The Program on Culture and Formation

Social transformations in the late modern world have radically changed the experience of growing up and the circumstances under which children are socialized and develop self-identities. The transformations are familiar: from the vast expansion of communications media to the spread of economic and commercial forces into virtually every aspect of life, from the decline of family and community groupings to the increasing interconnectedness and employment changes brought by globalization. While certainly not affecting everyone equally, these changes have resulted in a far more fluid and unpredictable social environment. In this environment of flux and simulation, personal identity and formation are de-coupled from stable, role-based social relations. Children grow up in a more mobile and individualized world, structured by fewer and weaker external authorities. As a consequence, identity experimentation and exploration have become the norm; choices are made and assessed against a background of contingency, uncertainty, and risk.

Moreover, cultural changes have produced a new normative environment. To give but one important example: new rules of competition in a globalized world have emerged embodying powerful norms of individual success. This is especially so in the middle and upper-middle classes, but it ripples throughout society. In this world, people are expected to make an “enterprise” of their lives and conduct their activities with energy, initiative, and calculation. They must seek to maximize their own human capital, project a future, and act upon themselves in order to better achieve their goals. These requirements of adequate personhood have been progressively translated downward toward younger and younger children. Educational benchmarks, developmental stages, standardized trajectories of success, even the “discovery” of new mental disorders—all pressure children to conform to expectations of autonomous actorhood and “rational” choice-making.

View past events and a list of publications >>

Past events

“Re-Visiting American Education,” lecture by Ashley Berner, The Yale Club, New York City, May 2011.

“Drawing the Line on ADHD: Medicalization, Public Opinion, and the Imperatives of Biocitizenship,” lecture by Joseph E. Davis and Ben Snyder, Eastern Sociological Society, Boston, MA, March 20, 2010.

“Accounts of False Memory Syndrome: Parents, ‘Retractors,’ and the Role of Institutions in Account Making,” lecture by Joseph E. Davis, Virginia Social Science Association Annual Conference, March 26, 1999.

“On Moral Resistance to Reproductive Technologies,” lecture by Joseph E. Davis, Eastern Sociological Society Annual Conference, April 11, 1997.



Davis, Joseph E. Accounts of Innocence: Sexual Abuse, Trauma, and the Self. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Howard, Thomas Albert. Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hunter, James Davison. The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age Without Good or Evil. New York: Basic, 2000.

Jones, Steven L. Religious Schooling in America: Private Education and Public Life. Westport: Praeger, 2008.

Milner, Jr., Murray. Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids: American Teenagers, Schools, and the Culture of Consumption. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Yamane, David. Student Movements for Multiculturalism: Challenging the Curricular Color Line in Higher Education. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

In Collaboration with The Hedgehog Review

Film Series

“Faith in the Hood.” Documentary film series. Paul Wagner, director. Joshua J. Yates, producer (Fall 2006).

Articles and Book Chapters

Ashley Rogers Berner

  • “English Education and the Church.” The English Parish Church through the Centuries: Daily Life & Spirituality, Art & Architecture, Literature & Music. Interactive DVD-ROM. York: Christianity and Culture, 2010.
  • “Is English Education Secular?” Redefining Christian Britain: Post-1945 Perspectives. Ed. Jane Garnett et al. Norwich: SCM, 2006. 222–232.

Pamela D. H. Cochran

  • “The Family, Evangelicalism, and Civil Society.” The Other Journal: An Intersection of Theology and Culture. Fall 2004.

Matthew Crawford

  • “Medicate U.” The American Interest 4.1 (2008): 108–114.
  • “The Computerized Academy.” The New Atlantis 9 (2005): 42–54.
  • “Science Education and Liberal Education.” The New Atlantis 8 (2005): 49–60.

Joseph E. Davis

  • “Adolescents and the Pathologies of the Achieving Self.” The Hedgehog Review 11.1 (2009): 37–49.
  • “Incest.” Encyclopedia of Social Problems. Ed. Vincent N. Parrillo. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2008. 484–486.
  • “Victim Narratives and Victim Selves: False Memory Syndrome and the Power of Accounts.” Social Problems 52.4 (2005): 529–548.
  •  “Me. Inc.” Soup: The Online Creative Magazine 2 (2004).
  • “The Commodification of Self.” The Hedgehog Review 5.2 (Summer 2003): 41–49.
  • “Social Movements and Strategic Narratives: Creating the Sexual Abuse Survivor Account.” Strategic Narrative: New Perspectives on Personal and Cultural Narratives. Ed. Wendy Patterson. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2002. 107–125.
  • “Accounts of False Memory Syndrome: Parents, ‘Retractors,’ and the Role of Institutions in Account Making.” Qualitative Sociology 23.1 (2000): 29–56.

Jeffrey S. Dill

  • “Education and the Culture Wars: Morality and Conflict in American Schools” (with James Davison Hunter). Handbook of the Sociology of Morality. Ed. Steven Hitlin and Stephen Vaisey. New York: Springer, 2010. 275–291.
  • “Preparing for Public Life: School Sector and the Educational Context of Lasting Citizen Formation.” Social Forces 87.3 (2009): 1265–1290.
  • “Teaching the Virtues of a Global Citizen: The Demands of a 21st Century Education.” Culture 3.2 (Fall 2009): 2–4.
  • “Durkheim and Dewey and the Challenges of Contemporary Moral Education.” Journal of Moral Education 36.2 (2007): 221–237.

David Franz

  • “Focused on the Family?: Religious Traditions, Family Discourse, and Pastoral Practice” (with W. Bradford Wilcox and Mark Chaves). Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 43 (2004): 491–504.

Edward J. K. Gitre

“A Failure to Communicate: Benjamin Braddock and the Aims of Education.” The Hedgehog Review 12.1 (Spring 2010): 63–74.

James Davison Hunter

  • “Thrift and Moral Formation.” Thrift and Thriving in America: Capitalism and Moral Order from the Puritans to the Present. Ed. Joshua J. Yates and James Davison Hunter. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • “Education and the Culture Wars: Morality and Conflict in American Schools” (with Jeffrey S. Dill). Handbook of the Sociology of Morality. Ed. Steven Hitlin and Stephen Vaisey. New York: Springer, 2010. 275–291.
  • “Wither Adulthood?” The Hedgehog Review 11.1 (Spring 2009): 7–17.
  • “Leading Children Beyond Good and Evil.” First Things (May 2000): 36–42.

Daniel C. Johnson

  • “Changes in Self Concept and Academic Skills during a Multimodal Summer Camp Program” (with Van D. Westervelt, Mark D. Westervelt, and Scott Murrill). Annals of Dyslexia 48 (2008): 191–212.
  • “Formal Education vs. Religious Belief: Soliciting New Evidence with Multinomial Logit Modeling.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36.2 (2007): 231–246.

Murray Milner, Jr.

  • “Youth Culture in a ‘Faraway’ Place: A Report from the Field.” The Hedgehog Review 11.2 (Spring 2009): 65–73.
  • “Youth and Consumer Culture.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ed. George Ritzer. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.
  • “Teenage Behavior: Its Not Biology, Psychology, or Family Values.” Educational Horizons 84.4 (Summer 2006): 240–246.

Erik Owens

  • “Disestablishment as Legal Paideia: Assessing Michael McConnell’s Educational and Religious Pluralism.” Philosophy of Education Yearbook 2008. Ed. Ronald Davis Glass. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008. 132–140.
  • “Religion and Civic Education in American Public Schools.” Religion, Politics and Policy in the United States and Germany. Ed. Karin Johnston. Washington: American Institute for Comparative German Studies, 2007.

Kimon H. Sargeant

  • “Teachers and Preachers: The Battle over Public School Reform in Gaston County, North Carolina” (with Edwin L. West, Jr.). The American Culture Wars: Current Contests and Future Prospects. Ed. James L. Nolan, Jr. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996. 35–60.

Regina Smardon

  • “Disability and the Knowledge Economy: The Case of Clear River County.” Culture 3.2 (Fall 2009): 5–7.
  • “Sociocultural and Cultural-Historical Frameworks for Science Education.” The World of Science Education: Handbook of Research in North America. Ed. Wolff-Michael Roth and Kenneth Tobin. Rotterdam: Sense, 2009. 15–25.
  • “Broken Brains and Broken Homes: The Meaning of Special Education in an Appalachian Community.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly 39.2 (2008): 161–180.

Current initiatives

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Who We Are

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community at the University of Virginia committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences, training young scholars, and providing intellectual leadership in service to the public good.

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