Sociologist Eric Klinenberg visits W&M

by Tami Back, W&M Libraries

Last month W&M hosted a visit from sociologist and bestselling author, Eric Klinenberg.  

The visit was part of the “One Book One Community” program, sponsored by the Williamsburg Regional Library and William & Mary. One Book is an initiative that encourages the community to come together for a shared reading experience. This year’s book selection was Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg. In his book, the author reminds us that democracy is fortified by people coexisting together in public, and that public spaces can produce community, belonging, and unity.

“This book ties nicely to William & Mary’s new democracy initiative as it examines how social infrastructure can address inequality, polarization, and civic life,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries and co-chair of W&M’s democracy initiative. “At W&M, we are striving to model democratic ideals, rekindle civil discourse, convene different perspectives and viewpoints, and advance democratic ideals.

Klinenberg is a professor of social science and the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life; Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone; Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media; and Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. He is also the editor of Cultural Production in a Digital Age, co-editor of Antidemocracy in America, and co-author, with Aziz Ansari, of the New York Times #1 bestseller Modern Romance.

His visit to Williamsburg included a lunch with W&M students and an afternoon campus talk with Shannon White (W&M’s Center for Geospatial Analysis) and Carrie Cooper. They sat down with Eric to discuss his book and ask him questions submitted by students, faculty and staff. Watch his campus interview on the Libraries YouTube channel.

Later that day, Klinenberg met with library supporters for a reception at the Stryker Center, followed by a public talk at the Williamsburg Library, which drew over 115 people. This was the first in-person public event he had spoken at since the pandemic began, he announced to the audience. Watch his public talk on the Libraries’ YouTube channel. 

2022 marked the third annual One Book One Community program. It debuted in 2020 with Tommy Orange’s bestselling novel There There as the inaugural read, followed by Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.

The program includes lectures, panel discussions and book discussions, culminating in a visit from the author for a public book talk. Jason Reynolds’ book talk was held virtually in 2021 due to the pandemic.