Spring 2009

Cultural Differences

Listed in: Anthropology and Sociology, as SOCI-32


Ron Lembo (Section 01)


In this course we will examine the role difference has played in the culture of the United States at three key periods: the early 20th century, when culture competed with biology in the (eventual) formation of pluralist notions of democratic culture; the post-World War II era of civil rights, when the legislation of equality competed with segregationist and discriminatory ideas and practices in an economy of unprecedented growth in middle class consumerism; and the post-civil rights era, when globalization, changes in immigration policy, and economic polarization, among other things, contribute to distinctive transformations in the cultural make-up of American society. A variety of texts-fictional, historical, artistic, theoretical, and empirical-will be used in our investigation. Across these periods some of the important questions we will ask are: How adequate are conventional sociological ideas of culture-ideas that presume “cohesion” and “commonality,” among other things-when it comes to conceptualizing, documenting, and theorizing cultural difference? What are the consequences of accounting for cultural difference as something to be incorporated into what is, or could be, held in common by people? How does it matter when aspects of cultural difference-previously ignored or marginalized in hegemonic accounts-become the focal point of inquiry? How do we distinguish among discourses of cultural differences? Do they circulate in the social mainstream or remain marginal? How are they subject to cooptation, assimilation, or exploitation? Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Lembo.