Supplementary Sources: Rise of the Avatar

Web Content:

Online Romance
Check out this New Yorker article about online dating for a closer look at how we stylize our identities in the hopes of finding intimacy through the Internet. And, listen to NPR’s interview with Nick Paumgarten, the author of the article.
The Birth of Pragmatism
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.


Hidden Brain: Hookup Culture: The Unspoken Rules Of Sex On College Campuses
This interview with sociologist Lisa Wade examines hook-up culture on college campuses. Wade argues that the culture is toxic, promoting sexual violence. She uses intersectionality to dissect the racial, gender, and sexual identity hierarchies built into hook-up culture, as well as Goffman’s writing on the presentation of self to examine how people perform indifference as a way of gaining status. Students may find this interview especially applicable to their lives and experiences in college. Wade’s book goes into more detail on performativity, intersecting identities, and other issues related to hook-up culture.
BBC Radio 4: Thinking Allowed: Erving Goffman - A Special Programme
Host Laurie Taylor and guests discuss Goffman’s life and theories.
BBC Radio 4: Thinking Allowed: Michel Foucault - A Special Programme
Host Laurie Taylor and guests discuss Foucault’s life and theories.
Give Theory a Chance: Jaime Kucinskas on George Herbert Mead
Sociologist Jaime Kucinskas shares how Mead shifted her thinking about the self from an individual to a social model and how his work has shaped her research on “the mindful elite.”
The Annex: George Herbert Mead (Daniel Huebner)
Daniel Huebner shares about the life and historical of G.H. Mead and his writing.



Century of the Self
A 4-part documentary on how the theories of the self developed by Sigmund Freud shaped how 20th century Western governments and corporations understood and attempted to control and influence people.
Paris is Burning
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, go here.
Secret of the Wild Child
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.
We Live in Public
A documentary that explores what happens when there is no longer a “backstage” for our identities. To learn more, click here.


Colapinto, John. 1998. “The True Story of John/Joan.” Rolling Stone, December 11, 54-97.
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.
Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 1993. “The Five Sexes.” The Sciences. March/April:20-25.
Renowned biologist Fausto-Sterling explains how human biology does not fit into two and only two sexes.
Gamson, Joshua. 1998. Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity. University of Chicago Press.
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, Erving. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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.
Goffman, Erving. 1959. “The Moral Career of the Mental Patient.” Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Processes, 22, 123–142.
Using psychiatric patients as an example, Goffman traces how people shift identities over time, especially when an identity is imposed on them.
Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. University of Chicago Press.
In an age of virtual reality and advanced biotechnologies, Hayles has us ponder whether our identities now extend beyond the human.
Hessler, Peter. 2007. “China’s Instant Cities.” National Geographic, June.
This award-winning article and photo essay explores the construction sites behind the jaw-dropping urbanization of China. Read it alongside Simmel’s Metropolis and Mental Life. Full text and photographs available here. The New York Times also has a photo essay on Chinese cities.
Hsu, Hua. 2017. “Stuart Hall and The Rise of Cultural Studies.” The New Yorker.
Written a few years after his death, this feature-length profile of Hall’s life and career showcases how hugely important he was to the development of the field of cultural studies.
Jacobsen, Michael Hviid, ed. The Contemporary Goffman. New York: Routledge.
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.
Rose, Nikolas. 1998. Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. New York: Cambridge University Press.
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, Nikolas. 2007. The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century.
Rose explores the consequences of 21st-century medicine’s ability to alter our selves at the molecular level. Takes Foucauldian thinking on identity into the age of the human genome.
Schwartz, Barry. 2004. The Paradox of Choice: How Less is More. New York: HarperCollins.
Social psychologist 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. For a shorter version, watch Schwartz’s TED Talk here.
Simmel, Georg. 1907. The Philosophy of Money, edited by D. Frisby. New York: Routledge.
Simmel’s groundbreaking study of how the advent of money shapes individuality and the social order. Three full chapters are available here, courtesy of Routledge.
*Note to web designers: Please include link to full text copy here.
Turkle, Sherry. 2017. Alone Together. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Turkle examines how technology is taking on many roles that used to be filled by human beings, especially significant others. She reflects on what it means to be human and maintain meaningful relationships when technology meets so many of our needs.
Tomasello, Michael. 1999. The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Harvard University Press.
A fascinating look into the social and cultural origins of human consciousness from the perspective of evolutionary theory.
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