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Bridging the Gap of Understanding Between Liberals and Conservatives

8232Conversations with History host Harry Kreisler welcomes Professor Arlie Hochschild, 2017 Moses Lecturer at Berkeley for a discussion of her book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right which strives to bridge the gap of understanding between liberals and conservatives.

In 2011, Hochschild noticed a resurgence of the American right and decided to study it further in Louisiana. “I felt I was in a bubble here in Berkeley and wanted to learn more about the equal and opposite bubble.” Her goal was simple: to learn more about the conservative perspective through empathetic listening. “When listening to people who have strong opinions that differ from yours,” she explains, “it’s important to temporarily turn off your alarm system and be honest about it.”

But that’s not always easy. Hochschild advices that “when working with people to try to understand them, as sociologists do, it’s important to first create and feel comfortable within your own support system, to find your cocoon. Then, with that support, it won’t be so frightening to reach out.”

The influences that shaped her journey as a sociologist began as a child traveling extensively with her family. Because of her father’s work in the foreign service, Hochschild lived in foreign countries, not wearing the “right clothes” or speaking the language. In essence, she was the outsider… the “oddball.” Says Hochschild, “I think it’s why I’m a sociologist – I had to figure it out.” At social gatherings, she was “the little kid passing the peanuts, watching how people were interacting, people from different worlds and how they were relating to each other, the different signal systems.”

Learn more about Arlie Hochschild’s pioneering work on the sociology of emotions. Watch Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

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