Recent Books by Faculty

Soaking the Middle Class Suburban Inequality and Recovery from Disaster. Anna Rhodes & Max Besbris (Russell Sage Foundation, 2022)

Extreme weather is increasing in scale and severity as global warming worsens. While poorer communities are typically most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, even well-resourced communities are increasingly vulnerable as climate-related storms intensify. Yet little is known about how middle-class communities are responding to these storms and the resulting damage. In Soaking the Middle Class, sociologists Anna Rhodes and Max Besbris examine how a middle-class community recovers from a climate-related disaster and how this process fosters inequality within these kinds of places.

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped record-breaking rainfall in Southeast Texas resulting in more than $125 billion in direct damages. Rhodes and Besbris followed 59 flooded households in Friendswood, Texas, for two years after the storm to better understand the recovery process in a well-resourced, majority-White, middle-class suburban community. As such, Friendswood should have been highly resilient to storms like Harvey, yet Rhodes and Besbris find that the recovery process exacerbated often-invisible economic inequality between neighbors. Two years after Harvey, some households were in better financial positions than they were before the storm, while others still had incomplete repairs, were burdened with large new debts, and possessed few resources to draw on should another disaster occur.

Rhodes and Besbris find that recovery policies were significant drivers of inequality, with flood insurance playing a key role in the divergent recovery outcomes within Friendswood. Households with flood insurance prior to Harvey tended to have higher incomes than those that did not. These households received high insurance payouts, enabling them to replace belongings, hire contractors, and purchase supplies. Households without coverage could apply for FEMA assistance, which offered considerably lower payouts, and for government loans, which would put them into debt. Households without coverage found themselves exhausting their financial resources, including retirement savings, to cover repairs, which put them in even more financially precarious positions than they were before the flood.

The vast majority of Friendswood residents chose to repair and return to their homes after Hurricane Harvey. Even this devastating flood did not alter their plans for long-term residential stability, and the structure of recovery policies only further oriented homeowners towards returning to their homes. Prior to Harvey, many Friendswood households relied on flood damage from previous storms to judge their vulnerability and considered themselves at low risk. After Harvey, many found it difficult to assess their level of risk for future flooding. Without strong guidance from federal agencies or the local government on how to best evaluate risk, many residents ended up returning to potentially unsafe places.

As climate-related disasters become more severe, Soaking the Middle Class illustrates how inequality in the United States will continue to grow if recovery policies are not fundamentally changed.

Battleground Asymmetric Communication Ecologies and the Erosion of Civil Society in Wisconsin.  Lewis A. FriedlandDhavan V. ShahMichael W. WagnerKatherine J. Cramer, Chris WellsJon Pevehouse. (Cambridge University Press, 2022)

Battleground models Wisconsin’s contentious political communication ecology: the way that politics, social life, and communication intersect and create conditions of polarization and democratic decline. Drawing from 10 years of interviews, news and social media content, and state-wide surveys, we combine qualitative and computational analysis with time-series and multi-level modeling to study this hybrid communication system – an approach that yields unique insights about nationalization, social structure, conventional discourses, and the lifeworld. We explore these concepts through case studies of immigration, healthcare, and economic development, concluding that despite nationalization, distinct state-level effects vary by issue as partisan actors exert their discursive power.



Prisons and Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration. Jason Schnittker, Michael Massoglia, and Christopher Uggen. (Oxford University Press, 2022)

In an age when over two million people are incarcerated in the United States alone, the wide-reaching impact of prisons in our society is impossible to deny, and the paradoxical relationship between prisons and health has never been more controversial. Prisons are charged at the same time with being punitive and therapeutic, with denying freedom and administering treatment, with confining and rehabilitating. And they are not living up to the charge.

Prison and Health in the Age of Mass Incarceration examines the connection between prisons and health. Based on a decade of empirical research, this book explores the consequences of incarceration on inmates themselves; on the families they leave behind; on the larger communities to which they return; and, ultimately, on entire health care systems at the state and national level. Jason Schnittker, Michael Massoglia, and Christopher Uggen demonstrate that the relationship between incarceration and health is sustained by a combination of social, cultural, and legal forces, and by a failure to recognize that prisons are now squarely in the business of providing care. With an eye to the history that led us to this point, the book investigates these connections and shows how prisons undermine health and well-being.

An evenhanded and comprehensive analysis, this groundbreaking volume demonstrates that the prison system produces unintended and far-reaching consequences for the health of our nation and points the way for a fairer and more effective justice system.

Autistic Intelligence: Interaction, Individuality, and the Challenges of Diagnosis. Douglas M. Maynard & Jason Turowetz (University of Chicago Press, 2022)

Drawing on hundreds of hours of video recordings and ethnographic observations at a clinic where professionals evaluated children for autism, the authors’ analysis of interactions among clinicians, parents, and children demystifies the categories, tools, and practices involved in the diagnostic process. Autistic Intelligence shows that autism is not a stable category; it is the outcome of complex interactional processes involving professionals, children, families, and facets of the social and clinical environments they inhabit. The authors suggest that diagnosis, in addition to carefully classifying children, also can highlight or include unique and particular contributions those with autism potentially can make to the world around us.



The Ethnomethodology Program: Legacies and Prospects.  Edited by Douglas M. Maynard & John Heritage. (Oxford University Press, 2022)

It’s been more than fifty years since Harold Garfinkel created the field of ethnomethodology–a discipline that offers a new way of understanding how people make sense of their everyday world. Since his book Studies in Ethnomethodology, published in 1967, there has been a substantial–although often subterranean–growth in ethnomethodological (EM) work. Studies in and appreciation of ethnomethodological work continue to grow, but the breadth and penetration of his insights and inspiration for ongoing research have yet to secure their full measure of recognition.

This volume celebrates Harold Garfinkel’s enormous contributions to sociology and conversation analysis, exploring how ethnomethodology emerged, the empirical consequences of Garfinkel’s work, and the significant contemporary work that has resulted from it. Doug Maynard and John Heritage bring together experts from a wide range of theoretical and empirical areas to create the first comprehensive collection of work on EM that encompasses its role in “studies of work,” in Conversation Analysis, and in other subdisciplines. Chapters highlight EM’s distinctive forms of ethnographic inquiry and its influences on a host of substantive domains including legal environments, science and technology, workplace and organizational inquiries, survey research, social problems and deviance, and disability and atypical interaction. The book explains how EM especially helped to set the agenda for gender studies, while also developing insights for inquiries into racial and ethnic features of everyday life and experience.

Still, there is much of what Garfinkel called “unfinished business,” which means that ethnomethodological inquiries are continuing to intensify and develop. The Ethnomethodology Program addresses this unfinished business: not only drawing attention to past accomplishments in the field, but also suggesting how these accomplishments set the stage for current and future endeavors that will benefit from EM-inspired approaches to social organization and interaction.

photo of cover of the book Education for Democracy: Renewing the Wisconsin Idea:Education for Democracy: Renewing the Wisconsin Idea. Edited by Chad Alan Goldberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 2020)

Like many higher education institutions across the United States, the University of Wisconsin’s mission, known as the Wisconsin Idea, emphasizes a responsibility to serve the needs of the state and its people. This commitment, which necessarily requires a pledge to academic freedom, has recently been openly threatened by state and federal actors seeking to dismantle a democratic and expansive conception of public service.

Goldberg uses the Wisconsin Idea as a lens in Education for Democracy to demonstrate that public higher education institutions remain a bastion of collaborative problem solving. Examinations of partnerships between the state university and people of the state highlight many crucial and lasting contributions to issues of broad public concern such as conservation, LGBTQ+ rights, and poverty alleviation. The contributors restore the value of state universities and humanities education as a public good, contending that they deserve renewed and robust support.

Cover for the Book Upsold: Real Estate Agents, Prices, and Neighborhood Inequality. Max Besbris (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

In this book, Max Besbris shows how agents successfully upsell, inducing buyers to spend more than their initially stated price ceilings. His research reveals how face-to-face interactions influence buyers’ ideas about which neighborhoods are desirable and which are less-worthy investments and how these preferences ultimately contribute to neighborhood inequality.

Stratification defines cities in the contemporary United States. In an era marked by increasing income segregation, one of the main sources of this inequality is housing prices. A crucial part of wealth inequality, housing prices are also directly linked to the uneven distribution of resources across neighborhoods and to racial and ethnic segregation. Upsold shows how the interactions between real estate agents and buyers make or break neighborhood reputations and construct neighborhoods by price. Employing revealing ethnographic and quantitative housing data, Besbris outlines precisely how social influences come together during the sales process.

Cover page of book Interviewer Effects from a Total Survey Error Perspective: Edited By Kristen Olson, Jolene D. Smyth, Jennifer Dykema, Allyson L. Holbrook, Frauke Kreuter,  and Brady T. West (Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2020)

This book presents a comprehensive collection of state-of-the-art research on interviewer-administered survey data collection. Interviewers play an essential role in the collection of the high-quality survey data used to learn about our society and improve the human condition. Although many surveys are conducted using self-administered modes, interviewer-administered modes continue to be optimal for surveys that require high levels of participation, include difficult-to-survey populations, and collect biophysical data. Survey interviewing is complex, multifaceted, and challenging.

In 2019, survey methodologists, survey practitioners, and survey operations specialists participated in an international workshop at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to identify best practices for surveys employing interviewers and outline an agenda for future methodological research. This book features 23 chapters on survey interviewing by these worldwide leaders in the theory and practice of survey interviewing. Written for managers of survey interviewers, survey methodologists, and students interested in the survey data collection process, this unique reference uses the Total Survey Error framework to examine optimal approaches to survey interviewing, presenting state-of-the-art methodological research on all stages of the survey process involving interviewers.

Book cover for the book named City of the Good:  Nature, Religion, and the Ancient Search for What Is Right.
Michael M. Bell (Princeton University Press, 2018)

People have long looked to nature and the divine as paths to the good. In this panoramic meditation on the harmonious life, Michael Mayerfeld Bell traces how these two paths came to be seen as separate from human ways, and how many of today’s conflicts can be traced back thousands of years to this ancient divide.

Taking readers on a spellbinding journey through history and across the globe, Bell begins with the pagan view, which sees nature and the divine as entangled with the human—and not necessarily good. But the emergence of urban societies gave rise to new moral concerns about the political character of human life. Wealth and inequality grew, and urban people sought to justify their passions. In the face of such concerns, nature and the divine came to be partitioned from the human, and therefore seen to be good—but they also became absolute and divisive.

Bell charts the unfolding of this new moral imagination in the rise of Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Jainism, and many other traditions that emerged with bourgeois life. He follows developments in moral thought, from the religions of the ancient Sumerians, Greeks, and Hebrews to the science and environmentalism of today, along the way visiting with contemporary indigenous people in South Africa, Costa Rica, and the United States. City of the Good urges us to embrace the plurality of our traditions—from the pagan to the bourgeois—and to guard against absolutism and remain open to difference and its endless creativity.

Gender:  Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, Second Edition
Lisa Wade and Myra Marx Ferree (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc: 2018)

An instant best-seller and now the leading book for the course, Wade and Ferree’s Gender is a sophisticated yet accessible introduction to sociological perspectives on gender. Drawing on memorable examples mined from history, pop culture, and current events, Gender deftly moves between theoretical concepts and applications to everyday life. New discussions of #metoo, toxic masculinity, and gender politics in the Trump era help students participate in today’s conversation about gender.

Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement.
Monica M. White (The University of North Carolina Press, 2018)

In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to over 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an alternative to the second wave of northern migration by African Americans–an opportunity to stay in the South, live off the land, and create a healthy community based upon building an alternative food system as a cooperative and collective effort.

Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought
Chad Alan Goldberg (The University of Chicago Press, 2017)

“In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent social thinkers in France, Germany, and the United States sought to understand the modern world taking shape around them. Although they worked in different national traditions and emphasized different features of modern society, they repeatedly invoked Jews as a touchstone for defining modernity and national identity in a context of rapid social change. In Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought, Chad Alan Goldberg brings us a major new study of Western social thought through the lens of Jews and Judaism.”–The University of Chicago Press

The Genome Factor: What the Social Genomics Revolution Reveals about Ourselves, Our History, and the Future
Dalton Conley and Jason Fletcher (Princeton University Press, 2017)

For a century, social scientists have avoided genetics like the plague. But in the past decade, a small but intrepid group of economists, political scientists, and sociologists have harnessed the genomics revolution to paint a more complete picture of human social life than ever before. The Genome Factor describes the latest astonishing discoveries being made at the scientific frontier where genomics and the social sciences intersect.

The Genome Factor reveals that there are real genetic differences by racial ancestry—but ones that don’t conform to what we call black, white, or Latino. Genes explain a significant share of who gets ahead in society and who does not, but instead of giving rise to a genotocracy, genes often act as engines of mobility that counter social disadvantage. An increasing number of us are marrying partners with similar education levels as ourselves, but genetically speaking, humans are mixing it up more than ever before with respect to mating and reproduction. These are just a few of the many findings presented in this illuminating and entertaining book, which also tackles controversial topics such as genetically personalized education and the future of reproduction in a world where more and more of us are taking advantage of cheap genotyping services like 23andMe to find out what our genes may hold in store for ourselves and our children.

The Genome Factor shows how genomics is transforming the social sciences—and how social scientists are integrating both nature and nurture into a unified, comprehensive understanding of human behavior at both the individual and society-wide levels.–Princeton University Press