Departmental Colloquium

2023-24 Series

Rogers BrubakerDistinguished Professor, Sociology, UCLA

Digital hyperconnectivity and politics: between populism and technocracy


Digital hyperconnectivity has reshaped political life by transforming regimes of knowing, regimes of feeling, and regimes of governing. It has altered ways of knowing the public world by weakening epistemic authority, reinforcing epistemic suspicion and distrust, and eroding the foundations of a shared public world, contributing thereby to epistemic paralysis on the one hand and epistemic polarization on the other. Hyperconnectivity has altered regimes of public feeling by encouraging the expression and mobilization of moral outrage and thereby deepening partisan antipathy and affective polarization. And it has altered regimes of governing by enabling new modalities of algorithmic regulation, public and private.  The talk concludes by highlighting the tension between the technocratic premises and modalities of algorithmic governance and the populist regimes of digitally mediated knowing and feeling and by specifying how hyperconnectivity can promote both populism and its seeming antithesis, technocracy.

Tracie Canada, Assistant Professor, Cultural Anthropology, Duke University

“I’m just an X in their playbook”: Care and Concern for Black Football Bodies 


While the team is the most normative notion of community and family in American football, I challenge the effectiveness of this trope for Black college football players. Football performs what I call corporeal concern, a kind of bodily maintenance that is invested in extracting a player’s productive value on the field. Players are datafied and quantified in a way that ultimately makes them legible to Football as individual bodies that matter for the good of the team. Thus, corporeal concern, an anti-Black strategic ploy disguised as care, is motivated by a capitalist impulse that exploits predominantly Black athletic labor.

Casey Stockstill, Dept of Sociology, Dartmouth 

False Starts: The Segregated Lives of Preschoolers

Since Head Start began in the 1960s, policymakers and academics have celebrated preschool as an anti-poverty policy. Drawing on two years of observations that centered children’s experiences in two different preschools, I show how preschools entrench rather than disrupt inequality. In no small part this happens because preschools across the nation are more segregated than elementary, middle, or high schools. I show how such segregation played out in the lives of poor children of color in one preschool and white, affluent, children in another. Racism and the harshness of US poverty had troubling implications for children’s time use, peer interaction, access to objects, and sense of closeness with teachers. Rather than give children a complete, early advantage, I argue that segregated preschools give children a false start to experiencing full membership in the social world of schools. 

Ken Chih-Yan Sun, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Villanova University

The Micro-politics of Recognition and Care: How Adult Children in Urban China Negotiate Relationships with Emigrant Siblings

Abstract: Drawing on 65 qualitative interviews, this research develops the concept of “economies of recognition” to analyze the moral frames that siblings caring for left-behind parents in China use to negotiate intimate connections to their emigrant brothers and sisters. We argue that the impact of family dislocation on sibling relations is shaped by family members’ co-constructed relational infrastructure. Our findings identify four types of relational infrastructure—collaboration, intrusion/interference, voluntary takeover, and feeling left behind—that mediate the impact of geographic proximity on parental caregiving. We suggest that the interplay between physical distance and elder care is emotionally experienced, interactionally evaluated, and symbolically understood. Understanding solidarity, conflicts, and ambivalence in the contexts of family crisis requires a close examination of how members of a care network attribute each other’s roles and contributions to power symmetry or asymmetry. This explains why the advice, information, money, people, and emotions that are circulated are thought of as helpful resources in some cases but perceived as constraints in others.

Ming-Te Wang, Ed.D., Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Just Discipline in Schools: Promoting Engaging and Inclusive School Climates through Research-Practice Partnerships

Racial disparities in school discipline and achievement have engendered an equity crisis within American schools. The urgent need for collaborative efforts to tackle educational inequality has never been more pronounced. But what constitutes a productive research-practice partnership? In this presentation, Prof. Ming-Te Wang will illustrate how the partnership between university researchers and community partners has effectively addressed disciplinary issues in school settings. Specifically, Wang will (a) discuss two empirical studies on the impact of exclusionary discipline on students' perceptions of school climate and academic achievement, and (b) showcase the Just Discipline Project, a school-wide intervention program that integrates principles of restorative justice, socioemotional learning, and community building into disciplinary policies and practices.

About Professor Wang

Dr. Ming-Te Wang is a Professor at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice and serves as the Faculty Director of the Urban Education Institute. Wang’s work investigates how systemic inequalities contribute to differential educational, socioemotional, and health outcomes among minoritized and marginalized youth. His research takes an integrative sociocultural approach to understanding youth development within and across school, family, and community contexts with an emphasis on issues of diversity, inclusion, and equity. His work is uniquely positioned to address developmental challenges in sociocultural contexts that may differentially influence children and adolescents of historically stigmatized groups. Wang’s scholarship has been nationally and internationally recognized with Early- and Mid-Career Distinguished Contribution Awards from multiple professional organizations in child development, education, and psychology.

Neil Gong, Assistant Professor, UC San Diego

Neil Gong, “Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics: Mental Illness and Homelessness in Los Angeles.”

Abstract. This talk compares public safety net and elite private psychiatric treatment in Los Angeles to show how inequality shapes the very meanings of mental illness, recovery, client choice, and personhood. In Downtown LA, the crises of homelessness and criminalization mean public providers define recovery as getting a client housed, not in jail, and not triggering emergency calls. Given insufficient treatment capacity, providers eschew discipline for a “tolerant containment” model that accepts medication refusal and drug use so long as deviant behavior remains indoors. For elite private providers serving wealthy families, on the other hand, recovery means normalization and generating a respectable identity. Far from accepting madness and addiction, providers use a “concerted constraint” model to therapeutically discipline wayward adult children. Turning theoretical expectation on its head, the ethnography shows how “freedom” becomes an inferior good and disciplinary power a form of privilege.

Bio. Neil Gong is assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego. He uses diverse empirical cases to study power and social control in modernity, with a particular focus on understanding American liberalism and libertarianism. To this end, he has investigated civil liberties dilemmas in psychiatric care and the maintenance of social order in a “no rules” fight club. He is author of Sons, Daughters, and Sidewalk Psychotics (UChicago 2024) and co-editor (with Corey Abramson) of Beyond the Case: The Logics and Practices of Comparative Ethnography (Oxford University Press 2020). Neil's public writings appear in such venues as the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.