Sociology for Dummies

Sociology for Dummies

Summer 2009. Twitter was proving its value as a means of connecting Iranian protesters with the world in the face of a government crackdown. Al Franken and Norm Coleman were still waiting for the final results of a recount in the previous fall’s U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. The Star Tribune’s front page screamed “Thriller Is Gone” when Michael Jackson died at the age of 50.

And I sat down to begin the process of writing the first edition of Sociology for Dummies. The first sentence: “Welcome to sociology!”

Eleven years later, the book has sold over 17,000 copies in English, French, Portuguese, Persian, and — my personal favourite — British English.

Today, I’m sitting down to begin writing a second edition. It’s intimidating to think about how I’ll address the many ways the world has (and, perhaps more to the point, hasn’t) changed since 2009…but in 2020, no one can afford to be a dummy about sociology.

I studied sociology from 1999-2007 at Harvard University, ultimately earning an A.M. and a Ph.D. in the subject. Along the way I served as a research assistant, a teaching fellow (head teaching fellow, thank you very much), a non-resident and resident tutor (senior resident tutor, thank you very much), and a senior thesis advisor. After I defended my dissertation in January 2007, I joined the Harvard faculty for a semester, teaching two courses in sociology. Since returning to Minnesota, I’ve taught at Macalester College and Rasmussen College.

My peer-reviewed research publications in sociology include the book Reconstructing the University (with David John Frank, Stanford University Press, 2006) and papers in Sociology of Education (also with David John Frank) and Poetics (with Jason Kaufman). During my academic career I attended multiple conferences, including the Harvard-Oxford-Stockholm Graduate Student Conference at the University of Oxford and the annual conference of the International Toy Research Association (seriously) at the University of London.