Wednesday December 13, 2023 @ 7 pm in Susman Room
is a writer, linguist, and podcast host living in Los Angeles. She is the author of three nonfiction books, Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism, Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language, and The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality (forthcoming April 9, 2024 from OneSignal). She is also a creator and host of the hit podcast, Sounds Like A Cult. Amanda’s books have earned praise from The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Kirkus Reviews, and more. Cultish was named a best book of 2021 by NPR, was shortlisted for several prizes including the Goodreads Choice Awards and getAbstract International Book Award, and is currently in development for television. Sounds Like A Cult won “Best Emerging Podcast” at the 2023 iHeart Radio Podcast Awards and was named a best podcast of 2022 by Vulture, Esquire, Marie Claire, and others.
Amanda’s essays and reporting have appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and elsewhere. She was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and holds a degree in linguistics from NYU. Find her on Instagram @amanda_montell or Substack at amandamontell.substack.com.
Check it out:
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? Amanda Montell’s argument is that, on some level, it already has . . .
Our culture tends to provide pretty flimsy answers to questions of cult influence, mostly having to do with vague talk of “brainwashing.” But the true answer has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. In Cultish, Montell argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear—and are influenced by—every single day.
Through juicy storytelling and cutting original research, Montell 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 our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds. Incisive and darkly funny, this enrapturing take on the curious social science of power and belief will make you hear the fanatical language of “cultish” everywhere.
Sounds Like A Cult w/ Amanda Montell
Putting the “cult” in culture…
Do you think SoulCycle is a cult? What about the Royal Family? What about Disney Adults? Or spiritual influencers? Is Instagram itself a cult? We’re Sounds Like A Cult, a podcast that analyzes a different fanatical group every week to try and answer the big question: This sounds like a cult, but is it really?
Sounds Like A Cult premiered in June of 2021 and was named a best podcast of 2022 by Vulture, Esquire, Wired, Marie Claire, Harpers’s Bazaar, and others. The pod was nominated for a 2023 iHeart Radio “Best Emerging Podcast” Award and peaked in Spotify’s top 20 podcasts in the USA.