I want to...

Sociology of culture

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Tuesday 4.30pm – 6.20pm

Lecture venue
CPD-G.02 (JLG03 in the week of 7-13 Oct)

Course description

Cultural Sociology is one of the fast-growing and fuzzily-bounded fields in sociology. The course will be divided into three parts. First, it will begin with mapping the elusive concept of culture and engaging in both classical and contemporary sociological debates over culture. Specifically, it will introduce students to the debates about the relation between culture and society, culture and meaning, and culture and action. The second part of the course will inquire the relation between culture and social inequalities, examining the interaction between culture and social structure, gender inequality, labor, and globalization. The last part of the course will focus on the role of culture in everyday lives, such as fashion and body, economic activities, religion, and collective action.

The course will be run as a mix of lectures and classroom discussions. Students are expected to participate actively in class by raising questions, contributing ideas, engaging in small group discussions and debates, etc.

Course learning outcomes

  • Comprehend the basic sociological concepts of culture.
  • Engage in the sociological debates over the role of culture in social inequalities and everyday lives across different societal contexts.
  • Acquire analytical and research skills by developing empirical research projects to demonstrate a sociological understanding of the key theoretical debates over culture.


Classroom participation and activities15%
Tutorial participation and activities15%
Short positional papers based on readings30%
Group project presentation20%
In-class Mid-term20%

Required reading

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Tr. By Richard Nice. MA: Harvard University Press. Pp.260-317 (Ch.5).

Chan, Cheris Shun-ching. 2009. “Creating a Market in the Presence of Cultural Resistance: The Case of Life Insurance in China.” Theory and Society 38(3):271-305.

Chan, Cheris Shun-ching. 2013. “Doing Ideology Amid a Crisis: Collective Actions and Discourses of the Chinese Falun Gong Movement.” Social Psychology Quarterly 76(1):1-24.

Chew, Matthew. 2003. “The Dual Consequences of Cultural Localization: How Exposed Short Stockings Subvert and Sustain Global Cultural Hierarchy.” Positions: 11(2):479-509.

Griswold, Wendy. 1994. Culture and Societies in a Changing World. CA: Pine Forge Press. Selections.

Hochschild A. Russell. 1997. The Time Bind. NY: Metropolitan Books. Selections.

Ng, Cham Hung. 2016. “Tension of Interaction Order: Infringement and Mobilization of the Umbrella Movement. ” Social Transformation in Chinese Societies 12(2):133-47.

Ritzer, George. 2008. The McDonalization of Society 5. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press. Selections.

Swidler, Ann. 1986. “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies,” American Sociological Review, 51:273-86.

Watson, James (ed.) 2006 [1997]. Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Pp.1-38.

Zelizer, Viviana A. 1978. “Human Values and the Market: The Case of Life Insurance and Death in 19th-Century America.” The American Journal of Sociology 84(3):591-610.

Recommended reading

There are no specific prerequisites, but an acquaintance with some basic sociological terms and concepts is assumed.

Course co-ordinator and teachers