Assistant Professor in Sociology
Office: Social Sciences 320
Kristen Schilt's research interests center on sociology of gender and sexualities, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of work and occupations. A central focus of her work is finding new ways to make visible the taken-for-granted cultural assumptions about gender and sexuality that serve to naturalize and reproduce social inequality. In 2010, she published the monograph, Just One of the Guys? Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality (University of Chicago Press). In this book, she illustrates how the workplace experiences of transgender men can help to illuminate the organizational and interactional processes that contribute to the persistence of gender, race, and sexuality-based inequalities in the workplace.
Her second book project in the works is entitled, 'Before and After': The Sociology of Major Life Transitions. She examines how commonsense ideas about the biological origins of social differences ease or heighten inequalities for marginalized groups through an analysis of four case studies of individuals making major life transformations in identities commonly understood to be both stable and shaped by biology: weight, gender, sexual orientation, and Jewish identity. Schilt examines how biological frames are used to authenticate or invalidate the legitimacy of these transformations, drawing on participant observation of support groups, in-depth interviews with life changers, people who knew them "before and after," and the gatekeepers who facilitated these transitions. The project intersects with sociological questions about the role of science in the popular imagination, as well as how biological frames for social difference relate to inclusion, identity validation, and civil liberties.
In 2013-2014, Schilt conducted a year-long collaborative project with Toronto-based, multi-media artist, Chase Joynt. Sponsored by a Mellon Fellowship in Arts Practice & Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, their project explored the construction of public narratives about transgender identities. The collaborators will create a series of multi-media installations that deploy and disrupt positions of scholarly, artistic and experiential authority.