Sociology Faculty

Mike Bell | Jane Collins | Mustafa Emirbayer | Myra Marx Ferree | Joan Fujimura | Joshua Garoon | Alice Goffman | Doug Maynard | Alfonso Morales |  Pam Oliver | Erik Olin Wright

Bell, Mike

Mike Bell is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology and Director of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Mike is also an ethnographer, agroecologist, and social theorist.  He is an author or editor of 8 books, including two award-winning ethnographies.  In 1994, he published Childerley: Nature and Morality in a Country Village (University of Chicago Press, 1994), which was co-winner of the 1995 Best Book Award of the Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Association.  Ten years later, he finished his second ethnography, Farming for Us All: Practical Agriculture and the Cultivation of Sustainability (Penn State University Press, 2004), which won an Outstanding Academic Title Award from the American Library Association.

Currently, Mike is co-authoring a book on fieldwork methods with Jason Orne, a UW-Madison sociology doctoral student, due out in 2015 from Routledge.  He is also writing a wide-ranging work on nature, faith, and the social history of ideas of the good, under contract with Princeton University Press, which he hopes will also arrive in 2015.

Mike has a musical second life as a composer and performer. His compositions include pieces for solo piano, symphony orchestra, and various chamber ensembles, as well as numerous “class-grass” works – a hybrid of bluegrass and classical traditions.  He frequently performs on mandolin and banjo with the Madison-based class-grass ensemble Graminy.

Collins, JaneJane

Jane Collins is Professor of Community & Environmental Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Her ethnographic research has focused on gender, labor, and poverty in contexts that include family farms in highland Peru, the commercial agricultural sector in Brazil, the apparel industry in the U.S. and Mexico and the low wage service sector in the U.S. She has also studied shifts in the representational practices of National Geographic magazine.  Her books include Both Hands Tied: Welfare Reform and the Race to the Bottom in the Low Wage Labor Market (2010, with Victoria Mayer), Threads: Gender, Labor and Power in the Global Apparel Industry (2003), Reading National Geographic (with Catherine Lutz), and Unseasonal Migration: The Effects of Rural Labor Scarcity in Peru, as well as the co-edited volumes New Landscapes of Inequality (with Micaela di Leonardo and Brett Williams) and Work Without Wages (with Martha Gimenez). She is currently working on an NSF-funded study of conflicts over economic value in the United States that encompasses three cases in which civil society groups are contesting how economic value is measured and conceptualized. She has taught Qualitative Research Methods at UW and in pre-conference workshops for the American Sociological Association.

Emirbayer, MustafaMustafa Emirbayer |

Mustafa Emirbayer is professor of sociology at UW-Madison. A past chair of the ASA Theory Section and winner of the Lewis Coser Award for Theoretical Agenda-Setting in Sociology, his work includes historical studies of the teaching of morality and citizenship in American public schools from the early nineteenth century to the present; theoretical papers on social networks, culture, agency, collective emotions, the public sphere and civil society, revolutions and social movements, organizations, and democracy; theoretical studies of Durkheim, Weber, Dewey, Garfinkel, Bourdieu, and Alexander; and writings on race in America (coauthored with Matthew Desmond), including a major symposium on “Race and Reflexivity” in Ethnic and Racial Studies; a paper on race and social justice teaching; a “non-textbook textbook” entitled Race in America (forthcoming in its second edition with Norton); and a scholarly contribution to race theory, entitled The Racial Order (forthcoming with University of Chicago Press). He also has taught numerous graduate seminars relating to sociological ethnography, including “The Chicago School of Sociology”; “The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu”; “Pragmatism and Sociology”; and “Ethnography and Theory, Ethnography as Theory,” and has directed student research projects with both a Chicago School and a Bourdieuian analytic orientation.

Among the graduate students he has mentored on ethnographic projects are Rebecca Krantz (dissertation on community groups and deliberative democracy in Madison); Black Hawk Hancock (dissertation on the swing dance revival, now published by University of Chicago Press as American Allegory); Matthew Desmond (Master’s thesis on wildland firefighters, now published by University of Chicago Press as On the Fireline, finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award and winner of the Max Weber Award of the ASA Section on Organizations, Occupations, and Work; dissertation on eviction and the urban poor in Milwaukee, now forthcoming as Evicted with Crown Publishers / Random House, winner of the Lumpkin Dissertation Award); Shamus Khan (dissertation on an elite boarding school in New England, now published by Princeton University Press as Privilege, winner of the C. Wright Mills Award); Bowen Paulle (external mentor on dissertation on violence in urban schools in New York City and Amsterdam, now published by University of Chicago Press as Toxic Schools); Chelsea Schelly (dissertation on living off-grid in America; secondary book project on Rainbow Gatherings, spun off the dissertation, now in press at Paradigm Publishers); Andrea Voyer (dissertation on diversity troubles in a small town in Maine, now published by Cambridge University Press as Strangers and Neighbors); Wes Markofski (Master’s thesis on urban monasteries and the new evangelicalism, now in press at Oxford University Press as The Transformation of American Evangelicalism); Lily Liang (Master’s thesis on so-called “Ant Tribe” of unemployed or underemployed college graduates in Shanghai); and Geoff Bakken (dissertation on the Tea Party Movement in Wisconsin). Currently, he is mentoring other graduate students on Master’s thesis and dissertation projects of an ethnographic nature, including Grace Nguyen (fine dining in New York City); Wes Markofski (progressive evangelicals and American democracy); Joseph Ewoodzie (comparative foodways of wealthy, middle-class, working-poor, and homeless African Americans in Jackson, Mississippi); Lily Liang (upper-middle class youth in Shanghai, a project later to be brought together in an integral comparative study with her earlier work on working-class and lower-middle class Shanghai youth); and Nathan Shelton (gun culture in Wisconsin).

selfportrait 2012Myra Marx Ferree

I am not an ethnographer and don’t even play one on TV, but I do have experience with doing ethnographic observations as part of larger projects that also rely on archival and interview materials, primarily about gender equality politics in Germany. Most of “my” ethnographic work is actually done with students who are working on projects about intersectional equality politics across a wide variety of countries (South Korea, India, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Ghana, Iceland, etc) and specific sites (often social movements or social agencies) involved in doing social change work. I have a strong belief in the value of multi-method approaches and think a well-prepared sociologist should be able to appreciate both the difficulties and contributions of each sort of methodological tool available to us. For recent publications and more information about my substantive interests please see and also the Femsem website

Fujimura, JoanJoan Fujimura |

Bio coming soon.




Garoon, Josh
Joshua Garoon |

My work investigates the ways in which environmental governance shapes and is shaped by public health, from the local to the global scales. I’m particularly interested in how notions and practices of “community” and “neighborhood” are implicated in attempts to integrate the health and development of humans and non-human populations. (So it’s apropos that I’m based in the Department of Community & Environmental Sociology.) My primary ethnographic project focuses on the implementation of community-based natural resource management around North Luangwa National Park in Zambia. I’ve also been conducting research in Baltimore on the relationships among urban (re)development, built environments, neighborhood activism, and regulatory and planning practices (e.g., zoning code).

Goffman, AliceAlice

I’m a Philadelphia native who came to Madison in 2012 as an Assistant Professor. I work in the urban ethnography tradition of Howie Becker, Elijah Anderson, and Mitch Duneier, sometimes called the Chicago School. The idea is sustained engagement in a community, obsessive note taking, and the close up observation of everyday life over time.

For two years of college and four years of graduate school I conducted an ethnographic study of a working class to poor African American neighborhood in which many young people were getting chased by the police, attending court dates, and living with low-level warrants. The dissertation “On the Run” reports on this world of suspects and fugitives created by the get-tough turn in U.S. criminal justice policy, and won the 2011 Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association. The book On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City was released in paperback this April with Farrar Straus and Giroux. Since the book’s release I’ve been talking a lot about reform. You can read an op-ed here and watch a Ted talk here.

In the fall I teach the graduate ethnography class where students pick a setting and learn how to observe and write field notes. The spring ethnographic writing class is a workshop where students come in with a draft, however rough, and revise it all semester. I also teach a spring course on social interaction theory and a large undergraduate course called The Future of Social Life. With Adam Talkington and Esther HsuBorger, I run SPAM, the weekly brownbag for ethnography and related topics, as well as WISCER, the Wisconsin Ethnography Collective. If you’ve got questions about the ethnography program at Madison or want to talk about criminal justice reform, please email me at There’s more about my work and courses on the faculty page here.

Maynard, DougDoug Maynard |

I am Conway-Bascom Professor and Harold Garfinkel Faculty Fellow in the Department of Sociology. My research and teaching focus on interaction in settings of everyday life, drawing on theoretical and empirical traditions in ethnography, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, and interaction order analysis. I have studied ordinary talk as well as interactions in legal, medical, and other institutional settings. Many of my studies represent intensive fieldwork, where ethnography is in complimentary relationship to the study of audio- or video-recorded interaction. Presently, I am conducting an NSF-funded project to study the testing and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders. I am also involved in research with a palliative care physician at the UW Health Sciences Center. This research concerns the organization of talk during ongoing cancer care especially regarding “end of life” and treatment discussions. Finally, I continue a long-term collaborative relationship with departmental colleague Nora Cate Schaeffer on studies concerned with interaction in the survey interview.

Sociology graduate students, usually with interests in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, are involved in all of these projects, and I also work with graduate students who are doing primarily ethnographic work. In fact, I am intensely interested in the relationship between ethnography and the study of everyday interaction. Graduate students can take my class called Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (Sociology 735) and meet the master’s methods requirement in our program. I also teach seminars in these areas and a graduate Social Psychology class (Sociology 730). Many mornings, I hold informal office hours at Espresso Royale Café at 7 a.m. over coffee and sometimes in the late afternoon on the Memorial Union Terrace (or in the Rathskeller, depending on weather) over beer.

Morales, AlfonsoAlfonso

Alfonso Morales studies food systems, public marketplaces, and street vendors, and the role and function that they serve in economic development. Using an innovative blend of the disciplines of sociology and urban planning, Morales has created a body of books, articles, book chapters, and other writing that provides practical insight into the ways that urban agriculture, food distribution, street-level economies and social interactions contribute to and influence community and economic development. He is among a small number of researchers who employ ethnographic field research methods to help inform contemporary theoretical debates about community food systems, public markets, space use, and street vending businesses. His primary dissertation research on Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market established the foundation for what has become a wider range of studies of the social, cultural, and economic factors that involved in the interactions between public marketplaces and the areas where they are established. His new research on community and regional food systems expands his intellectual and policy agenda through the $5 million dollar USDA-AFRI grant of which he is Project Co-Principle Investigator.

Morales’ work is written for practicing planners and policy makers as well as social scientists, and stands at the forefront of current inquiry in its engagement with demographically diverse communities and with various economic and political institutions. His work has been published in the top journals of five disciplinary associations and discussed in numerous national and international media outlets. Professor Morales has articulated his theoretical and research interests in three edited or co-edited books and more than 30 articles and book chapters.

Professor Morales received his graduate degrees from Northwestern University (Ph.D, 1993), the University of Chicago (AM 1989), and the University of Texas at Dallas (MS 1987). He was a Dissertation Fellow at the American Bar Foundation and a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. He has been recognized for his teaching generally and work with students of color particularly. The Health Resources and Services Administration, the USDA, the Ford Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation are among organizations that have supported his research.

Professor Morales is on the board of EDCO Ventures, a nonprofit that develops for-profit businesses in economically distressed areas. He also hosts, a webpage on street vendors and public markets.

Oliver, PamPamela

My own instincts are more theoretical and quantitative than ethnographic, but I support ethnography and other qualitative research methods as an important part of sociology. I read qualitative case studies often in my work. My own research has focused on theories of collective action and social movements, modeling of protest diffusion, news coverage of protests, and racial disparities in incarceration. I’m part of a team working on automating the retrieval and coding of protest events from news archives. I also have done a lot of public sociology around racial disparity issues: I’ve given more than 100 public lectures on this topic and I’ve spent a couple of hundred hours attending and participating in a wide variety of groups concerned about these issues.  I’ve been the lead advisor on a number of qualitative dissertations including Franklin Rothman (peasant opposition to hydroelectric dams in Brazil), Kyounghee Kim (Korean women’s movement), Heather Hartley (nurse midwives), Renee Monson (child support enforcement), Brian Obach (labor and environmental movement alliances), Gregory Maney (conflict dynamics in Northern Ireland), Jorge Cadena-Roa (contentious politics in Mexico), Amy Lang (citizen deliberation in British Columbia), Nora Hui-Jung Kim (immigration politics in Korea), and Peter Hart-Brinson (generational attitudes about same-sex marriage).  Several of my current advisees have ethnographic or qualitative interview components to their projects, including Daanika Gordon, Katrina Quisumbing King, and Gina Longo. In addition to these, I’ve been an active committee member on dozens of other qualitative projects. In general, I’m especially interested in working with people around issues of protest and social movements, incarceration and criminal justice, and racial/ethnic dynamics. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in mixed-race and mixed-class community groups working on issues of social justice, and feel like I’ve absorbed a lot of unsystematic qualitative observations about the dynamics in these groups that I think can also make me a useful sounding board for certain kinds of observational or interview projects. People who work with me often find that I try to persuade them to develop a mixed-methods approach to their work, supporting their main qualitative project with some quantitative project to supplement it, but this is always a suggestion, not a requirement. You can see more about my own work at

Wright, Erik Olin
Erik Olin

Erik Olin Wright is Vilas Distinguished Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. His academic work has been centrally concerned with reconstructing the Marxist tradition of social theory and research in ways that attempt to make it more relevant to contemporary concerns and more cogent as a scientific framework of analysis. More recently he has emphasized the ways in which Marxism, Feminism and other currents of critical social analysis fit together in a broader agenda of what can be called emancipatory social science. His empirical research has focused especially on the changing character of class relations in developed capitalist societies. Since 1992 he has directed The Real Utopias Project which explores a wide range of proposals for new institutional designs that embody emancipatory ideals and yet are attentive to issues of pragmatic feasibility. He was president of the American Sociological Association in 2011-12. You can download most of his books and articles here.

While Erik’s first book, The Politics of Punishment (Harper and Row, 1973), was substantially based on quasi-ethnographic research that he conducted while he was an intern-chaplain at San Quentin Prison in 1970, most of his subsequent empirical research is more quantitative in character, relying on surveys and census data. In the Real Utopias project the empirical work has been largely based on case studies. He strongly believes in a Sociology of Discovery grounded in multi-method approaches to research: instead of beginning with a method and asking, “What questions can I pursue given this method?” research should begin with questions and ask “What methods do I need to generate insightful answers?”

Erik has supervised many dissertations by students doing ethnographic and interview-based qualitative fieldwork, often on topics very different from his own research. The dissertations he has mentored with strong field-work components include: Ozlem Altiok (co-advisor with Michael Bell), “Hegemonic governmorality, progressive masculinity, and the moral economy of gender”; Rodolfo Elbert, “Uniting What Capital Divides: Union Organizing in the Workplace and the Community under the New Politics of Labor Informality in Argentina (2003-2011)”; Oriol Mirosa (co-advisor with Gay Seidman), “The Global Water Regime: water’s transformation from right to commodity in South Africa and Bolivia”; Kate McCoy, “Ready, Aim, Hire: The Political and Social Implications of Military Outsourcing”; Amy Lang, “A New Tool for Democracy? Citizen Deliberation in the British Columbia Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform”; Cesar Rodriguez, “Sewing Resistance: Global Production, Transnational Organizing, And Global Governance in The Us-Caribbean Basin Apparel Industry (1990-2005)”; Meera Seghal, “Women in the Hindu Fundamentalist Movement”; Gianpaolo Baiocchi, “Civil Society and Participatory Democracy in Porto Alegre Brazil”; Raka Ray, “A Comparative Study of the Women’s Movements in Bombay and Calcutta”; Lisa Brush, “Worthy Widows, Welfare Cheats: constructing single mothers, constructing the welfare state in the U.S., 1900-1988″; Karen Shire, “Trade Unions and the Reorganization of Work in the Austrian and German Auto-Industry” (jointly supervised with Wolfgang Streeck); Cynthia Costello, “We’re Worth It: women and the Insurance workplace”.