Sources: Rise of the Avatar

Online Sources

“Online Romance”

Check out this New Yorker article about online dating for a closer look at how we stylize our identities in the hopes of finding intimacy through the Internet. And, listen to NPR’s interview with Nick Paumgarten, author of the article.

“The Birth of Pragmatism”

George Herbert Mead was heavily influenced by pragmatism, a distinctly American brand of philosophy that emerged after the horrors of the Civil War. In this NPR segment, author Louis Menand discusses his book on the cultural and historical origins of pragmatist philosophy.

Film and Television Sources

Black in Latin America

This PBS series follows Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as he explores the role of colonialism in the making of race and identity in Latin America. Full episodes and additional content are available online.

New Muslim Cool

This compelling documentary traces the life of Puerto Rican rapper Hamza Pérez, a former drug dealer who converts to Islam and moves to Pittsburgh in search of faith and empowerment in a post-9/11 world. A great example of the complex intersections among race, class, religion, and nationality.

The Battle of Algiers

Gillo Pontecorvo’s powerful film about the 1950s struggle of Algerian independence provides many vivid examples of colonial subjugation as well as important context for Fanon’s White Skin, Black Masks. The scenes of Algerian women cutting their hair so they can pass French checkpoints and plant bombs in French cafés are particularly striking. Click here for more information.


A film portraying the rise and assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first legally elected prime minister of the Republic of Congo after the country won its independence from colonial Belgium. An intriguing portrayal of postcolonial struggle and politics. Click here for more information.


A beautifully animated film that poignantly and humorously explores the intersections of gender, religion, and nationality. Click here for more information.


Based on real-life events, this film tells the story of a black girl born to white parents in 1950s apartheid South Africa. Provides a profound illustration of the struggles of living a life defined by racial double-consciousness.

Reading Sources

Colapinto, John. 1998. “The True Story of John/Joan.” Rolling Stone, December 11, 54–97.

This award-winning article about David Reimann, whose sex reassignment as a young boy due to a botched circumcision later became a medical scandal, raises important issues about sexual identity and is cited by Butler in Undoing Gender as an example of how “intersex” is oversimplified as a medical problem.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. 1993. “The Five Sexes.” The Sciences. March/April: 20–25.

Renowned biologist Fausto-Sterling explains how human biology does not fit into two and only two sexes.

Gamson, Joshua. 1998. Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

A smart and often funny look into the practices of sexual confession on television talk shows. A great companion to Foucault’s work on sexuality and discourse.

Goffman, Erving. 1963. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Goffman’s classic exploring how certain characteristics can spoil someone’s identity in the face of others is a great addition to any course delving into the sticky issues of the self.

Hayles, N. Katherine. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

In an age of virtual reality and advanced biotechnologies, Hayles has us ponder whether our identities now extend beyond the human.

Hessler, Peter. 2007. “China’s Instant Cities.” National Geographic, June.

This award-winning article and photo essay explores the construction sites behind the jaw-dropping urbanization of China. Read it alongside Simmel’s Metropolis and Mental Life. Full text and photographs available here. The New York Times also has a photo essay on Chinese cities.

Jacobsen, Michael Hviid, ed. The Contemporary Goffman. New York: Routledge.

This collection of fifteen essays from various Goffman scholars discusses his lasting legacy in contemporary sociology. Manning’s chapter on the interaction order of two Boston campus taverns may be of particular interest to Social Theory Re-Wired readers.

Rose, Nikolas. 1998. Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood. New York: Cambridge University Press.

A leading Foucault scholar argues that the discipline of psychology has played a huge part in the construction of contemporary personhood. Psychology, he provocatively argues, does not discover who we are. It invents who we are.

Rose, Nikolas. 2006. The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Rose explores the consequences of twenty-first-century medicine’s ability to alter our selves at the molecular level. Takes Foucauldian thinking on identity into the age of the human genome.

Schwartz, Barry. 2004. The Paradox of Choice: How Less is More. New York: HarperCollins.

Social psychologist Schwartz discusses how choice overwhelms us and leaves us dissatisfied. A great contemporary expansion of Simmel’s ideas on the personal consequences associated with the proliferation of cultural options in modern societies.

Simmel, Georg. 1907. The Philosophy of Money, edited by D. Frisby. New York: Routledge.

Simmel’s groundbreaking study of how the advent of money shapes individuality and the social order.

Tomasello, Michael. 1999. The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

A fascinating look into the social and cultural origins of human consciousness from the perspective of evolutionary theory.