). He is currently engaged in ethnographic study on scholarly publishers.

Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism
David Smilde,
University of Georgia

Growth of Anglophone Evangelical Protestantism in traditionally-Catholic Latin America has received widespread attention and, unsurprisingly, has been given widely differing assessments. Neomarxist scholars see cultural movements like Latin American Evangelicalism as symptoms rather than solutions. Religious movements, in this view, clearly manifest discontent with conditions of inequality, poverty and suffering. But they are backward looking and inconsequential as solutions. Neoconservative scholars, influenced by Max Weber's classic The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, have long pointed towards cultural differences when seeking to explain the differential success of development between the United States and Latin America. Far more advanced at the end of the Eighteenth Century, during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Catholic Latin America was eclipsed by the Protestant North in terms of economic growth and political development. While, in this view, Latin American culture has traditionally been a hindrance, neoconservative scholars are hopeful that this "new reformation," this dramatic growth of Evangelical Protestantism, is an optimistic sign that change is in the works. Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism addresses these macro level arguments through a micro level ethnography. On the one hand, it critiques the neomarxist perspective by showing that Evangelical Protestantism is not a defensive reaction but a proactive, forward-looking means through which poor people gain agency vis-?-vis the processes affecting their lives. On the other hand, it shows that adopting this form of cultural agency is highly dependent on micro-social structure and therefore limited in scope. The most common form of cultural agency developing in South American megacities is the complex of crime, drugs and violence.

David Smilde (Ph.D Chicago 2000) is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia and author of Reason to Believe: Cultural Agency in Latin American Evangelicalism (University of California Press, 2007). During academic year 2006-07 he was a US Fulbright Scholar at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. His research focuses on religion, culture and social movements in Latin America.