Program Links

The department has seven core areas of specialization, with flexible boundaries between them (many faculty members bridge two or more of these areas). The crime and social control area focuses on the relationship of crime, criminal justice, and social control institutions with family, community, education, and inequality. The culture and cognition area emphasizes the complex ways in which thought, culturally received symbols and values, and social interaction affect one another. The environment and sustainability area focuses on the ways people interact with the physical and natural environment, especially related to development, disaster, and risk. The gender, difference, inequality area focuses on issues of difference and inequality related to gender, race, ethnic, and class positions. The health, population, and life course area concentrates on social factors that affect health and illness, the system of medical care, and the effects of aging (through all phases of the life course) on health. The political and economic sociology area concentrates on large scale patterns of social organization, power, and conflict, with a growing emphasis on globalization. The social networks area focuses on the cultural, historical, and institutional dynamics of social relations.

These specialty areas represent the strengths of research and training among the faculty in the department. Graduate students do not formally affiliate with these areas and do not have specific course requirements for their degrees to specialize in an area.  The specialty areas reflect the types of subjects in which students can gain solid support for their own research interests. This may be concentrated in one group or at the intersection of multiple areas.

Core Clusters

Crime and Social Control

The question of how societies attain order and control their populations is a foundational concern within sociology. Crime is also important within sociology, both as a salient challenge to social control and a means through which societies affirm their values and norms. The Department of Sociology faculty has long addressed the sources and consequences of crime and social control for individuals and society. A number of the sociology faculty (Hirschfield and Krivo) in this core cluster are also affiliated with the inter-disciplinary criminal justice program within the School of Arts and Sciences established in 2000.

The eight faculty members that comprise the cluster in crime and social control represent a wide range of methodological and theoretical approaches. However, they share a distinctly sociological orientation, situating crime, whether in the form of adult offending, delinquency, or violence, in relation to inequalities and differences along the lines of race/ethnicity, class, gender, or geography. These scholars also examine social institutions both as sources of crime and deviance and as agents of prevention, control and suppression. Institutions, practices, and subjects of particular interest to faculty include urban communities (Dinzey-Flores, Krivo), urban policy and design (Dinzey-Flores), schools (Hirschfield, Shepherd), families (Phillips), peer groups (Shepherd), law enforcement (Hirschfield), segregation and ethno-racial inequality (Dinzey-Flores, Krivo, Phillips), and the juvenile justice system (Hirschfield).

The Sociology faculty conducting research in this area have assembled or help manage unique community-level, state, or national data sets that provide opportunities for graduate students to engage in research on the intersection of various social control institutions (schools, neighborhoods, police, courts, and juvenile justice) and crime. Cluster members have taught a variety of graduate courses related to crime, social control, and punishment and supervised several dissertations pertaining to such topics. Our graduate students have had success in winning university and national awards and in obtaining excellent placements upon graduation. At the undergraduate level, we offer a number of dynamic courses in the area of crime and social control as well as the opportunity to minor in criminology. Students who minor in criminology are particularly likely to encounter faculty in this cluster both in sociology courses and in criminal justice courses.

Culture and Cognition

The field of sociology of culture addresses questions of the social creation and implications of symbols, language, ideas, art, religion, science, media, law, institutions, interactions, and subjective experiences. The field also provides distinct frameworks for approaching social research, and theoretical perspectives on the nature of human action and thought. It is a big and diverse subfield of sociology that accommodates many substantive topics, theoretical traditions, and methodological perspectives. Many cultural sociologists are interested in using the lens of culture and insights about shared meanings to understand issues such as inequality, race, gender, politics, health, migration, economics, and organizations.

The Rutgers sociology department has been at the forefront of an approach to culture that takes seriously the role of cognition, including mental representations, cognitive processes, and their interaction with the body. Scholars of culture and cognition are interested in topics such as: the nature of mental structures, representations, and memory; the social bases of cognitive processes; and processes of human behavior. Work in this area often draws on insights from cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Professors Karen Cerulo and Eviatar Zerubavel have pioneered important and distinct perspectives on cognition and culture that are widely acclaimed and used within sociology. Several faculty (Cerulo, Gerson, Shepherd, Zerubavel) pursue work on these topics.

Faculty and students at Rutgers work on a number of topics within the sociology of culture including how technology, art, and media are produced and contribute to the circulation of symbols and meanings (Cerulo, Chaudhary, Davidson, Jones, Kempner, McLean, Shepherd); how knowledge and expertise are produced and deployed (Cerulo, Jones, Kempner, Lee, MacKendrick, Shepherd); how social networks capture interaction, meanings, and relationships (McLean, Shepherd); how social context contributes to the meaning of identity, especially regarding race, class, religion, sexuality, and gender (Borocz, Brooks, Cerulo, Chaudhary, Dinzey-Flores, Gerson, Jones, MacKendrick, Salime, Stein, Zerubavel); how the physical body, bodily experiences, and representations of the body interact with the social world (Cerulo, Kempner, Lee, MacKendrick, Stein); and finally, how aspects of culture are associated with differential power and can be deployed in the service of power and exclusion (Borocz, Brooks, Cerulo, Dinzey-Flores, Jones, Lee, McLean, Salime, Stein, Zerubavel).

The Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers provides faculty and graduate student fellowships to pursue work in cultural sociology. Graduate students interested in this area have pursued many different types of projects using diverse methods and approaches to research. We offer a wide array of graduate classes in this area, and graduate students interested in the sociology of culture benefit from methodological training in qualitative methods, narratives, ethnography, quantitative methods, and network methods, among others. Our graduates have been highly successful in crafting award-winning articles and dissertations, and in obtaining outstanding placements upon completion of our program. At the undergraduate level, students interested in the study of culture and its associated phenomenon can take classes in the Sociology of Culture (220), Seminar in Cognitive Sociology, Law and Society, Race, Science, and Medicine, and topics classes such as Food, Culture and Society. Many undergraduate sociology majors pursue honors projects related to the sociology of culture.

Environment and Sustainability

The Department of Sociology at Rutgers University offers one of the most expansive and outstanding national graduate programs in the sociology of the environment and sustainability. Environment and sustainability (or environmental sociology) is a subfield of the discipline that captures society-environment interactions and sustainability across a number of research areas, theoretical orientations, and methods. The sociology of environment and sustainability is inherently interdisciplinary, open to a wide range of interpretations and approaches.

Eight sociologists make up our graduate faculty, with three located in the neighboring Department of Human Ecology (School of Environmental and Biological Sciences) and one in the School of Communications & Information. Faculty in our program employ multiple research methods and maintain active research programs across numerous research and teaching areas, including:

  • climate change, mitigation and adaptation
  • climate finance, policy, advocacy and promotion
  • energy and energy use
  • environmental health
  • environmental history and policy
  • environmental and sustainable organizations (industry, nonprofits/civil society, and international organizations, “green” publicity and marketing)
  • environmentalisms, media and environment; public opinion
  • gender
  • green jobs
  • food and sustainable food systems;
  • sustainable consumption and environmental behaviors
  • risk and disasters

Students in our graduate program are exposed to varied professional experts and networks, and have access to a deep bench of faculty members for mentorship, supervision, and committee assignments. In addition to earning a Ph.D. in Sociology, graduate students who specialize in environment and sustainability have the opportunity to earn a Graduate Certificate in Human Dimensions of Environmental Change.  Graduates from our PhD program have successfully secured research and teaching positions across many settings – from top liberal arts colleges to large research universities in sociology, human ecology, and environmental studies programs, to employment in nonprofits, government agencies and think tanks. Our undergraduates have the opportunity to take a variety of sociology courses centered on environmental issues. A number of these courses fulfill requirements in the interdisciplinary major/minor, Environmental Studies, housed in the Geography department.

Gender, Sexuality and Embodiment

Mission Statement

Rutgers University has long been known for its strengths in the area of gender and women's studies. The Department of Sociology builds upon those strengths, and today includes eleven core faculty members who regularly offer graduate seminars in race, class and gender; sociology of gender; feminist theory; inequalities; sexualities; the body; gender and globalization; and gender and the self.

Our approach to the sociology of gender focuses upon issues of difference and inequality. We look at gender across racial, ethnic, national, sexual, and religious differences, drawing linkages to cultural studies, post-structuralism, race studies, and post-colonial and globalization studies, and to theories of identities, boundaries, performance, and symbolic representation. We are also centrally interested in issues relating to the distribution of resources, comparing the situations of women and men, looking at inequality among women, among men, and at different local, state, and global structural locations.

Our students work on a wide range of projects, including transgender issues, transnational identities, gender theory, the body, and emotions, among others, as the following list of dissertation topics indicates.

Our work in the Department is enhanced by ongoing interdisciplinary efforts in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies, which offers graduate courses and a Graduate Certificate in women’s studies, the Institute for Research on Women, which hosts a yearlong interdisciplinary seminar for faculty and graduate students, the Center for Women and Work, the Center for Women's Global Leadership, and other programs at the university.

Health, Population, and Biomedicine

Health is typically thought to be the domain of the allied medical fields, but the health of populations are deeply sociocultural phenomena. The sociological study of health, population, and biomedicine enables analyses of the critical role that social factors play in the health of individuals, groups, and the larger society. Our department’s program in health, population and biomedicine provides students with the theoretical and methodological tools to think beyond biology in order to answer some of the thorniest questions in medicine and public health.

We are proud to continue a long tradition of excellence in medical sociology at Rutgers University. In the late 1970s, David Mechanic established the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (IHHCPAR), which continues to serve as an important interdisciplinary home for research on the social and cultural determinants of health. Research in population and the life course also has a long history at Rutgers, having originated here during the 1960s. One of the major paradigms in this area, the age stratification model, was developed at Rutgers by Matilda White Riley, Anne Foner, and others. Our award-winning faculty today conduct research on a broad set of subjects across the sociology of medicine, population health, and biomedicine including demographic research on suicide rates in the United States (Phillips), children’s health assessments (Bzostek), pain and stigma (Kempner), race and biomedicine (Bliss, Lee), aging in Asia (Lei), environmental health (Mackendrick), and gendered effects on biomarkers (Springer).

We offer rigorous graduate training and mentoring in medical sociology, population studies as well as the politics of knowledge. Our most recent graduates have secured positions as tenure-track assistant professors, postdoctoral fellows, or research scientists at prestigious institutions including the Bloustein School of Public Policy at Rutgers University, Columbia School of Public Health, Weill Cornell Medicine, National Center for Health Statistics, Brown University, University of Maryland-Baltimore, University of Delaware, Princeton University, RAND Corporation, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University. At the undergraduate level, we offer a variety of courses on social dimensions of health and medicine. Our minor in Health and Society provides students with an excellent opportunity to study questions of physical and mental health, health behaviors and practices, and health care institutions, through a social and cultural lens, and across national and global contexts.

Areas of Strength

Organizations, Networks, and Work

Rutgers Sociology has a cluster of scholars who conduct research on organizations, social networks, and the key characteristics of the contemporary workplace. From cradle to grave, day in and day out, complex formal organizations—businesses, schools, government departments, law firms, hospitals, non-profits, NGOs, media organizations, religious groups, universities—profoundly shape our lives. They dictate the kind of work that is available and the nature of that work. They exert a powerful impact on the distribution of resources and authority in society. They create roles and relations among their members, and they deeply influence individuals’ subjective experience of the world. Sociologists have identified important properties and tendencies existing in formal organizations, many of which apply regardless of the specific tasks organizations set out to do. Furthermore, organizations—for-profits and non-profits alike—interact with each other, and as a result, they often come to look and behave similarly.

The formal and informal networks that operate within and between organizations are among the factors playing a decisive part in bringing about their convergence. But networks—relationships among people, families, groups, events, objects, and more—exist ubiquitously throughout the social world, often independently of formal organizational structures, driven by their own distinctive logics and dynamic processes. Social network analysis is an especially vibrant intellectual field today, devoted to theorizing how social relations and, more broadly, social structure, generate crucial outcomes such as identity formation, unequal resource distributions, occupational and geographic mobility, technological innovation, information diffusion, cultural transformations, and social protest. As a research cluster, we support and encourage both formal organizational and social-network theoretical frameworks, and in adopting them, we deploy a variety of methods, including qualitative, experimental, comparative-historical, computational, and structuralist techniques, signifying our commitment to a holistic approach to the topic of social organization.

Core faculty members in this cluster are particularly interested in: mobility, precarity, and social inequalities in the workplace (Mai, Chaudhary, Shepherd); organizations' capacities to foster immigrant integration, collective action, and transnational development (Chaudhary, Brooks); political and economic elites (McLean, Davidson); adolescent networks (Shepherd); civil society and the environment (Brechin, Mai); the intersection of social networks and culture (McLean, Shepherd, Davidson); and organizations’ capacity to create and manage risk and disaster (Brechin, Clarke). Students interested in this cluster can also benefit from an engagement with other expert faculty in the Rutgers Business School, the Department of Human Ecology, the School of Communication and Information, the School of Social Work, the School of Management and Labor Relations, and the Bloustein School of Public Policy.

Politics and Social Movements

The fields of Politics and Social Movements ask and investigate many of the discipline’s foundational questions. They include topics of state and society relations, political and economic development, and collective action. Particularly in times of great political upheaval, immense economic inequality, and vast social transformation, the fields of Politics and Social Movements remain critical to sociology and its efforts to understand the dynamics of power relations and social change.

The Politics and Social Movements fields at Rutgers include a wide array of faculty members with diverse substantive interests. We are linked by our shared concern with large and small-scale patterns of social organization, transformation, and inequality using a variety of methods, including case-study, comparative-historical, interview, natural language processing, statistical, and social network analysis. Current faculty research focuses on a variety of important topics including: migration and immigration (Chaudhary and Lee); social networks, collective behavior, and political mobilization (Davidson, McLean, and Salime); social movements, narratives, discourses, and identity construction (Gerson, Jones, Stein); environmental hazards, institutional responses, and organizational catastrophes (Brechin, Cerulo, Clarke, and MacKendrick); and enduring forms of inequality in the United States (Mai and Shepherd.)

Faculty members work together across specific research interest groupings to offer students instruction and direction according to their needs and the unique qualities of their projects. Our objectives are to train graduate students in multiple methods; to introduce them to the most important debates and topics of research in our fields; and to mentor them in the pursuit of their own research interests through the department's qualifying paper and dissertation requirements. Graduate and undergraduate teaching in the fields include numerous courses, including Political Sociology, Social Movements, Social Inequality, and Sociology of Organizations.

Political and Economic Sociology

Mission Statement

The Political and Economic Sociology area at Rutgers brings together a wide array of faculty with diverse substantive interests. We are linked, however, by our shared concern with large-scale patterns of social organization, transformation, and inequality. We see political and economic domains and processes as interconnected, and we use a variety of methods—comparative-historical, case-study, qualitative, quantitative, and l network analysis, to name a few—to study them. Our objectives are to train graduate students in these methods, to introduce them to the most important debates and topics of research in our fields, and to mentor them in the pursuit of their own research interests through the department's qualifying paper and dissertation requirements.  We also actively support the department’s Networks, Culture, and Institutions Workshop as a forum for the presentation of faculty and student research in progress.  It is our goal to see our students become colleagues, because we emphasize collegial learning, professional writing, and critical thinking. And our students become professionally visible, because we help them to produce publishable papers and scholarship that is important and interesting.

Current faculty research focuses on a variety of important topics including: migration and immigration (Gerson, Lee, Rodriguez); globalization, and especially critical reappraisals of world systems theory and of representations of ‘others’ in the global political economy (Böröcz, Brooks, Salime); multiple social networks, elites, and political mobilization (McLean); environmental hazards and organizational catastrophes (Cerulo, Clarke, O'Neill, Rudel); and enduring forms of inequality in the United States (Hirschfield, Phillips, Roos, Smith). We also regularly work together across our specific research interest groupings to offer students instruction and direction according to their needs and the unique qualities of their projects.

Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration

Race, ethnicity, and migration (REI) are fundamental to the social organization of the United States and beyond. Faculty in the Department of Sociology deploy a wide range of theoretical perspectives and methodologies to interrogate the social constructions and consequences of race, ethnicity, and immigration in the 21st century. Our Faculty and doctoral students engage in cutting-edge research examining the significance of REI across diverse contexts and social processes, including urban spaces, digital platforms, science and medicine, social movements, formal organizations, civic engagement, and popular culture, among others. We offer theoretical overview courses on race and immigration as well as focused topics such as the "Politics of Diversity," Place Inequality," "Immigration and Society," "Global Mobility and Inequality," and "Biological Citizenship."

The sociology faculty are currently engaged in a wide range of research related to the sociology of race, ethnicity, and immigration. These include projects on: race and residential real estate practices in neighborhoods (Dinzey-Flores); the intersection of race and genetics (Bliss); racialized incorporation of immigrants in the United States (Chaudhary); race and the production and performance of popular culture (Chaudhary); racial dimensions of U.S. immigration policy (Lee); race x gender in digital culture and networked movements (Jones); the meaning of diversity in U.S. biomedicine (Bliss; Lee); and race and labor market inequality in the new economy (Mai). The methods employed include quantitative analyses of large data sets, ethnography and interviews, archival analysis, field and survey experiments, and digital ethnography. Thus, work in the race, ethnicity, and immigration program area reflects the diverse multi-method approach to research and training in the sociology department at Rutgers.

Graduate students collaborate with faculty and work on a range of projects on topics including: race, gender, and urban violence; racialized labor market integration processes; Puerto Rican settlement and integration; group threat and politics; performance of race in popular music; multiracial identification and the media; race, culture, and prison order; and racism, biomedicine, and health disparities.

At the undergraduate level, we offer a variety of courses across the levels of the curriculum on minority groups, comparative immigration studies, race relations, and immigrant minorities in the United States.

Program Areas