University of California, Berkeley
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Sociology, Demography, and Geography
Professor of Sociology . Swidler studies the interplay of culture and institutions and asks how culture works-both how people use it and how it shapes social life. Habits of the Heart and The Good Society-both coauthored with Bellah, Madsen, Sullivan, and Tipton-analyzed the consequences of American individualism for individual selfhood, community, and political and economic institutions. Her book Talk of Love: How Culture Matters examines how actors select among elements of their cultural repertoires and how culture gets organized from the outside in by codes, contexts, and institutions. Swidler is studying cultural and institutional responses to the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa, examining both NGOs and the international response to the epidemic along with cultural barriers to condom use and factors that have made the responses to the epidemic more successful in some countries than in others. She is interested in how the massive international AIDS effort in sub-Saharan Africa-the infusion of money, organizations, programs and projects-interacts with existing cultural and institutional patterns to create new dilemmas and new possibilities. She has also begun looking at African religion and the institutions of African chieftaincy and their role as cultural and religious sources of collective capacities for social action.