Graduate Sociology at UAlbany

Areas of Specialization: Qualitative Sociologies


Critical. Historical. Interpretive. Structural. Qualitative sociology covers a broad range of approaches. However, they all involve a view that it is important to discover what the individuals we are studying think and feel about their own actions. To uncover individuals' understandings and behavior, qualitative sociologists examine historical documents, do interviews, analyze popular culture, and do ethnographies.

The graduate program is fortunate to have many faculty who teach or do research in some area of qualitative sociology. Our great strength as a department is the diversity of topics studied and perspectives used by the faculty. Among the topics studied are organizations, the origins of capitalism, states and imperialism, popular culture, social movements, sexuality, gender, science, and work. These topics are approached from perspectives that range from neomarxian to postmodern.

Faculty and graduate students have created a "Qualitative Studies Forum" that meets regularly to discuss work-in-progress and professional and social concerns. Presently, there are many graduate students pursuing work in some area of qualitative sociology--including studies of working class culture, gay youth, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and alternative families.

The strengths of the faculty in the Sociology Department are reinforced by affiliated faculty in other departments.

For graduate students wishing to pursue research in qualitative sociology, the department offers many possibilities and resources.

Relevant Courses in Sociology

  • Soc 510 Sociological Theory I
  • Soc 511 Sociological Theory II
  • Soc 535 Qualitative Research Techniques
  • Soc 554 Sociology of Knowledge
  • Soc 560 Families
  • Soc 575 Ethnicity and Race
  • Soc 659 Social Movements
  • Soc 661 Political Sociology
  • Soc 666 Selected Topics
    • Lesbian and Gay Men: Identity & Politics
    • Origins of Modernity
    • Sociology of Culture
    • Industrialization and the Labor Process
    • Critical Theory
    • Postmodernism & Cultural Studies
  • Soc 671 Occupations and Professions
  • Soc 701 Comparative Sociology

Graduate Student Research

Many graduate students have completed dissertations under the guidance of faculty in qualitative sociologies. Others have writing masters theses or articles for journal review. Some recent examples include:

  • an examination of voluntary association responses to key events of the 2000 presidential campaign
  • a study of the relationship between military control and post-war violence within indigenous communities in the highlands of Guatemala
  • an application of the emotion work perspective to understanding women’s abortion experience
  • how synopticism converts unproductive transgressions during Mardi Gras into entertaining commodities
  • research on lesbian friendship networks
  • an historical analysis of changes in the meaning of sexuality through an examination of legal discourse concerning sexual offenses against children
  • research on computer use in the Capital District
  • a conversation analysis of children's linguistic skills
  • a qualitative study of patients with coronary artery disease
  • a study on the development of the real estate industry
  • an examination of gay youth and education
  • a critical historical analysis of the practice of childhood vaccination in the US
  • research on women choosing home births
  • a study of motives, outcomes, and commitment mechanisms in the cohousing movement in the US
  • research on computers in an information-based society
  • an investigation of working class culture
  • a study on gender differences in “mental work” concerning transitions into parenthood
  • an examination of the Cultural Revolution in China


Faculty in Qualitative Sociologies

Angie Chung
Ph.D. University of California at Los Angeles

Professor Chung’s work involves a range of methodological techniques with emphasis on ethnography, in-depth interviews and case study methods. Professor Chung’s research interests include urban sociology, international migration, race/ethnicity, Asian American studies, and qualitative sociology. Her most recent work examines how 1.5/2nd generation ethnic organizations in Koreatown are able to construct ethnic political solidarity within the context of community power structures. She is also working on an article explaining how qualitative methods may provide insight into the life experiences of "in-between" groups, such as Asian Americans and women of color

Elizabeth Popp Berman
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Professor Berman’s work uses comparative-historical methods.  Her research has looked at changes in the relationship between academic science and the marketplace in the U.S. between 1965 and 1985, comparing the development of three new market-oriented practices (biotech entrepreneurship, university patenting, and university-industry research centers) using primary, archival, oral history and interview sources.  She is currently comparing the use of economic expertise in three policymaking domains (science & technology, tax, and antitrust) in the U.S. from 1945 to 1990 using similar methods.  Berman has also done more systematic content analysis of Congressional debates (see Berman and Pagnucco 2010).  She teaches a graduate class on comparative, historical and case study methods that focuses on the logic of research design.

Selected publications:

Berman, Elizabeth Popp. 2012. Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Berman, Elizabeth Popp. Forthcoming (2012). “Explaining the Move toward the Market in Academic Science: How Institutional Logics Can Change without Institutional Entrepreneurs.” Theory and Society.

Berman, Elizabeth Popp, and Nicholas Pagnucco. 2010. “Economic Ideas and the Political Process: Debating Tax Cuts in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1962-1981.” Politics and Society 38:347-372.

Joanna Dreby
Ph.D. CUNY Graduate Center

Professor Dreby’s research interests are in children, gender and families, international migration, transnational processes, ethnographic and qualitative methods, and community studies. Her most recent study explores the ways two of the most salient features of contemporary immigration, legality and new destination settlement, affect the lives of children in Mexican families. Dr. Dreby has published on her previous study about Mexican transnational families in the book Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and their Children. She has also published on child-care safety. Dr. Dreby has a background in social services and Latin American studies. She is also especially interested in work-family issues.

Richard Lachmann
Ph.D. Harvard University

Professor Lachmann's research is in the areas of comparative historical sociology and the sociology of culture. In the former case, he analyzes the ways in which elite and class conflicts shaped capitalism and state formation in Western Europe. He has written on popular culture such as subway graffiti in NYC. He currently is researching state fiscal crises and the private appropriation of public resources and is writing a comparative study of the decline of dominant economic powers in early modern Europe and the contemporary United States.

Selected Publications:

Capitalists in Spite of Themselves: Elite Conflict and European Transitions. Oxford University Press, 2000; winner of the 2003 American Sociological Association’s Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award.

“Elite Self-Interest and Economic Decline in Early Modern Europe” American Sociological Review, June 2003.

Karyn Loscocco
Ph.D. Indiana University

A major emphasis of Professor Loscocco's research is the meanings that women and men assign to their work. She also analyzes the ways that work and family mesh or conflict. She emphasizes gender, race and class patterns in her work.

Selected Publications:

"Work-family Llinkages Among Self-employed Wormen and Men," Journal of Vocational Behavior, 1997.

Steven Seidman
Ph.D. University of Virginia

Professor Seidman's interests include social theory, cultural analysis, sexuality studies, and the sociology of democracy. Much of his work in social theory has involved rethinking classical and contemporary traditions in light of criticisms that have raised doubts about inherited notions of knowledge, modernity, and social progress. In essays and books, he has argued for empirical concretizing of theory debates while pressing for a more explicit interpretive and normative understanding of social analysis. In this regard, his current work attempts to explore the implications ofqueer theory for a critical empirical study of sexuality. Drawing from a wide range of empirical materials, Seidman is analyzing shifts in sexual identities and meanings and their relationship to “social logics” of normative heterosexuality.

Selected Publications:

Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in a Postmodern Era. 3rd Ed. Blackwell.

Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life, Routledge, 2002.

Glenna Spitze
Ph.D. University of Illinois, Urbana

Professor Spitze's research interests include gender and families, intergenerational relationships, paid and unpaid labor, and the role of personal networks in older adults’ health outcomes. She holds a joint appointment in the Women’s Studies Department.

Selected Publications:

“’The Bitter with the Sweet’: Older Adults’ Strategies for Handling Ambivalence in Relations with their Adult Children.” Research on Aging, 2004. (with Mary Gallant)

James Zetka
Ph.D. Northwestern University

Professor Zetka is interested generally in occupations and professions, organizational theory, industrialization, and technological innovation. His recent research focuses on how and why radical innovations were introduced into the occupational division of labor governing American medicine. He has studied endoscopic technologies used in gastrointestinal medicine extensively. He is currently working on a project examining a host of radical innovations introduced into obstetrics and gynecology, including psychopathology as a diagnostic category, the primary care role, endoscopic and laparoscopic technologies, subspecialties, and women recruits.

Selected Publications:

Zetka, James R., Jr. 2008. “Radical Logics and Their Carriers in Medicine: The Case of Psychopathology and American Obstetricians and Gynecologists.” Social Problems 55: forthcoming.

Zetka, James R., Jr. 2003. Surgeons and the Scope. Ithaca, NY: ILR, Cornell University Press.

Zetka, James R., Jr. 2001. "Occupational Divisions of Labor and Their Technology Politics: The Case of Surgical Scopes and Gastrointestinal Medicine.” Social Forces 79: 1495-1520.


Relevant Non-Sociology Faculty

Mitchel Abolafia (Public Administration and Policy): Economic Sociology and Sociology of Organization.

G.J. Barker-Benfield (History): American and British Social History.

Iris Berger (History & Africana Studies): South African History, Comparative Women's History.

Peter Breiner (Political Science): Social and Political Theory.

Rosemary Hennessy (English): Lesbian and Gay Studies, Postmodern, Marxist, Feminist Theory.

Gail Landsman (Anthropology): Native Americans, Gender.

Vivien Ng (Women's Studies): Lesbian and Gay Studies, Asian Studies, Asian-American Studies.

Gerald Zahavi (History): Labor History, US Working Class History.

-From 2004 brochure