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Why does a person’s sex matter? By sex, I mean both sex category (that is, so-called “biological sex”) and sexuality (that is, having sex or uses of the body). Bodily composition doesn’t actually have to matter in the social world. Why is it such an important characteristic for social organization? When and where does it matter? Is there a place or moment when sex is not made to matter? I haven’t found it.
As a social theorist and social psychologist, I am continually intrigued by the ways humans create order in our lives, especially how we order our identities--sameness and differences, and often inequalities -- into gendered, racialized, class-based, and sexuality-based experiences. I am fascinated by the ways these experiences organize the mind and embodiment and energized by a pedagogy that theorizes with students how social order organizes their own lives and performances of self. I am interested in unruly bodies.
My substantive research interests center on feminist gender and sexualities theories, symbolic interactionism, social theory, and interpretive research methods. The central thread running through my research is a concern for how sex category creates social barriers for people and the ways in which people narrate, negotiate, and resist accountability to gendered and sexualized expectations. Most recently, I have become interested in the epistemological concerns of how knowing is affected by experiences with the body and “types” of socially recognizable bodies (such as, “women’s” bodies, “lesbian” or “butch” bodies, “transgendered” bodies). My particular research interests include non-normative performances of gender and the self (especially butch, femme and transgender identities), power relations in social movements (for example, sexism and racism among gay men and lesbians in political organizing), and the ways in which gender structures sport and sport structures women’s bodies. This work spans several subfields of Sociology and Women’s Studies drawing from various theorists including gender theory (West & Zimmerman; Butler), postmodernism/queer theory and the body (Foucault; Plummer; Sedgwick), symbolic interaction and social psychology (Mead, Schutz, Goffman), masculinities and sociology of sport (Kimmel; Messner), and a variety of forms of feminist theory (Hill Collins; Lorber, Dorothy Smith; Marilyn Frye).
In addition to my scholarly commitment to Sociology, I retain strong ties to the field of Women’s Studies by regularly publishing in and reviewing for national and international journals in both Sociology and Women’s Studies. To date I have co-authored a book, Gendering Bodies (with Lara Foley and Connie Shehan, 2007, Rowman & Littlefield), and my research and writing has appeared in Gender & Society, Feminism and Psychology, Feminist Teacher, Hypatia, The Sociological Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Journal of Lesbian Studies, Cultural Studies/Critical Methodologies (a research annual edited by Norman K. Denzin), International Review for the Sociology of Sport, The Handbook of Constructionist Research, The SAGE Handbook of Interview Research, and The Handbook of Autoethnography.
Ph.D., University of Florida, 2002
Jennifer Earles, Mary Catherine Whitlock