The interest in studying culture empirically has been growing dramatically within the discipline, and Harvard has emerged as a leading center for cultural sociology.  In their respective work, faculty are concerned with interpretation, explanation, research design, and methodology. To gain purchase on the production and reproduction of social processes in which meaning-making is central and where culture is both causal agent and adaptive force, we study a wide range of practices and institutions, including racial identity, poverty and inequality, collective memory, symbolic boundaries, cultural capital, class culture, disciplinary cultures, evaluation, nationalism, colonialism, economic change, slavery, trafficking, freedom, popular and black youth cultures, sports, transnationalism, networks, and cognition. Our theoretical orientations are diverse and inclusive, ranging from pragmatist views of culture as dynamic and contextual practices to structural notions of culture as durable norms and values.

The department sponsors the Cultural and Social Analysis Workshop.

News related to Culture

Headshot of Bart Bonikowski, Assistant Professor of Sociology.

The Mobilization of Resentment: Making Sense of Populism, Nationalism, and Authoritarianism in the United States and Europe

September 7, 2017

Scholarly and journalistic accounts of the recent successes of radical-right candidates and parties in Europe and the United States tend to conflate three phenomena: populism, nationalism, and authoritarianism. While all three are relevant features of contemporary politics, they are neither coterminous nor limited to the political right. This lack of analytical clarity has hindered explanations of the causes and consequences of radicalism on both sides of the Atlantic. In a new project that builds on his past empirical research, Bart Bonikowski draws analytical distinctions between populism, nationalism, and authoritarianism, theorizes their elective affinities, and examines their shifting prevalence over the past three decades, both in political discourse and public attitudes.... Read more about The Mobilization of Resentment: Making Sense of Populism, Nationalism, and Authoritarianism in the United States and Europe

Viterna Team

Examining the Unintended Consequences of Social Mobilization

August 9, 2017

We tend to think of social movements as promoters of social change, but might they also be key agents in maintaining—and even reinforcing—the status quo? Harvard professor Jocelyn Viterna, with graduate student Bo Yun Park and undergraduate students Quinn Sluzenski, Enya Huang, and Bryant Park, are examining hundreds of press releases from 10 oppositional “pairs” of U.S. social movements (e.g., gun rights vs gun control, anti-abortion rights vs pro-abortion rights, etc) to examine this question. Building from existing social movement theory, our team hypothesizes that all social movements incorporate culturally resonant “tethers” into their calls for social change. ... Read more about Examining the Unintended Consequences of Social Mobilization

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