‘Sociology of a Popstar’: Boise State Sociology department creates workshop centered around Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is arguably the most influential artist of the 21st century, which is why the Boise State Sociology Department has decided to implement a workshop-style class where Swift is the topic of discussion.

According to sociology professor Sharon Paterson, what started out as a joke before a department meeting, would eventually begin to gain traction and become the workshop called “Sociology of a Pop Star”.

Professor Paterson shared that she is excited about this workshop because she loves exposing people to sociology in their everyday lives. The workshop will discuss different sociological theories and how Taylor Swift is an example of those theories. 

“I mean, I think we’re all going to cover slightly different topics and try to bring them together,” Boise State senior Sophie Sederson said. “I think the topic that I was most interested in that I wanted to talk about was symbolic interactionism, which is just like a branch of sociological theory. So we’re just gonna explore certain concepts within that framework.”

“We’re gonna talk about Erving Goffman and front-stage backstage behavior. We are gonna do the I in me, George Herbert Mead, and looking glass self, which is Charles Cooley.”

Sederson joined this project because she grew up loving Taylor Swift. Lauren Caulfield, who is a graduate student at Boise State, shares that she joined the project because she thought it was interesting to create a sociology workshop based on Taylor Swift.

The class will focus on other factors that play a role in Swift’s career and how it relates to sociology. 

“We’re also going to talk about, gender, race and class, and how Taylor Swift uses that to her advantage to help her career and the way it’s been a barrier because she talks a lot about gender discrimination in the music industry and how that’s been a barrier to her,” Caulfield said. “But also part of her success, and her image is based on the fact that she’s white and has been able to use that white privilege, and she’s middle class or her family has money. So being able to use that class privilege also in her career.”

The class is a workshop, so instead of your normal weekly class where you meet twice a week, it will be two different sessions. 

“It’s a workshop. So it’ll be two Saturdays, and the first time it will be a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the second time, 9 a.m. to noon,” Sederson said. “At this point, we’re talking about giving them a project to work on in the week break that they’ll come back and present on the second Saturday.”

Despite the massive fanbase of “Swifties” the workshop is going to start as a 20-person class. 

Students were surprised by the workshop being capped at 20 people because of the amount of uber passionate fans that follow Swift.

Taylor Swift managed to become more popular in 2023 than she ever has before, which is why other universities have implemented similar courses.

Some other universities that are teaching Taylor Swift-related courses are Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, New York University and many more according to Entertainment Weekly

Boise State students are excited to hear that Boise State is introducing a course like this. 

“I think that it’s really exciting because we haven’t really had something like this at Boise State that I know of,” junior Emily Gossett said. “And with her and her fandom right now, I think that this would get a lot of good tips.”

Gossett isa psychology major at Boise State. She shared that as she expands more into her sociology courses, she would love to see more classes like this one. 

Paterson explains that the main concern is staffing and students being able to find a special topic when looking for classes.

The sociology department wants to continue doing workshops like this into next semester with plans of doing one with a focus on Britney Spears. The Boise State Honors College is also adding a course that focuses on Swift’s life as well as her lyrics.

“Sociology of a Pop Star” is a refreshing class for students here at Boise State that gives them an interactive and engaging way to learn about sociology.

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