Topic outline

  • Global migration (new patterns) (20.10.)

    In recent years, immigration has risen to the forefront of political and public agendas in (but not limited to) Europe. During this class, we will attempt to reconstruct the contemporary sociological reflection on global migration (also reflected in the most recent “migration crisis”) and its expected future development. We will try to avoid dwelling on the topic of long-term multicultural coexistence, and instead focus primarily on how sociology understands the dynamics and current state of migration, whether or not any new realities or structures have come to light in this regard, and how sociology can contribute to this topic in public discourse. This topic can be geographically scaled down to focus on Europe upon request.
  • Gender inequality today (postfeminism as a crisis) (27.10.)

    In the 1990s, the term “postfeminism” began to gain traction in the USA in order to define new approaches in feminism. This ambiguous term was understood in two fundamental ways; firstly, it indicated a radically constructivist approach to (gender) identity, fused together with postmodernity and post-structuralism, secondly, it signalled the belief that the demands of the female movement had already been met and that contemporary feminism, through the pursuit of desired gender equality, has thus taken on an irrational, dysfunctional, totalitarian (…fill in the blank) form. In post-revolutionary Czech Republic, this second definition has been embodied in the understanding of the term “feminism” in public discourse, where most women with media access have, over the past twenty years, begun prefacing answers to questions regarding female rights with “I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but…” The aim of this class is to focus on the contemporary sociological reflection concerning the current and future promotion of women’s rights and the public’s attitude on the matter. Rather than engaging in a discussion on technicalities in EU regulations pertaining to the percentage of women in corporate management positions, I would rather focus on a reflection of the sociology of today’s (not limited to the female) population and their stance on defending women’s rights.
  • Biotechnology: bodies and social stratification (3.11.)

    Britain has approved the genetic modification of human embryos for scientific purposes, the first prosthetic eye implants have allowed people to regain vision, and mind-controlled bionic prosthetics are a reality for the first time ever. In the 1970s, Bourdieu illustrated how people from different social classes construct different bodies as a result of contrasting life experiences. In the 1990s, Castells wrote of the biotechnological revolution as the next great revolution to come. In what way does contemporary sociology reflect this sphere of scientific development that is at once promising and unnerving?
  • Generation gap (1.12.)

    In this class we will examine how contemporary sociology approaches the issue of the generation gap and intergenerational misunderstanding. Is it true that today’s youth are withdrawing more and more into their peer groups thereby alienating themselves from older generations? What are the causes and wider contexts of this generation gap? Is there any conclusive data in support of this issue? Could this merely be a false assumption?
  • Current mistrust of science and/or experts (8.12.)

    In recent years, we’ve witnessed a growing distrust in the fundamental institutions appointed the task of producing truth in modern society, i.e. science and journalism. While the numbers are not as unanimous for science as they are for the lack of trust in “traditional” mass media, there is a growing popularity of various movements and groups in explicit opposition towards “experts” and the “scientific mainstream”, which maintain steadfast, non-scientific beliefs and form and promote a closed discourse in defiance of “external” rational arguments. I am not aware of any data on the potential social impact of the various conspiracy groups - which would surely make up the core of this population. We do, however, know about the growing impact of the “antivax” movement, as well as certain movements in support of natural birth. Backlash against “experts” or the relativization of facts were also crucial aspects of the Brexit referendum as well as the last US presidential election. Is this a downward trend of the irrationalization of the public, or merely a case of random deviations, characterized by the dissatisfaction of those whose voices have long been supressed? And if it is not merely a coincidence but rather a structural feature of contemporary social development, what brought it to life and what continues to fuel it?
  • Social networking sites and public discourse/opinion (15.12.)

    The phenomenon that is social networking sites has undoubtedly changed the social sphere. Brexit and the last American election have spurred relatively buoyant public debates on the issue, with questions cropping up scrutinizing the impact of SNS on aggression and hatred in public discourse, the social responsibility of new communication platforms and the political and opinion polarization of the population. The issue of the political influence of these communication infrastructures has also begun to gain more traction. For the purposes of this seminar, we will focus on the answer to the question of how contemporary sociology addresses this issue and which conclusions it draws- all while trying not to lose sight of the core question at hand: what impact do SNS have on public opinion and its formation?
  • The impact of public sociology on public opinion (22.12.)

    This class will serve in addressing the contemporary reflection of the impact of public sociology (opinion polls, pre-election polls, public and media appearances of sociologists, sociological bestsellers) on public opinion. What is the social impact of contemporary sociology?
  • The role and meaning of sociology in the 21st century (22.12)

    In our final class we shall have an open discussion on the topic of the social standing and potential social contributions of sociology.