Canon (especially ethnographic) works in sociology of higher education?

Posted by Brian Cody, community karma 165872

I'm aware of Mitchell L. Stevens book "Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites" that has great analysis and ground-level detail about college decision making, but I'm curious if anyone knows any higher ed ethnographies with classic Geertzian "thick description"?

over 12 years ago


Cory Owen, community karma 193

I'm getting ready to settle in with my advisor's book Ethnic Identity and Power: Cultural Contexts of Political Action in School and Society


over 12 years ago
login to leave comment
Huong Le, community karma 241

I'm actually taking a Sociology of Education class right now. I'm not sure how much "thick description" is in our readings for the rest of the semester (we're actually reading the book you mentioned for next week).

These are the books we're reading this semester (not including articles):

(1) Carter, Prudence. 2005. Keepin’ it Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. New York: Oxford University Press.

(2) Hedges, Larry V. & Schneider, Barbara, eds. 2005. The Social Organization of Schooling. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

(3) Lareau, Annette. 2000. Home Advantage: Social Class and Parental Intervention in Elementary Education (New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.)

(4) Minow, Martha, Shweder, Richard A. and Markus, Hazel, eds. 2008. Just Schools: Pursuing Equality in Societies of Difference. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

(5) Mirón, Luís P. & St. John, Edward. 2003. Reinterpreting Urban School Reform. New York: SUNY Albany

(6) Oakes, Jeannie. 2005. Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality (New Haven: Yale University Press).

(7) Pascoe, C. J. 2007. Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

(8) Stevens, Mitchell. L. 2009. Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

over 12 years ago
login to leave comment
Christopher Takacs, community karma 47

Hi Brian,

Unfortunately there are rather few true ethnographies of higher education. Besides Stevens' book, I can also highly recommend Michael Moffatt's Coming of Age in New Jersey, which is really the classic ethnography of college life. More recently, Rebekah Nathan has written My Freshman Year, which compliments and updates Moffatt's book well.

More common are interview-based studies, which, though not strictly ethnographic, do provide a bit more in-depth detail than the numerous statistical, survey-based studies. Of these, the most notable are:

Susan Blum, My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture

Mary Grigsby, College Life Through the Eyes of Students

Michele Lamont, How Professors Think

Dorthy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart, Educated in Romance: Woman, Achievement, and College Culture

Kathleen Bogle, Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the end of the Eighteenth Century to the Present

Richard Light, Getting the Most out of College

Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do

Also look out for a forthcoming book by Elizabeth Armstrong (Michigan) and Laura Hamilton on gender and the reproduction of social class in higher education.

over 12 years ago
Thanks, Chris! I did want to ask if the citation I saw for the book Dan Chambliss and you are working on ("How College Works") would fit into this category?
Brian Cody – over 12 years ago
It would! Much more an interview study than an ethnography, but qualitative and (we hope) in-depth as well. Thanks for pointing out the citation. Diane Pike graciously read one of our earlier drafts.
Christopher Takacs – over 12 years ago
login to leave comment