JTS 2015

Junior Theorists Symposium
University of Chicago
Social Sciences Room 122
August 21, 2015

Below, please find directions to the event, followed by the schedule and abstracts for each paper.


The Junior Theorists Symposium will take place in the Social Sciences Building (located here) at the University of Chicago, Room 122. If traveling from the ASA conference hotels, directions are as follows:

By Bus (recommended):

The CTA #6 Jackson Park Express bus will take you from downtown Chicago to Hyde Park. Catch the bus southbound on State Street in the Loop. Get off at 57th or 59th Street, walk under the train tracks, and continue west to the campus. For details, see the CTA Web Site.

By Train:

Catch the Metra Electric commuter train at Millenium Station (Randolph St.), the Van Buren stop, or the Museum Campus (Roosevelt St.) station. Get off at 57th or 59th Street and walk west to the campus. For details, see the Metra Web Site.

If you are not traveling from an ASA conference hotel, the University of Chicago provides more general directions to the campus here.

Schedule & Abstracts

8:30 – 9:00 | Coffee and Bagels

9:00 – 10:50 | Race and Gender

* Clayton Childress (University of Toronto) – “Cultures of Inequality: The “Double Match” of Race and Meaning”

Building off DiMaggio’s (1993) conception and Rivera’s (2012) analysis of cultural matching and Lamont, et al.’s (2014) “cultural processes” frameworks, this paper introduces the concept of “double matching,” in which cultural matches filter both through individuals and through the products of labor itself, objects. Using the case of selection decisions among literary agents and acquisition editors working on novels, this work highlights how unequal racial outcomes emerge through categorization, how cultural matching can operate even absent of cultural matches, and can instead be dependent on the classificatory schema of non-deliberative cognition in decision making. I close by suggesting three directions for future research: 1) further analysis of how racialized pathways of cultural inequality operate in cases in which the meaning or quality of labor cannot be bracketed out or “de-cultured”, 2) further study of the effects of micro-level cultural categorization on large-scale racial hierarchization in settings in which race and culture are believed to be tightly coupled, and 3) a renewed emphasis on the evaluation of meaning itself for objects as a causal variable in culture producing industries.

* Jason Orne (University of Wisconsin – Madison) – “A Theory of Sexual Racism”

This article presents a theory of sexual racism, a multilevel system of racialized sexual stratification, that explains racial preferences in sexual partners. Sociology uses rates of racial homophily and interracial relationships as a barometer for race relations. However, scholars analyze these partner choices asexually, as essentialist individual preferences or solely rooted in intergroup antipathy. This paper offers an alternative explanation of interracial relationships, arguing an individual’s partner choice is constructed and constrained by a system of sexual racism that privileges whites and harms people of color, like systems of racial oppression within the economic or political fields. Following calls to locate the causes of interracial romance earlier in the relationship formation process, this paper looks at the production of raced sexuality as sex, desire, and ‘hooking up.’ Integrating a wide-range of prior empirical evidence with ethnographic data from a ‘sexual field’ in Chicago, this paper demonstrates structural availability, cultural hierarchies of attractive- ness, and interactional search methods influence racial partner selection. At each level, people participate in sexual racism. They are agents in production and resistance, not mere passive subjects of its power. Sexual racism demonstrates that interracial relationships mix processes of fetishism and exclusion, produced by an intersectional oppression. Instead of using interracial relationships, scholars should use the framework of sexual racism to understand the interplay between sexuality and race at multiple levels.

* Sarah Mayorga-Gallo (University of Cincinnati) – “Diversity as Ideology in Multiethnic Spaces”

In the following paper I argue that diversity is a racial ideology that maintains white dominance in multiethnic spaces. Diversity ideology helps reconcile persistent racial inequity and a national emphasis on egalitarianism within a multiethnic US context through three tenets: diversity as acceptance; diversity as commodity; and diversity as intent. Below I discuss three antecedent theories of race and space and then present diversity ideology as a new theoretical paradigm for understanding racial and spatial issues in the US. I describe three tenets of this ideology and present a case study of a multiethnic neighborhood to explore lay usages of diversity ideology.

Discussant: Patricia Hill Collins (University of Maryland)

10:50 – 11:00 | Coffee

11:00 – 12:50 | The State and Globalization

* Anna Skarpelis (New York University) – “Brutality in Stone? Nazi Germany, the Japanese Colonial Empire and Insidiously Racialised Welfare States”

Much like the ‘testaments in tone’, the National Socialist buildings Alexander Kluge shot in long takes for his 1961 filmBrutality in Stone, notions of race emanate from German and Japanese institutions throughout the 20th century. Yet, even on the 70th anniversary of both countries’ defeat, we still know little about the intertwined histories of race and institution building, especially in the case of welfare state building. Where present, accounts are frequently analytically flaccid and contain categorical reifications of race giving short shrift to the complexities of racial formation. In this paper, I focus on welfare state building as a fertile site for interrogating the role that race has played in institution building. So far, race is completely missing from comparative welfare state and social policy research on Europe and East Asia. Welfare states are an instrument of redistribution that significantly affects life chances, but they also reveal nations’ moral and normative judgments as to who belongs, and how those people should be governed (Foucault 2004 [1979]; Garland 2013). They are further a productive site for interrogating how the fruits of citizenship are distributed in practice, as they reveal underlying racial and gender tensions through patterns of accessibility and distribution (Fox 2012; Katznelson 2013; Tsuchiya 2008; Ward 2005). Race operates insidiously in the double sense within the German and Japanese welfare states: On the one hand, it does through a gradual encroachment into provision, leading to patterned and frequently unjust outcomes. In a second, historically contingent sense, it does so in its instantiation as ever-changing and amorphous concept, languishing under-specified in the hands of those arguing for a clean slate post-1945, race-wise. Empirically, the paper draws on Japanese and German-language archival and other primary sources culled over several years of fieldwork in archives in both countries; on archived oral history; as well as on French and Italian-language secondary sources.

* Ana Velitchkova (Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile) – “Aiming at the Equal Community, Producing Inequality: The Community Logic Meets the Logic of Practice in the Making of the Global Esperanto Field”

What accounts for why institutional projects based on the community logic in pursuit of universal equality and solidarity end up (re)producing inequalities? I use the case of the successful establishment of a global community around the constructed language Esperanto to propose three mechanisms that underlie this undesirable outcome. I find that the culprit can be a contradiction between the explicit community logic and the implicit logic of practice as a community is established via three institutional carriers. (1) Creating community organizations relies on particular forms of cultural capital resulting in the unintended de facto exclusion of persons not in possession of such capital. (2) Instituting community principles can bring conflicts over which principles best serve the goals of pursuing authenticity, autonomy, and growth, leading to firming of the boundaries of the community and thus undermining its universal aspiration. (3) Establishing even a simple community language standard, while ensuring the sought-after community cohesion, provides a criterion for creating a taken-for-granted membership hierarchy based on appropriate language competences. Because a community depends on shared embodied competencies among community practitioners, the unequal distribution of these competences results in patterns of implicitly recognized stratification that violate its explicit “inclusionist” logic.

* Jeffrey Weng (University of California – Berkeley) – “Linguistic Modernity: The Limits of Ideology and State Power in the Creation of Modern Standard Languages”

This essay names and describes the concept “linguistic modernity,” which is defined as an ideological stance on language practices and also, when realized, a condition of social life. Linguistic modernity calls for modern standard languages to be at the top of language hierarchies and universalized within a given national territory, and thus a unified linguistic field in the Bourdieusian sense. Linguistic modernity distinguishes itself, therefore, from the linguistic premodernity, in which in many parts of the world, a supraregional classical language was used by a thin stratum of literate elites to communicate in government and in scholarship. I also argue that linguistic modernity is closely bound up with nationalism, which links language to national identity and thus territoriality. This picture of neatly demarcated national linguistic fields is complicated by global developments in recent decades, introducing foreign languages like English to the top of linguistic hierarchies in non-English-speaking nations. This interposing of global English is an indication of the incompleteness (and perhaps incompletableness) of the linguistic modernist vision.

Discussant: George Steinmetz (University of Michigan – Ann Arbor)

12:50 – 2:00 | Lunch

2:00 – 2:30 | Junior Theorist Award: Claire Laurier Decoteau and Isaac Reed

*Claire Laurier Decoteau (University of Illinois – Chicago)

2:30 – 4:20 | Culture

* Ekedi Mpondo-Dika (Harvard University) – “How Institutions Feel: Funeral Homes, Human Service Agencies, and the Institutional Patterning of Emotion”

What do funeral homes and human service agencies have in common? Both are institutions whose business-as-usual is to deal with people in distress. Both have complex, even contradictory mandates vis-à-vis their clients’ afflictions: part of their staff’s work consists in attending to clients’ feelings, but another part of their work focuses on logistical and administrative tasks, to which clients’ distress is an impediment sometimes best ignored or suppressed. Depending on how workers balance these missions, clients’ emotional experiences of grief and poverty, respectively, are likely to vary. Thus, funeral direction and human service work constitute two critical cases for the investigation of a larger social process: the institutional patterning of emotional life in contemporary society. Because the sociology of emotions has either emphasized the interactional emergence of emotions or, when considering the impact of larger social structures, has focused almost exclusively on workplaces’ impingement on employees’ feelings, theorizing the institutional structuration of emotional experience requires building a new conceptual framework. Drawing on both neo-Durkheimian and neo-institutionalist insights, I propose the concept of institutional emotion-making, which emphasizes institutions’ role in selecting, relaying, and entrenching some cultural categories of feeling at the expense of others. I argue that this new concept has the benefit of connecting the microlevel patterning of situated feelings to the macrolevel distribution of emotional experiences across people and over time. This theoretical model, in turn, has implications both for the study of historical changes in widely shared affective regimes as well as for the analysis of emotional inequality as a key dimension of social stratification.

* Brad Vermurlen (Notre Dame) – “Structural Overlap and the Management of Cultural Marginality: The Case of Calvinist Hip-Hop”

This study explains four ways cultural marginality is managed when it comes to the issue of cultural production, both by the producers themselves and by field-specific cultural authorities. To do so, it revives the prewar concepts of “the marginal man” and “marginal culture” and reframes them in terms of overlapping social structures. As a case of this general phenomenon, this project investigates the public discourse and performances of 22 Calvinist hip-hop artists affiliated with five start-up record labels, showing how they navigate their place on the margins of both mainstream American hip-hop and their own conservative religious movement. The findings specify four causal mechanisms for the management of marginality, the first two treating artists as direct object and the latter two with artists as subject, namely: authorities as gatekeepers grant moral acceptability upon the marginal product, those authorities conspicuously display the marginal product and the producers in order to demonstrate their own commitment to inclusion, the artists draw symbolic boundaries to avoid being pigeonholed, and the artists insist upon the unity of their self-understandings to foster authenticity. The article ends by discussing how this work contributes to the sociology of religion, sociological theory, and cultural sociology.

* Natalie B. Aviles (University of California – San Diego) – “Moving targets in the ‘War on Cancer’: toward a pragmatic event-based theory of organizational culture in the National Cancer Institute”

Diane Vaughan has argued that organizations are a “black box” in the sociology of science, as dominant theoretical frameworks in the field obviate organizations as an important level of analysis. As a consequence, the field has failed to develop a systematic theoretical understanding of how organizational structures and organizational cultures shape the development of certain social kinds. In this paper, I offer a preliminary sketch of a theory of organizational culture for sociology of science, modifying Hernes’ process theory of organization using contemporary sociological approaches that elaborate upon insights from American pragmatism. I offer this synthesis, a “pragmatic process theory of organization,” as a theoretical lens for analyzing the role organizations play in the emergence of technoscientific kinds. I then apply a pragmatic process theory of organization to analyze the formation of translational research, showing how it was indelibly shaped by the organizational culture of the National Cancer Institute.

Discussant: Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University)

4:30 – 5:45 | After-panel: On Abstraction

* Kieran Healy (Duke)

* Virag Molnar (The New School)

* Andrew Perrin (UNC-Chapel Hill)

* Kristen Schilt (University of Chicago)

5:45 – ? | Theory in the Wild: Beer, wine, and good conversation (off-site)

The Junior Theorists Symposium is an open event. In order to facilitate planning, please RSVP by sending an email to juniortheorists@gmail.com with the subject line “JTS RSVP.” We suggest an on-site donation of $20 per faculty member and $10 per graduate student to cover event costs.

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