300 episodes

Interviews with Sociologists about their New Books

New Books in Sociology New Books Network

    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Sociologists about their New Books

    Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, "Re-Engineering Humanity" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, "Re-Engineering Humanity" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Every day, new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that's increasingly making us behave like simple machines? In Re-Engineering Humanity (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger examine what's happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. They explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people. Detailing new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments, Frischmann and Selinger reveal hidden connections between fitness trackers, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, autonomous cars, and more. This powerful analysis should be read by anyone interested in understanding exactly how technology threatens the future of our society, and what we can do now to build something better.
    John Danaher is a lecturer the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the host of the wonderful podcast Philosophical Disquisitions. You can find it here on Apple Podcasts.
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    • 1 hr 29 min
    Catherine Besteman, "Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine" (Duke UP, 2016)

    Catherine Besteman, "Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine" (Duke UP, 2016)

    Catherine L. Besteman's book Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (Duke University Press, 2016) is an important contribution to our understanding of the process of remaking one’s way of life after war in a new place, and in a new culture. Besteman writes about her ethnographic encounter in the 1980s with Somalis from the village of Banta who she then re-encounters in 2006 in the town of Lewiston, the so-called “Armpit of Maine.” The result is an intimate account of the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their home in the Jubba Valley, their experience flight to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and their eventual relocation to cities and towns in the United States. Readers also learn that assimilation is not just a one-sided affair, as Besteman narrates how the arrival of Somali Bantus in Lewiston impacts residents there, neighbors and government officials alike. As such, Making Refuge reminds us that resettlement is more than the arrival of refugees; it is also a process by which receiving communities adapt to their foreign neighbors. In other words, Besteman’s work is a study of mutual transformation.
    Susan Thomson is associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University.
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    • 47 min
    Safi Bahcall, "Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries" (St. Martins, 2019)

    Safi Bahcall, "Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries" (St. Martins, 2019)

    Safi Bahcall's Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries (St. Martin's Press, 2019) reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs.
    Bahcall, a physicist and entrepreneur, shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing new ideas to rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice. Mountains of print have been written about culture. Loonshots identifies the small shifts in structure that control this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice.
    Using examples that range from the spread of fires in forests to the hunt for terrorists online, and stories of thieves and geniuses and kings, Bahcall shows how a new kind of science can help us become the initiators, rather than the victims, of innovative surprise.
    Over the past decade, researchers have been applying the tools and techniques of this new science―the science of phase transitions―to understand how birds flock, fish swim, brains work, people vote, diseases erupt, and ecosystems collapse. Loonshots is the first to apply this science to the spread of breakthrough ideas. Bahcall distills these insights into practical lessons creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries can use to change our world.
    Along the way, readers will learn what James Bond and Lipitor have in common, what the movie Enigma Game got wrong about WWII, and what really killed Pan Am, Polaroid, and the Qing Dynasty.
    Cody Gough and Ashley Hamer are the hosts of the excellent podcast Curiosity Daily. Subscribe to Curiosity Daily here.
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    • 58 min
    Rachel Chrastil, "How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    Rachel Chrastil, "How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    In this episode, Jana Byars talks with Rachel Chrastil, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and member of the history department at Xavier University, about her newest book, How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children (Oxford University Press, 2019). This book is, at its heart, a history book, exploring the most personal of women’s decisions from the 1500s on. It also makes a stab at providing childless women with a narrative to support their own choices. From the introduction, “Childless women may think that they are alone in this experience, but, in fact, they can draw on a long history of childlessness that extends for centuries. With the exception of the baby boom, widespread childlessness has been a long-standing reality in northwestern European towns and cities from around 1500 onward.” This books attempts the difficult task of marrying scholarship with modern cultural study. The work is excellent, and the conversation fun.
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    • 36 min
    Ben Green, "The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future" (MIT Press, 2019)

    Ben Green, "The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future" (MIT Press, 2019)

    The “smart city,” presented as the ideal, efficient, and effective for meting out services, has capture the imaginations of policymakers, scholars, and urban-dweller. But what are the possible drawbacks of living in an environment that is constantly collecting data? What important data is ignored when it is not easily translated into 1s and 0s? In his new book, The Smart Enough City: Putting Technology in Its Place to Reclaim Our Urban Future, critical data scientist Ben Green, an Affiliate and former Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and a PhD candidate in Applied Mathematics, critically examines what it means for a city to be smart enough to fulfill the promises of urbanism, while at the same time taking into account the very real drawbacks of constant data collection, and overreliance on digital technology. To do this, Green examines various case study examples, while offering philosophical and critical histories of the city-related technologies that have led us to this era.
    Jasmine McNealy is a scholar of media and technology. She teaches at the University of Florida. 
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    • 33 min
    Wendy Bottero, "A Sense of Inequality" (Roman and Littlefield, 2020)

    Wendy Bottero, "A Sense of Inequality" (Roman and Littlefield, 2020)

    How should we understand inequality? In A Sense of Inequality (Roman and Littlefield, 2020), Wendy Bottero, a Reader in Sociology at the University of Manchester offers a detailed and challenging new approach to how we conceive of, how we study, and how we might challenge, social inequality. The book contends we need a new approach to the everyday subjective experience of inequality, appreciating people’s constrained resistance to often highly unequal social situations. Whilst never downplaying the reality of inequality, the book challenges social theories that ignore everyday practices in explanations of the persistence of inequality. Empirically detailed, with extensive global examples, as well as theoretically rich, the book is essential reading across the social sciences.
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    • 40 min

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