Cultural Sociology Publications

Interview (audio) with Tony Bennett on his new book “Making Culture, Changing Society”


[Re-blogged from New Books in Critical Theory]
 Interview with Tony Bennett [ 1:03:04 ] Hide Player | Play in Popup | Download
In his new book Making Culture, Changing Society (Routledge, 2013), Professor Tony Bennett aims to change the way we think about culture. The book uses four core ideas about the nature and meaning of culture to present a view that does not see culture as just a set of signs and symbols. Rather culture is a form of knowledge practice, bound up with material conditions and institutions, which is implicated in the production of persons and freedoms. Making Culture, Changing Society justifies this view of culture in two ways. In the first instance the book considers how specific humanities disciplines, associated with anthropology and aesthetics, have been used to distribute ideas of freedom and ideas of the person within liberal government. Bennett uses examples from anthropological studies of colonial societies, along with discussions of the role of aesthetics for theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu, to show the function of culture and its interdependence with forms of knowledge. At the same time the book insists on the material aspects of these discussions, using the example of Melbourne’s National Museum of Victoria and Paris’ Musee de l’Homme.
The book offers an important intervention into debates on culture and public policy, grounding questions of rights and representations within the historical project of liberal government. Moreover it develops a critique of the assumptions surrounding culture as a potentially positive or beneficial force for social change, raising profound questions for public, politics and policy.

New article: ‘What’s on your mind?’ Writing on Facebook as a tool for self-formation

Theresa Sauter
New Media and Society
Published online before print July 8, 2013, doi: 10.1177/1461444813495160


In the context of modern western psychologised, techno-social hybrid realities, where individuals are incited constantly to work on themselves and perform their self-development in public, the use of online social networking sites (SNSs) can be conceptualised as what Foucault has described as a ‘technique of self’. This article explores examples of status updates on Facebook to reveal that writing on Facebook is a tool for self-formation with historical roots. Exploring examples of self-writing from the past, and considering some of the continuities and discontinuities between these age-old practices and their modern translations, provides a non-technologically deterministic and historically aware way of thinking about the use of new media technologies in modern societies that understands them to be more than mere tools for communication.

New Cultural Sociology Reader

Teaching cultural sociology and looking for a textbook? This new collection of essays may be just what you’re after.

Cultural Sociology: An Introductory Reader
by Matt Wray

cultural sociology readerA comprehensive and clever mix of classic and contemporary essays on the sociology of culture.

Cultural sociology has grown to exercise a deep influence on other subfields over the last forty years, on areas such as the study of race and ethnicity, education, social movements, economic sociology, and political sociology. This mix of essays is an essential resource for understanding this fast growing, dynamic area of sociology. An introduction outlines the building blocks of a sociological approach to studying culture, and helpful headnotes guide students through each reading.


See the publisher’s website for an overview of included essays and PDF access to the introductory chapter.

Publications on knowledge work and policy discourses

Some interesting recent publications co-authored by CS group members:

Singh, P., Märtsin, M., Glasswell, K. (2013). Knowledge Work at the Boundary: Making a Difference to Educational Disadvantage. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 15 March 2013

This paper aims to contribute to the literature about boundary crossing and explicate how boundaries carry learning potential. We aim to do this by theorising the work of school-based researchers (SBRs) in a school–university partnership project aimed at addressing issues of educational disadvantage. We conceptualise the worlds of teaching and research as characterised by different types of knowledge work and ways of knowing, and by different interaction rituals and emotional investments for engaging with that knowledge. Yet we also contend that the practice boundary that separates also connects and intertwines, as people, objects and knowledge move back and forth across it and become transformed in the process. We suggest that the kind of transformative knowledge work discussed in this paper entails understanding the power and control relations involved in recontextualising knowledge as it moves across the research–practice gap. This process necessitates recognising and acknowledging the emotional investments, energies and interaction rituals attached to local, domain specific knowledge and ways of knowing. By discussing the work of school-based researchers we aim to show how processes of recontextualisation at the boundary between researcher and practitioner knowledge can hold the potential to make a difference to issues of seemingly entrenched educational disadvantage.

Singh, P.,Thomas, S. & Harris, J. (2013) Recontextualising policy discourses: a Bernsteinian perspective on policy interpretation, translation, enactment, Journal of Education Policy, DOI:10.1080/02680939.2013.770554

This paper contributes to critical policy research by theorising one aspect of policy enactment, the meaning making work of a cohort of mid-level policy actors. Specifically, we propose that Basil Bernstein’s work on the structuring of pedagogic discourse, in particular, the concept of recontextualisation, may add to understandings of the policy work of interpretation and translation. Recontextualisation refers to the relational processes of selecting and moving knowledge from one context to another, as well as to the distinctive re-organisation of knowledge as an instructional and regulative or moral discourse. Processes of recontextualisation necessitate an analysis of power and control relations, and therefore add to the Foucauldian theorisations of power that currently dominate the critical policy literature. A process of code elaboration (decoding and recoding) takes place in various recontextualising agencies, responsible for the production of professional development materials, teaching guidelines and curriculum resources. We propose that mid-level policy actors are crucial to the work of policy interpretation and translation because they are engaged in elaborating the condensed codes of policy texts to an imagined logic of teachers’ practical work. To illustrate our theoretical points we draw on data; collected for an Australian research project on the accounts of mid-level policy actors responsible for the interpretation of child protection and safety policies for staff in Queensland schools.