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Congratulations to PhD Candidate Kristie O’Neill and Professor Dan Silver on ASA publication award

Congratulations to Kristie O’Neill and Daniel Silver whose article won the Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award for 2017 for the ASA Section on Consumers and Consumption. Kristie is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology. She is currently working on her dissertation, A New Doctrine of Development which is supervised by Erik Schneiderhan, Dan Silver, Josee Johnston, and Zaheer Baber. Dan Silver is an Associate Professor of Sociology specializing in the sociology of culture and theory.

Their winning paper is “From Hungry to Healthy: Simmel, Self-Cultivation and the Transformative Experience of Eating for Beauty” published in the journal, Food, Culture & Society 20(1): 101-132. Please see the abstract below.

Kristie O’Neill and Daniel Silver. 2017. From Hungry to Healthy: Simmel, Self-Cultivation and the Transformative Experience of Eating for Beauty. Food, Culture & Society 20(1): 101-132.

We examine American Cosmopolitan in order to understand how specific foods have been linked to dominant forms of beauty. Three food-beauty nexuses emerge, namely moralism, strategy and holism. To understand how women engaged with these nexuses, we draw on Simmel’s “religiosity.” Simmel traced deeply-felt experiences like self-cultivation (beauty) through cultural objects (food) using religious imagery. In this respect, changing messages about diets suggest profound encounters with the limits of forms of beauty. But the conflict of culture is also apparent: it is difficult to create new forms of beauty or do away with gendered beauty standards altogether.

Professor Dan Silver writes in the Chicago Sun about Chicago’s vibrant scenes

Dan SilverProfessor Dan Silver recently co-authored a column in the Chicago Sun about the shift from neighbourhoods to “scenes” for understanding shifting dynamics in Chicago urban life.

Professor Silver is an Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Toronto, with undergraduate responsibilities at the Scarborough campus. His research examines, among other things, the causes and consequences of urban scenes.

Professor Silver co-authored the column with Terry Clark of the University of Chicago and it appeared in June 10th’s Chicago Sun. The article draws on research from Silver and Clark’s recent book, Scenscapes: how qualities of place shape social life. We have provided an excerpt below and you can read the entire piece here.

Once a city of neighborhoods, Chicago’s now about making the scene

Columnists 06/10/2017, 06:49pm
Terry N. Clark and Daniel A. Silver

Critics of big cities found new fuel for their fire with the recent news about Chicago’s population decline. In a new census report, the city of Chicago’s population declined by 8,638 from 2015 to 2016. This followed a loss of 4,964 the year before.

First of all, these are miniscule changes for a city of 2.7 million residents. And a closer look reveals a more complex story: there are big differences across neighborhoods and subgroups. The city is attracting tens of thousands of affluent, professional young people, many of whom do not leave for the suburbs when they marry and have children.

Traditional terms like “middle class” or “working class” no longer tell the whole story. New types of jobs are growing in health care, law and other knowledge-based jobs. In a city where “who you know” could once lead to a cushy public sector job, “What you know” is now also a path to success. These new jobs require far fewer people — there are fewer assembly lines to staff or trucks to unload — so raw population is less important than attracting knowledge-based workers.

Another big change is that people often choose cities by considering lifestyle amenities together with the job. Indeed many people accept lower pay for more amenities. The most important industry in Chicago today is entertainment, broadly defined to include restaurants, museums, cuisine, sports, concerts, nightlife and the lakefront.

This is a big switch for the former “hog butcher of the world.” Today, instead of canned pigs, Chicago produces more art school graduates than any other city in the country. Many stay after graduation, thus perpetuating the city’s thriving arts scene. The arts in turn attract others working in many fields.

Summer concerts, sports events and other entertainment outlets attract visitors, some of whom eventually move here. The result: the area around downtown Chicago has been a national leader both in attracting more new residents age 25 to 34 and in job growth. Some parts of the city have seen population double, others are stable and some are in decline. If we look closely, that’s simply how cities work.

We learned this and more while writing our new book, “Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life.” It details many Chicago specifics by comparing how they vary in other locations, from Seoul to Paris to San Francisco. Chicago remains vibrant, although now less a group of ethnic neighborhoods and more a collection of scenes based on new interests as well as primordial roots…

Read more.


Mapping the Urban Scenescapes

Dan SilverCongratulations to Professor Dan Silver for his new publication Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life co-authored with Terry Nichols Clark.

The book was published by the University of Chicago Press, which describes the book as such:

Let’s set the scene: there’s a regular on his barstool, beer in hand. He’s watching a young couple execute a complicated series of moves on the dance floor, while at the table in the corner the DJ adjusts his headphones and slips a new beat into the mix. These are all experiences created by a given scene—one where we feel connected to other people, in places like a bar or a community center, a neighborhood parish or even a train station. Scenes enable experiences, but they also cultivate skills, create ambiances, and nourish communities.

In Scenescapes, Daniel Aaron Silver and Terry Nichols Clark examine the patterns and consequences of the amenities that define our streets and strips. They articulate the core dimensions of the theatricality, authenticity, and legitimacy of local scenes—cafes, churches, restaurants, parks, galleries, bowling alleys, and more. Scenescapes not only reimagines cities in cultural terms, it details how scenes shape economic development, residential patterns, and political attitudes and actions. In vivid detail and with wide-angle analyses—encompassing an analysis of 40,000 ZIP codes—Silver and Clark give readers tools for thinking about place; tools that can teach us where to live, work, or relax, and how to organize our communities.

Cultural Scenes and Political Attitudes

Diana MillerDan SilverCongratulations to Doctoral Candidate Diana Miller and Professor Dan Silver who recently published an article on the importance of spatial cultural scenes for understanding political attitudes. This research benefited from funding from SSHRC. The full article can be accessed here and I include the citation and abstract below.

Diana L. Miller and Daniel Silver (2016) Cultural Scenes and Contextual Effects on Political Attitudes. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology: 2 (3-4): 241-266 DOI: 10.1080/23254823.2016.1144480

Spatial variation in voting is well documented, but substantively meaningful explanations of how places shape individuals’ politics are lacking. This paper suggests that local cultural ‘scenes’ exert a contextual effect – a spatial effect not driven by demographic differences between individuals in different places – on political attitudes and sensibilities. We measure the local ‘scene’ of Canadian electoral districts (EDs) through an original, national database of amenities, which we code qualitatively to describe those amenities’ cultural attributes. We combine scenes measures with demographic Census data on each constituency, and individual-level data from a 2011 federal election exit poll. Using hierarchical linear models, we find that individuals’ political sensibilities are correlated with the ED-level cultural context in which they reside, controlling for demographic factors at both levels. We find that EDs with self-expressive scenes are correlated with left-leaning political attitudes, while EDs with locally oriented scenes are correlated with right-leaning political attitudes. We hypothesize that the mechanism underlying these findings is that individuals’ local cultural context subtly shapes their political sensibilities.