Adam Valen Levinson

Adam Valen Levinson's picture
B.A., Columbia University
M.F.A., Goucher College
Areas of Interest: 
Cultural sociology; humor; emotions; ethnomethodology; social psychology

I’m interested in boundaries, material and symbolic, and how they work/change/dissolve. In one mixed qual/quant project, I am exploring one great divider: offense.  Using inoffensive cartoons selected to be as culturally non-specific as possible, I’m asking: are there biographical or demographic or psychological patterns in default sensitivity to offense? (Yes!)  A connection is developed between individuals’ sensitivities about their own identities, and their sensitivities about abstract “offensive” ideas.

One other current project: researching cultural similarities between stand-up comedians and suicide bombers, using as tools my knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, and my participant-observation within comedian communities across three continents.  While this might seem at first a crude comparison, one that fuses figurative and literal meanings, each group’s willingness to “die”, “bomb”, and “kill” is rich with significance.  Understanding that “suicide” is a social fact, I hope to tap into the deepest roots of our discipline, to investigate much the nature of marginalization, of extremism, of performance.


Levinson, Adam Valen. 2017. The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah. W.W. Norton, 2017