“An Ugly Word”: Talking (and Not Talking) about Race in Italy

Ann Morning (NYU)
Séminaire scientifique de l'OSC - 28 juin 2019
  • Image Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock. Manifestation against racism (Milano, 2011)Image Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock. Manifestation against racism (Milano, 2011)

 Séminaire scientifique de l'OSC 2018-2019

98, rue de l'Université 75007 Paris - salle Annick Percheron

vendredi 28 juin 2019 de 12h30 à 14h

“An Ugly Word”: Talking (and Not Talking) about Race in Italy

Like many of their Western European neighbors, Italians eschew the term “race” (razza) and are not exposed to it in the institutionalized forms—like census questionnaires, school applications, or medical intake sheets—that are familiar to Americans. But does this mean that the notion of biologically-rooted demarcation between descent-based groups is entirely foreign in Italy?

We report on our in-depth interviews with 75 college students in Milan, Bologna, and Naples, in conjunction with interviews of 30 students in vocational schools in Milan, and for comparison, interviews of over 50 undergraduates in the north-eastern United States. In contrast to the claim of some scholars that culture-based prejudices distinguish Western European “new racism” from American biology-based racial ideology, we find that beliefs about physical difference that circulate widely in the U.S. are hardly unknown in Italy. Indeed, the relative absence of a developed constructivist view on race among our young Italian interviewees makes it harder for them than for their American peers to counter biological definitions of it, a paradoxical result given Italians’ much stronger rejection of the language of “race.”

Ann Morning (NYU)


Ann Morning is Associate Professor of Sociology at New York University.
She's Visiting in Sciences Po - Département de sociologie, during June 2019.

This research is conducted by Ann Morning and Marcello Maneri, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Milan - Bicocca.

 Register is mandatory for external audience and/or snack (bernard.corminboeuf@sciencespo.fr).

The Privileged Poor

How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students
Anthony Jack - Séminaire scientifique OSC-CEE 21 juin 2019
  • Image Rawpixel.com via ShutterstockImage Rawpixel.com via Shutterstock

Séminaire scientifique de l'OSC 2018-2019

Séminaire joint avec le Centre d'études européennes et de politique comparée (CEE)

98, rue de l'Université 75007 Paris - salle Annick Percheron

vendredi 21 juin 2019 de 11h30 à 13h

The Privileged Poor:
How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students

Anthony Abraham Jack
(Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard)

Image: Anthony Abraham JackAnthony Abraham Jack (Ph.D., Harvard University, 2016) is a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The Privileged Poor (Image Harbard University Press)The book reveals how―and why―disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges, and explains what these schools can do differently if these students are to thrive.

College presidents and deans of admission have opened their doors to support a more diverse student body. But is it enough just to let them in? In fact, the struggles of less privileged students continue long after they’ve arrived on campus. In their first weeks they quickly learn that admission does not mean acceptance. Anthony Jack documents how university policies and cultures can exacerbate preexisting inequalities, and reveals why these policies hit some students harder than others.

Despite their lofty aspirations, top colleges hedge their bets by recruiting their new diversity largely from the same old sources, admitting scores of lower-income black, Latino, and white undergraduates from elite private high schools. These students approach their new campuses very differently from students who attended local, and typically troubled, public high schools and are often left to flounder on their own.

Drawing on interviews with dozens of undergraduates at one of America’s most famous colleges and on his own experiences as one of the privileged poor, Jack describes the lives poor students bring with them and shows how powerfully background affects their chances of success.

He provides concrete advice to help schools reduce these hidden disadvantages.

 Register is mandatory for external audience (bernard.corminboeuf@sciencespo.fr).

Activism in the internet era: a study of inequality and challenges to democracy

Jen Schradie
The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives, Harvard University Press, 2019
  • Picture from desdemona72 & Alex Gontar / ShutterstockPicture from desdemona72 & Alex Gontar / Shutterstock

Some of the following text is excerpted from OSC Assistant Professor Jen Schradie’s new book, “The Revolution That Wasn’t: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives,” just out by Harvard University Press:

The Revolution That Wasn't - Jen Schradie - Harvard University PressThis book is an attempt to move beyond simplistic headlines and Silicon Valley buzzwords to reach a better understanding of social media and social movements. Digital activism may have some advantages but not for everyone. The internet is creating a growing disparity that is giving a distinct advantage to some groups in surprising and unexpected ways.

As social and digital technologies have spread across the globe, we are constantly being told that they have ushered in a new age of activism. Many believe that an individual can spark an uprising with a tweet or a heart-tugging Facebook post. As with so many other facets of our lives, technology promises to liberate us from the tedious work necessary to build a social movement. Technology would have flattened the world of activism, as with selling books or starting a company, giving everyone an equal chance to launch an on-demand revolution.

Schradie  choose the location for her study in North Carolina because of the vast variation in the state’s population and politics. It has a dramatic racial and labor history that continues to shape its political dyamics today. It has one of the highest rates of poverty yet one of the best public higher education systems in the nation. Over the past decade, North Carolina has been half Republican and half Democrat among voters. As a result, it had become a swing state for national presidential elections, as well as a focal point of numerous social and economic conflicts. 
She picked one ordinary issue, rather than an event: the contentious politics around labor. At 1.9% union density in 2014, North Carolina had a lower percentage of unionized workers than any state in the country.  Because the state is “Right-to-Work” by law, all unions have voluntary membership. By 2011, North Carolina was one of only three states where public workers did not have any collective bargaining rights. This state provided fertile ground with an ecosystem of political, labor, and social movement groups in different configurations in order to evaluate the concept of digital activism and egalitarianism.
By combining online and offline data, as well as quantitative and qualitative methods, this research provides both statistical analysis, as well as in-depth interviews and ethnography to understand an evolving digital data world.

Schradie initiated the study with some guiding questions: Is digital activism as prevalent as we think? What kinds of groups use digital technology for activism? What are the factors that determine how a group uses these tools? What are the mechanisms behind differences in internet use for activism? Finally, she addressed the most fundamental question: Has digital activism truly created a level playing field where all groups and points of view can equally advocate for their cause?
The conclusion is surprising. Not only is technology failing to erase the barriers toward organizing movements, it may be making things worse by creating a digital activism gap. Rather than offering a quick technological fix to repair our broken democracy, the advent of digital activism simply ends up reproducing, and in some cases intensifying, pre-existing power imbalances.

This book dismantles both the democracy and authoritarian thesis around digital activism to reveal in this North Carolina case an uneven digital terrain that largely abandoned left working-class groups while placing right-wing reformist groups at the forefront of online politics.
Three overlapping factors worked together to give a distinct advantage to groups that not only have a greater capacity but also the motivation to carry out the work of digital activism:

  • Social class: groups with middle to upper class members have an advantage with digital media. Such members have greater online access, skills, time and empowerment to use these new tools.
  • Vertical organization: Groups with infrastructure, such as a hierarchy of decision making, a clear division of labor, and more staffing resources, are simply more effective and efficient online. Horizontal groups without bureaucratic systems are less likely to maintain high levels of digital use and online participation. 
  • Political Ideology: Groups on the right embraced the internet for a primary mission: to get their truth out about reviving the freedoms they believed were threatened. Conservative grassroots groups believe they needed to replace so-called “fake news” with their own political information online. Progressive groups were fragmented and often focused more on encouraging mass participation, rather than on mass information.

The rise of the internet 25 years ago unleashed a kind of revolutionary giddiness. Those most bullish believed it would fundamentally re-order nearly every corner of civilization, inevitably for the better.  The ultimate free market of ideas and commerce would create a new balance of power that favored citizens over giant organizations, companies and governments. In the place of Orwellian propaganda and old-school communication tools would be new technologies in the hands of the people. Personalization, participation, and pluralism would bring digital democracy. It was this euphoria around the internet’s democratizing potential that, instead, became the revolution that wasn’t.

Schradie’s book reveals how conservative messages spread like wildfire long before talk of bots, fake news or Russian meddling. A highly motivated foundation of conservative and well-educated and resourced activists who held a distinct advantage all but drowned out whatever messages were coming from the left online.

Reviews of the book:

* Conservatives Use Social Media to Move Their Agendas Much More Than Liberals Do - Newsweek Magazine, May 17, 2019. 

* Why conservatives are winning the internet, by Sean Illing, Vox, June 3, 2019.

* North Carolina Shows Why Progressives Lost the Internet, by Jeffrey C. Billman, Indy Week, May 28, 2019.

* How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives, by Amanda Magnus & Frank Stasio, WUNC 91.5 North Carolina Public Radio, May 31, 2019.

Digital Democracy 3.0: Startupers versus Startupeuses

Jen Schradie
Séminaire scientifique de l'OSC, 7 juin 2019
  • Image Syda Productions (via Shutterstock)Image Syda Productions (via Shutterstock)

Séminaire scientifique de l'OSC 2018-2019

98, rue de l'Université 75007 Paris - salle Annick Percheron

vendredi 7 juin 2019 de 11h30 à 13h

Digital Democracy 3.0:
Startupers versus Startupeuses

Jen Schradie (Sciences Po - OSC)

Jen Schradie (OSC)Digital technology is one of the fastest growing economic sectors worldwide. Those that garner the most attention are presumably “disrupting” business practices, particularly tech start-ups. A key assumption is that the digital era enables more egalitarian economic practices than the industrial era. However, descriptive statistics show vast inequality, with an average of women as only 10% of startup founding entrepreneurs in France and 17% in the United States.

This talk will present a research project in its early stages. Two driving questions motivate this study:

  • What is the role of the state in mediating any gender differences?
  • What are any barriers women face once they do become entrepreneurs?

 Register is mandatory for external audience (bernard.corminboeuf@sciencespo.fr).

Les liens de la caste / Caste links

Quantifying social identities using open-ended questions
Mathieu Ferry - OSC Papers 2019-1
  • Image Chris JL, Another morning for the lucky ones (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr)Image Chris JL, Another morning for the lucky ones (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr)

Les liens de la caste.
Quantifier des identités sociales à l’aide de questions ouvertes

Caste links. Quantifying social identities using open-ended questions

 Mathieu Ferry (OSC)

OSC Papers 2019-1 - 24 p.

Les liens de la caste. Version française (FR, pré-version fin.)
Caste links. English (EN)

Mathieu Ferry (OSC)Cet article expose les difficultés rencontrées par le chercheur en sciences sociales lorsqu’il souhaite analyser quantitativement les identités sociales mesurées par des questions ouvertes dans des grandes enquêtes statistiques. La grande diversité apparente des réponses énoncées démontre la complexité de l’auto-identification mais ne retire en rien la pertinence de quantifier une catégorie sociale latente. Nous discutons de notre approche de la construction d’une nomenclature de caste à partir de questions ouvertes dans l’Indian Human Development Survey (2011-2012), en nous centrant sur les ménages hindous de l’Uttar Pradesh. Nous commençons par exposer les enjeux d’une telle quantification, en soulignant l’histoire coloniale à laquelle elle est fortement associée. Contrairement  aux  idées  reçues,  la  caste  est  loin  d’être  une  catégorie  institutionnalisée  incontestée  et  sa  mesure  statistique  est  fortement critiquée. Néanmoins, plusieurs arguments plaident en faveur de sa quantification. Nous décrivons notre algorithme de classification basé sur l’analyse de réseau, la classification ascendante hiérarchique et le recodage manuel. Nous suggérons ensuite d’évaluer la pertinence de notre classification sous trois angles différents dans ce travail préliminaire. Premièrement, les indicateurs d’homogénéité font apparaitre des catégories de la nomenclature relativement homogènes. Deuxièmement, la comparaison de la nomenclature avec une variable « gold standard » permet d’évaluer son efficacité. Enfin, des tests de validité vérifient si les catégories de castes reflètent les dimensions conceptuelles du statut rituel et socioéconomique de la caste. Ce faisant, nous montrons que notre nomenclature en sept groupes de castes permet de rompre avec une vision hiérarchique unidimensionnelle à laquelle la structure sociale de caste est souvent associée.

This article exposes the challenges faced by social scientists in the quantitative analysis of  social identities measured through open-ended questions in large surveys. The  apparent large diversity of responses enunciated demonstrates the complexity of self-identification, but it does not undermine the relevance of quantifying a latent social category. We discuss our approach to building a caste nomenclature from open-ended questions in the Indian Human Development Survey (2011-2012), focusing on Hindu households in Uttar Pradesh. We start by exposing the issues of such quantification, highlighting the colonial history with which it is strongly associated. Contrary to common belief, caste is far from being an uncontested institutionalized category and its statistical measure is highly criticized. Nonetheless, several arguments push for its quantification. We describe our classification algorithm based on network analysis, hierarchical and manual clustering. We then suggest assessing the relevance of our classification from three aspects in this foundational work. First, indicators of homogeneity show homogeneous categories. Second, ‘gold standard’ comparison evaluates the effectiveness of the nomenclature. Finally, criterion validity tests whether the caste categories reflect selective dimensions of socio-economic status and ritual status. In doing so, we show that our nomenclature in seven caste groups makes it possible to break with a one-dimensional hierarchical vision with which the caste social structure is often associated.