Tag Archives: academia

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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The Nomad’s Manifesto

Up until about a year ago, I imagined that when I completed my doctorate in sociology I would become a professor. At that point, I had been in graduate school for six years at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I was a year shy of finishing my dissertation, and attaining the degree. I had excelled in my program and fit the mold of a successful academic well. I had earned high honors on my Master’s thesis, had presented my research to enthusiastic audiences at conferences across the United States and beyond its borders, and had enjoyed the success of having my research published in an academic journal early in my career. I loved teaching and seemed good at it. My academic advisors encouraged and championed me. I had been groomed for the job.

But as this year wore on, and I wrote, revised, and completed my dissertation, I found myself straying from the well-worn path of the academic. The question, “Are you on the market?” (as in, the academic job market) made my stomach turn. Not because of nerves or fear of not finding a job, like many experience, but because I felt strongly that I did not want to be on the job market. In fact, I found myself repelled by the thought of it. When I tried to envision myself applying for full-time professor jobs, I just couldn’t see it. The thought of going to whatever institution would have me (this is the way, in academia), and settling into the routine of stable, rooted adulthood that one is supposed to strive for pushed me with visceral force out of this trajectory.

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