Sociologist Sharon Zukin Discusses Her Love/Hate Relationship with Consumer Culture

szukin headshotSharon Zukin, chair-elect of the section on consumers and consumption, is a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She started out as a political sociologist, became an urban sociologist, and now combines those interests with studies of institutions, spaces and cultures of consumption. She has received the C. Wright Mills Award, the Robert and Helen Lynd Award for career achievement in community and urban sociology, and the Jane Jacobs Award for urban communication. Her most recent book is Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places, and her most recent article looks at restaurants and racial identity in a gentrifying area of Brooklyn.

Nicki: You began your academic career in political science. How did you come to study consumer culture and its implications?

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Understanding Radical Peer-to-Peer Consumption: An Interview with Emilie Dubois

 “I have one chance at a career, and I want one with an impact for people that I really care about.”

Emilie-Duboiscopy-239x300Emilie Dubois is destined to be a change-maker. Driven by her working class roots and experience growing up in the post-industrial community of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, she is revolutionizing how sociologists approach and understand the phenomenon of “connected consumption.”

Emilie, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Boston College who works closely with Juliet Schor, was driven to our field by class inequities. She took her first sociology class at Columbia University while working in admissions at Columbia Business School. Appalled by the directive to give preference to wealthy candidates, Emilie sought conceptual tools to help her understand the situation she found herself in. She enrolled in “Power and Politics in Organizations,” experienced in her words a “massive consciousness shift,” quit her job, and applied to graduate programs in sociology.

Now, Emilie is in the midst of her dissertation research and works on Schor’s research team for the MacArthur Foundation’s Connected Learning Research Network. The team is studying the phenomenon of “connected consumption,” which Emilie explains is a new system of exchange premised on “economic connections that are not mediated by an organization in a demonstrative way.”

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