Professor of Sociology
*A recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, Rachel Sherman is on leave through Spring 2020*
Rachel Sherman is Professor of Sociology. She is broadly interested in how and why unequal social relations are reproduced, legitimated, and contested, and in how these processes are embedded in cultural vocabularies of identity, interaction, and entitlement. Empirically, she uses ethnography and in-depth interviewing to investigate service work, consumption, and increasing economic inequality in the contemporary U.S. context.
Her first book, Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels (University of California Press, 2007), draws primarily on participant observation research to analyze how workers, guests, and managers in these hotels made sense of and negotiated the class inequalities that marked their relationships.
Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence (Princeton University Press, 2017), Professor Sherman's second book, uses in-depth interviews to explore the lived experience of privilege among wealthy and affluent New York parents. The book has been covered or reviewed by the New York Times, the New York Post, the Times of London, Vice, the Financial Times, Commentary, Nature Books in Brief, and the BBC World Service. An adapted excerpt appeared at The Guardian. Sherman's essay for the New York Times Sunday Review, published in conjunction with the book, is here.
Professor Sherman has also conducted research on the contemporary U.S. labor movement; on expert service work, especially the "lifestyle management" industry; and the interactive artwork of Tino Sehgal. She has recently received funding from the New School Provost's Office and the Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies to conduct preliminary research on food services in the airline industry.
Professor Sherman's teaching includes courses on qualitative methods, class, work and labor, social movements, culture, and consumption.
PhD 2003, University of California, Berkeley
2017 Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
2007 Class Acts: Service and Inequality in Luxury Hotels. Berkeley: University of California Press.
2018 "'A Very Expensive Ordinary Life': Consumption, Symbolic Boundaries, and Moral Legitimacy among New York Elites." Socio-Economic Review 16(2): 411-433.
2017 “Conflicted Cultivation: Parenting, Privilege, and Moral Worth in Wealthy New York Families.” American Journal of Cultural Sociology 5(1-2): 1-33/
2015 “Caring or Catering? Emotions, Autonomy and Subordination in Lifestyle Work.” In Caring on the Clock: The Complexities and Contradictions of Paid Care Work, edited by Mignon Duffy, Amy Armenia, and Clare Stacey, Rutgers University Press.
2014 “The Art of Conversation: The Museum and the Public Sphere in Tino Sehgal’s This Progress.” Public Culture 26(3): 393-418.
2011 “The Production of Distinctions: Class, Gender and Taste Work in the Lifestyle Management Industry." Qualitative Sociology 34(1): 201-219.
2011 “Beyond Interaction: Customer Influence on Housekeeping and Room Service Work in Hotels.” Work, Employment and Society 25(1): 19-33.
2010 “‘Time is Our Commodity’: Gender and the Struggle for Occupational Legitimacy among Personal Concierges.” Work & Occupations 37(1): 81-114.
2005 “Producing the Superior Self: Strategic Comparison and Symbolic Boundaries among Luxury Hotel Workers.” Ethnography 6(2): 131-158.
2000 “Breaking the Iron Law of Oligarchy: Tactical Innovation and the Revitalization of the American Labor Movement,” with Kim Voss. American Journal of Sociology 106(2): 303-349, September/October. (Reprinted in Amy Wharton, ed., The Sociology of Organizations: An Anthology of Contemporary Theory and Research, Roxbury, 2007.)
- Winner of the Distinguished Article Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Labor Studies Division, 2001.
1999 “From State Introversion to State Extension in Mexico: Modes of Emigrant Incorporation, 1900-1997.” Theory and Society 28 (6): 835-878.
2017 "What it Means to be Entitled." Items: Insights from the Social Sciences (SSRC), April 17, 2017.
Social class, culture, service work, social movements, qualitative methods
Ind Senior Project
Ind Senior Project (Spring 2020)
Independent Study (Spring 2020)