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When the Center Is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for Our Times

When the Center Is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for Our Times

by Diane Harriford, Becky Thompson

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In this lively and provocative book, two feminist public sociologists turn to classical social thinkers—W. E. B. Du Bois, Max Weber, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim—to understand a series of twenty-first century social traumas, including the massacre at Columbine High School, the 9/11 attacks, the torture at Abu Ghraib prison, and Hurricane Katrina. Each event was overwhelming in its own right, while the relentless pace at which they occurred made it nearly impossible to absorb and interpret them in any but the most superficial ways. Yet, each uncovered social problems that cry out for our understanding and remediation. In When the Center Is on Fire, Becky Thompson and Diane Harriford assert that classical social theorists grappled with the human condition in ways that remain profoundly relevant. They show, for example, that the loss of “double consciousness” that Du Bois identified in African Americans enabled political elites to turn a blind eye to the poverty and vulnerability of many of New Orleans's citizens. The authors' compelling, sometimes irreverent, often searing interpretations make this book essential reading for students, activists, generations X, Y, and Z, and everybody bored by the 6 o'clock news.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780292778900
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication date: 02/17/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 272
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

DIANE HARRIFORD is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Women's Studies at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.BECKY THOMPSON is Professor of Sociology at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: An Offering . . . Can We Talk?Part OneConsciousness: Lessons from Hurricane KatrinaChapter One. Condoleezza Rice, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Double ConsciousnessChapter Two. Hurricane Katrina and Historical MemoryPart TwoSpirit: The 9/11 AttacksChapter Three. The 9/11 Attacks and Max WeberChapter Four. Moments of Grace/Grace UnderminedPart ThreeLabor: The Abu Ghraib Prison AbusesChapter Five. Karl Marx and AlienationChapter Six. Looking for Species Being: Trauma and Its ConsequencesPart FourBody: The Columbine School ShootingsChapter Seven. Émile Durkheim and Embodiment in the Age of the InternetConclusion: RegenerationNotesBibliographyIndex

What People are Saying About This

Monisha Das Gupta

When the Center Is on Fire is a much-needed contribution to sociological understandings of contemporary U.S. society as shaped by global capital and imperialism. The authors reanimate social theory and put it to the test in imaginative and innovative ways. . . . Their readings of classical social theory help us recover a humane, life-giving, and connective social ethic that can fruitfully counteract the dehumanization, atomization, and emptiness uncovered by events that have shaken the United States in the new millennium.
Monisha Das Gupta, University of Hawai'i, author of Unruly Immigrants: Rights, Activism and Transnational South Asian Politics in the United States

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