The only thing embarrassing about being a sociologist of culture is that deans and departments don’t recruit you.
Everyone knows that popular culture suffuses our everyday lives, right? You don’t know a single human being who goes a day without doing one of the following: watching television, a comedy show, or a play or musical theater; listening to popular music; reading a novel or a magazine or a newspaper; wearing off-the-rack clothing or accessories; or using consumer electronics.
Can we please all stop pretending that we’re haughty, elitist dicks who don’t want to be polluted by the lowbrow drek of commercial culture? No one is immune to its charms, it is the very water through which we swim, and yet I keep observing people pretending that they’ve just noticed they’re in the tank with the rest of us, and rather wish they weren’t.
[Yes, I’m referencing this…
..but I’m ashamed to say that I discovered it, like, the one time I looked at facebook.]
Enjoying life as a 21st century human isn’t what we should be ashamed of…we should be shocked, horrified, and embarrassed at the fact that the Sociology of Culture is third from last in the list of specialty areas that appeared in Sociology faculty job postings in 2012.
Social control, crime, law, and deviance were first. Now, I’m not saying that the study of deviance is unimportant–I’d actually argue that citizens of a country that has the highest incarceration rate of any country on the globe have a moral obligation to develop expertise in this area. It’s just that we also top the globe in terms of the volume and quality of our cultural output, at least in recorded music and film.
Moreover, students are interested in it. I’ve never once taught a class in popular culture (and I’ve now taught multiple dozens of classes on the topic) that wasn’t immediately over-subscribed. And for all the teeth-knashing and hair-pulling over the inability of Americans to engage a critical consciousness when they engage popular culture, wouldn’t you think having high quality, intensive, college level courses on the subject might help?
You can’t staff those courses well if you don’t hire in the Sociology of Culture, and that doesn’t mean that you make a hire in demography or deviance and tack on a secondary interest in culture. What happens when you do that is that you get someone who is an expert in demography or deviance, who teaches one course every three years on culture. This pattern generates expertise in much the same way that replacing the oil in your car every 3,000 miles makes you a mechanic.