“I like to think I was always a sociologist. As a child
I asked my mother why I had to hide my pale skin under a deep tan in
the summer while white people hated black people’s dark skin. In
my early teens I didn’t understand why sex was good for the boys and bad
for the girls, why my 19-year-old sister felt embarrassed about not having
a fiancé, or why my brother did the dishes while my sister and
I were supposed to help my mother clean the whole house….
I had good questions and observations back then, but no analysis.
I hadn’t yet learned, as C. Wright Mills put it, to turn private troubles
into public issues. That came later.”
- Sherryl Kleinman, “Essaying The Personal,” 1997
I’ve been teaching in the Department of Sociology at the University
of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, since 1980, shortly after I received my
Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Originally from Montreal,
Quebec, I received a B.A. from McGill University and an M.A. from McMaster
University, all with a focus on sociology.
I regularly teach undergraduate courses cross-listed in Women’s Studies,
including "sex and gender in society," "race/class/gender," and "social
problems." Recently, a few of my colleagues and I created a new
undergraduate minor -- Social and Economic Justice -- that is housed in
the Department of Sociology. My graduate courses include "qualitative
methods," "symbolic interactionism/sociology of emotions," "feminist theory,"
and "writing sociology."
I’ve studied a variety of groups and organizations over the years:
medical students, a seminary, detectives, and an alternative health center.
Like many qualitative sociologists, my method (field observations and
in-depth interviews) and perspective (symbolic interactionism) provide
My work has become increasingly critical and feminist. For instance,
my 1996 book (Opposing Ambitions: Gender and Identity in an Alternative
Organization, University of Chicago Press) analyzes how progressives
managed to reproduce gender inequality without noticing it, and while
retaining a view of themselves as virtuous. My latest book is Feminist
Fieldwork Analysis (Sage, 2007); in it, I apply five feminist principles
to understanding inequality in everyday life.
I also look for ways to bring a sociological perspective to a wider audience.
I have written sociologically-informed personal essays and creative
nonfiction (for example: "The Splits," The Independent Weekly,
May 5-11, pp. 11-12, 1999; "Always Rinse Twice," Feminist Studies, vol.
28, pp. 573-583, 2002; and, "A Fine Hen," Calyx, vol. 23, pp. 66-70,
Some of my published work is designed to help teachers teach graduate
courses on qualitative methods and undergraduate courses on inequality.
For example, I wrote with Martha Copp and Karla Henderson, “Qualitatively
Different: Teaching Fieldwork to Graduate Students” (Journal
of Contemporary Ethnography, 1997, vol. 25:469-499). A co-authored
book with Martha Copp, Emotions and Fieldwork (Sage, 1993), has
been used in courses on qualitative methods.
My teaching, research, writing, and everyday concerns have always
been, and will continue to be, intertwined passions.
CB# 3210, Hamilton Hall
Department of Sociology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill NC 27599-3210
Phone: 919-962-1007 (leave a message)