Sociology Colloquia Series

The overarching goal of the Sociology Colloquia Series is to build intellectual engagement and community in our department for faculty and graduate students alike. 

For the 2016-2017 academic year, the colloquia committee will be focusing on the following three types of events: those in which we share our own research; those in which we invite outside speakers whose work is related to the research interests of the department; and brown-bag professionalization workshops for graduate students.

    Fall Quarter

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    November 17 (Thursday)

    11:40 - 1:15pm Rachel Carson College, room 301

    Technical democracy in the greening city? On urban sustainability and the (radical) politics of expertise (flyer-PDF)

    Across divergent contexts, globalized urban transformations in the direction of sustainability, low-carbon development and other forms of official ‘greening’ are often read in vocabularies of a neoliberal and ‘post-political’ form of technocratic governance. This talk explores a different analytical route to contemporary urban sustainability politics, one informed by debates in science and technology studies (STS) on the prospects and possibilities of technical democracy in the greening city. The urban politics of sustainability, the talk argues, increasingly turns around socio-technical controversies and should be analyzed and engaged centrally as a (radical) politics of expertise. In this context of shared uncertainty, technical democracy signifies a fragile attempt to collectively search for and help form lasting collaborations among experts and laypeople, taken as heterogeneous partners in the articulation of situated urban socio-ecological concerns. Drawing on examples from the speakers’ own case studies into urban climate politics, planning, and activism in Asia and Europe – including Surat in India, Copenhagen in Denmark, and Hong Kong – the talk points to important potentials as well as tensions in the concept of technical democracy, and suggest possible routes ahead in terms of what will be dubbed an agonistic urban pragmatism suited to asking the questions of learning and institutional reform that urban sustainability demands.

    Anders Blok is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and this Fall is a visiting scholar in Sociology at UCSC. His current research deals with the urban politics of climate change and sustainability in Europe and East Asia. He has published widely in journals of environmental sociology, urban studies, science and technology studies (STS) and social theory. With Ignacio Farías, he recently co-edited the book Urban Cosmopolitics (Routledge, 2016) as well as a special feature of City (2016, 20:4) on the topic of 'Technical democracy as a challenge to urban studies.'

  • 'The Devil’s Wheels: Men and Motorcycling in the Weimar Republic' book coverNovember 29 (Tuesday)

    11:40 - 1:15pm Rachel Carson College, room 301

    The Devil's Wheels: Men and Motorcycling in the Weimar Republic a book talk with Sasha Disko. (flyer-pdf)

    During the high days of modernization fever, among the many disorienting changes Germans experienced in the Weimar Republic was an unprecedented mingling of consumption and identity: increasingly, what one bought signaled who one was. Exemplary of this volatile dynamic was the era’s burgeoning motorcycle culture. With automobiles largely a luxury of the upper classes, motorcycles complexly symbolized masculinity and freedom, embodying a widespread desire to embrace progress as well as profound anxieties over the course of social transformation. Through its richly textured account of the motorcycle as both icon and commodity, The Devil’s Wheels teases out the intricacies of gender and class in the Weimar years.

    Sasha Disko is a historian and independent scholar. She is an alumnus of UCSC (BA in History and German Studies, 1997) and received her PhD in History from New York University. She has been living and working in Germany since 2008. Her research interests include the history of motorization, industrialization, business administration, and leisure. She currently lives in Hamburg, Germany.

    Co-Sponsored by the Center for Cultural Studies, Departments of History and Sociology, German Studies Program and the Institute for Humanities Research.

  • Winter Quarter

  • February 17-18, 2017

    Democratizing the Green City 

    Karen Chapple, City and Regional Planning and the Urban Displacement Project, UC Berkeley
    Friday Feb 17, 4:00-7:00 pm  | Room TBD

    Saturday, Feb 18, 10:00-4:00 pm | Red Room of Rachel Carson College


    Typical greening and sustainability initiatives today do not address affordable housing, yet through their improvements, actively contribute to rising housing prices. Thus paradoxically, greening is a factor in driving up rents and driving out low and moderate-income residents to sprawling ex-urban areas. Our symposium examines this growing link between environmental improvement and social displacement and asks: How is it possible to break it? And what are the consequences—socially and ecologically—if we don't?  

    We focus in particular on the housing crisis that is transforming our own state and region. California, and Northern California especially, are renowned for greening and sustainability initiatives—from transit-oriented development to locavore food sheds to green building. Yet the state is also home to five of the top ten most unafforable housing markets in the country, including Santa Cruz County.  This in turn creates new contradictions: declining diversity and increasing consumption in the "sustainable" urban core; socio-spatial inequality as low-income people are pushed farther out in search of housing; public health and air quality impacts of long commutes; and ecosystem impacts of sprawling urban development, including habitat fragmentation, loss of groundwater, and increased carbon footprints.  Political responses to these complex interconnections are often constrained by bureaucratic planning and policy, as well as the lack of participation by those communities most affected.  Thus we bring together scholars, planners, and activists from around Northern California and the U.S. to identify potential points of leverage at a variety of scales to help break the link between greening and displacement, as well as strategies for democratizing the green city.  

    The project grows out a collaboration between the Critical Sustainabilities project at UCSC and the Urban Democracy Lab at New York University. Through this work we find that the dilemma of what might be called "green displacement" has been addressed in a variety of disconnected literatures in urban and environmental studies, ranging from neighborhood studies of urban gardens and gentrification, to critical approaches to urban climate governance, to the global relationship between "sustainable" urban planning and informal settlements. In earlier meetings and discussions, we have sought to unite these approaches within one analytic frame in order to better specify the mechanisms by which environmental improvement leads to social displacement. Here, we focus specifically on the key role of housing in urban environmental agendas and on the dynamics of gentrification, displacement, and sprawl that often follow environmental improvements. Ultimately, we aim to advance interdisciplinary scholarship and inform policy and action surrounding these issues in urban regions across the United States and the world.

    Co-Sponsored by the Sociology department, Critical Sustainabilities, and the Center for Labor Studies.


    Miriam Greenberg, Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Hillary Angelo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Associate Professor of Sociology, New York University

    Daniel Aldana Cohen, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

    Confirmed Participants:

    Joan Byron, Pratt Center for Community Development, Brooklyn 

    Melissa Checker, Anthropology, City University of New York

    Lindsey Dillon, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Sarah Knuth, Geography, University of Michigan 

    Claudia Lopez, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Kristin Miller, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Erin McElroy, San Francisco Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, UC Santa Cruz

    Steve McKay, Soicology, UC Santa Cruz

    Dawn Phillips, Causa Justa:: Just Cause and National Director, Right to the City 

    Jennifer L Rice, Geography, University of Georgia

    James Sirigotis, Sociology, UC Santa Cruz

    Julie Sze, American Studies, UC Davis