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The Winter 2023 Roy A. Rappaport Lectures: “From Small Talk to Microaggression: A History of Scale”

February 10 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

From Small Talk to Microaggression: A History of Scale

What trouble can come from straining to know a thing closely, “microscopically”? These lectures explore the political, epistemological, and ontological problems caused by observational scale. Since the mid-twentieth century, US social scientists studying face-to-face interaction have been by turns fascinated and frustrated by the “small” scale of their object and the scrutiny it seemed to demand. They repurposed recording technologies to know social interaction–and often also to control it, where control meant bottom-up liberal social engineering, from shoring up democracy to streamlining hiring. Scale became politicized anew in the 70s as scholars of interaction faced questions that vexed social movement activists. How did the “interpersonal” relate to the “institutional,” “micropolitics” to “mass” politics? Similar scalar contestation has roiled many fields and has shaped how disciplines understand their internal differences.

Lectures will be held at 3:00 p.m. in the Rackham Assembly Hall, 4th Floor, on

January 20, 2023 | How Scale Broke the World

February 10, 2023 | Talk Therapy and the Shrinking Science of Conversation

March 17, 2023 | Liberal Technologies of Social Interaction

April 14, 2023 | Micropolitics or Tempest in the Transcript?

Lectures will also be available via webinar: