Speaker: Arlie Hochschild

The Deep Stories of Our Times: Strangers No More

“Everyone has a deep story,” says Arlie Hochschild. “Our job is to respect and try to understand these stories.” 

Hochschild is one of the most distinguished sociologists of our time. Considered the founder of the “sociology of emotion,” she examines some of the most urgent challenges our societies face: work-family balance, shifting gender roles, alienation, globalization, and the ever-widening political divide. Throughout these issues, she studies how we feel about things, what we think we should feel, and why. Why do people choose what they choose? What are the invisible forces behind our actions? What are the emotional costs, if any? And most recently, why does it seem like people vote against their own interests? 

In addition to being professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, she is the author of 10 paradigm-shifting books which include The Managed Heart, The Time Bind, The Second Shift, and most recently, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

Hochschild was born in Boston, MA, to parents who served in the foreign service. She came of age in Israel, New Zealand, Ghana, and Tunisia, and also had the influence of her parents’ devout Unitarianism. This combination seemed to have sparked her inquisitive and empathic mind, which she playfully told in a semi-autobiographical children’s book, Colleen the Question Girl. Most of her adult life has been lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, in what she calls a “blue bubble.” So it’s no surprise that her latest questions concern the growing polarities in American politics, with a special focus on the rise of the American right.  

In doing research for Strangers in Their Own Land, she immersed herself in southwest Louisiana, a Tea Party stronghold at the height of that movement. “I got very interested in something I call ‘the deep story,’” Hochschild says, “a way of thinking about emotion, stripped of facts and judgments, into an account of life that feels true, often best captured through metaphor.” She was determined to get out of her comfort zone and climb what she calls “an empathy wall,” to permit herself a great deal of curiosity about the experiences and viewpoints of people she knew she would have differences with. She observed their physical landscapes, religious influences, and social environments, and in the end, became friends with many of those she interviewed. “Caring,” she insists, “is not the same as capitulating. The relationships in Louisiana enlarged me as a human being.” 

When she’s not busy writing about the layered and often tumultuous human dynamics that comprise the fabric of modern life, she can be found digging in her garden, hiking with her husband, the historian Adam Hochschild, or engaging in a creative project with their two granddaughters.  

Please join us for a conversation with this visionary sociologist to help illuminate the deep stories of our times, the deep stories of ourselves. 

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