George Herbert Mead was heavily influenced by pragmatism, a distinctly American brand of philosophy that emerged after the horrors of the Civil War. In this NPR segment , author Louis Menand discusses his book on the cultural and historical origins of pragmatist philosophy.
In this TED talk , social psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses how choice overwhelms us and leaves us dissatisfied. A great contemporary expansion of Simmel’s ideas on the personal consequences associated with the proliferation of cultural options in modern societies.
The lyrics of this pop song provide a ridiculous and amusing means of discussing how social institutions like gender influence the types of roles and scripts that are employed by social actors, even to communicate similar messages. Ask students to consider how the singers might have responded if the (gendered) performance scripts were reversed. The song can be listened to here .
A lively documentary detailing a drag queen subculture in 1980s New York. The performers’ bending and parodying of gender norms served as inspiration for Judith Butler’s theories of gender identity. For more on the film, click here .
Mead and Simmel argued that we could only develop a sense of self through the collective work of social interaction. This film about Genie, a girl who spent her first 13 years of life without social interaction with others, provides a fascinating, disturbing, and controversial look into the importance of the social for the development of the individual. You can find an overview of the program here and watch the documentary here .
A documentary that explores what happens when there is no longer a “backstage” for our identities. To learn more and view the film’s trailer, click here .
The authors of this empirical study apply Goffman’s dramaturgical theory to provide an amusing and insightful analysis of the cultural scripts used by individuals performing what are traditionally considered backstage behaviors in the frontstage context of public restrooms.
This award-winning article about David Reimann, whose sex reassignment as a young boy due to a botched circumcision later became a medical scandal, raises important issues about sexual identity and is cited by Butler in Undoing Gender as an example of how “intersex” is oversimplified as a medical problem.
Renowned biologist Fausto-Sterling explains how human biology does not fit into two and only two sexes.
A smart and often funny look into the practices of sexual confession on television talk shows. A great companion to Foucault’s work on sexuality and discourse.
Goffman’s classic exploring how certain characteristics can spoil someone’s identity in the face of others is a great addition to any course delving into the sticky issues of the self.
In an age of virtual reality and advanced biotechnologies, Hayles has us ponder whether our identities now extend beyond the human.
A great companion to Goffman, Hochschild discusses how individuals learn to identify, evaluate and adjust their feelings in culturally-defined ways (according to “feeling rules”). She proposes that an increasing number of jobs require emotional labor, wherein employees must “perform” appropriate feelings and manage others’ emotional responses as well.
This collection of fifteen essays from various Goffman scholars discusses his lasting legacy in contemporary sociology. Manning’s chapter on the interaction order of two Boston campus taverns may be of particular interest to Social Theory Re-Wired readers.
A leading Foucault scholar argues that the discipline of psychology has played a huge part in the construction of contemporary personhood. Psychology, he provocatively argues, does not discover who we are. It invents who we are.
Rose explores the consequences of twenty-first-century medicine’s ability to alter our selves at the molecular level. Takes Foucauldian thinking on identity into the age of the human genome.
Simmel’s groundbreaking study of how the advent of money shapes individuality and the social order.