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Discussion Questions for Soc 334: Week 1
Jack Nachbar and Kevin Lause: “An Introduction to the Study of Popular Culture”
1. What is the "popular culture formula?"
2. What do the authors mean when they say that popular culture is a "funhouse mirror?"
3. Give examples from the reading that show that popular culture reflects our beliefs and values.
4. Give examples from the reading that show that popular culture shapes our beliefs and values.
5. What is popular culture according to Nachbar and Lause? In other words, how do we define it?
6. Who are the "classicists" and what do they believe?
7. Who are the "modernists" and what do they believe?
8. What three elements are necessary for the emergence of popular culture according to "modernists?"
9. Compare and contrast "cameras" with "critics". How does each view popular culture?
10. What is the relationship between folk, popular, and elite culture? How do they differ from one another?
Wendy Griswold: “Culture and the Cultural Diamond”
1. What is the “culture” vs “society” debate about? What is its importance?
2. Define the two ways of looking at culture. Why did these two ways of defining culture emerge?
3. Arnold’s view of culture is in opposition to Enlightenment thinking. How? Do you agree with his view? Why
or why not?
4. Herder and Tylor’s view of culture was a response to the ethnocentrism of Arnold’s view. How so? Do you
agree? Why or why not?
5. How might Wuthnow and Witten’s notion of the idea of culture as implicit and explicit contribute to our
understanding of culture?
6. Is Griswolds definition of culture a good one? Why or why not?
7. What is a “cultural object?” What role does “meaning” play in defining a cultural object?
8. What is the cultural diamond and how is it useful as a conceptual framework for studying culture?
Ronald Johnstone: “The Sociological Perspective.”
1. How are sociologists supposed to approach the study of religion, according to Johnstone? When might this be
difficult for a sociologist?
2. What does Johnstone mean when he says that the study of religion is “empirical”? What role does the scientific
method play in the empirical study of religion?
3. What are the five characteristics of religion?
4. What is Johnstones’ definition of religion?
Bruce Forbes: “Introduction: Finding Religion in Unexpected Places.”
1. What are the four ways that religion and popular culture relate to each other?
2. How does Forbes and Mahans’ definition of popular culture compare to Nachbar and Lauses’?
3. How does Forbes and Mahans’ definition of religion compare to Johnstones’?