On 25 November 2013, we held a one-day symposium on Cultural Sociology Today at La Trobe University in Melbourne. Tim Graham reflects on the event below.
Several weeks ago I had the great fortune of attending the ‘Cultural Sociology Today’ Symposium. This well-attended event was hosted by La Trobe University and organised by the TASA Cultural Sociology Thematic Group and the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology. As a newcomer to Cultural Sociology, the Symposium served as somewhat of an introductory tour. Well, it left quite an impression on me! The depth and breadth of scholarship was astounding, with topics that included: the nature of culture itself; academic cultural pub crawls; teaching cultural sociology through music; mourning the dead on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube; the ‘minimal self’ as a tool for charismatic empowerment; the threat of a meaningless death and the search for meaning in modern literature; why Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is not indeed great; the hidden anxieties of the American middle-class revealed in pop TV shows; the complexity and meaning of ‘class analysis’ in Australian history; and the search for a meaningful life as expressed in popular film and television narratives such as Toy Story and The Sopranos. I was not aware that such stimulating, and ultimately entertaining, topics constituted the basis for cultural sociological inquiry; nor was I aware of the scope and impact that Australian cultural sociology seems to be having with respect to key contemporary debates.