public, declarative, and nondeclarative: the new lizardian synthesis in cultural sociology

Omar Lizardo has a wonderful new theory piece forthcoming in ASR: Improving Cultural Analysis: Considering Personal Culture in its Declarative and Nondeclarative Modes. Drawing on a mix of cognitive science and cultural sociology, Lizardo offers a useful vocabulary for engaging in the titular task of improving cultural analysis. In particular, he distinguishes public culture from personal culture, and within personal culture, he distinguishes “declarative” and “nondeclarative” culture. This simple tripartite division, which mirrors and draws from many similar sorts of accounts such as work on tacit knowledge in STS, lets him clarify many of the existing debates in cultural sociology and its applications. I found this chart particularly useful:

Lizardo ASR 2016 Table 1.png

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guest post: what vichy france can teach us about the normalization of state violence

The following is a guest post by Aliza Luft.

On July 10th 1940, the French Third Republic was dissolved and a new authoritarian government came to power. Led by Prime Minister Phillipe Pétain, the Vichy regime tried to re-organize French social life — to “Make France Great Again,” one might say. Also known as the “National Revolution,” the Vichy shift from Republicanism’s civic virtues of liberty, equality, and fraternity to the principles of work, family, and fatherland brought with it an ethnic nationalism that privileged ancestry, tradition, and religion as if biologically transmitted. Consequently, the regime’s first targets were “others” considered external to the national, and supposedly natural community: foreigners and Jews.

My research on civilian decision-making in violent contexts often urges comparison to present-day politics, particularly where it seems to presage the implementation and normalization of violent legislation—statutes, laws, rules, and policies that define, isolate, separate, and even attempt to eliminate subsets of a population. As in America today, the citizens of France in 1940 were asked to adapt to massive changes in how their country is organized and who belongs. In France, a political sea change ultimately transformed attitudes and actions once thought beyond the pale into ho-hum parts of daily life.

To be sure, much has already been written about normalization in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and transition in the run-up to the January 20, 2017 inauguration of Donald J. Trump (for example, here and here). Consequently, I will only describe two of my research findings about the Vichy government’s attempted normalization of the authoritarian and ethnic nationalist National Revolution (1940-1944) to analyze them against present-day American analogs.

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guest post: new census race classifications are about civil rights, not discrimination

The following is a post by Emily Klancher Merchant.

In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, warns that two changes to the 2020 census, recently proposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), will “aggravate the volatile social frictions that created today’s poisonous political climate in the first place”. One change would combine the currently-separate questions on race and Hispanic origin. The second would add “Middle East or North Africa” as a potential answer to that combined question. Gonzalez disingenuously claims that these changes – along with existing efforts by the Census Bureau and other statistical agencies to classify the U.S. population by race, ethnicity, or national origins – will undermine the unity of the American people. Certainly, in its nearly 230-year history, the U.S. Census has participated in racist projects from slavery to Jim Crow to the 1924 National Origins Act to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Today, however, the census is the government’s primary statistical tool for the enforcement of civil rights legislation and the administration of programs aimed at redressing our country’s long history of race-based discrimination, oppression, and plunder. The proposed changes are an attempt by the demographers of the Census Bureau to make our statistical system better reflect the complex categories of identity in the United States that continue to structure inclusion and exclusion, oppression and privilege. Efforts to block the reporting of race, ethnicity, or national origins in the census aim to undermine scientific analysis of discrimination and policy measures that promote equity. Understanding the changes proposed by OMB and Gonzalez’s opposition requires understanding the history of race in the census both before and after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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guest post: safety pins, awareness ribbons, and the challenges of new symbols

The following is a guest post by Terence E. McDonnell. 


For many Americans, safety pins have suddenly appeared everywhere: Pinned to shirts, posted to Facebook, or worn by celebrities. When I started wearing one a handful of strangers asked “what the heck are these safety pins all about?” This is the challenge of new symbols. Before they can work people need to know what they mean.

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