These are just some of the questions we ask about social life. Clearly, at the cultural sociology programme group we study a wide variety of social phenomena. Also, we use a broad array of data and research methods and techniques, such as observational data, network analysis, computer simulated modelling, various forms of interviewing, video-analysis, statistical modelling of very large N datasets, and Q-analysis.
Dynamics of culture are crucial to understand social life
While the above questions show the broad interests that are represented in our group and our pragmatic approach to social scientific methodologies, we share an understanding that the dynamics (invention, accumulation, diffusion, adjustment and dissolution) of culture is crucial to understand human social life. Without culture, social life would be hard to imagine. While other species mostly rely on their instincts in order to survive, human beings use culture to do so. It is human nature to use culture in at least two different ways.
First of all, people (re)produce meaning as we engage with others, with the objects which surround us and with the environment we are part of; we categorize and identify. For instance, in some situations we categorize others on the basis of gender, in others on the basis of their race, their nationality or, frequently, on the basis of some mixture of categories. In doing so, we include and exclude, and reproduce symbolic and moral boundaries in order to make that happen.
Secondly, unlike other species, we turn the world and ourselves into an object that we can try to understand and act upon. Culture in this sense can be understood as the great manifold of such expressions, including religion, music, literature, body ornaments, science and art. These forms of culture are usually enacted and embedded in institutions, organizations, fields, practices and social networks. We thus study the way in which particular cultural fields and organizations operate – such as fields of education, fashion, fine art, literature, media, music and sport – and their embedding in larger social structures of classes, nations and transnational fields. We also investigate how some groups are more able to monopolize their cultural expressions at the cost of marginalizing those of other groups.
The programme group Cultural Sociology studies culture in these two senses: the meaningful dimension of human life, as well as the cultural elements which human beings reproduce within, at least to some extent, institutionalized settings. We believe that those two senses of culture are closely interconnected and cannot be studied in isolation.
The programme group members are affiliated with several research centers within the University of Amsterdam: the Amsterdam Research Center for Gender and Sexuality, the Centre for Urban Studies, the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, and the Amsterdam Center for Globalization Studies. Over the past years, programme group members have received external funding from national or international funding organizations both from academic funding organizations (ERC, NWO) and various private stakeholders.
Onderwijsinterventies voor kansarme leerlingen
SEPP (the Scalable Education Programs Partnership) brengt de expertise van academische onderzoekers, onderwijsbeleidsmakers en mensen uit de onderwijspraktijk bij elkaar met als doel om een ‘gereedschapskist’ van bewezen effectieve, schaalbare en potentieel complementaire onderwijsinterventies voor kansarme leerlingen (en hun verzorgers) te onderzoeken, verder te ontwikkelen en onder de aandacht te brengen. SEPP is in het leven geroepen door de Universiteit van Amsterdam.
The Group Violence research programme aims to understand how group behaviour affects the likelihood and severity of violence in public space. While the prevailing social scientific focus remains on individual perpetrators and background factors, the empirical reality of public violence is one of multiple attackers, multiple victims and multiple bystanders.
The research proposed here furthers the study of violence with a novel theory that identifies how group behaviour affects the outcome of antagonistic situations – and with comparative empirical studies to test the theory.
Designing Rhythms for Social Resilience (DRSR)
This research contributes to the humanities by an analysis of how people process their life experiences within cities, and also by examining how these experiences are increasingly being documented within urban data centers. The DRSR team will develop a methodology that integrates digital data and visual and physical rhythm analysis for enabling new design interventions in neighborhoods.
Markets, morals, and mass intimacy: How platformization transforms the global sex industry
This project is the first systematic study of the digitization and platformization of sex work. With their low entry barriers, their live and interactive character, webcam platforms are among the sex industry’s fastest growing segments. According to critics platforms exploit and monopolize sex work, creating a global proletariat of performers.
Proponents claim however that webcamming provides safety, autonomy and potentially high earnings for sex workers. But despite its multi-billion-dollar turnover and disputed social and economic impact, empirical knowledge of the industry is limited. Consequently, it operates largely under the radar of scholars, policy makers and the media.
The main aim of this project is to analyze competition, working conditions and regulation within the industry.
The Return of the Medici? The Global Rise of Private Museums for Contemporary Art
Since 2000, over 200 private art museums have been established worldwide. This development is highly controversial: according to some they are neo-aristocratic institutions which translate economic into cultural inequality, while others argue that they democratize and support art, especially when government support is absent or declining.
This project is the first to study the rise of private museums systematically. The aim is to understand how the formation of new global elites and their entry into cultural fields results in the formation of new institutions and the reconfiguration of these fields.