Centre for Research in Communication and Culture


20 March 2019

Professor Danny Kaplan - Social Club Sociability and Civic-National Solidarity: The Case of Big Brother Reality TV

Presented By CRCC Seminar Series
  • 1:00-2:00pm
  • U1.22

About this event


Whereas theorists of nationalism and civil society often consider mass solidarity as a byproduct of collective identity or an abstract relation between strangers, I will discuss a new theoretical approach for studying solidarity through the prism of friendship and sociability. The growing differentiation of modern institutional life places increasing demands on individuals to successfully transform strangers into friends. This competence carries symbolic meanings and is part of what enables a mass society to be continuingly imagined as a nation. Building on Simmel’s relational approach and Neo-Durkheimian accounts of collective effervescence in media event I will describe how modern institutions operate as social clubs of sorts where unaffiliated strangers transform into friends.  

Drawing on a case-study of Big Brother Israel reality TV, I demonstrate how structural-interactional features of the show encourage viewers to shift from a position of bystanders to one of confidants and companions of the contestants. I analyze this shift through mechanisms of “public intimacy”—the staging of exclusive interactions in front of a third party. The viewer’s emergent sense of collective complicity affects their own daily interactions related to the show as well as wider public discourse on social media. In this way social club sociability provides a sense of continuity between feelings of exclusivity, familiarity and loyalty experienced towards newly formed friends and towards fellow-compatriots


Prof. Danny Kaplan teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and directs the Men’s Studies track in the Gender Studies program at Bar Ilan University. He also co-directs the Bar Ilan Center for Cultural Sociology. Kaplan specializes in the study of emotions, with a focus on the politics of friendship and nationalism. In recent years he has explored patterns of “social club sociability” in a variety of institutions (Freemasonry, military commemoration rituals, music radio broadcasting, reality television, Facebook) and developed a research strategy for studying civic and national solidarity based on an analytic distinction between public intimacy and collective intimacy. Parts of this project are to appear in his upcoming book The Nation and the Promise of Friendship: Building Solidarity through Sociability  (Palgrave Macmillan, In press).