• July 14, 2021
  • 7:00 pm
  • Online (U.S. Pacific Time)
Add to Calendar 07/14/2021 7:00 pm 07/14/2021 America/Los_Angeles On Cults, Language, and Social Science Join author Amanda Montell for a conversation about influence, the social science of cults, and how to recognize the language of fanaticism all around us. Online (U.S. Pacific Time) false MM/DD/YYYY

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(Copies of Amanda's book Cultish are available for purchase at checkout)

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This event was streamed live online with an interactive Q&A. This event was recorded and is available to watch on our YouTube channel. Portions of the audio will be released on our podcastASL Interpretation was provided at the live, online event.

What makes cults so intriguing and frightening? What makes them powerful? The reason why so many of us binge Manson documentaries by the dozen and fall down rabbit holes researching suburban moms gone QAnon is because we’re looking for a satisfying explanation for what causes people to join—and more importantly, stay in—extreme groups. We secretly want to know: could it happen to me? Author and journalist Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has. 

Our culture tends to provide incomplete answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with mind-control wizardry. In Amanda’s latest book, Cultish, she argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive and shadowy ways, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day. 

Through juicy storytelling and original research into the curious social science of power, Amanda exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities cultish, revealing how they affect followers of groups as notorious as Heaven’s Gate, but also how they pervade start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds.  

Join CIIS professor, writer, and speaker Zara Zimbardo for a conversation with Amanda about influence, the social science of cults, and how to recognize the language of fanaticism all around us.

Amanda Montell
Amanda Montell is a writer and language scholar from Baltimore, Maryland. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, which she is developing for television with FX. Her writing has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Glamour, The Rumpus, Byrdie, and Who What Wear, where she formerly served as the Features & Beauty editor. Amanda holds a degree in linguistics from NYU and lives in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood with her partner, plants, and pets.

Zara Zimbardo headshot.

Zara Zimbardo, MA, received her Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology and Social Transformation from California Institute of Integral Studies, and has a BA in Religious Studies from UC Berkeley. For the last twenty years she has been a body-based therapist both in private practice and community health centers. She is a presenter and published writer on topics of the social construction of whiteness, critical media literacy, Islamophobia, subversion of stereotypes in a time of war, social justice comedy, modern monsters and the zombie apocalypse, and representations of gender, race, consumerism and US imperialism/militarism.  

Zara co-founded the White Noise Collective, an anti-racist feminist training and resource organization. She is a co-founder and Special Projects Director of Partners for Collaborative Change, which supports organizations to become more equitable through democratizing research planning and design, and through anti-oppression facilitation and coaching. A former member of the National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the nation's oldest interfaith peace organization, she has worked in solidarity with nonviolent activists resisting militarism in the US, Palestine/Israel and Colombia.  

Her work is influenced by frameworks of critical pedagogy, postcolonial studies, feminist praxis and popular education that seek to make forms of shared knowledge and experience more conscious. She is passionate about facilitation that combines critical dialogue, somatic awareness and Theatre of the Oppressed, a form of community-based inquiry that uses theatre exercises as tools for transformation. Her passions include interdisciplinary cross-pollination, anthropologizing the West, and rendering what is considered "normal" strange. As an educator, she values opportunities to connect issues within the classroom to global and local realities, through deeper understanding of power dynamics, identity construction, histories of the present, unexamined assumptions, and applied projects of relevance. Her goal is to support a context of curiosity, critical thinking and compassion that supports skilled navigation and justice-oriented care for the diverse worlds we inhabit. To learn more about her work, visit Zara's personal website: http://www.zarazimbardo.com


We are grateful to our Bookstore Partner: Marcus Books

Marcus Books
 is the nation’s oldest Black-owned independent bookstore celebrating its 60th year. Marcus Books’ mission is to provide opportunities for Black folks and their allies to celebrate and learn about Black people everywhere.

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