Modern culture and lifestyles

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 16:30 – 18:20

Lecture venue
CPD- 2.58

Course description

This course explores the dynamics of modern culture by looking at the manifold styles of living in contemporary society. While we live in a time with many lifestyle options available to us, at times we must make choices under constraints not of our own making. In our efforts to understand this interplay of structure and agency, we will examine theoretical writings about “modern” culture and modernity, and the changing role of the individual in society, with attention to patterns of cultural change and continuity. Using sociological and anthropological readings, we will problematize concepts and phenomena that predominate in modernity, including self-identity, authenticity, narrative, and media. Looking at cultural groups and communities in different parts of the world, we will inquire how “modern” ways of living become naturalized and universalized. We also critically assess how individuals and institutions use various media to both shape and reflect modern tastes and lifestyles.

Course learning outcomes

  1. Apply concepts and theoretical perspectives to a variety of cultures and lifestyles.
  2. Understand the formation of individual identity in modernity.
  3. Engage in self-reflective dialogue with others on issues of selfhood, agency, culture, and lifestyles.
  4. Demonstrate the capacity to analyze a particular cultural group or lifestyle.


Tutorial Participation20%
Final Paper50%

Required reading

Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity. Selections.

Thompson, E.P. 1967. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism”.

Lyng, Stephen. 2004. Edgework: The Sociology of Risk-Taking. Selections.

Hickel, Jason. 2013. “The ‘Real’ Experience Industry: Student Development Projects and the Depoliticization of Poverty,” Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 5(2).

Rony, Fatimah Tobing. 1996. The Third Eye: Race, Cinema and Spectacle. Selections.

Yano, Christine. 2013. Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific. Duke University Press. Selections.

Recommended reading

Lindtner, Silvia. 2017. Laboratory of the Precarious: Prototyping Entrepreneurial Living in Shenzhen. Women’s Studies Quarterly Vol 45, No. 3/4. pp. 287-305.

Course co-ordinator and teachers

Student view

Studying lifestyles and consumption anthropologically help me think more critically about everyday life. The decision to include unusual readings such as Hello Kitty consumption and Barry Manilow fan clubs made the course both relevant and refreshing.

– Liuyi Valerie Guo, 4th year Sociology Major undergraduate student