Languages of Virtue and Vice
How do humans express normative concepts using words, images, and gestures? What analogies and signs express that a behavior is beneficial, and what strategies do humans use to express that a behavior is harmful?
"[M]oralistic narratives need not, and usually will not explicitly refer to 'morality' or 'ethics' in terms we would readily recognize as such."
Phil Hopkins, Mass Moralizing: Marketing and Moral Storytelling (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015), 15.
The Gatekeepers of the Moral Order
How are emotions used to communicate value judgments? How do humans use emotions (like shock, pride, shame, anger, and disgust) to produce, enforce, and contest social norms?
"The 'moral emotions' are often considered to be shame, guilt, sympathy, and empathy... [and] contempt, anger, and disgust... [but] this view is far too narrow..."
Jonathan H. Turner and Jan E. Stet, "Moral Emotions," in Handbook of the Sociology of Emotions (New York: Springer, 2007), 544.
Stories about the Social Order
How do humans use stories to communicate prescriptive and proscriptive ideas about society? What kinds of morality tales exist? How does one go about reading and interpreting morality tales?
"These simple tales embody truths so powerful, the titles of the individual fables—the fox and the grapes, the dog in the manger, the wolf in sheep's clothing, and many others—have entered the languages and idioms of most European tongues..."
Back Cover, Aesop's Fables, trans. V.S. Vernon Jones (Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 1994).
How do human societies understand roles and divisions of labor? How is space divided (into public/private, male/female, sacred/profane)? Which spaces are contested as immoral, deviant, or otherwise problematic?
Social Divisions of Space and Labor
Confucian society is organized "via gender and inter-generational divisions of labor... Students are positioned with respect to teachers... employees with respect to employers... a wife is subordinate to her husband...."
C. Cindy Fan, "Migration, Gender, and Space in China," in The Routledge Companion to Modernity, Space and Gender, ed. Alexandra Staub (New York: Routledge, 2018).