Markets and Inequalities: An Intersectional Approach

Course Description: 

This course examines developments in the vibrant field of “new” economic sociology, and first outlines how gender and culture operate as influences on markets, such as how markets are constrained by networks, norms, and social ties on economic exchange.  We next consider markets as cultural formations in their own right first by studying particular discourses and practices that sustain market relationship; next by examining the commodification of ambiguous commodities like bodies and sex.  Having established the interdependencies between culture and commerce, we examine how social processes produce inequalities in markets with case studies of multiple commercial sites, from luxury shopping to the labor market. Ultimately, the course shows how in all areas of economic life people are creating, maintaining, symbolizing, and transforming meaningful social relations, in the process reproducing intersecting inequalities of gender, race, and class. 

Learning Outcomes: 

This course (1) provides students with an overview of the key debates, theoretical cannons and research agendas in the sociology of gender and economic sociology and (2) prepares students for doing their own research.  By the end of the semester, you will have completed an original empirical research paper, have a grasp of the field and an understanding of how to do intersectional research in economic sociology.


Assessment of your mastery of the course materials is based on my evaluation of your participation in and contribution to the seminar discussions (30%), in-class presentations (30%), and a research paper based on original empirical research (40%).

Participation (30%):  You are expected to complete the day’s readings, think about them, and prepare questions and comments before coming to class.  You are assessed each class session on the basis of your contribution to the discussion and your understanding of the material.  Your final grade will be affected if you miss more than two sessions.

Summaries (15%):Each student presents two 5-minute summaries of the key ideas from the previous class, along with a short document (posted on the course website before the day’s session). Students may edit the uploaded material, and add what they find important.  This will produce a collectively assembled set of notes from the class material.

Presentations (15%):  Each session, two students will lead the course discussion of the readings, covering key points, areas of confusion or contention, and thought-provoking questions.  This will help you develop critical reading and presentation skills, and give you the opportunity to frame the day’s discussion.

When planning your discussion of the readings, consider addressing:

a.   what question is addressed by the author(s) and why is it worth asking?

b.   what are competing answers to that question?

c.   how well does the author address that question, in terms of logic and methodology?

d.   what would be a different, useful way of addressing the same question, preferably one you regard as superior?

We will assign summaries and presentations on the first day.  

Research Paper (40%):  Each student will complete a paper based on original qualitative research.  The paper will be based on a set of in-depth interviews (about 3-5), participant observation, or an analysis of published texts or images on a topic of your choice related to the course.  It should be about 10-15 double spaced pages.

Papers are due on Fri Dec 16th; late papers are not accepted.  We will workshop your paper ideas and progress throughout the semester in class.  Paper proposals are due on Fri Oct 21st and a draft with preliminary findings is due Monday Dec 5th for a class workshop on Friday Dec 9th.  We will assign discussants for each student’s preliminary paper the week of Dec. 5th