In the current era we are observing a paradoxical presence of increased connectedness through globalization, mobility and digitalization and extreme disconnectedness because of fear, indifference and individualism. We see that growing transnational (cultural and religious) connections go hand-in-hand with increasing populism and ethno-politics.
Meanwhile, it often seems like there is little that we as individuals can do to change the world. Although individuals nowadays are freer than ever to make their own choices in life, they often feel lost, frustrated, afraid or powerless. In other words, many feel unable to change anything about their own situation or societal structures. Late modern sociologists explain this contrast through the changed nature of power, which no longer works through visible forms of suppression, but through invisible forms of domination. When power works in this invisible manner, individuals have a hard time to find a foundation for agency and resistance. What are they supposed to fight against when they are not able to identify the source of domination or control?
In this course, we start with a discussion on power and agency in the context of late modernity and then continue with critically discussing some prominent and timely themes such as: (super)diversity, democracy, radicalization and populism. We will discuss recent theoretical and empirical insights into those issues by investigating how these issues persist/continue and change over time. We will then explore how individual or group experiences relate to such structural mechanisms and whether and how individuals can claim agency to change societal structures. Additionally, we will discuss the role (critical) sociology can play in coming to terms with such societal issues. Finally, the interactive structure of the course and assignments will allow students to connect the discussions of the course with issues of their own interest.