Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 1998

Comparative Cultural Sociology

Main Discipline: Sociology
Lecturers: Professor Wendy Griswold and Professor Fredrik Engelstad
Institutions: North-Western University, USA and University of Oslo, Norway
Dates: 3. - 7. August

Is it at all possible to study cultures in a comparative perspective? The last decade has seen extensive discussions of this problem in the social sciences. The basic assumption of the course is that such comparison is indeed possible, but that it requires a high degree of sensitivity to the methodological problems of interpretation, as well as to the variation in horizons of interpretation found in different societies. The course takes methodological problems as its point of departure. The main focus, however, is not on methodology, but on the demonstration of the fruitfulness of comparative analyses within specific fields of cultural studies.

One important aim is to discuss the mechanisms mediating between the micro and macro levels. Another is to show how culture intermingles with other components in the social structure, such as economic and political organization, and to a limited extent also biological dispositions. Central themes in the lectures will be variation in the role of identities and symbols of ethnic specificities, gender cultures and class cultures. Moreover, cultural aspects of social institutions, companies, labor markets and social movements will be highlighted.

Basic readings:

The lecturers:
Wendy Griswold is professor of sociology at Northwestern University. In 1996/97 she was a Jean Monnet fellow at the European University Institute, Florence. Her main field of specialisation is the sociology of literature and the sociology of culture. She has published academic papers in American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, Acta Sociologica, Annual Review of Sociology. Among her recent publications are Literature and social practice (co-edited with Philippe Desan and Priscilla Parkhurst, Chicago 1989), and Cultures and societies in a changing world (Thousand Oaks 1994).

Fredrik Engelstad is director of the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, and professor of sociology at the University of Oslo. He founded the Oslo Summer School for Comparative Social Science studies in 1992. His wide range of academic publications ranges from labour market studies, the social psychology of family relations to studies in literary theory. His major work is Likhet og styring (Equality and management, Oslo 1990). Recently, he published Places within, places beyond: Norwegian regionalism in literature (co-edited with Wendy Griswold, Oslo 1996), and he is the editor of «Regional Cultures», Comparative Social Research, Vol. 17, 1998.