Author Archives: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

american democracy

My new book on American Democracy is out (hooray!). I tried to write it as an accessible argument for understanding democracy as essentially a social and cultural achievement: the back-and-forth interactions among citizens and institutions of government, structured through rules, ideas, and technologies that foster the formation of publics. Below the break are a few […]

more on text analysis

Laura Nelson has an excellent discussion of topic modeling on badhessian, which in part takes me to task for my comments on the Poetics issue on topic modeling. Unfortunately the diqus system that handles comments there doesn’t like me, and so has eaten my comments twice. So I’m posting them here, and perhaps someone smarter […]

brecht predicts twitter

I’m reading an old article by Oskar Negt, and what should be the epigraph but a prescient quote from Brecht’s Radio Theory (1927): If I believed that our present bourgeoisie were going to live another hundred years, then I would be certain that it would continue to babble on for hundreds of years about the […]

some thoughts on the american studies israel boycott

I do not agree with the American Studies Association (hereafter oASA, for “other ASA”) boycott of Israel, nor with the broader BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement of which it is a part. I say this recognizing that Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and especially Gaza is appalling; I believe the Israeli rejection of Palestinians’ […]

free speech, kansas, and duck dynasty

Two big free-speech matters are making headlines today. First, Phil Roberts of the show Duck Dynasty made some truly ugly comments in an interview with GQ, which prompted A&E to suspend him from the show. Predictably enough, the right-wing meme has become “the left is tolerant of everything as long as you agree with them.” […]

long live the fact/value distinction

Phil Gorski’s argument that the fact/value distinction is bankrupt is out in Society, along with a marquee of big-name responses. Phil and I had an interesting and productive exchange on the article this fall. The exchange follows here, with Phil’s permission. I still think I’m right!

some thoughts on mandela and apartheid

I don’t have anything as eloquent as Tim Burke to say about Mandela and the discourse around his death. Like many politically-active people of my generation, I found great inspiration not just from Mandela in particular but from the grand struggle against apartheid. Apartheid was the great moral struggle of the late 20th century. In […]

topic modeling and a theory of language

The much-anticipated special issue of Poetics devoted to topic modeling in cultural sociology is now available, and it’s a beaut! Props to John Mohr and Petko Bogdanov for editing the special issue, and to all the authors for an exciting group of articles. There is, quite appropriately, a lot of buzz about the potential of […]

on teaching durkheim at the high holidays

Many Septembers I find myself teaching Durkheim right around the Jewish high holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). I’ve often felt a degree of connection between the two: the juxtaposition between ritual and scholarship that characterizes the high holiday services, the emphasis on separating the holy from the ordinary, the sacred from the profane. My […]

junior theorists’ symposium

The Junior Theorists’ Symposium has been a really successful, exciting place to be for a good number of years now. Tell everyone you know to submit and attend!

that faculty impact “study”

I got a call this morning from the Daily Tar Heel because, while UNC was dead last among the 94 universities covered in the study Kieran has been mocking for its invention of an MIT sociology department, I am apparently the third-most-impactful faculty member in that dubious list. Talk about damning with faint praise.

beyond the existence proof

In response to Fabio’s defense of nonrepresentative sampling, Sam Lucas sent his paper, “Beyond the Existence Proof,” published last year. Fabio mentions Lucas’s article in his follow-up, but doesn’t really address the claims in the paper. I hadn’t seen it before Sam sent it, but after reading it I think it’s really smart and deserves […]

elysium and the fact/value distinction

I saw the new Matt Damon movie, Elysium, this summer. I loved the prior movie by the same director (Neill Bloemkamp), District 9, which is a dystopian alien-visitation movie wrapped up in an extended allegory for apartheid.  Like District 9, Elysium has an explicit political message along with plenty of violence, action, and gore (all of […]

racial coding in the skies

On the way to a wonderful vacation this summer, I flew Delta RDU-ATL-SEA and SEA-MSP-RDU. The flights in and out of SEA showed Delta’s edgy new safety videos, a version of one of which is here: (The versions I saw were slightly different, as I’ll describe below. One was on a 767-300, the other on […]

is obesity a problem?

I started this post as a reply to the OrgTheory thread on obesity but it got long enough I decided to move it here. With all due respect, I think the claim that “obesity is not the problem” is overstated. I suspect that this overstatement is due in part to medical sociology’s tendency to infer […]

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