Executive Board

Center for Cultural Sociology Co-Directors

Jeffrey AlexanderJeffrey C. Alexander

Jeffrey Alexander is the Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology at Yale University, founder and co-director of Yale’s Center for Cultural Sociology, and co-editor of The American Journal of Cultural Sociology. A social theorist whose early work challenged the anti-cultural reductionism of classical and modern sociology, Alexander has worked with generations of students and colleagues to create a “strong program” in cultural sociology. Synthesizing late Durkheim with semiotics, poststructuralism, and cultural anthropology, he has conceptualized, not only models of deep cultural structure, but theories of cultural trauma, social performance, and material iconicity. Alexander has also developed ”civil sphere theory,” a macro-sociological model of democracy and the forces that can undermine it. He is currently organizing a series of conference/edited book projects: The Civil Sphere in Latin America (Cambridge University Press 2018),  The Civil Sphere in East Asia (CUP, forthcoming 2019), Breaching the Civil Order: Radicalism and the Civil Sphere (CUP, forthcoming 2018), and The Nordic Civil Sphere (Polity, forthcoming 2019). The Civil Sphere and Populism will conference at Yale in June, 2019, and The Civil Sphere in India in June, 2020. Both volumes will be published with Polity Press. His most recent book, What Makes a Social Crisis: The Societalization of Social Problems, is forthcoming with Polity Press. His most recent articles are “Frontlash/Backlash: The Crisis of Solidarity and the Threat to Civil Institutions,” Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, Vol. 48 (1). January 2019 and “The Societalization of Social Problems: Church Pedophilia, Phone Hacking, and the Financial Crisis,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 83 (6): 1049-1078. December 2018.

Philip SmithPhilip Smith

Philip Smith is Professor of Sociology, co-Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology and co-editor of the American Journal of Cultural Sociology. Smith researches in the areas of social and cultural theory, cultural sociology and sometimes criminology. Working mostly from a Durkheimian perspective, he is concerned with the role of symbolic codes, narratives, classifications, morality and rituals in social life and the ways that these structure conflict, identity and action. His most recent book is Durkheim and After: The Durkheimian Tradition, 1893-2020 (Polity, 2020). This is the first book to attempt a big picture view of both Durkheim and his legacy in sociology, anthropology and explanatory social theory. Other research monographs include Why War? The Cultural Logic of Iraq, the Gulf War and Suez (Chicago, 2005); Punishment and Culture (Chicago 2008); Incivility: The Rude Stranger in Everyday Life (co-authored. Cambridge, 2010) and Climate Change as Social Drama (with N. Howe. Cambridge 2016). In addition Smith is author or editor of several textbooks and edited volumes, and over sixty chapters and refereed articles. His current research project, supported by a Humboldt Foundation Senior Fellowship at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, is  “Wagner, Bayreuth and the Negotiation of Sacred Meaning” which examines the Bayreuth Festival through a Durkheimian lens that looks to the pursuit of transcendence and the contamination of an evil history.

Center for Cultural Sociology Associate Director

Yagmur KarakayaYagmur Karakaya

Yağmur Karakaya’s research and teaching interests are in political sociology, cultural sociology, and collective memory. Specifically, she studies nostalgia as a collective force, highlighting its central place within both populist political discourse and popular culture. Her book project examines the contemporary Ottoman revival in Turkey as a dynamic process between two forms: state-sponsored neo-Ottomanism observable in public displays, and the entertainment-oriented popular Ottomania, exemplified by leisure activities. In her article in American Journal of Cultural Sociology (2020), she argues that state-led populist nostalgia mobilizes both emotions and reflexive cognition to shape political engagement. This article was awarded an honorable mention by the American Sociological Association’s Culture Section in 2019. A lead-authored article came out from Social Forces in 2022. This research draws on a systematic analysis of Donald Trump/MAGA rallies, to argue how Trump uses his performance to fuse a distinctly American style of populism. Focusing on the cultural accomplishment of his performance, particularly the creation of a business-friendly rhetoric that leverages popular cultural idioms underlines the shift from politics as vocation, to politics as business. Her work also appeared in Sociological Forum, Sociological Inquiry, and New Perspectives on Turkey.

Yağmur earned her PhD at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and she earned her BA at Bogazici University in Turkey. She also holds an MA from Koç University, Turkey.