Culture and Society

A.Y. 2019/2020
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The course aims to develop the particular perspective of analysis and interpretation of social reality related to cultural processes, that is, to the symbolic, ritual, ideological and communicative dimensions that provide the basis for a continuous activity of construction of what we recognize as the reality. To this end, the course analyses, in a critical form, the theoretical and analytical tools of the sociological tradition that place importance on the processes of construction and sharing of meaning, and on the connection between society (structure) and ideas (shared representations and discourses on society). Particular attention will be given to the dimension of daily life and to the processes of attribution of meaning that take place within routines and practices that appear obvious and not problematic.
The central object of the course will be the idea of culture as a relevant dimension of action and social life. Language, symbols, values, beliefs, ritual actions and ceremonies will be analyzed as particular and specific areas of social action, considering them an integral part of a sociological understanding of interaction and social reality.
Expected learning outcomes
At the end of the course students should possess:
(general skills)
Knowledge and understanding of the different interpretations of the concept of culture in the social sciences, with particular reference to its sociological use. Understanding of the social dimensions of the processes of production of meaning, communication, classification and distinction. Understanding of the effects of globalization processes on cultural dynamics.
Ability to apply knowledge and understanding of the main interpretations of the concept of culture to specific social situations of intercultural interaction. Ability to analyze cultural dimensions in contexts of specific interactions, both in the micro dimension of interpersonal relationships, and in meso and macro relationships of organizational, institutional and interstate relationships.
(specific skills)
Good knowledge and understanding of cultural processes and intercultural communication, in contexts characterized by growing interconnection on a global scale. Ability to understand and critically evaluate everyday, practical and mundane processes of shared production of meanings. Ability to understand and analyze relational situations, even conflicting ones, which have as their stake the shared definition of meanings and symbolic production. Ability to understand and critically evaluate the concepts of ethnic and national belonging, multicultural policies and practices.
Ability to apply knowledge and understanding of the tools proper to the sociology of cultural processes to some typical situations of contemporary global society: intercultural relations, multicultural policies, migration policies, recognition of cultural differences, social and political actions of minorities, discrimination processes and anti-discrimination policies.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
First trimester
Course syllabus
The anthropological and sociological concept of culture will be studied in depth. We will examine the different sociological interpretations of the concept of culture and the link between culture and society, with a particular reference to the classics of sociology: Marx, Durkheim, Weber, Simmel.
Particular attention will be paid to the theoretical currents that focus on the minute, apparently banal, dynamics of everyday life: phenomenological sociology, symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, social constructionism.
We will also consider some of the main areas of interest of the sociology of cultural processes: language, ritual, representations, discourse, identity, construction of gender and otherness. Thanks to a series of short exercises and some seminar meetings, an attempt will be made to provide a 'toolbox' suitable for the cultural analysis of daily life and inter-relational processes of attribution of meaning to social reality.
In the final part of the course, of a monographic nature, specific attention will be given to the theme of the social construction of otherness, to the dynamics of collective identification and to the analysis of contemporary forms of xenophobia and racism.
The program includes the understanding of the concept of culture with particular reference to the relationship between culture and production of meaning, culture and daily life, culture and power, as well as the distinction between culture and cultures.
The program also develops:
The difference between the anthropological and the sociological conception of culture, the concept of cultural relativism and multiculturalism.
The analysis of the progenitors, in the sociological field, of the cultural perspective: Karl Marx (the culture and its relations with class and capital; the concept of ideology); Emile Durkheim (the ritual dimension); Georg Simmel (rationalization and multiplication of cultural reference circles); Max Weber, (the complexity of the cultural dimension and its role in social change); Talcott Parsons (culture and social system).
The cultural turn in sociology: British Cultural Studies and American Cultural Studies; Pierre Bourdieu: cultural practices, habitus and taste; The Frankfurt School: the idea of ​​cultural industry and mass culture; Jeffrey Alexander: the concepts of performance, fusion and the heuristic force of ritual.
The study of cultural processes: religions and the production of cosmologies; common sense and everyday life; socialization; the social production of memory; the language.
Cultural change processes. The concept of gender, generation and multicultural society.
Berger and Luckmann: the social construction of reality.
Processes of 'construction of otherness', forms of collective identification and analysis of contemporary forms of xenophobia and racism.
Prerequisites for admission
Knowledge of the sociological vocabulary acquired in a basic course in Sociology is required
Teaching methods
Teacher-led lessons; weekly reports; discussion in the classroom
Teaching Resources
Piccone Stella S., Salmieri L., Il gioco della cultura, Carocci, Roma 2012.
Berger P., Luckmann T., La realtà come costruzione sociale, Il Mulino, Bologna 1997.
Siebert, R., Il Razzismo. Il riconoscimento negato, Carocci, Roma 2003.
Colombo E., Le società multiculturali, Carocci, Roma, seconda edizione 2011.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam for non-attending students consists of a written test consisting of a series of open questions (5/7 questions, duration 1 hour and 20 minutes). The test will cover concepts, theoretical perspectives, areas of discussion and empirical research presented in the texts indicated for the preparation of the exam in the non-attending mode.
The evaluation will take into account an in-depth and appropriate knowledge of the indicated texts; the ability to join the program topics in a transversal way and place them, in a more general way, within the current sociological debate; the critical capacity in highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the concepts and central issues of the sociology of cultural processes: culture, classical and contemporary theories of interpretation of culture and cultural phenomena, relationship between structure and action, social production of meanings , symbolic, ritual and communicative dimension of social action, concepts of identity, social memory, social construction of reality, intercultural communication and multicultural policies, the social construction of gender. Grade in 30/30.
Lessons: 60 hours
Professor: Colombo Enzo
Tuesday and Wednesday 10.30-11.30 am - make an appointment via email
Department of Social and Political Sciences - Room 321